Posts Tagged ‘Quotes’

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My Quote on Creationism

May 23, 2014
de-evolution

Creationism, the art of de-evolution

Lately, I have been misquoted regarding creationism.  My words have been cherry-picked to make it appear I support the theory.  I can assure you I do not.  To clear the matter up, here is a quote for ya that accurately reflects my views:

“Calling creationism a science is like calling horse shit a gourmet meal. You can certainly digest either and there is nutritional value of sorts, they’re just not very palatable nor what humans need to thrive.  Horse shit, be it actual or symbolic, is better suited to sustain flies.”

Feel free to quote me.

 

 

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A New Year’s Manifesto

January 1, 2013

 dharmachakra-200I woke up this morning thinking I needed to make a resolution for the New Year.  The more I thought about it, I began to understand I needed much more than that.   No in years past, resolutions were made and resolutions were put aside, often before the end of the day’s football games.  It’s not that resolutions are necessarily hard to keep, more the opposite really.   The problem is they required nothing much off me, they were too small.  I need something requiring commitment and dedication.  I need a manifesto to challenge me to not take on the mundane conventions of life.  Accepting, as true, Emerson’s quote, “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.[i]Now, I am not talking about writing something mind-numbing and rambling that Ted Kaczynski would be proud of, or something to give Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto a run for its money.  In the first, I am simply not that crazy; in the second, making some brash rhetorical political statement serves no one, especially me.  My manifesto needs to be a hard kick to my rear and knock some common sense back into my head.  It needs to be something I can read, over and over, to serve as a reminder to make life what I want it to be rather than what I assume is expected of me.

Our brains are often compared to computers.  While a simplistic comparison, I do see the point.  Still, we have a complexity of understanding computer scientists only dream of designing into their next Cray or IBM Big Blue offering. I think it is that ability to understand complex ideas and concepts that drove Emerson to his conclusions on self-reliance.  I mean, why leave to others to figure out what is best for us, as individuals, when we have a brain of our own?  We simply must use our brains and have confidence in our conclusions.

That is the tricky part though, making sure they are “our conclusions” and not some tailored and perverted idea pushed upon us by some media outlet.  An outlet, by the way, that has an agenda having nothing to do with the free exchange of ideas, quite the opposite.  Here is how I will make sure I am making up my own mind:

  1. Question everything.  Especially things I accept as true.
  2. Find out who “they” is.  Any idea worth accepting as true is worth knowing whose idea it is.  Anytime someone presents me with a statement whose source is “They said”, “Many believe” or “I heard” suspect it from the get-go. Know whose ideas I accept as true before I accept it as true.
  3. Look for ideas that differ from my own.  Even if I know my ideas are sound, I will seek out the ideas of others.  Remember the axiom “no one of us is as smart as all of us.”   I just may find my ideas where not all that sound after all.  At the very least, any sound idea will stand the scrutiny of others.
  4. Accept as true what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow, or even today.  Life is dynamic; life’s answers are dynamic too.  I will not hold an old idea that worked as the best idea now by default.  Again, question everything, especially what I accept as true.
  5. Nobody likes a know-it-all.  Just because I may be right on a point and someone else may be wrong does not obligate me to point it out.  I can, of course, but often there is no point as many people have minds of steel.  Hard and rigid.  I will judge what is gained against what is lost.
  6. In all things I do I will have passion and compassion.  If I cannot muster up these two items, I will not do the thing in the first place.
  7. Lastly, never be afraid to tell the emperor he has on no clothes.   Even emperors can be wrong from time to time.

 Ok, so there is my manifesto for the New Year.  Pretty simple stuff really, just need to be consistent in performing it.  See, consistency is the tricky part and consistency does not negate nonconformity.  Emerson never said consistency is a bad thing, he said foolish consistency is bad.  To quote again, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”[ii] 

I will keep an open mind.  I will not accept things at their face value. In a great sense, I have suffered from the little mind Emerson wrote.  My mind has been little for far too long.  Now, this year, this very day, that ends.

 


[i] Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Essays [1st and 2d Ser.], Self-Reliance. [Reading, Pa.]: Spencer, 1936.  Print.

[ii] Ibid.

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Thursday’s Heroes: Just What Makes a Hero

April 19, 2012

Old Superman Comic Book Cover

We live in cynical times; there is no doubt about that.  While I think most people look at their current times as more cynical than before, it just may be today’s technology allows a little bit of cynical to go a long way.  Moreover, that same technology shines a light on even the smallest of blemish.  This leaves us with a requirement of perfection than no human can possibly attain.  It leaves us wanting, wanting a hero.

What does it mean to be heroic?  Here is what Webster’s has to say about it[i]:

Hero: he·ro: noun \ˈhir-(ˌ)ō\

plural he·roes

 

  1. a: a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability
    b : an illustrious warrior
    c : a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities
    d : one who shows great courage
  2. a: the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work
    b: the central figure in an event, period, or movement
  1. plural usually he·ros : submarine 2
  2. an object of extreme admiration and devotion : idol

It is “c” and “d” of the first definition I am talking about, though the definition’s masculine reference is somewhat dated.  We will ignore that last point; women have proven themselves every bit as heroic as men, if not more.  We can debate whether or not Webster’s needs to change with the times later on.

While today’s post deals mainly with defining a hero and the scope of the topic, in the weeks to come it will go into details about individual heroes.  We will peek behind the curtain, so to speak.  By understanding just how people achieved “hero” status, we will not only understand them but we will be inspired all the more, as they mostly are not mythical, or illustrious.  No, for the most part, heroes are normal people faced with extraordinary circumstances.   What makes them heroes is how they dealt with their particular situation.

For example:

  • You will read about Nancy Hart of Georgia.  Her heroism during the American Revolution inspired such admiration she is the only woman in the state to have a county named for

    Nancy Heart

    her.

  • You will learn about Sergeant Alvin York who served in World War I.  He struggled with his deeply held belief that it is wrong to kill, under any circumstances, and saving the life of his unit comrades.
  • Further, you will be introduced to Robert Smalls.  A former slave and ship’s pilot that escaped with his family during the Civil War by stealing the CSS Planter.   Even more remarkable, after the war he purchased the home where he was held as a slave.  Showing his humanitarian side, he allowed the widow of his former master to live out her days in

    Robert Smalls

    the home.  I’m not so sure I could be that gracious.

  • There is also a darker side to being a hero, as Kit Carson found out.  Carson became famous in his lifetime and the subject of many a dime-novel.  After an unsuccessful rescue attempt to save the White family from an Apache tribe, Carson was shown a novel based on his life, found amongst the family belongings.  Throughout his remaining days he had remorse and wondered if Mrs. White’s vainly thought that day of him riding to her rescue.

There will be others too, from all walks of life and all parts of the world.  Some will be famous, some not so famous.  I promise you none are perfect.  In fact, some people will see them as heroes while others view them as villains.  For instance, in the United States we see Benedict Arnold as a traitor; in Great Britain they may see him in a whole other light.  In a lot of cases hero-status depends on your point of view, all the more reason to deal with our heroes as human beings and not gods walking amongst us.

Heroes have flaws.  They are human after all.  Historians attempt to white-wash over their faults and only show them as perfect.  This does our heroes, and us, a disservice.  We need to see them for what they were and are, the good and bad, the perfect and imperfect, and yes, the brave and cowardly too.  By understanding our heroes are not perfect; we can accept the qualities we admire about them as living within each of us.  It is often said the difference between a hero and an ordinary person is opportunity, while that may be true; it is what heroes do with that opportunity that make them different.

In the end, I hope you will see heroes as human, not mythical.  I hope you understand we each have a little bit of the hero in us.  I hope you see each of us can do a thousand little things that makes us a hero in someone’s eye.  It is not the fame of it that’s important, but the doing.

 


[i] “Hero.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Web. 19 Apr. 2012.
<http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hero?show=0>.

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You Can Quote Me on That

March 26, 2012

Elbert Hubbard quoted by Bugs Bunny

Throughout my life I have collected quotes.  If something gives me pause when I read it, I take note.   Over the years, the list has grown considerably long.  It’s not so much a formal list as it lives in my head, to be recalled when I need to make a point about a particular issue.   If judged by how often I use them, it is pretty obvious I have my favorites.

I’ve even posted to this blog about the use and misuse of quotes, you can read it here.  The point is people say some incredibly witty and pithy things, well worth repeating.  I guess that’s why books of quotes have always been popular.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • Regarding time, I like to quote Albert Einstein.  Late in his life he was asked by a reporter about his Special Theory of Relativity, this is the E=mc2 one, a subject Einstein was weary of talking about as the paper was published some 50 years earlier, he explained it this way:  “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity.”  As funny at the quote is, in the end it does explain Relativity.  As I get older, it grows more and more relative.
  • It is no secret I am not the biggest fan for free-verse poetry.  I have often quoted Robert Frost on the subject.  In a speech he stated “Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.”  At first, it might seem that he is kicking free-verse to the curb.  In reality, what he is saying is the rules add to the game.  Imagine how boring tennis would be without the net to add a level of difficulty.  It is the same for poetry, the rules and structure add to the outcome.  In both tennis and poetry, you remove the net and it is up to the players alone to be exciting.
  • When it comes to national responsibility, I’ve quoted Stephen Crane.  In case you do not remember, Stephen wrote the Red Badge of Courage.  It is and epic poem of his I quote though –War is Kind.  Of course, his point is war is anything but kind.  Here is the quote I use:

A man said to the universe:
“Sir I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”

This quote is like a slap in the face when you first read it.  It is harsh and uncaring, but it is true.  We are no more obligated to do a thing or care about something than the universe is.  It is a choice we make.  We choose to take action or to not take action.  It is an individual sense of morality that dictates the choice, regardless if the choice is good or bad.

  • Of course, I have often pointed out we are a nation of individuals but it is our commonality that joins us.  As Voltaire put it “it is through our mutual needs that we are useful to the human race.”  In other words, it is through our mutual needs we put an obligation on ourselves Mr. Crain’s universe did not.

OK, so there are just a few of the quotes I often use.  I like to use quotes but I have a fear most do not understand the frame of reference and that leads to misunderstanding.   It sort of defeats the whole purpose of quoting in the first place.  That point opens the door for a completely different subject, do I Are they the same?

Give some thought to the quotes you use, even if you only use them mentally to yourself.  Quotes are like little metaphors we use to help explain the world.   On that note, I could not help but end this with a quote of my own to warn about understand a quote before its use, it is from a poem of mine called Testing Water:

So think about your actions
long before you make that jump
be sure you test the waters
and avoid that painful thump.

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Dorothy Parker, the Woman I Would Have Most Liked to Lunch With

March 18, 2012

I woke up this morning needing a smile.  In responding to a friend I made comment about Dorothy Parker.  Reading her words always makes me smile.  Having passed away in 1967, many today may not be familiar with her work and wit.

Dorothy was born in 1893.  This age put her in her prime in the Roaring 20s and being in New York City at a time, when women began to step out with a voice truly their own, her wit was well received.  She is the source of many classic and witty sayings, such as:

“Men seldom make passes
at girls who wear glasses.”

She used this sort of tongue-in-cheek wit while she was the poetry editor and drama critic for Vogue and Vanity Fair.  It is cute and flirty but understates the depth Dorothy could go to make a point.  As a charter member of the Algonquin Round Table, a daily luncheon of New York writers and wits between 1919 and 1929, she was often challenging during word games.  During one such lunch, Franklin P Adams challenged her to use the word “horticulture” in a sentence.  Dorothy replied:

“You can lead a whore to culture, but you can’t make her think.”

It is easy to write about Ms. Parker in rosy platitudes, but she would hate that.  Better to just let a few of her better known quotes speak for themselves:

“Time doth flit; oh shit.”

“I don’t care what is written about me so long as it isn’t true.”

“Ducking for apples — change one letter and it’s the story of my life.”

“She was pleased to have him come and never sorry to see him go.”

“This wasn’t just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.”

“I require three things in a man: he must be handsome, ruthless, and stupid.”

“Don’t look at me in that tone of voice.”

“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

“Women and elephants never forget.”

“If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.”

“She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.”

“You can’t teach an old dogma new tricks.”

“Q: What’s the difference between an enzyme and a hormone?
A: You can’t hear an enzyme.”

“Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.”

But my favorite Dorothy quote was made in response to a telegram she received on her honeymoon from her editor stating the publisher wanted to know why she did not meet a deadline.  Her telegram back simply read:

“Tell him I was too fucking busy– or vice versa.”

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What’s In A Quote?

January 14, 2010

Ever heard the quote “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man”?  It is from a letter to Benjamin Rush written by Thomas Jefferson in 1800.  If you visit the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., you can see the words engraved in the rotunda’s frieze below the dome.  I remember when I was very young, my grandfather taking me there and pointing it out.  From that moment, I understood President Jefferson was dedicated to protecting our country’s freedom.

Later in life, after reading much of Jefferson’s writing, I came to understand his dedication was more complex than I thought and this quote is totally out of context.  As presented, it does lend itself to the greatness of the man but it misrepresents the nature of him.  President Jefferson was no ideologue to be pointed at a problem simply to charge in.  His opinions and actions were based on careful reflection.  Knowing this made me wonder about quotes in general and how they can mislead.

Take the Memorial example, at face value it says Jefferson was a God-fearing man who would protect our freedom regardless of personal cost.  While I agree that thought to be accurate of Jefferson, it removed the true target he aimed for.  It illustrates that quotes are often taken out of context and serve the person quoting rather than the originator, sometimes for good, sometimes not.

This quote is often used to link Jefferson to a Christian philosophy, which is ironic, because it is a slap at the Christian religious leaders around Philadelphia at the time.  While it is impractical to quote entire passages in support of any argument, deference must be given the original intent.  In this case, we need more of Jefferson’s words to understand that intent:  “The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, & they [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes.  And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.  But this is all they have to fear from me: & enough too in their opinion, & this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me. . .”  Jefferson is saying he opposes the religious leaders Benjamin Rush had cautioned him about, no matter what.  He is saying that the religious leaders of his time (and not much has changed today) are tyrants.

When reading quotes from historical figures, we need to understand they may not be in context to their original intent.  It is easy to “cherry-pick” passages to support a particular theory or belief.  It establishes a justification of sorts for that belief.  Quotes, therefore, are often perverted from their original meaning.  It is up to us, the audience, to challenge that support and understand the true meaning of quotes used.  Personally, I am glad people quote Jefferson, just not  his intended meaning misrepresented.

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