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Charles Dickens

From A Tale of Two Cities

 It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way−−in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good
or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.


"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."



 From Barnaby Rudge

Ye men of gloom and austerity, who paint the face of Infinite Benevolence with an eternal frown; read in the Everlasting Book, wide open to your view, the lesson it would teach. Its pictures are not in black and sombre hues, but bright and glowing tints; its music−−save when ye drown it−−is not in sighs and groans, but songs and cheerful sounds. Listen to the million voices in the summer air, and find one dismal as your own. Remember, if ye can, the sense of hope and pleasure which every glad return of day awakens in the breast of all your kind who have not changed their nature; and learn some wisdom even from the witless, when their hearts are lifted up they know not why, by all the mirth and happiness it brings.




Aldous Huxley


 Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.

That all men are equal is a proposition to which, at ordinary times, no sane individual has ever given his assent.

There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.

This quote was used by Jim Morrison, without attribution, in referring to his band: The Doors.





From Beyond Good and Evil

 ‘I did that,’ says my memory. ‘I could not have done that,’ says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually—the memory yields.

He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.

Our honesty, we free spirits—let us be careful lest it become our vanity, our ornament and ostentation, our limitation, our stupidity! Every virtue inclines to stupidity, every stupidity to virtue; ‘stupid to the point of sanctity,’ they say in Russia,— let us be careful lest out of pure honesty we eventually become saints and bores! Is not life a hundred times too short for us— to bore ourselves? One would have to believe in eternal life in order to …


From Thus Spake Zarathustra


Once blasphemy against God was the greatest blasphemy; but God died, and therewith also those blasphemers. To blaspheme the earth is now the dreadfulest sin, and to rate the heart of the unknowable higher than the meaning of the earth!

I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance.

A state, is called the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly lieth it also; and this lie creepeth from its mouth: "I, the state, am the people."
It is a lie!

Thou forcest many to think differently about thee; that, charge they heavily to thine account. Thou camest nigh unto them, and yet wentest past: for that they never forgive thee.
Thou goest beyond them: but the higher thou risest, the smaller doth the eye of envy see thee. Most of all, however, is the flying one hated.

Verily, I have taken from you a hundred formulae and your virtue's favourite playthings; and now ye upbraid me, as children upbraid.
They played by the sea−−then came there a wave and swept their playthings into the deep: and now do they cry.
But the same wave shall bring them new playthings, and spread before them new speckled shells!
Thus will they be comforted; and like them shall ye also, my friends, have your comforting−−and new speckled shells!






Now, philanthropists may easily imagine there is a skilful method of disarming and overcoming an enemy without great bloodshed, and that this is the proper tendency of the Art of War. However plausible this may appear, still it is an error which must be extirpated; for in such dangerous things as War, the errors which proceed from a spirit of benevolence are the worst. As the use of physical power to the utmost extent by no
means excludes the co−operation of the intelligence, it follows that he who uses force unsparingly, without reference to the bloodshed involved, must obtain a superiority if his adversary uses less vigour in its application.



Oscar Wilde


I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their characters, and my enemies for their brains. A man can’t be too careful in the choice of his enemies.

Now, the value of an idea has nothing whatsoever to do with the sincerity of the man who expresses it.

Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot:

When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls romance.

Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.


Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.



Matthew Arnold




The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits;--on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.

Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling, 

At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago

Heard it on the Ægæan, and it brought 
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea. 
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,  

Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems  

To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain  

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.


Galgacus--speaking to army of Britons about to fight the Romans
AD 83

and when they have spread a general desolation, they call it Peace.




Herodotus---The Persian Wars


The Lydians and the Medes, during one of many battles, saw the day turn into night. They ceased fighting and arranged a peace agreement. 


This is probably the earliest historical event that has been accurately fixed. It took place on 28 May 585 BC. 


After a while, happening to turn and perceive the Persian soldiers engaged in plundering the town he [Croesus] said to Cyrus, "May I now tell you, O King, what I have in my mind, or is silence best?" Cyrus bade him speak his mind boldly. Then he put this question, "What is it, Cyrus, which those men yonder are doing so busily?" "Plundering your city," Cyrus answered, "and carrying off your riches." "Not my city," rejoined the other, "nor my riches. They are not mine any more. It is your wealth which they are pillaging." 


It is also their [the Persians] general practice to deliberate upon affairs of weight when they are drunk; and then on the morrow, when they are sober, the decision to which they came the night before is put before them by the master of the house in which it was made; and if it is then approved of, they act on it; if not, they set it aside. Sometimes, however, they are sober at their first deliberation, but in this case they always reconsider the matter under the influence of wine. 


The Scythians, as I said, take some of this hemp-seed, and, creeping under the felt coverings, throw it upon the red-hot stones; immediately it smokes, and gives out such a vapour as no Grecian vapour-bath can exceed; the Scyths, delighted, shout for joy...


It was then that a certain Persian, by name Oeobazus, the father of three sons, all of whom were to accompany the army, came and prayed the king that he would allow one of his sons to remain with him. Darius made answer, as if he regarde him in the light of a friend who had urged a moderate request, that he would allow them all to remain. Oeobazus was overjoyed, expecting that all his children would be excused from serving; the king however bade his attendants take the three sons of Oeobazus and forthwith put them to death.



...for both the Scythians and the Greeks who dwell in Scythia say, that every Neurian once a year becomes a wolf for a few days, at the end of which time he is restrored to his proper shape.


Earliest reference I know of to werewolves. 





You know yourself what you are worth in your own eyes; and at what price you will sell yourself. For men sell themselves at various prices. This was why, when Florus was deliberating whether he should appear at Nero’s shows, taking part in the performance himself, Agrippinus replied, ‘Appear by all means.’ And when Florus inquired, ‘But why do not you appear?’ he answered, ‘Because I do not even consider the question.’ For the man who has once stooped to consider such questions, and to reckon up the value of external things, is not far from forgetting what manner of man he is.



Edward Gibbon

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire


Abdalrahman, caliph of Spain:  "I have now reigned above fifty years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honours, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: they amount to FOURTEEN."



Robert Kennedy  1967


Counterinsurgency is not a military problem; a military answer is the failure of counterinsurgency and often the beginning of full-scale civil war.



Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary


...but as the tempest still raged, and as passion burnt itself down to the very cinders, and no help came, no sun rose, there was night on all sides, and she was lost in the terrible cold that pierced her.



Isaac Newton's version of Occam's Razor


We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.



Rudyard Kipling


When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.



Ronald Reagan on George W. Bush

From the  REAGAN DIARIES. The entry is dated May 17, 1986.

'A moment I've been dreading. George brought his ne're-do-well son
around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the
political one who lives in Florida . The one who hangs around here all
the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40
and has never had a real job. Maybe I'll call Kinsley over at The New
Republic and see if they'll hire him as a contributing editor or
something. That looks like easy work.'




But were I to attempt to treat of the animosities of parties, and of the morals of the state, with minuteness of detail, and suitably to the vastness of the subject, time would fail me sooner than matter. I therefore return to my subject.





A senator from a midwestern state jotted down these miseloquent sayings from
his colleagues:

These numbers are not my own; they are from someone who knows what he’s
talking about.
I’m not confused on that. It’s just that I’m too busy to think.
I don’t necessarily believe what I think.
My knowledge is no match for his ignorance.
That land in the north has been untouched by nature.
This bill will help sparsely populated large cities.
As long as I’m a senator, there won’t be any nuclear suppositories in my state.
I have survived a terminal heart attack.
I know that what I believe is different from what I know are the facts.
People planning on getting in serious accidents should have their seat belts on.




Stephen Crane


I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.

"It is futile," I said,
"You can never--"

"You lie," he cried,
And ran on.

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

From "The Open Boat"

When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples. Any visible expression of nature would surely be pelleted with his jeers.
Then, if there be no tangible thing to hoot, he feels, perhaps, the desire to confront a personification and indulge in pleas, bowed to one knee, and with hands supplicant, saying, "Yes, but I love myself."
A high cold star on a winter's night is the word he feels that she says to him. Thereafter he knows the pathos of his situation


Thomas Paine


All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish,
appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave
mankind, and monopolize power and profit.



James Joyce

From Ulysses


With hungered flesh obscurely, he mutely craved to adore.



 William Penn


It is a Reproach to Religion and Government to suffer so much Poverty and Excess.      3
  53. Were the Superfluities of a Nation valued, and made a perpetual Tax or Benevolence, there would be more Alms-houses than Poor; Schools than Scholars; and enough to spare for Government besides.

Men are generally more careful of the Breed of their Horses and Dogs than of their Children.


From Hui Neng, one of the first (first?) writers of the Chinese version of Zen. Writer? Maybe not; I think he was illiterate.


Fundamentally no bodhi-tree exists
Nor the frame of a mirror bright.
Since all is voidness from the beginning
Where can the dust alight?




The cause, in my opinion, of this phenomenon must be sought in the earthquake. At the point where
its shock has been the most violent, the sea is driven back and, suddenly recoiling with redoubled force,
causes the inundation. Without an earthquake I do not see how such an accident could happen.

Cause of tsunamis known (or suspected)
circa 411 BC


Lao Tzu

A leader is best
When people barely know that he exists.
Of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will say, “We did this ourselves."



Aldo Leopold

From  A Sand County Almanac


There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm.One is the danger
of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that
heat comes from the furnace.


Herman Hesse

From Magister Ludi

He would be a coward who withdrew from the challenges, sacrifices, and dangers his people had to endure. But he would be no less a coward and traitor who betrayed the priciples of the life of the mind to material interests--who, for example, left the decision on the product of two times two to the rulers. It is treason to sacrifice love of truth, intellectual honesty, loyalty to the laws and methods of the mind, to any other interests, including those of one's country.