There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.
Whoever can see through all fear-- Lao-Tsu, Tao Te Ching
will always be safe.
One of the first things to learn if you want to be a contemplative is
to mind your own business.
Nothing is more suspicious, in a man who seems holy, than an impatient
desire to reform other men.
-- Thomas Merton, "New Seeds of Contemplation"
Douglas Steere remarks very perceptively that there is a pervasive
form of contempory violence to which the idealist fighting for peace
by nonviolent methods most easily succumbs: activism and overwork.
The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most
common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried
away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many
projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to
violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy
of the activist neutralizes his work for peace. It destroys his own
inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own
work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work
fruitful. -- Thomas Merton, "Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander"
The tactic of nonviolence is a tactic of love that seeks the salvation
and redemption of the opponent, not his castigation, humiliation, and
defeat. A pretended nonviolence that seeks to defeat and humiliate
the adversary by spiritual instead of physical attack is little more
than a confession of weakness.
-- Thomas Merton, "Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander"
We who claim to love peace and justice must always be careful that we
do not use our righteousness to provoke the violent, and in this way
bring about the conflict for which we, too, like other men, are
hungering in secret, and with suppressed barbarity.
-- Thomas Merton, "Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander"
It is both dangerous and easy to hate man as he is because he is not
"what he ought to be." If we do not first respect what he *is* we
will never suffer him to become what he ought to be: in our
impatience we do away with him altogether.
-- Thomas Merton, "Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander"
"The more you complain the longer God lets you live."
"This government must lose no time or effort to keep the nation
from being drawn into the war. In my candid judgement, we shall
succeed in these efforts." -- President Frankin D. Roosevelt,
September 29, 1939
All music jars when the soul's out of tune. -- Miguel de Cervantes
You are permitted in time of great danger to walk with the devil until
you have crossed the bridge. -- Bulgarian proverb
A book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us. -- Franz Kafka
What is dignity without honesty? -- Cicero
When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look
so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been
opened for us.
-- Helen Keller
No man can justly censure or condemn another, because indeed no man
truly knows another.
-- Sir Thomas Brown
True freedom is to share
All the chains our brothers wear,
And, with heart and hand, to be
Earnest to make others free!
-- James Russell Lowell
Clever people seem not to feel the natural pleasure of bewilderments,
and are always answering questions when the chief relish of life is
to go on asking them.
-- Frank Moore Colby
As I watched the seagulls, I thought, "That's the road to take; find
the absolute rhythm and follow it with absolute trust."
-- Nikos Kazantzakis
'Religious distress is at the same time the expression of the real
distress and also the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh
of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it
is the spirit of the spiritless condition. It is the opium of the people.'
-- Karl Marx
Humanity has in the course of time had to endure from the hands of
science two great outrages upon its naive self-love. The first was
when it realized that our earth was not the center of the universe, but
only a speck in a world-system of a magnitude hardly conceivable...
The second was when biological research robbed man of his particular
privilege of having been specially created, and relegated him to a
descent from the animal world.
-- Sigmund Freud
"Until hard evidence is obtained and corroborated, the American people
should not be frightened into believing that babies are being bred and
eaten, that 50,000 missing children are being murdered in human
sacrifices, or that satanists are taking over America's day care
centers... An unjustified crusade against those perceived as satanists
could result in wasted resources, unwarranted damage to reputations,
and disruption of civil liberties."
-- Kenneth Lanning, head of the FBI's special unit in charge of
investigating claims about satanic-cult crimes, in a report
of his findings, June, 1989
"God not only plays dice, He sometimes throws the dice where they cannot be
-- S. Hawking
"The genius of you Americans is that you never make any clear-cut stupid
moves, only complicated stupid moves that leave us scratching our heads
wondering if we might possibly have missed something."
-- Gamel Abdel Nasser
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence the act of the
whole American people which declared that their legislature
should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a
wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, to the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptist Association in 1802
"The condition upon which God has given liberty to man is eternal vigilance."
-- John Philpot Curran
"People these days are reluctant to read the canonical texts, but they
love fiction. Not all fiction, mind you, for they are sick of exemplary
themes and far prefer the obscene and fantastic. How low contemporary
morals have sunk! Anyone concerned about public morality will want to
retrieve the situation."
-- Li Yu, in "The Carnal Prayer Mat" c. 1657 A.D.
In Germany, they first came for the communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the homosexuals, and I didn't speak up
because I wasn't a homosexual.
Then they came for the catholics, and I didn't speak up
because I was a protestant.
Then they came for me --
but by that time there was no one left to speak up.
-- Pastor Martin Neimoller
"Free at last, free at last, Great God Almighty, I am free at last."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
"The truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels if
any Catholic, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents
as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false."
-- Saint Thomas Aquinas
In science, right conduct consists of evaluating evidence honestly and
according to the canons of scientific reasoning. To misrepresent the
evidence and the criteria of judgement is not merely to provide
misinformation; it is to set an example of dishonesty. Telling lies
to naive and trusting young persons is bad. Doing so for the purpose
of proselytizing is worse.
-- biologist Michael T. Ghiselin
"We find that the sexual instinct, when disappointed and unappeased,
frequently seeks and finds a substitute in religion."
-- Baron Richard Von Krafft-Ebing
Resolved, that the 67th General Convention affirm the glorious ability of
God to create in any manner, whether men understand it or not, and in this
affirmation reject the limited insight and rigid dogmatism of the
-- from a 1982 resolution of the Episcopal Church
"The effort of using machines to mimic the human mind has always struck me
as rather silly. I would rather use them to mimic something better."
"Last night I watched the news and the end of the broadcast showed numerous
changes favorable for the people (e.g., Rumania, Berlin Wall, etc.). My
fiancee and I turned to each other and said ``No images from the US.''"
-- Mike Shaff (firstname.lastname@example.org)
"The answers to life's problems aren't at the bottom of a bottle: they're on
-- Homer Simpson, "The Simpsons"
"We fight for men and women whose poetry is not yet written."
-- Robert Gould Shaw, abolitionist
"Well, Darkness has a hunger that's insatiable,
And Lightness has a call that's hard to hear."
-- Indigo Girls
"Football combines the worst elements of America: Mass violence
punctuated by committee meetings."
"God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
This passage was written by a London reporter on the eve of the England-West
Germany Soccer World Cup final of 1966...
"If, on the morrow, the Germans defeat us at our national sport, be not
dismayed. For twice in this century, we've defeated them at theirs."
-- From the San Jose Mercury News, 7 July 1990
"No matter what temptation there is after an accident to be economical with
the truth when rationalising it with hindsight, please remember it would be
unforgivable if, by not revealing the facts or the complete truth, a similar
incident became an unavoidable accident."
-- Captain Colin Seaman, British Aerospace's head of safety
"We need a new cosmology. New Gods. New Sacraments. Another drink."
-- Patti Smith
If you can't make a mistake, you can't make anything.
Corollaries ("Rabinovitch's Rules of Sane Dialogue"):
1. Everybody who matters is stupid now and then.
2. If I'm being stupid, that's my problem.
3. If my being stupid makes you stupid, that's your problem.
4. If you think you're never stupid, boy are you stupid!
"Theater, art, literature, cinema... must be cleansed of all manifestations
of our rotting world..."
-- Adolf Hitler
It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a
statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more
glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through
which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the
day, that is the highest of arts.
-- Henry David Thoreau, "Where I Live"
I had come to the conclusion that there was nothing sacred about
myself or about any human being, that we were all machines, doomed to
collide and collide and collide. For want of anything better to do,
we became fans of collisions . . .
-- Kurt Vonnegut, "Breakfast of Champions"
"There are two kinds of people in the world; those who say to God,
'Thy will be done', and those to whom God says, 'Go ahead,
then, have it your way'."
-- C. S. Lewis
"I got the drop because I was so mean, while somehow appearing so kind."
-- Brian Eno
They say in India that a man who is liberated in this world has to
cultivate a few mild bad habits in order to stay in the body, because
if he were absolutely perfect he would disappear from manifestation. So
the yogi, the great yogi, occasionally smokes a cigarette or has a bad
temper occasionally, something that keeps him human, and that little
thing is very important.
-- Alan Watts
"Unless the cause of peace based on law gathers behind it the force and
zeal of a religion, it hardly can hope to succeed......There must be
added that deep power of emotion which is a basic ingredient of
religion. It is to be hoped that not only the churches but the
schools, the colleges, and the leading organs of opinion will aquit
themselves well of their unique responsibility in this regard."
-- Albert Einstein
Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their
hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt,
without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe only
in the God idea, not God Himself.
-- Miguel de Unamuno, Spanish philosopher and writer
The story is told of Picasso that a stranger in a railway carriage
accosted him with the challenge, "Why don't you paint things as they
really are." Picasso demurred, saying that he did not quite
understand what the gentleman meant, and the stranger then produced
from his wallet a photograph of his wife. "I mean," he said, "like
that. That's how she _is_." Picasso coughed hesitantly and said,
"She is rather small, isn't she. And somewhat flat?"
-- Gregory and Mary Catherine Bateson, "Angels Fear"
In Boston Harbor, the captain of the British freighter Port Halifax
orders a side of beef delivered to the German freighter Pauline
Friederich, which had been trapped in neutral harbor by the onset of war.
The ship's larder had run bare the previous Sunday. The man who brought
the British crew the news of the Germans' plight pointed out, "But
they're Germans!", to which Edward W.R. Young, the ship's exec
responded, "Well, what the hell of it? They're humans, aren't they.
Send it over."
-- New York Times, 9-27-39
There is only one group which would ever call for the banning of 'The
Diary of Anne Frank', and I don't care what they happen to be calling
themselves these days.
-- Alan Moore
"To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of
their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell."
-- Thomas Merton
Time rushes toward us with its hospital tray of infinitely varied
narcotics, even while it is preparing us for its inevitably fatal
-- Tennessee Williams, Foreword, "The Rose Tattoo"
"I think if the devil doesn't exist, then man has created him. He
has created him in his own image and likeness."
"Just as man created God, then?" observed Alyosha.
-- Fyodor Dostoevsky, in The Brothers Karamazov.
The imagination enlarges little objects so as to fill our souls with a
fantastic estimate; and, with rash insolence, it belittles the great
to its own measure, as when talking of God.
Over the last few decades we have been inundated by a torrent of
words. Wherever we go we are surrounded by words: words softly
whispered, loudly proclaimed, or angrily screamed; words spoken,
recited, or sung; words on records, in books, on walls, or in the sky;
words in many sounds, many colors, or many forms; words to be heard,
read, seen, or glanced at; words which flicker off and on, move slowly,
dance, jump, or wiggle. Words, words, words! They form the floor, the
walls, and the ceiling of our existence.
Recently I was driving through Los Angeles, and suddenly I had the
strange sensation of driving through a huge dictionary. Wherever I
looked there were words trying to take my eyes from the road. They
said, "Use me, take me, buy me, drink me, smell me, touch me, kiss me,
sleep with me." In such a world who can maintain respect for words?
-- Henri Nouwen, "The Way of the Heart"
"What you do with your own Communists is your own business. They are
Trotskyists anyway. If you must, shoot them, and if you can't handle
them, I'll help you."
-- Josef Stalin, as reported by NY Times correspondent
Otto Tolischus, when asked during the Baltic negotiations what to do
with Communists imprisoned in those countries.
"Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God"
-- Lenny Bruce
"One of your readers asked what could be the name of the present big war
since the name "World War" has already been used for the last one. It
appears to me that so far the present war is naming itself by merely
cribbing the old name and omitting the 'ell."
-- J.M. Elliott, Capt., USN, Ret., in Newsweek, early 1940
"Discovering the Church is apt to be a slow procedure but it can take
place if you have a free mind and no vested interest in disbelief..."
-- Flannery O'Connor
For it is often necessary to walk backwards, as a man on the wrong
road goes back to a signpost to find the right road. The modern man
is more like a traveller who has forgotten the name of his
destination, and has to go back whence he came, even to find out where
he is going.
-- G. K. Chesterton
"For religion all men are equal, as all pennies are equal, because the
only value in any of them is that they bear the image of the king."
-- G. K. Chesterton
...but there is another very important characteristic about the cult
of a book. It has marked the cult of very much better books, such as
the Bible and the Roman law. Taken by itself, it always tends to
inequality, even if its ideal was equality. It tends to inequality
because the very act of reading may be more or less rare as a faculty,
to say nothing of a taste. Since some read books more than others,
some will read that book more than others. The book being the test,
those who have read the book will always bully those who have not.
And the book-readers, being bourgeois, will always refuse to read the
things that are not to be read in books, the things that are to be
read in birds and beasts, and crops and weather, and the very face of
the world. The book-reader or bourgeois will always despise the
peasant; but the bourgeois will never be so arrogant as when he calls
himself the proletarian. Then he will be prouder than ever; for it is
an even longer word.
-- G. K. Chesterton, in 1920
In so far as people think they can see the "limits of human
understanding", they think of course that they can see beyond these.
-- Ludwig Wittgenstein
"All knowledge, we feel, must be built up upon our instinctive
beliefs; and if these are rejected, nothing is left."
-- Bertrand Russell, 1912
"Real spirituality has to come to terms with accident, with chance,
with the great mystery that things happen and there may not be any
direct cause for them."
And the wind shall say: 'Here were decent godless people:
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls'.
...if we do bring ourselves to admit that the dominant description of
reality is too narrow, we may run slavishly after other spiritual
traditions, eager to acquire experiences of nonordinary consciousness
as if they were Gucci bags or Cuisinarts, commodities we can use to
bolster our status. We become spiritual colonists, mining the Third
World for its resources of symbols and shamans, giving nothing back,
in a way that cheapens both the traditions we seek to understand and
our own spiritual quests.
-- Starhawk, "Truth or Dare"
Looking forward into an empty year strikes one with a certain awe,
because one finds therein no recognition. The years behind have a
friendly aspect, and they are warmed by the fires we have kindled,
and all their echoes are the echoes of our own voices.
-- Alexander Smith
Wherefore could I not pronounce 'Amen'? I had most need of blessing, and
'Amen' stuck in my throat.
The emotional quality of what we moderns call our thought produces an
extreme violence of conviction combined with extreme incoherence in
Love itself is not an act of will, but sometimes I need the
force of my volition to break with my habitual responses
and pass along the love already here.
-- Hugh Prather
If this life be not a real fight, in which something is eternally
gained for the universe by success, it is no better than a game of
private theatricals from which one may withdraw at will. But it
*feels* like a real fight.
-- William James