"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
~~Antoine De Saint Exupéry, from The Little Prince; the fox is speaking to the prince about what is truly "important".
During our return journey, I could see by Holmes's face that he was much puzzled by something which he had observed. Every now and then, by an effort, he would throw off the impression, and talk as if the matter were clear, but then his doubts would settle down upon him again, and his knitted brows and abstracted eyes would show that his thoughts had gone back once more to the great dining-room of the Abbey Grange, in which this midnight tragedy had been enacted. At last, by a sudden impulse, just as our train was crawling out of a suburban station, he sprang on to the platform and pulled me out after him.
"Excuse me, my dear fellow,"said he, as we watched the rear carriages of our train disappearing round a curve,"I am sorry to make you the victim of what may seem a mere whim, but on my life, Watson, I simply can't leave that case in this condition. Every instinct that I possess cries out against it. It's wrong -- it's all wrong -- I'll swear that it's wrong. And yet the lady's story was complete, the maid's corroboration was sufficient, the detail was fairly exact. What have I to put up against that? Three wine-glasses, that is all. But if I had not taken things for granted, if I had examined everything with care which I should have shown had we approached the case de novo and had no cut-and-dried story to warp my mind, should I not then have found something more definite to go upon? Of course I should. Sit down on this bench, Watson, until a train for Chiselhurst arrives, and allow me to lay the evidence before you, imploring you in the first instance to dismiss from your mind the idea that anything which the maid or her mistress may have said must necessarily be true. The lady's charming personality must not be permitted to warp our judgment.
~~Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, from the story "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange", from The Return of Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock Holmes speaking to Watson.
(I see the above quote as being a fascinating look by one of England's most talented and insightful writers at the blindness of human nature, our tendency to swallow the stories that are fed to us, to agree with what other people say must be the truth. But the real truth is often something different altogether, as Sherlock Holmes finds out in this story.)
In science it often happens that scientists say, "You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken," and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.
~~Carl Sagan, 1987 CSICOP Keynote Address
(Here Carl Sagan exposes the fundamental differences in attitude between science (on the one hand) and politics or religion (on the other hand) when it comes to matters of truth.)
If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have? Four. Calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg.
~~President Abraham Lincoln
(This quote shows the simple yet profound wit of my favorite US President, Abraham Lincoln, at it's best. Here this gentle backwoodsman tells us that regardless of how many times you repeat a lie to yourself, and regardless of whether or not you have almost started to believe the lie, a lie still remains a lie.)
"When it comes to controlling human beings, there is no better instrument than lies. Because you see, humans live by beliefs. And beliefs can be manipulated. The power to manipulate beliefs is the only thing that counts. That's why I sided with the powerful and served them--because I wanted to share their power."
~~Michael Ende, from The Neverending Story: Gmork confesses his sins to Atreyu.
"But you know, what really made it all work was that I couldn't imagine it wasn't real. Why would it be anything else? Why wouldn't you be exactly who you said you were?"
~~Terry Brooks, from A Knight of the Word: a man concedes to a demon that the demon's ploy was ingenious. The demon didn't win, though. In the end, the truth has a power of its own to defeat confusion, ignorance, and lies.
Love is the only way. There is no other force with which we may confront and defeat fear and hatred, than Love.
~~Martin Luther King Jr. (I partially disagree though; I think truth is just as necessary as love for attaining the stated goals.)
"I swear by my life and by my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."
~~Ayn Rand, from Atlas Shrugged: John Galt's creed. Far from being extremely selfish, as it might at-first seem, I find this creed to be the most charitable creed I know of; indeed, perhaps the only truly charitable creed possible. I believe all real love must start with love of self.
Grief and anger shrink my world, and I resent this. They seem to paralyze my memory of happier times, of friends, places, things, options. Squeezed by the grip of intense, unsettling emotion, I grow smaller in my single-mindedness. I suppose it is partly because I have discarded a range of choices, impairing in some measure my freedom of will. I don't like this, but after a point, I have small control over it. It makes me feel that I have surrendered to a kind of determinism, which irritates me even more. Then, vicious cycle, this feeds back into the emotion that drives me and intensifies it. The simple way of ending this situation is the headlong rush to remove its object. The difficult way is more philosophical, a drawing back, the reestablishment of control. As usual, the difficult way is preferable. A headlong rush may also result in a broken neck.
~~Roger Zelazny, from Trumps of Doom, ch. 3. This quote speaks to me of the necessity of truth as a counterbalance to love and other motivations.
But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.
~~Robert Frost, from Two Tramps In Mud Time. Here Robert Frost is saying that need (truth) must balance love (desire); only when the two are one can sanity prevail.
"What does it matter in the end, to win what your enemy would lose, or to lose what your enemy would win?" he said.
"Where will it lead you?" she asked.
"As far as my energy allows. So the great wheel of destiny will follow it's course, eternally moved by love, as far as necessity demands."
~~Conversation between King Vercingeterix of Gaul and his queen on the eve of their defeat by the legions of Julius Ceasar in the year 86BC, from the movie "Druids". This quote speaks to me strongly of both the power of love as a driving force, the most powerful of all motivations, and the power of necessity, of truth, and of judgement.
"Vengeance on a dumb brute!" cried Starbuck, "that simply smote thee from blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous."
"Hark ye yet again,--the little lower layer. All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event--in the living act, the undoubted deed--there, some unknown but still reasoning thing put forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreck that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then I could do the other; for there is ever a sort of fair play herein, jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my master, man, is even that fair play. Who's over me? Truth has no confines. Take off thine eye! more intolerable than fiends' glarings is a doltish stare! So, so; thou redennest and palest; my heat has melted thee to anger-glow. But look ye, Starbuck, what is said in heat, that thing unsays itself. There are men from whom warm words are small indignity. I do not mean to incense thee. Let it go. Look! see yonder Turkish cheeks of spotted tawn--living, breathing pictures painted by the sun. The pagan leopards--the unrecking and unworshipping things, that live; and seek, and give no reasons for the torrid life they feel! the crew, man, the crew! Are they not one and all with Ahab, in this matter of the whale? See Stubb! he laughs! See yonder Chilean! he snorts to think of it. Stand up amid the general hurricane, thy one tost sapling cannot, Starbuck! And what is it? Reckon it. 'Tis but to help strike a fin; no wondrous feat for Starbuck. What is it more? From this one poor hunt, then, the best lance out of all Nantucket, surely he will not hang back, when every foremast-hand has clutched a whetstone? Ah! constrainings seize thee, I see! the billow lifts thee! Speak, but speak!--Aye, aye, thy silence, then, that voices thee. (Aside) Something shot from my dilated nostrils, and he has inhaled it in his lungs. Starbuck now is mine; cannot oppose me now, without rebellion."
"God keep me!--keep us all!" murmured Starbuck, lowly.
But in his joy at the enchanted, tacit acquiescence of the mate, Ahab did not hear the forboding invocation...
~~Herman Melville, from Moby Dick: Ahab infects Starbuck with his obsession. An awesome scene.
"... and you, Marcus, have given me many things; now I shall give you this good advice. Be many people. Give up the game of being always Marcus Cocoza. You have worried too much about Marcus Cocoza, so that you have been really his slave and prisoner. You have not done anything without first considering how it would affect Marcus Cocoza's happiness and prestige. You were always much afraid that Marcus might do a stupid thing, or be bored. What would it really have mattered? All over the world people are doing stupid things... I should like you to be easy, your little heart to be light again. You must from now, be more than one, many people, as many as you can think of..."
~~Karen Blixen (writing under the pseudonym "Isak Dinesin"), from "The Dreamers", from Seven Gothic Tales. (I think such multiplicity of personas can be a good thing in that it opens many roads to creative thought; but one needs to watch out lest one forget one's "home base"; ie, lest one forget who one really is!)
O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees,
Thy starlight on the Western Seas.
~~JRR Tolkien, from The Lord of the Rings: a portion of the song which Gildor and the High Elves sang as the walked through the woods of the Shire, as translated by Frodo.
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken:
The crownless again shall be king.
~~JRR Tolkien, from The Lord of the Rings: Bilbo's poem about his friend The Dunadan. I find it very moving. It speaks to me of healing and renewal and rebirth.
'You cannot pass. I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the shadow! You cannot pass.'
~~JRR Tolkien, from The Lord of the Rings: Gandalf faces-down a balrog.
Ai! laurië lantar lassi súrinen,
Yéni únótimë ve rámar aldaron!
Yéni ve lintë yuldar avánier
mi oromardi lisse-miruvóreva
Andúnë pella, Vardo tellumar
nu luini yassen tintilar i eleni
Sí man i yulma nin enquantuva?
An sí Tintallë Varda Oiolossëo
ve fanyar máryat Elentári ortanë
ar ilyë tier undulávë lumbulë;
ar sindanóriello caita mornië
i falmalinnar imbë met, ar hísië
untúpa Calaciryo míri oialë.
Si vanwa ná, Rómello vanwa, Valimar!
Namárië! Nai hiruvalyë Valimar.
Nai elyë hiruva. Namárië!
~~JRR Tolkien, from The Lord of the Rings: Galadriel sings of exile (in Quenya).
Ah, like gold fall the leaves in the wind, long years numberless as the wings of trees! The long years have passed like swift draughts of the sweet mead in lofty halls beyond the West beneath the blue vaults of Varda wherein the stars tremble in the song of her voice, holy and queenly. Who now shall refill the cup for me? For now The Kindler, Varda, the Queen of the Stars, from Mount Everwhite has uplifted her hands like clouds, and all paths are drowned deep in shadow; and out of a grey country darkness lies on the foaming waves between us, and mist covers the jewels of Calacirya forever. Now lost, lost to those from the East is Valimar! Farewell! Maybe thou shalt find Valimar. Maybe even thou shalt find it. Farewell!
~~JRR Tolkien, from The Lord of the Rings: Galadriel sings of exile, as translated by Frodo.
Suddenly, caught by the level beams, Frodo saw the old King's head: it was lying rolled away by the roadside. 'Look Sam!' he cried, startled into speech. 'Look! The king has got a crown again!'
The eyes were hollow and the carven beard was broken, but about the high stern forehead there was a coronal of silver and gold. A trailing plant with flowers like small white stars had bound itself across the brows as if in reverence for the fallen king, and in the crevices of his stony hair yellow stonecrop gleamed.
'They cannot conquer forever!' said Frodo. And then suddenly the brief glimpse was gone. The sun dipped and vanished, and as if at the shuttering of a lamp, black night fell.
~~JRR Tolkien, from The Lord of the Rings.
(This is perhaps my very favorite quote from all of LOTR; a very poignant scene.)
As I sailed into shadow, a white bird of my desire came and sat upon my right shoulder, and I wrote a note and tied it to its leg and sent it on its way. The note said, "I am coming," and it was signed by me.
I would never rest until I held vengeance and the throne within my hand, and good night sweet prince to anybody who stood between me and these things.
The sun hung low on my left and the winds bellied the sails and propelled me onward. I cursed once and then laughed.
I was free and I was running, but I had made it this far. I now had the chance I'd wanted all along.
A black bird of my desire came and sat on my left shoulder, and I wrote a note and tied it to its leg and sent it off into the west.
It said, "Eric -- I'll be back," and it was signed: "Corwin, Lord of Amber."
A demon wind propelled me east of the sun.
~~Roger Zelazny, from Nine Princes In Amber.
She pursed her lips. "I don't like leaving you - though I'm not anxious to stay either. Care to take along a hand grenade?"
She raised her purse and began to open it.
"No. Thanks. Why do you have it, anyway?"
She smiled. "I always carry them in this shadow. They sometimes come in handy."
~~Roger Zelazny, from Blood of Amber: Flora of Amber offers a hand grenade to her nephew Merlin.
"Juilin", she asked hesitantly, "what were you going to do with the salt and cooking oil? Not exactly," she added more quickly. "Just the general idea."
He looked at her for a moment. "I do not know. But they did not, either. That is the trick of it; their minds made up worse than I ever could. I have seen a tough man break when I sent for a basket of figs and some mice."
~~Robert Jordan, from book five of The Wheel of Time.
Aftershave and smoke,
and the same unfunny jokes,
they say they'll take you 'anywhere but there'.
Believe every half-whispered, half-remembered lie,
where truth is a luxury they can't afford to buy.
Scapegoats! Looking for a scapegoats!
There's always someone else for you to blame.
Backed in a corner,
he barricades his life,
fastens up the shutters every night.
This island is big enough for every castaway,
But most of us are looking 'round for someone else to blame.
Scapegoats! Looking for a scapegoats!
There's always someone else for you to blame.
~~Chumbawamba, from the song "Scapegoat", from the album Tubthumper.
Visions of rainfall
out of blue skies;
rivers of tears flow
out of dry eyes.
Answer my question,
tell me no lies:
is this the real world?
Or a fools paradise?
~~Alan Parsons Project, from their song "Closer To Heaven", from their album Gaudi.
~~Isaac Newton, 1676. This is, perhaps, the strangest quote in this collection. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out or research what it means.
Looooooooooooooooord, have mercy!
~~Favorite saying of KLOS dj Jim Ladd
Rog... grab the cat.
Lt. Briggs makes an oopsie, from the movie "Lethal Weapon 3".
Under Perpetual Construction