Category Archives: Quotations

Famous Misquotations: Growing Old is Mandatory; Growing Up is Optional

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional” is one of those popular quotations you find all over the Internet, emblazoned on mugs, posters, t-shirts, journals, signs, pillows — you name it. Another variation is “Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional.” It is attributed to either Walt Disney (1901-1966), the famous animator, or  Charles Theodore “Chili” Davis (born 1960), a Jamaican-American former baseball player who is now a coach with the New York Mets. Like so many other quotations that seem to endlessly multiply on the Internet, it is a quotation in search of an author.

Let’s take a closer look at the two most commonly attributed authors. It certainly makes sense that the quote is attributed to Walt Disney whose work and theme parks are focused on capturing (or recapturing) a child’s sense of wonder and delight. It certainly sounds like something he would say; however, there is no evidence that proves that Disney ever wrote or said this. On the other hand, there are numerous collections of quotations posted within the last decade that cite Chili Davis as the source of this famous quotation; however, once again, there is no article or interview where this phrase appears. One of the earliest sources for the quotation, but lacking any attribution, is in Keith Evan’s Internet Joke Book: Volume Two (page 131), under the heading “Growing Old.” Lacking any definitive, verifiable written source, one can only conclude that this is an apocryphal quotation, most likely written by some anonymous individual, that has been circulating on the Internet for at least 20 years.

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For further reading: Famous Misquotations: Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Famous Misquotations: A Civilization is Measured by How It Treats Its Weakest Members
Famous Misquotations: The Two Most Important Days in Your Life
Famous Misquotations: The Triumph of Evil is That Good Men Do Nothing
Famous Phrases You Have Been Misquoting

For further reading: (search Internet Joke Book, Volume Two)

Peer Into Your Books — Make a Voyage of Discovery

alex atkins bookshelf books“‘What shall I do with all my books?’ was the question; and the answer, ‘Read them,’ sobered the questioner. But if you cannot read them, at any rate handle them and, as it were, fondle them. Peer into them. Let them fall open where they will. Read on from the first sentence that arrests the eye. Then turn to another. Make a voyage of discovery, taking soundings of uncharted seas. Set them back on their shelves with your own hands. Arrange them on your own plan, so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. If they cannot be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition.”

From Thoughts and Adventures (1932) by Winston S. Churchill (1874-1965). Churchill, in addition to being an accomplished statesman, was a voracious reader, an eloquent orator, and a prolific writer. During his career, Churchill wrote 58 books, 260 pamphlets, 840 articles, and thousands of speeches (filling more than 9,000 pages). Through his words, he comforted and inspired a nation during some of Great Britain’s darkest and finest hours. It was therefore fitting, that in 1953, Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for “his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exited human values.” Interestingly, in the 1890s, many readers confused the British Churchill with another writer, living across the pond — a very successful American novelist, also named Winston Churchill (1871-1947). At that time, the American Churchill, who had written several bestselling novels, including Richard Carvel (1899), The Crisis (1901), and The Crossing (1904), was the more famous of the two. So in order to avoid confusion, the British Churchill began using “Winston S. Churchill” to differentiate himself from the well-known American novelist. The two of them met at least twice, but were never friends. In the end, the writings and legacy of the British Churchill eclipsed that of the American Churchill.

What is the World’s Dirty Secret?

alex atkins bookshelf moviesThere is a point, months or years after graduation, that one longs to return to college. Nostalgia grabs you by the lapels and cries out: “remember the great camaraderie; the epic parties; the memorable meals; the thought-provoking, passionate discussions, young love, and the idle time for contemplation or getting lost in the world of ideas? Remember all that?” Of course, those years slip by so quickly, like sand through your fingers. And now, stuck in the routine of a boring, soul-crushing 9-to-5 job, you really begin to miss those years and those amazingly transformative experiences. But, year by year those memories recede before us and you stretch your arms farther, like Gatsby reaching out to recapture his past, and a younger version of his beloved Daisy.

It is exactly that paralyzing ennui that motivates Jesse Fisher to return to college and visit with his favorite college English professor, Peter Hoberg, in the 2012 enchanting film, Liberal Arts (written and directed by Josh Radnor). By visiting college and his favorite teachers, Fisher hopes to recapture his passion, his purpose in life. Hoberg dispenses a lot of wisdom, including this gem: “Any place you don’t leave is a prison.” However, during one memorable scene, while discussing aging, Professor Hoberg shares the world’s dirty secret with his former student:

Professor Peter Hoberg: You know how old I am?

Jesse Fisher: No, how old are you?

Hoberg: It’s none of your goddamn business. Do you know how old I feel like I am?

Fisher: [Shrugs]

Hoberg: 19. Since I was 19, I have never felt not 19. But I shave my face and I look in the mirror and I’m forced to say, “This is not a 19-year-old staring back at me.” [Sighs] Teaching here all these years, I’ve had to be very clear with myself, that even when I’m surrounded by 19-year-olds, and I may have felt 19, I’m not 19 anymore. You follow me?

Fisher: Yeah.

Hoberg: Nobody feels like an adult. It’s the world’s dirty secret.

So if you are a young adult, now you know what most middle-aged adults know. But please be discreet, don’t tell anyone… remember it’s our little secret.

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Funny Epitaphs: Having the Last Word and the Last Laugh

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Death stalks us from the moment we are born,” writes Kathleen Miller, author of Last Laughs: Funny Tombstone Quotes,  “and we all know that someday, somehow, we will have to confront our own mortality. In this final feud, why shouldn’t we have we have the last word? Hence the epitaph.” While some epitaphs are perfunctory, listing the name of the deceased, role in the family, and dates, some are bold, brash, and downright funny. Here are some funny epitaphs from actual tombstones:

Here lies the body of J. Blake / Stepped on the gas pedal instead of the parking brake

Too bad for heaven, too good for Hell / So, where he’s gone, I cannot tell

Here lies the carcass / Of a cursed sinner / Doomed to be roasted / For the Devil’s dinner

I told you I was ill

We must all die, there is no doubt / Your glass is running—mine is out.

Here lies an atheist / All dressed up / And no place to go.

Here lies a Foote / Whose death may thousands save / For Death now has one Foote / Within the grave

Here lies the body of J. Fiddle / In 1868, on the 30th day of June / He went out of tune.

Here lies Ned / There is nothing more to be said / Because we like to speak well of the dead.

Those who knew him best deplored him most

Here lies Peter, who was accidentally shot in his 30th year / This monument was erected by grateful relatives.

Here lies the body of E. White / She signaled left, and turned right.

Born 1903 – Died 1942 / Looked up an elevator shaft to see if the / Car was on the way down. / It was.

She always said her feet were killing her, but nobody believed her.

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Read related posts: Is There a Heaven?
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When We Blindly Adopt a Religion or Political System We Cease to Grow

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“When we blindly adopt a religion, or political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.”

From the April 1944 entry from The Diary of Anais Nin (1944-47) by French-Cuban American writer Anais Nin (born — get ready for it: Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell). Nin began writing her diary at the age of 11 in 1914 and kept writing until her death in 1977. Initially the diary was to be a letter to her father, who had left the family when she was young. Over time, even though she had a psychotherapist (Ott Rank), the diary turned out to be her best therapist. By the end of her life, the diary encompassed over 15,000 typewritten pages in 150 volumes — talk about dedication! It was her wish to have the diaries published. Due to its length, many publishers passed; however she eventually found a publisher who began with Volume 1 in 1966. The quotation that began this post is ubiquitous on the internet, largely because it is incredibly relevant to what is happening with respect to politics and religion in America and around the globe, yet there is rarely a precise source or context. So let’s learn a bit more about the specific context for Nin’s piercing observation and prescience.

In the 1944 letter, Nin describes her encounter with Olga, a political journalist who wants to return to writing poetry: “Olga felt she had deserted her poet self for a more altruistic occupation. Now her task was over. It was rendered futile by the turn of events… When the system failed (historically), there was never a question that it may have failed because it was composed of incompleted human beings, human beings who had ceased to work on their individual development. And it is this development which I believe will influence history from within, rather than systems. If enough individuals had worked at their own development, history would be formed as natural things are formed, organically, from the impulse of quality and maturity…. [Olga was] no longer the political journalist, no longer the woman of the world, but a woman in quest of her poetic self, trying to unlock the many doors she had closed upon this self. She had not only locked them, as she said, but she had lost the key.”

Nin ponders her friend’s situation and advocates focusing on inner reflection and growth. She writes: “Every time our hope for a better world is based on a system, this system collapses, due to the corruptibility and imperfection of human beings. I believe we have to go back and work at the growth of human beings, so they will not need systems, but will know how to rule themselves. Now you have suffered the shock of disillusion in an ideology which has betrayed its ideals. It is a good time to return to the creation of yourself, not as a blind number in a group, but as an individual. Poetry is merely the language of our night-self, in which are imbedded the seeds of all we do and are in the day. We can only control it by knowing it. Better to make this journey back to what you had intended, rather than to die of disillusion.”

Nic then gave her friend a copy of Nightwood by Njuna Barnes and Choix des Elues by Jean Giraudoux “to help her re-enter the world of myth which alone makes the monstrosities of history bearable. She had to return to an incomplete woman because the task she had undertaken had not matured her. When we blindly adopt a religion, or political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.”

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The Ultimate Victory of Tomorrow is Democracy with Education

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“There may be times when men and women in the turmoil of change lose touch with the civilized gains of centuries of educa­tion: but the gains of education are never really lost. Books may be burned and cities sacked, but truth, like the yearning for free­dom, lives in the hearts of humble men and women. The ulti­mate victory of tomorrow is with democracy, and through de­mocracy with education, for no people in all the world can be kept eternally ignorant or eternally enslaved.”

From President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s address, titled “If the Fires of Freedom and Civil Liberties Burn Low in Other Lands, They Must be Made Brighter in Our Own,” delivered to the National Education Association on June 30, 1938. The address in included in the Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Franklin D. Roosevelt (Volume 7).

What is the Cost of Lies?

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsOne of the most powerful scenes in HBO’s Chernobyl, a miniseries written by Craig Mazin, is the last episode, when Valery Legasov, the deputy director of the Kurchatov Institute, testifies about what really happened at the nuclear power plant on April 26, 1986. When Legasov stuns the courtroom with the truth, that the power plant had a design flaw, Judge Milan Kadnikov warns him about potential treason: “Professor Legasov, if you mean to suggest the Soviet State is somehow responsible for what happened, then I must warn you, you are treading on dangerous ground.” Legazov’s response and concluding narration are riveting, not only because they address the lies of Chernobyl, but they are so relevant today. In short, Chernobyl is a metaphor for the modern world. When you read Legazov’s response, think of the cost of lies of politicians, world leaders, religious leaders, business leaders, etc. at the center of all the major scandals in the news over the past few years. In every one of those situations, leaders have buried the truth in their headlong pursuit of greed and power rather than pursuing the greatest good for the greatest number of people, which should be the highest aspiration of true leadership:

Valery Legasov : I’ve already trod on dangerous ground. We’re on dangerous ground right now, because of our secrets and our lies. They are practically what define us. When the truth offends, we lie and lie until we can no longer remember it is even there, but it is still there. Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid. That is how an RBMK reactor core explodes. Lies…

To be a scientist is to be naive. We are so focused on our search for the truth we fail to consider how few actually want us to find it. But it is always there whether we see it or not, whether we choose to or not. The truth doesn’t care about our needs or wants, it doesn’t care about our governments, our ideologies, our religions. It will lie in wait for all time. And this, at last, is the gift of Chernobyl. Where I once would fear the cost of truth, now I only ask: What is the cost of lies?

For a fascinating discussion of the central issue of personal responsibility watch Oliver Thorn’s fascinating video titled “Chernobyl and Personal Responsibility” on his YouTube channel Philosophy Tube. Thorn, a philosopher and actor, began teaching philosophy in 2012 in response to the British government raising university fees 300%. In this particular video, Thorn examines the key philosophical issues involved in HBO’s Chernobyl and how the filmmakers used poetic license to reinforce certain themes. One of the most interesting discussions is the contrast between personal responsibility and intergenerational collective responsibility.

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