Category Archives: Quotations

Triplets: The Triumph of Evil When Good Men Do Nothing

atkins bookshelf quotations

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

From Stride Toward Freedom: A Leader of His People Tells the Montgomery Story (1958)by Martin Luther King, Jr. In this book, King explains what really happened during the Montgomery Buy Boycott of 1955-56 that was not covered accurately by the media.

Evils that befall the world are not nearly so often caused by bad men as they are by good men who are silent when an opinion must be voiced.

From Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: The Uncensored Story of the JonBenet Murder and the Grand Jury’s Search for the Truth by American photojournalist, director, and screenwriter Lawrence Schiller. Schiller has written and collaborated on 22 books, many of which focus on some of America’s most fascinating celebrities and sensational crimes. He has also produced and directed over 30 films, televisions movies, and miniseries based on his books.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

This is one of the most well-known apocryphal quotes, that is, a quote that is of doubtful authenticity and is falsely attributed to a notable individual. This particular quote has been attributed to Edmund Burke, the Irish philosopher and statesman, but there is no written proof to support the claim. The only writing that comes close is this: “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle. (1770).” Almost a century later, John Stuart Mill, the British philosopher, expressed a similar thought: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” Garson O’Toole, known as the Quote Investigator, tracked down  a medical bulletin from 1895 that had this sentence without any attribution: “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” Perhaps over time, these quotations were conflated and attributed to Burke. Soon the quote made its way into prominent speeches, like JFK in 1961. From there the quotation was included in reference books, like the Yale Book of Quotations (1950) and Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 14th Edition (1980). Once the quote made its way to the internet, it joined the army of apocryphal quotes that marches on and propagates endlessly.

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Read related posts: Doublets: Love
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Doublets: The Role of Religion
Doublets: Things Left Unsaid

For further reading: Hemingway Didn’t Say That by Garson O’Toole
Stride Toward Freedom by Martin Luther King, Jr.
quoteinvestigator.com/2010/12/04/good-men-do/
barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/all_that_is_necessary_for_the_triumph_of_evil_is_that_good_men_do_nothing/

What Two Qualities Does a Writer Need to Possess to Be Creative?

“It seems that two qualities are necessary if a great artist is to remain creative to the end of a long life; he must on the one hand retain an abnormally keen awareness of life, he must never grow complacent, never be content with life, must always demand the impossible and when he cannot have it, must despair. The burden of the mystery must be with him day and night. He must be shaken by the naked truths that will not be comforted. This divine discontent, this disequilibrium, this state of inner tension is the source of artistic energy. Many lesser poets have it only in their youth; some even of the greatest lose it in middle life. Wordsworth lost the courage to despair and with it his poetic power. But more often the dynamic tensions are so powerful that they destroy the man before he reaches maturity.”

Excerpt from the introduction to Goethe’s autobiography titled Truth and Fantasy from My Life (1949) by British writer and diplomat Humphrey Trevelyan (1905-1985).

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John Steinbeck’s Letter to His Son About Love

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomA father imparts many things to his children, including guidance, values, morals, and wisdom. Some of the most cherished books in my library are collections of letters written by notable authors to their children. One memorable letter was written by John Steinbeck in 1958 to his eldest son, Thomas, then a teenager who was attending boarding school. Thomas had fallen in love with a girl named Susan and wrote to his father for advice. Of course, this is a topic that every father knows about, but more so for an award-winning author who has explored its depth in several novels. Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1962 and in his acceptance speech, he touched on the importance of love: “the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man’s proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit — for gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and of emulation. I hold that a writer who does not believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature.” In the letter to his son, included in Steinbeck: A Life in Letters edited by his third wife, Elaine, Steinbeck shares his profound, timeless insights about love:

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

Love, Fa

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Doublets: Intelligence Is the Ability to Hold Two Opposed Ideas at the Same Time

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still be able to function.

From the essay “The Crack-Up” (February 1936) by F. Scott Fitzgerald found in a collection of essays, letters, and poems, titled The Crack-up edited by legendary editor Edmund Wilson.. There are several variants of this quotations, such as “The truest sign of intelligence is the ability to entertain two contradictory ideas simultaneously” or “Intelligence has been described as the ability to entertain two apparently contradictory ideas in one’s head at the same time.” In the essay, Fitzgerald is discussing the trials and tribulations of life that make an impact on a person. He writes: “Of course all of life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work… don’t show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within… Before I go on with this short history let me make a general observation: the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still be able to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the ‘impossible’ come true.”

“A broad-minded man, who can see both sides of the question and is ready to hold opposed truths while confessing that he cannot reconcile them, is at a manifest disadvantage with a narrow-minded man who sees but one side, sees it clearly, and is ready to interpret the whole Bible, or, if need be, the whole universe, in accordance with his formula.”

From Henry VIII and the Reformation (1962) by historian H. Maynard Smith. In this passage Smith is referring to William Tyndale, an English scholar who translated the Bible into English from Hebrew and Greek. Tyndale was also a key figure in the Protestant Reformation. Tyndale was imprisoned for being a heretic, teaching a doctrine that was inconsistent with Church teaching (he argued that the country’s king should be the head of the church rather than the Pope, which led to the Church of England to break from the Catholic Church). In October 1536 he was strangled and then his body was burned at the stake. His final words were “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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For further reading: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45392/ulysses


Adventures in Rhetoric: Epistrophe

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAn epistrophe (pronounced “uh PI struh fee”) is a rhetorical device that involves the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of a sentence or clause. If you listened to Reverend Al Sharpton’s powerful, poignant eulogy to George Floyd on June 4, 2020, you will have heard a masterful use of epistrophe: “you had your knee on my neck.” Sharpton delivered his eulogy from an all-white podium that was a replica of the pulpit that Martin Luther King, Jr. used when he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. Like King, Sharpton is a gifted orator who follows in the tradition of inspiring Baptist preachers who speak with commanding voices and fully connect with their audiences. Both men begin their speeches in a slow, measured pace to draw you in and then gradually build to a passionate crescendo, utilizing evocative language and rhetorical devices like repetition, alliteration, and metaphors. Here is an excerpt highlighting the use of epistrophe (italics added):

“People across economic and racial lines started calling and getting in and we flew out of here… and when I stood at that spot, reason it got to me is George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to being is you kept your knee on our neck. We were smarter then the underfunded schools you put us in, but you had your knee on our neck. We could run corporations and not hustle in the street, but you had your knee on our neck. We had creative skills, we could do whatever anybody else could do, but we couldn’t get your knee off our neck. What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country, in education, in health services, and in every area of American life, it’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say get your knee off our necks. That’s the problem no matter who you are. We thought maybe we had a complex, T.I. [referring to an American rapper who was in attendance], maybe it was just us, but even blacks that broke through, you kept your knee on that neck. Michael Jordan won all of these championships, and you kept digging for mess because you got to put a knee on our neck. White housewives would run home to see a black woman on TV named Oprah Winfrey and you messed with her because you just can’t take your knee off our neck. A man comes out of a single parent home, educates himself and rises up and becomes the President of the United States and you ask him for his birth certificate because you can’t take your knee off our neck. The reason why we are marching all over the world is we were like George, we couldn’t breathe, not because there was something wrong with our lungs, but that you wouldn’t take your knee off our neck. We don’t want no favors, just get up off of us and we can be and do whatever we can be!”

The words on the page do not do justice to the extremely uplifting and powerful delivery by Sharpton: it’s breathtaking to behold. You will note that the speech It is interrupted by several standing ovations. You can listen to the speech here.

Sharpton returned to the pulpit a few days later on June 9, 2020 to deliver another passionate eulogy for George Floyd’s final memorial service in Houston, Texas. Once again, Sharpton employed the epistrophe several times, for example: “wickedness in high places!”

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World Literature Has the Power to Help Mankind in These Troubled Times

alex atkins bookshelf quotations

It’s a bit eerie to read the warnings about evil, complicity, and falsehoods supported by violence — written by a famous author more than 50 years ago. But here we are, living in the same troubled times that Russian novelist, philosopher, and political prisoner Alexandr Solzhenitsyn witnessed during his lifetime. His works, including One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Cancer Ward, and The Gulag Archipelago exposed the horrors of the labor camps run by the Soviet state. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970. In his speech to the Swedish Academy, Solzhenitsyn argues passionately about the value of the lessons that world literature can pass on from generation to generation so that “one nation learn correctly and concisely the true history of another.” And he argues that artists and writers can conquer oppressive falsehoods. Those, of course, are lofty and laudable goals; unfortunately, they are tempered by Aldous Huxley’s famous observation “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”

“One world, one mankind cannot exist in the face of six, four or even two scales of values: we shall be torn apart by this disparity of rhythm, this disparity of vibrations. A man with two hearts is not for this world, neither shall we be able to live side by side on one Earth.

But who will co-ordinate these value scales, and how? Who will create for mankind one system of interpretation, valid for good and evil deeds, for the unbearable and the bearable, as they are differentiated today? Who will make clear to mankind what is really heavy and intolerable and what only grazes the skin locally? Who will direct the anger to that which is most terrible and not to that which is nearer? Who might succeed in transferring such an understanding beyond the limits of his own human experience? Who might succeed in impressing upon a bigoted, stubborn human creature the distant joy and grief of others, an understanding of dimensions and deceptions which he himself has never experienced? Propaganda, constraint, scientific proof — all are useless. But fortunately there does exist such a means in our world! That means is art. That means is literature.

[Art and literature] can perform a miracle: they can overcome man’s detrimental peculiarity of learning only from personal experience so that the experience of other people passes him by in vain. From man to man, as he completes his brief spell on Earth, art transfers the whole weight of an unfamiliar, lifelong experience with all its burdens, its colours, its sap of life; it recreates in the flesh an unknown experience and allows us to possess it as our own…

I believe that world literature has it in its power to help mankind, in these its troubled hours, to see itself as it really is, notwithstanding the indoctrinations of prejudiced people and parties. World literature has it in its power to convey condensed experience from one land to another so that we might cease to be split and dazzled, that the different scales of values might be made to agree, and one nation learn correctly and concisely the true history of another with such strength of recognition and painful awareness as it had itself experienced the same, and thus might it be spared from repeating the same cruel mistakes. And perhaps under such conditions we artists will be able to cultivate within ourselves a field of vision to embrace the WHOLE WORLD: in the centre observing like any other human being that which lies nearby, at the edges we shall begin to draw in that which is happening in the rest of the world. And we shall correlate, and we shall observe world proportions…

We shall be told: what can literature possibly do against the ruthless onslaught of open violence? But let us not forget that violence does not live alone and is not capable of living alone: it is necessarily interwoven with falsehood. Between them lies the most intimate, the deepest of natural bonds. Violence finds its only refuge in falsehood, falsehood its only support in violence. Any man who has once acclaimed violence as his METHOD must inexorably choose falsehood as his PRINCIPLE. At its birth violence acts openly and even with pride. But no sooner does it become strong, firmly established, than it senses the rarefaction of the air around it and it cannot continue to exist without descending into a fog of lies, clothing them in sweet talk. It does not always, not necessarily, openly throttle the throat, more often it demands from its subjects only an oath of allegiance to falsehood, only complicity in falsehood.

And the simple step of a simple courageous man is not to partake in falsehood, not to support false actions! Let THAT enter the world, let it even reign in the world – but not with my help. But writers and artists can achieve more: they can CONQUER FALSEHOOD! In the struggle with falsehood art always did win and it always does win! Openly, irrefutably for everyone! Falsehood can hold out against much in this world, but not against art.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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For further reading: hwww.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/1970/solzhenitsyn/lecture/


Cornel West: We’re Witnessing the Collapse of the Legitimacy of Leadership

alex atkins bookshelf cultureCornel West, professor, public intellectual, philosopher, social critic, and civil rights activist was recently interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday (May 31, 2020). He remarked on the recent riots sparked by the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The riots began as local protests but quickly spread nationwide, stoked by America’s long history of deep-rooted, systemic racism, oppression, and entitlement as evidenced by stark inequalities in the criminal justice, health care, economic, and educational systems.

What’s going on [with racism and riots]?

“I think what we’re seeing here is the ways in which the vicious legacy of white supremacy manifests in organized hatred, greed and corruption. We’re witnessing the collapse of the legitimacy of leadership, the political class, the economic class, the professional class. That’s the deeper crisis. The beautiful thing is we’re seeing citizens who are caring and concerned, they’re hitting the streets. We’re seeing black, white, red, yellow, especially young people, coming together. [But] the problem is we have a system that’s not responding and seems to be unable to respond.”

Has the U.S. made any progress on racial issues?

“I’m not saying there hasn’t been progress; [however, to borrow from Malcolm X] if you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. I don’t measure black progress in terms of black elites… I’m concerned about the least of these. That’s the tradition of Martin Luther King.”

Do you think that what we’re seeing in the streets — street violence, looting in African-American neighborhoods — do you think that’s doing any good for African Americans?

“No, most of my fellow citizens, God bless them, that are in the streets are there, the peaceful over there marching and when it does spill over into violence looting is wrong — but legalized looting is wrong too. Murder is wrong. Legalized murder is wrong. I look at the wickedness in high places first and then keep track of the least of these. We all have individual responsibility, but we’re living in a system that seems to be unable to reform itself and when you have such moment you get violent spillover. That’s the concern. If we’re more concerned about the property and spillover than the poverty, decrepit school systems, dilapidated housing, massive unemployment and underemployment, we’re going to be doing this every five, every ten, every twenty years… We got to make sure we don’t pass it on to our younger generation.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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For further reading: foxnews.com/media/dr-cornel-west-on-whether-us-can-break-down-racial-barriers


Riot is the Language of the Unheard

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Let me say as I’ve always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating… But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again.”

More than 50 years ago Martin Luther King, Jr. was addressing the issues of the time — racism, poverty, and economic justice. This excerpt is from the speech titled “The Other America” that he delivered at Stanford University on April 14, 1967. Just ten days prior to that presentation, King criticized the government’s misguided efforts to address the poverty that crippled the nation: “If we spend thirty-five billion dollars a year to fight an ill-conceived war in Vietnam and twenty billion dollars to put a man on the moon, we can spend billions of dollars to put God’s children on their own two feet, right now.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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For further reading: http://www.crmvet.org/docs/otheram.htm
kinginstitute.stanford.edu/news/50-years-ago-martin-luther-king-jr-speaks-stanford-university


Doublets: I Am a Part of All That I Have Met

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsI am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.

Excerpt from the poem “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

“I am, he thought, a part of all that I have touched and that has touched me, which, having for me no existence save that which I gave to it, became other than itself by being mixed with what I then was, and is now still otherwise, having fused with what I now am, which is itself a cumulation of what I have been becoming.”

From the novel Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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For further reading: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45392/ulysses


We Live in an Age Where Social Media Lures Us Into Selfishness

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“[We] live in an age of social media where we are constantly assured that we are all independent free agents. But that free agency is essentially unconnected to real community, divorced from civic engagement, duped into believing in our own lonely primacy by a sophisticated media culture that requires you – no, desperately needs you – to live in an all-consuming disposable present, wearing the right blue jeans, driving the right car, carrying the right handbag, eating at all the right places, blissfully unaware of the historical tides that have brought us to this moment, blissfully uninterested in where those tides might take us.

Our spurious sovereignty is reinforced and perpetually underscored to our obvious and great comfort, but this kind of existence actually ingrains in us a stultifying sameness that rewards conformity (not courage), ignorance and anti-intellectualism (not critical thinking). This wouldn’t be so bad if we were just wasting our own lives, but this year our political future depends on it. And there comes a time when I – and you – can no longer remain neutral, silent. We must speak up – and speak out.”

From the commencement address delivered at Stanford University on June 12, 2016 by Ken Burns, a historical documentary filmmaker. His observations are as relevant today as they were four years ago.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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Great Men and Women of Culture Bring Forth the Best Ideas of Their Time

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“The great men [and women] of culture are those who have had a passion for diffusing, for making prevail, for carrying from one end of society to the other, the best knowledge, the best ideas of their time ; who have laboured to divest knowledge of all that was harsh, uncouth, difficult, abstract, professional, exclusive ; to humanize it, to make it efficient outside the clique of the cultivated and learned, yet still remaining the best knowledge and thought of the time, and a true source, therefore, of sweetness and light.”

From the essay “Culture and Anarchy” from the book Sweetness and Light by English poet and critic Matthew Arnold (1822-1888).

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Plato’s Warning: Ignorance Will be the Source of Great and Monstrous Crimes

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“A man may truly say that ignorance is a third case of crimes. Ignorance, however, may be conveniently divided… into two sorts: There is simple ignorance, which is the source of lighter offenses, and double ignorance, which is accompanied by a conceit of wisdom; and he who is under the influence of the latter fancies that he knows all about matters of which he knows nothing. This second kind of ignorance, when possessed of power and strength, will be… the source of great and monstrous crimes…”

A number of websites mistakenly attribute this quotation to Aristotle (384-322 BC), a famous Greek philosopher, who was a student of Plato. However this quotation was written by Plato; it is found in The Dialogues of Plato, Volume 4, (1895) translated by B. Jewett, professor of Greek, University of Oxford. Plato (428-348 BC). Plato was a student of the classical Greek philosopher Socrates (470-399 BC). Plato and Socrates are considered the founders of Western philosophy — their ideas and concepts have shaped Western civilization for centuries. We know of Socrates’ teachings through Plato’s writings (The Dialogues) that employ the Socratic method: the deep exploration of topics through endless questioning. Between 390 and 380 BC, Plato who was about 40 years old at the time, established the Academy, considered the world’s first university. The school was located in a garden of olive trees that was dedicated to Academus, a hero in Greek mythology. Academus spared Athens from destruction by telling Castor and Pollux (known as the Dioscuri) that their sister Helen was being held captive at Aphidnae by the Athenian king Theseus. Plato’s Academy is immortalized by Raphael in his stunning masterpiece The School of Athens, one of four frescos that adorn the Stanza dell Senator in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. Raphael painted the fresco, commissioned by Pope Julius II for his library, between 1509 and 1511. At the center of the fresco are the images of Plato and Aristotle walking while having a deep conversation. On the left is Plato holding a copy of Timaeus with his left hand and pointing to the heavens with his right hand. To his right is Aristotle holding a copy of Nicomachean Ethics with his left hand and gesturing toward the earth with his right hand. You can take a virtual tour of the Vatican in the last link below.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: Plato’s Warning: If You Don’t Vote, You Will be Governed by Idiots
Will We Have Free and Fair Elections Ever Again?
A Republic, If You Can Keep It
Is the United States a Democracy or Republic?

For further reading: The Dialogues of Plato by Plato
The Cave and the Light by Arthur Herman
mymodernmet.com/school-of-athens-raphael/
https://www.ancient.eu/plato/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/tip-sheet/article/60264-5-reasons-why-plato-and-aristotle-still-matter-today.html
http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/stanze-di-raffaello/tour-virtuale.html


Reading is Love in Action

alex atkins bookshelf books“In a world that can get too much, a world where we are running out of min space, fictional worlds are essential. They can be an escape from reality, yes, but not an escape from truth… A truth that can keep you sane, or at least keep you you… So often, reading is seen as important because of its social value. It is tied to education and the economy and so on. But that misses the whole point of reading. Reading isn’t important because it helps you get a job. It’s important because it gives you too to exist beyond the reality you’re given. It is how humans merge. How minds connect. Dreams. Empathy. Understanding. Escape. Reading is love in action.”

From the essay Fiction is Freedom from the book Notes on a Nervous Planet by English novelist and journalist Matt Haig. He has published 20 books, including the best-selling nonfiction book, Reasons to Stay Alive (2015). The inspiration for the book came about when Haig pondered how we live in a modern world that is so fast-paced, consumer-driven, and stressful, where our physical health and mental health are intertwined. A review of all the sensational headlines in the news prompted the question: how can we live in a mad world without going mad ourselves?

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The Dalai Lama on Finding Hope During the Coronavirus Pandemic

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsThe editors of Time magazine recently reached out to fifty thought leaders to share insights about navigating the many challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. The result is an inspirational 50-page special report titled “Finding Hope.” It is fitting that one of those individuals was the Dalai Lama (born Tenzin Gyatso), the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the political leader of Tibet. The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 5, 1989. The Norwegian Nobel Committee recognized the Dalai Lama for his long-term peaceful struggle for liberation of Tibet as well as his tireless work for the global common good: “The Dalai Lama has developed his philosophy of peace from a great reverence for all things living and upon the concept of universal responsibility embracing all mankind as well as nature. In the opinion of the Committee the Dalai Lama has come forward with constructive and forward-looking proposals for the solution of international conflicts, human rights issues, and global environmental problems.”

Here are some highlights from his essay “Thoughts, Not Prayers” that provides some comforting and hopeful thoughts from a Buddhist perspective:

“From the Buddhist perspective, every sentient being is acquainted with suffering and the truths of sickness, old age, and death. But as human beings, we have the capacity to use our minds to conquer anger and panic and greed. In recent years, I have been stressing ’emotional disarmament’: to try to see things realistically and clearly, without the confusion of fear or rage.”

“We Buddhists believe that the entire world in interdependent. That is why I often speak about universal responsibility. The outbreak of this terrible coronavirus has shown that what happens to one person can soon affect every other person. But it also reminds us that a compassionate or constructive act… has the potential to help many.”

“…I have been praying for my brothers and sisters in China and everywhere else… But prayer is not enough. This crisis shows that we must all take responsibility where we can. We must combine the courage doctors and nurses are showing with empirical science to begin to turn this situation around and protect our future from more such threats.”

“Photographs of our world from space clearly show that there are no real boundaries on our blue planet. Therefore, all of us must take care of it and work to prevent climate change and other destructive forces. The pandemic services as a warning that only by coming together with a coordinated, global response will we meet the unprecedented magnitude of the challenges we face.”

“This crisis shows us that we are not separate from one another — even when we are living apart. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to exercise compassion and help.”

“As a Buddhist, I believe in the principle of impermanence. Eventually, this virus will pass… At this time of uncertainty, it is important that we do not lose hope and confidence in the constructive efforts so many are making.”

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For further reading: Time, April 27-May 4, 2020
https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1989/press-release/


Reading Enlarges the Range of Our Living and Deepens Our Emotions

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Reading can never be a substitute for living; but reading can enormously enlarge the range of our living by bringing us into contact with people, real and imaginary, we never could meet, by awakening and deepening our emotions, lending new meaning to our own experiences, and by giving us most of the facts and ideas without which we could not work or talk or think.”

From the essay “A Teacher Looks at Reading” by A. B. Herr, a senior instructor and textbook editor at The Reading Institute, New York University.

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Grief is Just Love With No Place to Go

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

During difficult times — especially times of grief — we look for comfort in words . Perhaps those words can be found in poetry, songs, prayers, or simply the reflection of someone who has walked this same path. It is easy to understand why this insightful quotation resonates with so many people and appears in so many books and websites. The sentiment is so universal and it is expressed so beautifully, so poetically. Naturally, it begs the question: who wrote “grief is just love with no place to go?”

One source of the quotation is a collection of insightful and comforting short sermons and quotations by Pastor Stephen Kyeyune titled Imparted Wisdom in Troubled Times: Making Sense of the Senseless Situation, published in 2018. The book is particularly helpful as we collectively mourn the loss and suffering of so many souls during the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, Kyeyune mistakenly attributes the quotation to Jimmie Anderson; however, the actual author is Jamie Anderson, writer of the blog titled All My Loose Ends: Nourish Your Roots. According to a blog directory listing (last updated in 2009), Anderson (age 43) describes herself as a soccer mom who lives in Illinois where she and her husband raise their two daughters and three pets. Interestingly, the blog has been inactive since 2014.

The eloquent passage, which has gone viral, appears in the post titled “As the lights wink out…” (March 25, 2014) where Anderson discusses caring for a dog, once owned by her mother, which leads to a profound, poignant reflection about the grief she experienced when her mother passed away. Anderson uses the image of little lights as a metaphor for touchstones (items, people, pets, and places) that evoke the memory of her recently deceased mother. Sadly, over time those lights begin to wink out: “The lights wink out over and over again and [my mother] moves farther and farther away to a place where she’s not easy to touch and to find anymore.” She laments that when her mother’s dog passes away, it is one more light that is extinguished forever. Anderson reaches into the depths of her grief, commensurate with the depths of her love, and writes so purely from the heart: “Grief, I’ve learned, is really love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot give. The more you loved someone, the more you grieve. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes and in that part of your chest that gets empty and hollow feeling. The happiness of love turns to sadness when unspent. Grief is just love with no place to go. It’s taken me seven years to realize that my grief is my way of telling the great vastness that the love I have still resides here with me. I will always grieve for my Mom because I will always love her. It won’t stop. That’s how love goes.”

This quotation is a testament that you don’t have to be a celebrity, an acclaimed author or poet, a respected religious or political leader, or a world renown philosopher, or an influencer or self-help guru to write something that touches thousands or millions of lives — you just have to be a reflective human being who understands that life experience is the best teacher of wisdom (or expressed more succinctly, with age comes wisdom), and the obligation to share it with your fellow human beings.

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Read related posts: A Funeral Poem for a Friend
A Moving Tribute to a Dog
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Einstein’s Touching Letter to a Grieving Father

For further reading: http://allmylooseends.com/2014/03/lights-wink/
http://themomblogs.com/blogs/detail.php?link_id=6471


Reading Gives Us Someplace to Go When We Have to Stay Where We Are

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”

This is a perfectly apt quotation about reading while we shelter in place during the coronavirus pandemic by Mason Cooley (1927-2002) an American aphorist. After earning his BA from San Diego State University and his Ph.D. from Oxford University, Colley was professor emeritus of world literature and French at the College of Staten Island at The City University of New York, an assistant professor of English (1959-1967) and an adjunct professor (1980-1980) at Columbia University. He is the author of The Comic Art of Barbara Pym (1980),  Aphorisms of the All-Too-Human (2002) and the City Aphorisms series. Here are some other Cooley aphorisms related to reading:

What I eat turns into my body. What I read turns into my mind.

Readers transform a library from a mausoleum into many theaters.

Reading more than life teaches us to recognize ethos and pathos.

Avid readers are enchanted by meaning, which available chiefly in books.

While we are reading, we are all Don Quixote.

If you do not throw in a few promises of better things to come, gloomy one, I am going to take you back to the library.

If I found the words I was looking for, I would not have read so much.

Reading civilized the inner life.

There are different rules for reading, for thinking, and for talking. Writing blends all three of them.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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Poems to Inspire During the Coronavirus Pandemic: No Man Is an Island

“In the aftermath of the spectacular collapse of the twin towers on September 11, 2001, the act of turning to poetry enjoyed a revival… In times of crisis, poems, not paintings or ballet, are what people habitually reach for… The formalized language of poetry can ritualize experience and provide emotional focus… Poetry also can assure us that we are not alone; others, some of them long dead, have felt what we are feeling.”

The excerpt above was written by Billy Collins, US Poet Laureate (2001-2003) from the introduction to The Poem I Turn To: Actors and Directors Present Poetry That Inspires Them. Sadly, poetry books tend to stand forlorn on dusty bookshelves, often relegated to the back of whatever bookstores are still in business. In general, most people don’t read or buy poetry; paradoxically people have an insatiable appetite for songs — that are essentially poems set to music — as evidenced by the steady sale of digital music (mp3s) and music streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora. Nevertheless, Collins is correct in stating that during special events in our lives — whether tragic or joyful — we inevitably turn to poetry. One of the greatest students of the human psyche, Sigmund Freund, expressed it this way: “Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me.”

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 will be a period that will have an indelible imprint on our collective consciousness. It is unlike anything the world has ever experienced — a devastating, crippling worldwide pandemic that triggered a financial meltdown and an economic depression that will rival the Great Depression of the 1930s. In a matter of weeks we lost so much: the loss of 42,016 lives (as of this writing); more than 850,000 are sick; our way of life has been disrupted; businesses will falter or fail; and our trust and faith in government leaders has eroded. However, paradoxically, we have gained something: the pandemic has shattered our complacency of living selfish, isolated lives to discover an eternal truth that has been obscured by the fog of narcissism and the headlong pursuit of money: that all humans are connected to one another. Moreover, we are interdependent — alas, our survival today, and in the coming years, depends on this realization and the obligation to care for one another, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, or political affiliation. During a dark and difficult time like this, I cannot think of a poem that is more relevant and inspirational than John Donne’s short, but eloquent, poem known as “No Man is an Island.” Donne, a cleric of the Church of England, wrote many devotionals and sermons. This poem appear in Meditation 17, that appears in Devotions upon Emergent Occasions published in 1624, during a very difficult time in his life when he was mourning the death of his wife, some of their children, and several friends. In this timeless poem, Donne reflects on mortality and an individual’s relation to humanity: 

No Man is an Island

No man is an island entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were,
As well as any manor of thy friend’s,
Or of thine own were.

Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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Einstein’s Touching Letter to a Grieving Father

For further reading: The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne
The Poem I Turn To: Actors & Directors Present Poetry That Inspires Them edited by Jason Shinder
https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-death-toll/


Where Do We Find the Courage to Do What is Right?

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Here we are at the end of the century, drifting through a heroless age. We have no leaders we can trust, no visions to invest in, no faith to ride. All we have are our own protean moralities, our countless private codes, which we each shape and reshape according to our own selfish needs. We don’t dare to think too far ahead, we can’t see too far ahead. Here we are, trapped by whatever season we find ourselves enduring, waiting out the weather, staring at a drought sun, stupefied, helpless – or scrambling like fools to make it home before the rain really comes down and the dry river floods and the hills crash into the valley. Where do we find the courage to do what is right?”

From the novel The Long Rain, by American author Peter Gadol, published in 1997. Having been written over 20 years ago, one is struck by how eerily prescient this passage is particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic. The novel explores how the protagonist confronts several moral dilemmas and the choices he makes and how they impact others. One of the key takeaways from the novel is that one of the most significant measures of success in life is based on the how people treat one another, evoking the wisdom of the Golden Rule.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Do you agree or disagree; additional perspectives? I welcome thoughtful discussion via comment section or email. Be a part of the community. Cheers.

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Doublets: Idiocy and Morons in Politics

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Dictatorships foster oppression, dictatorships foster servitude, dictatorship foster cruelty; more abominable is the fact that they foster idiocy.”

Argentine short-story writer and essayist Jorge Luis Borges in a letter to the Argentine Society of Letters in the mid 1940s.

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

From one of the essays that American journalist and essayist H. L. Mencken wrote for the Baltimore Evening Sun, from 1920 to 1948, featured in the book H. L. Mencken On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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What Makes Facebook So Popular?

alex atkins bookshelf culture“What makes Facebook so popular? What makes Facebook so unique is that it is able to marry two of the most powerful human emotions: narcissism and insecurity. First, Facebook allows you to create a world that centers on you. Then it lets you protect that world by surrounding it with only people you accept as friends. It’s like controlling the guest list to an exclusive party where you are the star. Facebook allows you to feel important and safe — at the same time.”

Brant Pinvidic, from his documentary Why I’m Not on Facebook (2015). The documentary was inspired by Pinvidic’s question: should I or shouldn’t I join Facebook, the world’s largest social networking site with more than 1.6 billion users? To answer that question, Pinvidic interviews dozens of people, including Facebook members, those who hate Facebook, the original founders of Facebook, celebrities, wannabe celebrities, Facebook friends, real friends, and family members. He learns how Facebook can bring out the best in people (families staying in touch, classmates who organize reunions, and sharing hobbies) as well as the worst in people (unfaithful spouses who cheat and destroy their marriages, criminals who learn about their targets and when to rob a home, pick-up artists who set up one-night stands, serial stalkers, and people who are so highly addicted to Facebook that they cannot have a face-to-face conversation — ironic huh?). Even though Facebook is about bringing people together, it also breaks them apart: about 30% of divorces are due to Facebook. Pinvidic also meets with Dr. Drew Pinsky who introduces him to the Dr. Drew Narcissism Test, from his book The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America, that helps assess an individual’s level of narcissism. Incidentally, the score for a typical person is 15; a highly narcissistic person will score 40. Pinvidic took the test and his score was both revelatory and disturbing. He couldn’t leave Dr. Drew’s office fast enough. Ultimately, at the end of his quest for enlightenment of all things Facebook, Pinvidic discovers that the happiest people are the ones who are not on Facebook — so he decides not to join Facebook.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Do you agree or disagree; additional perspectives? I welcome thoughtful discussion via comment section or email. Be a part of the community. Cheers.

Read related posts: Will We Have Free and Fair Elections Ever Again?
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For further reading: https://www.oprah.com/relationships/the-narcissistic-personality-inventory-dr-drew-pinsky/all
https://www.0eb.com


Isaac Asimov: There is a Cult of Ignorance in the United States

alex atkins bookshelf cultureIf you have watched any of the recent impeachment hearings or the President’s recent State of the Union Address, not to mention general coverage of politics over the past few years, one must sadly arrive at the inescapable conclusion that we are living in a post-truth world, where Truth does not matter, where a belief or opinion — no matter how ill-informed or irrational — has trumped (pun intended) objective facts. In short, we are living in an Orwellian world. Indeed, George Orwell’s dystopian novel (written more than seven decades ago) is a magnifying glass that exposes how language and disinformation is used as a powerful political tool to conceal the truth in order to manipulate the masses. Listen to these notable lines from 1984: “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command… In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it… Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness… And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed — if all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth.” It’s eerie isn’t it?

But few know that another influential writer and intellectual would mine this same territory thirty years later — as the actual year 1984 approached. For many years, Newsweek magazine contained a feature titled “My Turn” where a notable individual wrote about any issue that they felt was important. For the January 21, 1980 issue, world-renown science fiction writer Isaac Asimov wrote a very thought-provoking essay entitled “A Cult of Ignorance” that is as relevant today as it was 40 years ago. Interestingly, the essay was never reprinted in any collection of essays — a disservice to what Asimov saw then and is happening now: the rise of anti-intellectualism. So what does anti-intellectualism mean? Anti-intellectualism, according to Richard Hofstadter, professor of American history at Columbia University, public intellectual, and author of Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1963), is defined as “resentment and suspicion of the life of the mind and of those who are considered to represent it; and a disposition constantly to minimize the value of that life.” In his essay, Asimov argues that there is a cult of anti-intellectualism in America that perpetuates a very flawed concept of democracy: that every person’s opinion, whether ill-informed or well-informed, is considered equal. Stated another way, in a democracy, equality of rights does not necessarily mean equality of knowledge — an opinion formed on the basis of lies does not have the same significance of an opinion based on objective facts. And this is something that politics parties misuse to their advantage: it is in their best interest to disseminate lies, to perpetuate ignorance — indeed, to create a cult of ignorance — to manipulate the masses. And here are some of critical questions: can we ever get back to a world that values Truth? How do we do it? How long will it take?

Here is Asimov’s essay, “A Cult of Ignorance,” for your consideration and discussion:

It’s hard to quarrel with that ancient justification of the free press: “America’s right to know.” It seems almost cruel to ask, ingenuously, “America’s right to know what, please? Science? Mathematics? Economics? Foreign languages?”

None of those things, of course. In fact, one might well suppose that the popular feeling is that Americans are a lot better off without any of that tripe.

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

Politicians have routinely striven to speak the language of Shakespeare and Milton as ungrammatically as possible in order to avoid offending their audiences by appearing to have gone to school. Thus, Adlai Stevenson, who incautiously allowed intelligence and learning and wit to peep out of his speeches, found the American people flocking to a Presidential candidate who invented a version of the English language that wall all his own and that has been the despair of satirists ever since.

George Wallace, in his speeches, had, as one of his prime targets, the “pointy-headed-professor,” and with what a roar of approval that phrase was always greeted by his pointy-head-audience.

Now we have a new slogan on the part of the obscurantists: “Don’t trust the experts!” Ten years ago, it was “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” But the shouters of that slogan found that the inevitable alchemy of the calendar converted them to the untrustworthiness of the over-30, and, apparently, they determined never to make that mistake again. “Don’t trust the experts!” is absolutely safe. Nothing, neither the passing of time nor exposure to information will convert these shouters to experts in any subject that might conceivably be useful.

We have a new buzzword, too, for anyone who admires competence, knowledge, learning and skill, and who wishes to spread it around. People like that are called “elitists.” That’s the funniest buzzword ever invented because people who are not members of the intellectual elite don’t know what an “elitist” is, or how to pronounce the word. As soon as someone shouts “Elitist” it becomes clear that he or she is a closet elitist who is feeling guilty about having gone to school.

All right, then, forget my ingenuous question. America’s right to know does not include knowledge of elitist subjects. America’s right to know involves something we might express vaguely as “what’s going on” in the courts, in Congress, in the White House, in industrial councils, in the regulatory agencies, in labor unions — in the seats of the mighty, generally.

Very good. I’m for that, too. But how are you going to let people know all that?

Grant us a free press, and a corps of independent and fearless investigative reporters, comes the cry, and we can be sure that the people will know.

Yes, provided they can read!

To be sure, the average American can sign his name more or less legibly, and can make out the sports headlines — but how many non-elitist Americans can, without undue difficulty, read as many as a thousand consecutive words of small print, some of which may be trisyllabic?

Moreover, the situation is growing worse. Reading scores in the schools decline steadily. The highway signs, which used to represent elementary misreading lessons (“Go Slo,” “Xroad”) are steadily being replaced by little pictures to make them internationally legible and incidentally to help those who know how to drive a car but, not being pointy-headed professors, can’t read.

Again, in television commercials, there are frequent printed messages. Well, keep your eyes on them and you’ll find out that no advertiser ever believes that anyone but an occasional elitist can read that print. To ensure that more than this mandarin minority gets the message, every word of it is spoken out loud by the announcer.

If that is so, then how have Americans got the right to know? Grant that there are certain publications that make an honest effort to tell the public what they should know, but ask yourselves how many actually read them.

There are 200 million Americans who have inhabited schoolrooms at some time in their lives and who will admit that they know how to read (provided you promise not to use their names and shame them before their neighbors), but most decent periodicals believe they are doing amazingly well if they have circulations of half a million. It may be that only 1 per cent — or less — of Americans make a stab at exercising their right to know. And if they try to do anything on that basis they are quite likely to be accused of being elitists.

I contend that the slogan “America’s right to know” is a meaningless one when we have an ignorant population, and that the function of a free press is virtually zero when hardly anyone can read.

What shall we do about it?

We might begin by asking ourselves whether ignorance is so wonderful after all, and whether it makes sense to denounce “elitism.”

I believe that every human being with a physically normal brain can learn a great deal and can be surprisingly intellectual. I believe that what we badly need is social approval of learning and social rewards for learning.

We can all be members of the intellectual elite and then, and only then, will a phrase like “America’s right to know” and, indeed, any true concept of democracy, have any meaning.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Do you agree or disagree; additional perspectives? I welcome thoughtful discussion via comment section or email. Be a part of the community. Cheers.

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What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?
Plato’s Warning: If You Don’t Vote, You Will Be Governed by Idiots
Is the United States a Democracy or a Republic?

For further reading: 1984 by George Orwell
Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter
The Roving Mind by Isaac Asimov
The Tyrannosaurus Prescription and 100 Other Essays by Isaac Asimov
https://aphelis.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/ASIMOV_1980_Cult_of_Ignorance.pdf


The Wisdom of Cornel West

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomWhat better way to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day than to attend a lecture by Cornel West, discussing democracy, justice, and race. West, like Noam Chomsky, is a public intellectual, philosopher, social critic, and political activist. He graduated from Harvard College magna cum  laude with a degree in Near Eastern languages and civilization. He received his PhD in philosophy from Princeton University. West taught at Harvard, the Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, Yale Divinity School, and the University of Paris. He is the recipient of 20 honorary degrees and has written over 20 books. Race Matters, published in 1994, and Democracy Matters, published in 2004, are two of his most notable and influential works. Filmgoers will recognize the famous philosopher as Councilor West in The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003) movies. If that isn’t impressive enough, he has also recorded several soul, hip-hop, and spoken word albums.

The excitement in the packed auditorium was palpable. Heads turned as he walked through the center aisle, wearing his trademarked black three piece suit with a gold pocket watch chain dangling from his waist. He marched on the stage and with his deep, booming voice proclaimed, “I am only scheduled for an hour, but I feel moved by the spirit!” What followed was a mesmerizing two-hour presentation that was one part college lecture (evoking the great names of philosophy, history, and literature), one part tribute to jazz and Motown (the man knows his music and lyrics!), and two parts Baptist sermon and gospel revival (with scattered shouts from the audience of “Amen!” “Preach it, Brother!” and an uplifting, foot-stomping sing-along of the timeless gospel song “This Little Light of Mine” that was popularized by the civil rights movement). You couldn’t help but think that this is what is must have been like to attend an event featuring  Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. The evening ending with a long, thunderous standing ovation that lifted everyone’s spirits.

Bookshelf honors Martin Luther King Jr. Day by sharing the wisdom of Cornel West drawn from his writings and his lecture of that memorable evening.

“Justice is what love looks like in public; tenderness is what love looks like in private.”

“I take my fundamental cue from John Coltrane that says there must be a priority of integrity, honesty, decency, and mastery of craft.”

“I have tried to be a man of letters in love with ideas in order to be a wiser and more loving person, hoping to leave the world just a little better than I found it.”

“I’ve never been tied to one party or one candidate or even one institution. And that’s true even with one church as a Christian. I’m committed to truth and justice.”

“I remind young people everywhere I go, one of the worst things the older generation did was to tell them for twenty-five years ‘Be successful, be successful, be successful!’ as opposed to ‘Be great, be great, be great.’ There’s a qualitative difference.

“King’s response to our crisis can be put in one word: revolution. A revolution in our priorities, a reevaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power from oligarchs and plutocrats to everyday people and ordinary citizens.“

“There is a sense in which there has to be a poetic mode of expression that moves people — you have to communicate in the form of stories and narratives that carry with them certain kinds of values and virtues. When the values and virtues are cached in light of Christian stories of love and justice but connected to a whole host of non-Christian persons, so that you’re speaking to human beings and fellow citizens, you make an intervention as a Christian. But the stories and narratives that you put forward in a poetic form still are able to seize the hearts, minds, and souls of fellow citizens of all different traditions and viewpoints. That is precisely what Martin Luther King Jr. was able to do, and there was a real sense in which his example is something that we need to learn from in the early part of the twenty-first century as the American empire wafers and wobbles.”

“The country is in deep trouble. We’ve forgotten that a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it. We need the courage to question the powers that be, the courage to be impatient with evil and patient with people, the courage to fight for social justice. In many instances we will be stepping out on nothing, and just hoping to land on something. But that’s the struggle. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never allow despair to have the last word.”

“If you view life as a gold rush, you’re going to end up worshiping a golden calf. And when you call for help, and that golden calf can’t respond, you go under.”

“You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.”

“Music at its best…is the grand archeology into and transfiguration of our guttural cry, the great human effort to grasp in time our deepest passions and yearnings as prisoners of time. Profound music leads us — beyond language — to the dark roots of our scream and the celestial
heights of our silence.”

“To accept your country without betraying it, you must love it for that which shows what it might become. America — this monument to the genius of ordinary men and women, this place where hope becomes capacity, this long, halting turn of ‘no’ into the ‘yes’ — needs citizens who love it enough to re-imagine and re-make it.”

“In these downbeat times, we need as much hope and courage as we do vision and analysis; we must accent the best of each other even as we point out the vicious effects of our racial divide and pernicious consequences of our maldistribution of wealth and power. We simply cannot enter the twenty-first century at each other’s throats, even as we acknowledge the weighty forces of racism, patriarchy, economic inequality, homophobia, and ecological abuse on our necks. We are at a crucial crossroad in the history of this nation–and we either hang together by combating these forces that divide and degrade us or we hang separately. Do we have the intelligence, humor, imagination, courage, tolerance, love, respect, and will to meet the challenge? Time will tell. None of us alone can save the nation or world. But each of us can make a positive difference if we commit ourselves to do so.”

“It is a beautiful thing to be on fire for justice… there is no greater joy than inspiring and empowering others –– especially the least of these, the precious and priceless wretched of the earth!”

“[My religious grounding] has everything to do with taking the Christian gospel seriously by trying to take love seriously, connecting love to justice, and recognizing what Martin Luther King Jr. rightly said, that justice is what love looks like in public. Therefore, looking at the world through the lens of the cross means putting a premium on the least of these; to echo the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, it means looking at the prisoners, the widow, the orphan, the workers, gay brothers, lesbian sisters, people of color, indigenous peoples, and so forth. Whatever kind of theology you want to call it, I’m just trying to be truthful to the gospel. If we take the cross seriously—which has so much to do with unarmed truth, and the condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak, and the cross has so much to do with unconditional love—then we can’t love people simply by hating when they are treated unjustly. If we take the cross seriously, we must consider how we understand the world, think about the world, and act in the world. Then, certainly in that regard, my attempt to live the Christian life is at the center of what I think and do.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related post: Why “I Have a Dream” Speech Endures
The Wisdom of Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King and the Suicide Letter
The Singer Who Inspired Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream Speech

Quotes Mistakenly Attributed to Martin Luther King

For further reading: The Cornel West Reader by Cornel West
https://theotherjournal.com/2009/08/21/politics-virtues-and-struggle-an-interview-with-cornel-west/


Books Are the Treasured Wealth of the World

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations. Books, the oldest and the best, stand naturally and rightfully on the shelves of every cottage. They have no cause of their own to plead, but while they enlighten and sustain the reader his common sense will not refuse them. Their authors are a natural and irresistible aristocracy in every society, and, more than kings or emperors, exert an influence on mankind.”

From Walden; or, Life in the Woods, published in 1854, by essayist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). The book was written during the two years that Thoreau lived in a small cabin near Walden Pond (close to Concord, Massachusetts), owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. Both Emerson and Thoreau were transcendentalism, firm believers in individualism and the inherent goodness of people and nature. By living a simple life, surrounded by the beauty of nature, Thoreau, through deep introspection, evaluates his life, values, and society. He writes: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” What emerges from this incredible experiences is a profound journal of discovery, reflecting a spiritual and intellectual reawakening, and on another level — a timeless and eloquent manifesto of independence and self-reliance. Only 2,000 copies of Walden were printed, thus they are rare and valuable. A first edition of Walden is worth about $14,400.

Read related posts: The Most Expensive American Book
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The Books That Shaped America
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SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

For further reading: Walden by Henry David Thoreau
https://www.finebooksmagazine.com/news/walden-first-edition-leads-strong-sale-pba-galleries


The Serious Reader Expands His Awareness of Self and Prizes Knowledge

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“The serious reader expands his circle of acquaintances, but is not unhappy with his friends. He expands his knowledge of place, but is not dissatisfied with home. He expands his awareness of self, but is not confused about his identity, his responsibilities, or his beliefs. He believes that other media overemphasize the modern, undervalue the traditional, and barely acknowledge the timeless… And the serious reader defines knowledge in his own way. [To borrow from John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University,] knowledge is something the reader prizes for its own sake, as he would an object that is purely beautiful or a person whose standards are not subject to fluctuation by whim. The reader finds a piquancy to knowledge as it settles into the mind that is comparable to the last of a delicate food as it slowly melts onto the palate — a hedonistic view of learning to be sure, lush and impractical, but one he shares with countless other men and women over the centuries who, of impractical bent themselves, were nonetheless capable of great worldly achievement.”

From The Joy of Books: Confessions of a Lifelong Reader by Eric Burns, a writer, lecturer, and formerly a correspondent for NBC News. Burns also wrote Broadcast Blues: Dispatches from the Twenty-Year War between Television Reporter and His Medium.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Power of Literature
Exploring Carl Sandburg’s Library of 11,000 Books
The Lord of the Books: Creating A Library From Discarded 
I Am What Libraries Have Made Me
If You Love a Book, Set it Free
The Library without Books
The Library is the DNA of Our Civilization

Related posts: William Faulkner on the Writer’s Duty
A Beautiful, Inspiring Letter to Borges, the Patron of the Great Library

 


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