Category Archives: Quotations

Famous Misquotations: People Were Created to Be Loved. Things Were Created to Be Used. Most of Our Troubles Come From the Fact that We Love Things, and Use People.

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsIf you search “People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. Most of our troubles come from the fact that we love things, and use people.” you will find it on dozens of websites that feature inspirational or wisdom quotes. You will also encounter a common variant of this quotation is: “Variant: People were created to be loved Things were created to be used. The world is in chaos because things are being loved and people are being used.” It’s a great observation, isn’t it? But who said it? Well, that depends on what website you visit. Most attribute it to the Dalai Lama, others attribute Martin Luther King, John Green (from his novel Looking for Alaska). Problem is, they never said or wrote this.

The earliest use of this quotation appears in the book, Our Christian Vocation (1955) written by John Heuss (1908-1966), an Episcopal priest who promoted Christian education. On page 196, Heuss writes: “Martin Buber said, in effect, ‘People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. Most of our troubles come from the fact that we love things, and use people.’ This is being blind to the first fact of a satisfying life.”

Based on the wording “in effect” in seems that Heuss is paraphrasing something that Buber has said or wrote. It certainly make sense, since Buber — who was a philosopher, author, religious scholar, and political activist — developed the philosophy of dialogue, a form of existentialism that distinguishes between two modes of existence: I-Thou and I-It. In his influential work, I and Thou (1923), Buber explains that man is defined by his relations between other human beings and things. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides this introduction to this nuanced concept:

The “I-Thou” relation is the pure encounter of one whole unique entity with another in such a way that the other is known without being subsumed under a universal. Not yet subject to classification or limitation, the “Thou” is not reducible to spatial or temporal characteristics. In contrast to this the “I-It” relation is driven by categories of “same” and “different” and focuses on universal definition. An “I-It” relation experiences a detached thing, fixed in space and time, while an “I-Thou” relation participates in the dynamic, living process of an “other.” Buber characterizes “I-Thou” relations as “dialogical” and “I-It” relations as “monological.” 

Buber was a prolific writer, nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature (10 times) and the Nobel Peace Prize (7 times). So although the specific quotation attributed to him by Heuss does not appear in his writings, it is very consistent with his philosophy.

Note: If there is a Buber scholar who can identify a similar passage to this quotation, please let me know.

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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: I and Thou by Martin Buber
https://iep.utm.edu/buber/#SH2b


Plato On Idiots and Ignorance

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“If you don’t vote, you will be governed by idiots.”

The quote is a variation of the quote most often attributed to Plato, ubiquitous on the internet: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” The source is The Republic, (Book 1, 346-347), where Plato makes the point that if good, honorable, intelligent men do not to wish to serve in government, then they will be punished by being ruled by those who are bad, dishonorable, and dumb. The actual sentence is: “But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule.” There are many other variants of this famous quotation. Among them is this one crafted by poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson that appears in Society and Solitude (1870): “Plato says that the punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is, to live under the government of worse men.”

“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.

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Read related posts: Doublets: Your Future is More Important Than Your Past
Doublets: Love
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Doublets: You Cannot Run Away From Yourself
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Doublets: Reading a Great Book
Doublets: Tolerance
Doublets: The Role of Religion
Doublets: Things Left Unsaid

For further reading:
The Dialogues of Plato by Plato
The Republic by Plato


A Good Book Is a Necessary Commodity

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“A good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life, and as such it must surely be a necessary commodity.”

From The Bookshop, published in 2008, by British novelist, essayist, and biographer Penelope Fitzgerald (1916-2000). The British Daily, The Times, ranked her as “one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.” Fitzgerald did not begin writing until she turned 58; nevertheless, she published nine novels and three biographies, winning several literary awards, including the Booker Prize and the Golden PEN Award.

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The Search for Happiness is Within

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“He who has little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief which he purposes to remove.”

Excerpt from The Rambler, No. 6 (Saturday, April 7, 1750), by Samuel Johnson. The Rambler was a periodic, published every Tuesday and Saturday from 1750 to 1753, that targeted the middle-class that was climbing the social ladder by marrying into aristocratic families. Johnson believed that since these individuals did not possess the education required to integrate into higher social circles, The Rambler would provide reflective, didactic essays written in elevated prose on important topics such as morality, society, religion, literature, and politics. Johnson, a man of great erudition, often drew on the ideas of the giants of the Renaissance humanism, like Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch), Rene Descartes, and Desiderius Erasmus.

In The Rambler, No. 6, Johnson introduces a quotation from his close friend James Elphinston, who was an educator and linguistics expert:

Active in indolence, abroad we roam
In quest of happiness which dwells at home:
With vain pursuits fatigu’d, at length you’ll find,
No place excludes it from an equal mind. 

Johnson comments, “That man should never suffer his happiness to depend upon external circumstances, is one of the chief precepts of the Stoical philosophy; a precept, indeed, which that lofty sect has extended beyond the condition of human life, and in which some of them seem to have comprised an utter exclusion of all corporal pain and pleasure from the regard or attention of a wise man.” In a later passage, he remarks on the plight of the British poet Abraham Cowley (1618-1667):

“If [Cowley] had proceeded in his project [to travel abroad to find an obscure retreat], and fixed his habitation in the most delightful part of the new world, it may be doubted, whether his distance from the vanities of life, would have enabled him to keep away the vexations. It is common for a man, who feels pain, to fancy that he could bear it better in any other part. Cowley having known the troubles and perplexities of a particular condition, readily persuaded himself that nothing worse was to be found, and that every alteration would bring some improvement: he never suspected that the cause of his unhappiness was within, that his own passions were not sufficiently regulated, and that he was harassed by his own impatience, which could never be without something to awaken it, would accompany him over the sea, and find its way to his American elysium. He would, upon the trial, have been soon convinced, that the fountain of content must spring up in the mind: and that he who has so little knowledge of human nature, as to seek happiness by changing any thing but his own dispositions, will waste his life in fruitless efforts, and multiply the griefs which he purposes to remove.”

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Read related posts: Experiencing Happiness in Life
Happiness is a By-Product

 


Learning Is a Spiral Where Important Themes Are Visited Again and Again

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“For many, learning is a spiral, where important themes are visited again and again throughout life, each time at a deeper, more penetrating level.”

From Teaching From the Heart by Jerold Apps, an American teacher and Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has written more than 35 books on education as well as rural history and country life. Teaching From the Heart, published in 1996, was written for teachers and students; it promotes learning for the whole person — not only the intellectual aspect, but also the spiritual, emotional, and biological aspects. Apps observation also applies perfectly to reading literature because when we reread the text, we view it through the lens of broader life experience. In a fascinating lecture, Argentine poet and short-story writer Jorge Luis Borges noted, “And even for the same reader the same book changes, for the change; we are the river of Heraclitus, who said that the man of yesterday is not the man of today, who will not be the man of tomorrow. We change incessantly, and each reading of a book, each rereading, each memory of that rereading, reinvents the text. The text too is the changing river of Heraclitus.”

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You Will Always Define Events Which Will Validate Your Agreement with Reality

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“You will always define events in a manner which will validate your agreement with reality.”

From Life, the Truth, and Being Free by Steve Maraboli, an American behavioral scientist that specializes in motivational psychology, peak performance mindset, and leadership dynamics. He is the author of three books: Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience; Life, the Truth, and Being Free; and The Power of One.

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Adventures in Rhetoric: Hypozeuxis

alex atkins bookshelf wordsYou are probably familiar with the hypozeuxis but just don’t know it. Don’t worry — it is not a medical condition. A hypozeuxis (pronounced “hi PUH zook sis”) is a rhetorical term for a series of brief parallel clauses, where each clause has its own subject and predicate. The word is derived from the Greek word hypozeugnynai that means “to subjugate or to put under the yoke.” Perhaps the most famous hypozeuxis is Julius Caesar’s proclamation to the Roman Senate, reporting his victory at the Battle of Zela (47 BC): “I came; I saw; I conquered.” If you studied Latin, you will recall that early lesson: “veni, vidi, victi.” In Ecclesiastical Latin, that phrase is pronounced “vee-nee, vee-dee, vee-kee”; however, in Classical Late Latin, the “v” is pronounced as a “w”, so Caesar would have pronounced it “wee-nee, wee-dee, wee-kee.”

Another well-known hypozeuxis is from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s famous speech to the House of Commons (often referred to as “We shall fight them on the beaches” speech) on June 4, 1940 regarding the successful evacuation of more than 300,000 soldiers during the Battle of Dunkirk in France (May 26 to June 4, 1940): “We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills.”

If you’re curious, the opposite of the hypozeuxis is the zeugma, also referred to an a syllepsis. In a zeugma (pronounced “ZOOG muh”), a single word is used with two other parts of a sentence that are understand differently in relation to each. An example of a zeugma is: “He took his hat and his leave.” The verb “take” is understood in two different contexts: “he took his hat” and “he took his leave.” Another example of a zeugma is: “He held his breath and the door for me.” Here the operative verb is hold and understood in two different ways: holding one’s breath, and holding a door open.

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For further reading: https://winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1940-the-finest-hour/we-shall-fight-on-the-beaches/


We Must Repent for the Hateful Actions of Bad People and the Appalling Silence of Good People

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”

From Letter from a Birmingham Jail (April 16, 1963) by Martin Luther King, Jr. The open letter, written while King was incarcerated at the Birmingham, Alabama jail, was his response to a statement (titled “A Call for Unity”) by eight white clergymen from the area who criticized his participation in the widely publicized civil right demonstrations in their state. The nonviolent campaign, beginning on April 3, involved coordinated marches and sit-ins against racial segregation and racism. The critics called King “an outsider” and deemed his actions “unwise and untimely.” King quickly dismissed both criticisms: “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their ‘thus saith the Lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid. Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

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Famous Misquotations: You Can Stand Tall Without Standing on Someone

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“You can stand tall without standing on someone. You can be a victor without having victims.”

This is one of these inspirational quotations that is found on hundreds of websites and books without full or accurate attribution — the old “quote in search of an author” conundrum. Quite often it is mistakenly attributed to Harriett Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), the famous American abolitionist and writer. It certainly sounds like something that she might say; however, the actual source is another Harriett who lived in another century and not as famous — Harriett Woods (1927-2007), an American politician who served as Lieutenant Governor of Missouri. The primary source of this quotation could not be found; however, a secondary source, The Last Word: A Treasury of Women’s Quotes (1992) edited by Carolyn Warner, cites Woods as the author.

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.

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


Can Democracy in America Be Saved?

alex atkins bookshelf culture“The four catastrophes Martin Luther King Jr warned us about — militarism (in Asia, Africa and the Middle East), poverty (at record levels), materialism (with narcissistic addictions to money, fame, and spectacle) and racism (against black and indigenous people, Muslims, Jews and non-white immigrants) — have laid bare the organized hatred, greed, and corruption in the country….

The fundamental question at this moment is: can this failed social experiment be reformed? The political duopoly of [a Republican and Democratic party] — in no way equivalent, yet both beholden to Wall Street and the Pentagon — are symptoms of a decadent leadership class. The weakness of the labor movement and the present difficulty of the radical left to unite around a nonviolent revolutionary project of democratic sharing and redistribution of power, wealth and respect are signs of a society unable to regenerate the best of its past and present. Any society that refuses to eliminate or attenuate dilapidated housing, decrepit school systems, mass incarceration, massive unemployment and underemployment, inadequate healthcare, and its violations of rights and liberties is undesirable and unsustainable.

Yet the magnificent moral courage and spiritual sensitivity of the multiracial response to the police killing of George Floyd that now spills over into a political resistance to the legalized looting of Wall Street greed, the plundering of the planet and the degradation of women and LGBTQ+ peoples means we are still fighting regardless of the odds. 

If radical democracy dies in America, let it be said of us that we gave our all-and-all as the boots of American fascism tried to crush our necks.”

From the essay “A Boot is Crushing the Neck of American Democracy” by Cornel West, American professor, philosopher, and civil rights activist.

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Read related post: Riot is the Language of the Unheard
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For further reading: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/01/george-floyd-protests-cornel-west-american-democracy


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.

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: Doublets: Love
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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).

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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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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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