What has come to an end is the distinction between the sensual and the supersensual, together with the notion, at least as old as Parmenides, that whatever is not given to the senses... is more real, more truthful, more meaningful than what appears; that it is not just beyond sense perception but above the world of the senses... In increasingly strident voices, the few defenders of metaphysics have warned us of the danger of nihilsim inherent in this development. The sensual... cannot survive the death of the supersensual. Hannah Arendt There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. Einstein There are two ways of lying, as there are two ways of deceiving customers. If the scale registers 15 ounces, you can say: "It's a pound." Your lie will remain relative to an invariable measure of the true. If customers check it, they can see that they are being robbed, and you know by how much you are robbing them: a truth remains as a judge between you. But if the demon induces you to tamper with the scale itself, it is the criterion of the true which is denatured, there is no longer any possible control. And little by little you will forget that you are cheating. Denis de Rougemont The coming peril is the intellectual, educational, psychological and artistic overproduction, which, equally with economic overproduction, threatens the wellbeing of contemporary civilisation. People are inundated, blinded, deafened, and mentally paralysed by a flood of vulgar and tasteless externals, leaving them no time for leisure, thought, or creation from within themselves. G. K. Chesterton Toronto, 1930 The problem is not bad politics, but a bad way of life. Wendell Berry
When asked what he thought of Western civilization, Mahatma Gandhi replied: "I think it would be a good idea."
The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess Success. That - with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word "success" - is our national disease. William James
One of the most disturbing facts that came out in the [Adolf] Eichmann trial was that a psychiatrist examined him and pronounced him perfectly sane. I do not doubt it at all, and that is precisely why I find it disturbing. . . The sanity of Eichmann is disturbing. We equate sanity with a sense of justice, with humaneness, with prudence, with the capacity to love and understand other people. We rely on the sane people of the world to preserve it from barbarism, madness, destruction. And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous. It is the sane ones, the well-adapted ones, who can without qualms and without nausea aim the missiles and press the buttons that will initiate the great festival of destruction that they, the sane ones, have prepared. What makes us so sure, after all, that the danger comes from a psychotic getting into a position to fire the first shot in a nuclear war? Psychotics will be suspect. The sane ones will keep them far from the button. No one suspects the sane, and the sane ones will have perfectly good reasons, logical, well-adjusted reasons, for firing the shot. They will be obeying sane orders that have come sanely down the chain of command. And because of their sanity they will have no qualms at all. When the missiles take off, then, it will be no mistake.
Thomas Merton. "A Devout Meditation in Memory of Adolf Eichmann" in Raids on the Unspeakable. New York: New Directions Publishing Co., 1964
Thomas Merton was once asked to write a chapter for a book entitled "Secrets of Success." He replied: "If it so happened that I had once written a best-seller, this was a pure accident, due to inattention and naivete, and I would take very good care never to do the same again. If I had a message for my contemporaries, I said, it was surely this: Be anything you like, be madmen, drunks, and bastards of every shape and
form, but at all costs avoid one thing: success."
"Authority has simply been abused too long in the Catholic church, and for many people it just becomes utterly stupid and intolerable to have to put up with the kind of jackassing around that is imposed in God's name. It is an insult to God himself and in the end it can only discredit all idea of authority and obedience. There comes a point where they simply forfeit the right to be listened to."
Thomas Merton in a letter to W. H. Ferry, dated January 19, 1967, 23 months before Merton's death.
You are fed up with words and I don’t blame you. I am nauseated by them sometimes. I am also, to tell the truth, nauseated by ideals and with causes. This sounds like heresy, but I think you will understand what I mean. It is so easy to get engrossed with ideas and slogans and myths that in the end one is left holding the bag, empty, with no trace of
meaning left in it. And then the temptation is to yell louder than ever in order to make meaning be there again by magic...
The Christian is one whose life has sprung from a particular spiritual seed: the blood of martyrs, who, without offering forcible resistance, laid down their lives rather than submit to unjust laws... That is to say, the Christian is bound, like the martyrs, to obey God rather than the state whenever the state tries to usurp powers that do not and cannot belong to it.
The present position which we, the educated and well-to-do classes occupy, is that of the Old Man of the Sea, riding on the poor man's back; only, unlike the Old Man of the Sea, we are very sorry for the poor man, very sorry; and we will do almost anything for the poor man's relief. We will not only supply him with food sufficient to keep him on his legs, but we will teach and instruct him and point out to him the beauties of the landscape; we will discourse sweet music to him and give him abundance of good advice. Yes, we will do almost anything for the poor man, anything but get off his back. Tolstoy
It is true that we might do a vast amount of good if we were wealthy, but it is also highly improbable, not many do; and the art of growing rich is not only quite distinct form that of doing good, but the practice of the one does not at all train a man for practicing the other... It is a mere illusion that, above a certain income, the personal desires will be satisfied and leave a wider margin for the generous impulse. It is as difficult to be generous, or anything else...on thirty thousand as on two thousand a year.
The need for financial security was too deeply engrained. That singular fear is probably the greatest obstacle to moral action in today's society. There are arguments that one can live simply on a large salary while using the excess for good works, but we have never seen them lived out.
Janet and Rob Aldridge who quit Lockheed after 25 years. Prior to his resignation, Aldridge was in charge of designing the Maneuvering Re-entry Vehicle (MARV) for the Trident missile. The merely rich are not rich enough to rule the modern market. The things that change modern history, the big national and international loans, the big educational and philanthropic foundations, the purchase of numberless newspapers, the big prices paid for peerages, the big expenses often incurred in elections - these are getting too big for everybody except the misers; the men with the largest of earthly fortunes and the smallest of earthly aims. There are two other odd and rather important things to be said about them. The first is this: that with this aristocracy we do not have the chance of a lucky variety in types which belongs to larger and looser aristocracies. The moderately rich include all kinds of people even good people. Even priests are sometimes saints; and even soldiers are sometimes heroes. Some doctors have really grown wealthy by curing their patients and not by flattering them; some brewers have been known to sell beer. But among the Very Rich you will never find a really generous man, even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egoistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it. G.K. Chesterton
"There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not.
Nothing was forbidden me." Autobiography: Surprised by Joy - C. S. Lewis
Robert Burns' ... instinctive consideration of men as men came from an ancestry which still cared more for religion than education. The moment men begin to care more for education than for religion they begin to care more for ambition than for education. It is no longer a world in which the souls of all are equal before heaven, but a world in which the mind of each is bent on achieving unequal advantage over the other. There begins to be a mere vanity in being educated... Education ought to be a searchilight given to a man to explore everything, but very specially the things most distant from himself. Education tends to be a spotlight; which is centred entirely on himself...
The only final cure is to turn off the limelight and let him realize the stars.
"In helping us to confront, understand, and oppose the global economy, the old political alignments have become virtually useless. (The global economy) persists because ... multinational corporations (have) discovered a terrifying truth: If you can control a people's economy, you don't need to worry about its politics; its politics have become irrelevant. In a totalitarian economy, any political liberties that people might retain simply cease to matter." Another Turn of the Crank, by Wendell Berry (Viewed mythically, the "Anti-Christ" is not a person at all, but the aggregate of impersonal socio-economic forces that erode the value and conscious meaning of free persons. If Christ embodies fully-developed human personhood, then The Machine is the anti-Christ, no matter how efficiently The Machine operates. Any God whose nature coheres with the parameters of freedom, would eventually "uproot" any System based on "automatic well-being," even if that well-being were the envy of the material world. Thoughtless surrender to "systems" that "do good" -- while simultaneously eroding one's personal responsibility to engage "the good" -- may be the (paradoxical) method by which "Smiley Face" paves the road to hell. Mere Materialism can not insure the survival of our species. We do not live by bread alone: every attempt to do so is ultimately suicidal. A.A.) The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together. Hannah Arendt At a time when a large part of humankind is beginning to discard Christianity, it is worth while to understand clearly why it was originally accepted. It was accepted in order to escape, at last, from the brutality of antiquity. As soon as we discard it licentiousness returns, as is impressively exemplified by life in modern cities. Carl Gustav Jung
1700 years ago Romans packed the Colisseum to cheer while wild animals ate human beings. This casual slaughter was, arguably, the ancient world's most sought-after entertainment. Royalty, nobility, professionals, artisans, laborers and peasants prized "a good seat at the games."
The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be either good or evil. Hannah Arendt Man's chief moral deficiency appears to be not his indiscretions but his reticence. Hannah Arendt "Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral." Paulo Freire
It is no easy matter to reduce to obedience a man who does not wish to command. Rousseau
The medical campaign to eliminate pain overlooks the connection between pain and happiness. As we decrease our sensitivity to pain we also decrease our ability to experience the simple joys and pleasures of life. The result is that stronger and stronger stimuli - drugs, violence, horror - are needed to provide people in an anesthetic society with a sense of being alive. Increasingly, pain-killing promises an artificually painless life and turns people into unfeeling spectators of their own decaying selves. The very idea of having pain killed by somebody else, rather than facing it, was alien to traditional cultures because pain was a part of man's participation in a marred universe. Its meaning was cosmic and mythic, not individual and technical. Pain was the experience of the soul's evolution, and the soul was present all over the body. The doctor could not eliminate the need to suffer without doing away the patient. Ivan Illich The Prince and the two children were standing with their heads hung down, their cheeks flushed, their eyes half closed; the strength all gone from them; the enchantment almost complete. But Puddleglum, desperately gathering all his strength, walked over to the fire. Then he did a very brave thing. He knew it wouldn't hurt him quite as much as it would hurt a human; for his feet (which were bare) were webbed and hard and cold-blooded like a duck's. But he knew it would hurt him badly enough; and so it did. With his bare foot he stamped on the fire, grinding a large part of it into ashes on the flat hearth. And three things happened at once. First, the sweet, heavy smell grew very much less. For though the whole fire had not been put out, a good bit of it had, and what remained smelled very largely of burnt Marsh-wiggle, which is not at all an enchanting smell. This instantly made everyone's brain far clearer. The Prince and the children held up their heads again and opened their eyes. Secondly, the Witch, in a loud, terrible voice, utterly different from the sweet tones she had been using up till now, called out, "What are you doing? Dare to touch my fire again, mud-filth, and I'll turn the blood to fire inside your veins." Thirdly, the pain itself made Puddleglum's head for a moment perfectly clear and he knew exactly what he really thought. There is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic. "One word, Ma'am" he said coming back from the fire; limping because of the pain. "One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia. C. S. Lewis "Just before I went to America, during the exhausting weeks when I was busy with my Time Plays, I had such a dream, and I think it left a greater impression on my mind than any experience I had ever known before, awake or in dreams, and said more to me about this life than any book I have ever read. The setting of the dream was quite simple, and owed something to the fact that not long before my wife had visited the lighthouse here at St. Catherine's to do some bird ringing. I dreamt I was standing at the top of a very high tower, alone, looking down upon myriads of birds all flying in one direction; every kind of bird was there, all the birds in the world. It was a noble sight, this vast aerial river of birds. But now in some mysterious fashion the gear was changed, and time speeded up, so that I saw generations of birds, watched them break their shells, flutter into life, mate, weaken, falter and die. Wings grew only to crumble; bodies were sleek, and then, in a flash bled and shrivelled; and death struck everywhere at every second. What was the use of all this blind struggle towards life, this eager trying of wings, this hurried mating, this flight and surge, all this gigantic meaningless effort? As I stared down, seeming to see every creature's ignoble little history almost at a glance, I felt sick at heart. It would be better if not one of them, if not one of us, had been born, if the struggle ceased for ever. I stood on my tower, still alone, desperately unhappy. But now the gear was changed again, and the time went faster still, and it was rushing by at such a rate, that the birds could not show any movement, but were like an enormous plain sown with feathers. But along this plain, flickering through the bodies themselves, there now passed a sort of white flame, trembling, dancing, then hurrying on; and as soon as I saw it I knew that this white flame was life itself, the very quintessence of being; and then it came to me, in a rocket burst of ecstasy, that nothing mattered, nothing could ever matter, because nothing else was real but this quivering and hurrying lambency of being. Birds, men and creatures not yet shaped and coloured, all were of no account except so far as this flame of life travelled though them. It left nothing to mourn over behind it; what I had thought was tragedy was mere emptiness or a shadow show; for now all real feeling was caught and purified and danced on ecstatically with the white flame of life. I had never before felt such deep happiness as I knew at the end of my dream of the tower and the birds." Rain Upon Godshill, J. B. Priestley
I believe that in actual fact, philosophy ranks before and above the natural sciences.
It is characteristic that Einstein and Planck had the greatest admiration for Kant's work, agreeing with his view that philosophy should be the basis of all sciences.
Ilse Rosenthal-Schneider, "Reality and Scientific Truth"
We are convinced that theories do not matter... Never has there been so little discussion about the nature of men as now, when, for the first time, anyone can discuss it... Good taste, the last and vilest of human superstitions, has succeeded in silencing us where all the rest have failed. Sixty years ago it was bad taste to be an avowed atheist... now it is equally bad taste to be an avowed Christian. But there are some people nevertheless - and I am one of them - who think that the most important thing about man is still his view of the universe... We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether, in the long run, anything else affects them. G. K. Chesterton
Nothing more strangely indicates an enormous and silent evil of modern society than the extraordinary use which is made nowadays of the word "orthodox." In former days the heretic was proud of not being a heretic. It was kingdoms of the world and the police and the judges who were heretics. He was orthodox... All the tortures torn out of forgotten hells could not make him admit that he was heretical... The word "heresy" not only means no longer "being wrong"; it practically means being clear-headed and courageous. The word "orthodoxy" not only no longer means being right, it practically means being wrong... (This) means that people care less for whether they are philosophically right... The dynamiter, laying a bomb, ought to insist that, whatever else he is, at least he is orthodox... General theories are everywhere contemned... We will have no generalizations... We are more and more to discuss art, politics, literature. A man's opinon on tramcars matters; his opinion on Botticelli matters; his opinon on all things does not matter. He may turn over and explore a million objects, but he must not find that strange object, the universe, for if he does, he will have a religion and be lost. Everything matters, except everything. G. K. Chesterton
...that process, already so destructive in our fashion-following super-civilization, by which everything is turned into a vogue -- even art which should be the great destroyer of all fashions, not their pimp. Everyone reads James. Then everyone switches to Eliot, to Proust, to Kafka -- to the communists in one decade -- to the homosexuals in another -- until the new writing begins to sound like the advertising patter in the smart magazines which echoes the changing chatter of the chic. It sometimes seems as though only Robert Frost were old enough and cantankerous enough and magnificient enough to be himself and remain himself and thus be disrespectfully and entirely new in this age of stylish novelties. Archibald McLeish
The genius of Christianity is to have proclaimed that the path to the deepest mystery is the path of love. Andre Malraux
The destiny of man is not decided by material computation. When great causes are on the move in the world ... we learn that we are spirits, not animals, and that something is going on in space and time, and beyond space and time, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.
Radio broadcast to America Receiving an honorary degree from the University of Rochester
There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist fighting for peace by nonviolent methods most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace. It destroys his own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.
'You are not responsible' sang the sirens of Liberation. 'Whatever you do that does not bring you joy --- from living in the suburbs and having babies to hanging out in bars and being promiscuous to spending your days in a job that bores you --- is not your fault. They -- men, society, your mothers, your fathers -- made you do it.' What can be more tempting than the notion that no decision taken in your life for which you may harbor some regret was a decision actually taken by you for yourself? And thus the whining began, cast, to be sure, in the language of social justice, and revolutionary determination, but whining all the same. So it went -- and went with flying success -- in those early years. Now it's three decades later. Young women are being as mercilessly exploited as young men in the white-shoe law firms, girl marines slog through the mud at Parris Island, and females train for the attempt to land airplanes on aircraft carriers.... Successful careers turn out to be a source not of liberation but of unending worry and demand.
From "Liberating Germaine Greer," a review by Midge Decter "First Things," 10/99
Modern culture discourages meaningful work. Even occupations that appear meaningful are infected with fear, compulsiveness and wasteful haste. This dark trinity conspires to pre-empt peace, both personal and corporate. We have deified "The Good Job," and are too busy cultivating career to ponder the detrimental context in which we work. There is never time nor energy to mount meaningful resistance. We have become willing agents of organizations animated by invidious obsession with mere survival. Once survival is insured, these same organizations strategize their metastatic expansion. Occasionally, "modern work" supplies a real sense of accomplishment. However, the "driven" nature of modern accomplishment creates a neo-caste culture comprised of "the overworked" and "the underemployed." Our lives are intrinsically out of balance, and we are determined to exacerbate the disharmony. We have sanctified market forces that define money and material standard-of-living as meaningful measures of human value. Property is more highly prized than human life. It is our common lot to serve an essentially heartless System, collaborating in progressive dehumanization, accelerated resource consumption and ominous erosion of the ecological matrix. We are all clients in the brothel of modernity. Denial of collusion is widespread, especially among university-trained professionals who benefit most from the rising valuation of intellectual skills at the expense of The Sacred Heart. Inability to perceive the meretriciousness of our alliances is a measure of The Machine's dominance. Alan Archibald
I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.
La verdad, si no es entera, se convierte en aliada de lo falso. (The truth, if not entire, becomes an ally of falsehood.) Javier Sábada
At a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. George Orwell We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held... But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another, slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World"... Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally opposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision no Big Brother is required... As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. What Orwell feared is those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book for there would be no one who wanted to read one... Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with the equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy... In 1984, Huxley added people who are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. Neil Postman "Amusing Ourselves to Death," 1985
In living in the world by his own will and skill, the stupidest peasant or tribesman is more competent than the most intelligent worker or technician or intellectual in a society of specialists. Wendell Berry If conviviality is reduced below a certain level, no amount of industrial productivity can effectively satisfy "the needs" it creates among society's members. Ivan Illich paraphrase The only escape from this destiny of victimization has been to "succeed," that is, to "make it" into the class of exploiters, and then to remain so specialized and so "mobile" as to be unconscious of the effects of one's life or livelihood. Wendell Berry It seems to me there are very dangerous ambiguities about our democracy in its actual present condition. I wonder to what extent our ideals are now a front for organized selfishness and irresponsibility. If our affluent society ever breaks down and the facade is taken away, what are we going to have left? Thomas Merton
This change (this metanoia) is a recovery of that which is deepest, most original, most personal in ourselves. To be born again is not to become somebody else, but to become ourselves. Merton
The real function of discipline is not to provide us with maps, but to sharpen our own sense of direction so that when we really get going we can travel without maps. Merton
We become contemplatives when God discovers Himself in us. Merton
A demonic existence is one which insistently diagnoses what it cannot cure, what it has no desire to cure, what it seeks to bring to full potency, in order that it may cause the death of its victim. Merton
The night became very dark. The rain surrounded the whole cabin with its enormous virginal myth, a whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence, of rumor. Think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out the places where men have stripped the hillside. What a thing it is
to sit absolutely alone in the forest at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligent perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges, and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows. Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, the rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen. Merton
You are fed up with words and I don't blame you. I am nauseated by them sometimes. I am also, to tell the truth, nauseated by ideals and with causes. This sounds like heresy, but I think you will understand what I mean. It is so easy to get engrossed with ideas and slogans and myths that in the end one is left holding the bag, empty, with no trace of
meaning left in it. And then the temptation is to yell louder than ever in order to make meaning be there again by magic... Merton
Gangsters, for their own profit, corner a basic necessity by controlling supplies. Educators and doctors and social workers today...gain legal power to create the need that, by law, they alone will be allowed to serve. Ivan Illich By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell - and hell heaven... The great masses of people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one. Adolf Hitler The victors will not be asked if they told the truth. Adolf Hitler Generally, it is states that make war, and larger states make larger and longer war with greater casualites, despite the fact that they sell themselves as offering greater security and peace. Kirkpatrick Sale All the books were beginning to turn against me. Indeed, I must have been blind as a bat not to have seen, long before, the ludicrous contradiction between my theory of life and my actual experiences as a reader. George MacDonald (the Scottish fantasist) had done more to me than any other writer; of course it was a pity he had that bee in his bonnet about Christianity. He was good in spite of it. Chesterton had more sense than all the other moderns put together; bating, of course, his Christianity. Johnson was one of the few authors whom I felt I could trust utterly; curiously enough, he had the same kink. Spenser and Milton by a strange coincidence had it too. Even among ancient authors the same paradox was to be found. The most religious (Plato, Aeschylus, Virgil) were clearly those on whom I could really feed. On the other hand, those writers who did not suffer from religion and with whom in theory my sympathy ought to have been complete -- Shaw and Wells and Mill and Gibbon and Voltaire -- all seemed a little thin, what as boys we called "tinny." It wasn't that I didn't like them. They were all (especially Gibbon) entertaining; but hardly more. There seemed to be no depth in them. They were too simple. The roughness and density of life did not appear in their books..... The only non-Christians who seemed to me really to know anything were the Romantics; and a good many of them were dangerously tinged with something like religion, even at times with Christianity. The upshot of it all could nearly be expressed in a perversion of Roland's great line in the Chanson --- "Christians are wrong, but all the rest are bores." C. S. Lewis The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's "own" or "real" life: the truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life -- the life God is sending : what one calls one's "real life" is a phantom of one's own imagination. C. S. Lewis In a consumer society, there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy. Ivan Illich
The essential contribution Gandhi made to the 20th century thought was his insistence on the need for a lower standard of living... He maintained that the essence of civilization consists not in the multiplication of wants but in their deliberate and voluntary renunciation. He preached a higher standard of living and maintained that a lower level of material well-being was a necessary pre-requisite. Ronald Duncan
Beyond the point of satisfying need, redundant capacity becomes a burden and not a gain. Greed, the attempt to fill an empty spirit with possessions, is a great producer of depersonalization. Our preoccupation with labor saving, beyond the elimination of soul-destroying drudgery, is no less counterproductive. To have without doing corrodes the soul: it is precisely in investing life, love and labor that we constitute the world as personal... Generosity of the spirit personalizes as greed depersonalizes. Erazim Kohak When we were told that by freedom we understood free enterprise, we did very little to dispel this monstrous falsehood. Wealth and economic well-being, we have asserted, are the fruits of freedom, while we should have been the first to know that this kind of "happiness" has been an unmixed blessing only in this country, and it is a minor blessing compared with the truly political freedoms, such as freedom of speech and thought, of assembly and association, even under the best conditions. Hannah Arendt Man cannot be free if he does not know that he is subject to necessity. Hannah Arendt
Always distinguish between need and want.
William Wellington Archibald and Mildred Mary Noll Archibald
More than you need is never enough. Alan Archibald
The people of the West refused to make the distinction between gluttony and the good life. E. F. Schumacher My greatest skill has been to want but little. Thoreau
Money is the thief of man. Hindu saying
Don't seek consolation. Brother David, St. Leo's Benedictine Monastery, Florida
Give me neither poverty nor wealth. Provide me with the food I need. If I have too much, I shall deny thee and say "Who is Lord?" Proverbs 30:8-9 It is a strange thing to see with what sort of feverish ardor Americans pursue well-being and how they show themselves constantly tormented by a vague fear of not having chosen the shortest route that can lead to it... In addition to the goods that (the American) possesses...he imagines a thousand others that death will prevent him from enjoying if he does not hasten. Alexis de Tocqueville (Even though the population of the United States was only 13 million when 25 year old Tocqueville visited in 1830, he observed that democratic values often encouraged conformity. Tocqueville was especially concerned that the American obsession with individuality would transmute into destructive selfishness: if people thought only of themselves and their families, they could become so disengaged from political practice as to be vulnerable to a kind of "democratic despotism." In Tocqueville's view, American democracy made it possible to devolve into majoritarian tyranny mediated by an enveloping central government which would blanket the populace in a set of complicated rules. Those who mediated these complicated rules would treat citizens like children or blindly industrious animals.) It should be pointed out that if we tried to build education on the single pattern of "the scientific idea of man" and carry it out accordingly, we could only do so by distorting or warping this idea: for we should have to ask what is the nature and destiny of man, and we should be pressing the only idea at our disposal, that is the scientific one, for an answer to our question. Then we would try, contrary to its type, to draw from it a kind of metaphysics. From the logical point of view, we would have a spurious metaphysics disguised as science and yet deprived of any really philosophical insight; and from the practical point of view, we would have a denial or misconception of those very realities and values without which education loses all human sense or becomes the training of an animal for the utility of the state. Jacques Maritain
Behind all phenomena and discrete entities in the world, we may observe, intimate or experience existentially in various ways something like a general "order of Being." The essence and meaning of this order are veiled in mystery; it is as much an enigma as the Sphinx, it always speaks to us differently and always, I suppose, in ways that we ourselves are open to, in ways, to put it simply, that we can hear. Alongside the general miracle of Being - both as a part of that miracle and as its protagonist, as a special reiteration of it and a rebellious attempt to know, understand, control and transcend it - stands the miracle of the human spirit, of human existence. Into the infinite silence of the omnipresent order of Being, then, there sounds the impassioned voice of the order of human freedom, of life, of spirit. The subtly structured world of meaningful and hopeful human life, opening new vistas of freedom and carrying man to a deeper experience of Being, the countless remarkable intellectual (mystical, religious, scientific) and moral systems, that special way in which the order of Being both re-creates and, at the same time, lends its own meaning to mythology (in earlier times) and artistic creation (today, i.e., in the historical period), in short the way in which man becomes man in the finest sense of the word - all of this constitutes the "order of life," "the order of the spirit," "the order of human work." Together, it all constitutes an objectivized expression of that "second creation of the world," which is human experience. I would say that this "order of life" is a kind of "legitimate son" of "the order of Being," because it grows out of an indestructible faith in the latter's meaning and a fearless confrontation with its mystery. Over and against this passionate order, which is the work of people created "in God's image," there constantly recurs its evil caricature and misshapen protagonist, "the bastard son of Being," the offspring of indifference to the meaning of Being and vindictive fear of its mystery: the chilling work of man as "the image of the devil": the order of homogenization by violence, perfectly organized impotence and centrally directed desolation and boredom, in which man is conceived as a cybernetic unit without free will, without the power to reason for himself, without a unique life of his own, and where that monstrous ideal, order, is a euphemism for the graveyard. (I refer you to Fromm's excellent analysis of fascism.) Thus against "the order of life," sustained by a longing for meaning and experience of the mystery of Being, there stands this "order of death," a monument to non-sense, an executioner of
mystery, a materialization of nothingness.
Computers make it easy to convert facts into statistics and to translate problems into equations. And whereas this can be useful (as when the process reveals a pattern that would otherwise go unnoticed), it is diversionary and dangerous when applied indiscriminately to human affairs. So is the computer's emphasis on speed and especially its capacity to generate and store unprecedented quantities of information. In specialized contexts, the value of calculation, speed, and voluminous information may go uncontested. But the "message" of computer technology is comprehensive and domineering. The computer argues, to put it baldly, that the most serious problems confronting us at both personal and professional levels require technical solutions through fast access to information otherwise unavailable. I would argue that this is, on the face of it, nonsense. Our most serious problems are not technical, nor do they arise from inadequate information. If a nuclear catastrophe occurs, it shall not be because of inadequate information... If families break up, children are mistreated, crime terrorizes a city, education is impotent, it does not happen because of inadequate information. Neil Postman I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less "showily". Let him come and go freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself... Teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experiences. Anne Sulllivan (Helen Keller's teacher) School has become the planned process which tools man for a planned world, the principal tool to trap man in man's trap. It is supposed to shape each man to an adequate level for playing a part in this world game. Inexorably we cultivate, treat, produce and school the world out of existence. Jacques Ellul There are two ways to release energy: the creation of bonds or their destruction. Violence feeds on the easy accessibility of dissociative energy. Alan Archibald I have come to believe that compulsory government schooling -- while pretending to protect children from child labor -- IS child labor. Furthermore, compulsory government schooling is a form of child labor that eliminates the very childhood which child labor laws were devised to protect. Einstein observed that "imagination is more important than knowledge." Similarly, contemplation is more important than achievement. Without contemplation as the springboard for motivation, inspiration, and activity, achievement is mostly busy work - useful in strictly delineated ways, but ultimately depersonalizing. By keeping young people "on task," compulsory government schooling salts the ground of contemplation, insuring that critical questions concerning context, meaning, matrix and value are never asked. The task in hand isn't so much the determination of "what we need to do," but what we need to undo. Alan Archibald Governments mostly don't do much. And you've also got to understand the level of incompetence out there. Nobody knows what they're doing. They just pose and act as if they know and walk through life and get away with it. And so, attack government. Get at them and you find they know nothing. Most politicians are half people. Talk to them. They don't have anything on their minds but themselves. They don't have any real knowledge of anything. They're untrustworthy and they see everything (in terms of) what they could do for themselves. Jimmy Breslin I just wish they'd give me one speck of proof that this world of theirs couldn't have been set up and handled better by a half dozen idiots bound hand and foot at the bottom of a ten mile well. Kenneth Patchen Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Almost always, great men are bad men. Lord Acton
"Far from being the product of a democratic revolution and of an opposition to English institutions, the constitution of the United States was the result of a powerful reaction against democracy, and in favor of the traditions of the mother country." Acton
"Liberty is the condition of duty, the guardian of conscience. It grows as conscience grows. The domains of both grow together. Liberty is safety from all hindrances, even sin. So that Liberty ends by being Free Will." Acton
"Liberty is the prevention of control by others." Acton
"By liberty I mean the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes is his duty against the influence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion." Acton
"Definition of Liberty: (1) Security for minorities; (2) Reason reigning over reason, not will over will; (3) Duty to God unhindered by man; (4) Reason before will; (5) Right above might." Acton
"The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities." Acton
"Save for the wild force of Nature, nothing moves in this world that is not Greek in its origin." Acton
The first thing you do when you want to be elected is to prostitute yourself. You show me a man with courage and conviction and I'll show you a loser.
Ray Kroc, founder of MacDonald's
The secret to success is sincerity. If you can fake that, you can do anything. Television executive counselling newcomer Daniel Schorr, 1953
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who want to be somebody, and those who want to do something. Erik Sevareid
The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer. Henry Kissinger
Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it's important. Henry Kissinger
The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. Chief Seattle to President Pierce
A cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Oscar Wilde
Cynics are only happy to make the world as barren to others as they have made it for themselves. George Meredith
Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. C. G. Jung
I wasn't yet aware that most of the world's population would rather go hungry than deny food to a stranger. Brian M. Schwartz, "A World of Villages"
Perhaps it would be possible for the Negro to become reconciled to his plight if he could be made to believe that his sufferings were for some remote, high sacrificial end; but sharing the culture that condemns him and seeing that a lust for trash is what blinds the nation to his claims, is what sets storms rolling in his soul. Richard Wright
I really hope no white person ever has cause to write about me
because they never understand Black love is Black wealth
and they'll probably talk about my hard childhood
and never understand that all the while I was quite happy. If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well. Martin Luther King Jr. People are as you see them on the streets. The other thing is a lie. Albert Camus The white man seems tone-deaf to the total orchestration of humanity. Malcolm X You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor man. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given ... for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. St. Ambrose 340 - 397 A.D. Bishop of Milan
Las cosas no son del dueno. Son de el que las necesite.
(Things don't belong to their owner. They belong to the person who needs them.) Conny Pena Vado's version of a Nicaraguan saying Human law has the true nature of law only insofar as it corresponds to right reason, and therefore is derived from the eternal law. Insofar as it falls short of right reason, a law is said to be a wicked law; and so, lacking the true nature of law, it is rather a kind of violence. Thomas Aquinas
Here is a startling alternative which to the English, alone among great nations, has been not startling but a matter of course. Here is a casual assumption that a choice must be made between goodness and intelligence; that stupidity is first cousin to moral conduct, and cleverness the first step into mischeif; that reason and God are not on good terms with each other. John Erskine, Scot, 1695-1768
To expect truth to emerge from thinking signifies that we mistake the need to think with the urge to know. Hannah Arendt To be truly wise, you must blunt your cleverness. Lao Tzu
It is the fate of humankind to outsmart itself. New York state billboard
Freedom from the desire for an answer is essential to the understanding of a problem. Krishnamurti
The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents and the ocean was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge. Daniel J. Boorstin
With pen and pencil we're learning to say
Nothing, more cleverly, every day. William Allingham
Who knows if Shakespeare might not have thought less if he had read more. Edward Young
Professionals built the Titanic; amateurs the ark.
Of all forms of genius, goodness has the longest awkward age. Thornton Wilder It is amazing how complete the delusion that beauty is goodness. Tolstoy Suffering is the source of all consciousness. Dostoyevsky Most of our problems arise from the human inability to sit still in a room. Blaise Pascal You can learn a lot from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room. Dr. Seuss He will get to the goal first who stands stillest. Thoreau The profoundest truths are paradoxical. Lao Tzu
Learning makes one fit company for oneself. Thomas Fuller
Sins become more subtle as you grow older: you commit sins of despair rather than sins of lust. Piers Paul Reid
The truth is we are all caught in an economic system which is heartless.
Under capitalism man exploits man. Under communism it is just the opposite. J. K. Galbraith People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage. J. K. Galbraith The greater the wealth, the thicker the dirt. This indubitably describes a tendency of our time. J. K. Galbraith
There's an observable relationship between "the filthy rich" and "the squeaky clean."
An immaculate house is the sure sign of a misspent life.
Janet Archibald's refrigerator magnet
His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean. Bob Dylan
Intentional activity is always based on belief. Whether human beings subscribe to animist totems, to squabbling deities atop Mount Olympus, to the transcendental Father God of Judeo-Christianity, the agnosticism of Buddhism, the atheism of Jainism, the Golden Calf of free market capitalism, Hinduism's lingam and yoni or the nouveaux Trinity ("sex, drugs and rock-and-roll"), belief is essentially religious. All core values intend to "re-ligate" the primordial rent in the human spirit. ("re-ligare" = "re-ligion")
Recognizing that Belief is inevitable -- whether one's belief is "sacred" or "secular," "religious" or "political," "philosophical" or "theological" -- obliges us to re-value all cultural phenomena as attempts to ligate this existential breach.
Without this re-valuation -- without recognition that our belief-always attempt to ligate this existential rent - the military-industrial-educational complex becomes the "default value system."
In turn, this System grows increasingly autonomous and arrogates to itself "the terms" of every debate. In consequence, meaningful debate is overwhelmed by the brute force of bureau-institutional fascism predicated on unipolar Materialism. (See Arendt above.)
Simultaneously, Materialism places itself beyond debate while acquisitive citizens prostrate themselves as obsequiously-scripted Consumer Units. Inexorably, the compulsive acquisition of "mere things" results in such deep narcotization that people lose their ability to formulate meaningful criticism.
When the unipolar Materialist trap is definitively sprung, we will all serve - simultaneously - as inmates and wardens.
William Blake observed that "we become what we perceive." Spellbound by the unacknowledged Deity whose intentions we serve but fail to limn, we deify things and reify people. At stake is the "God" in whose image humankind remakes itself.
Doing for people what they can and ought to do for themselves is a dangerous experiment. In the last analysis, the welfare of the workers depends upon their own initiative. Whatever is done under the guise of philanthropy or social morality which in any way lessens initiative is the greatest crime that can be committed against the toilers. Samuel Gompers a founder of the U.S. Labor Movement "It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it, induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them and drive them to do it without their consent. Having proceeded so far, it is naturally concluded all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves. Now, there is no such relation between capital and labor as here assumed... Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much higher consideration.... Inasmuch as most good things are produced by labor, it follows that all such things ought to belong to those whose labor has produced them. But it has happened in all ages of the world that some have labored, and others, without labor, have enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To secure to each laborer the whole product of his labor as nearly as possible is a worthy object of any good government." Abraham Lincoln "Those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord. And, inasmuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People. We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming an preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.... I do by this proclamation designate and set apart the 30th day of April, 1863 as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer." Abraham Lincoln Anyone who's not a liberal at 16 has no heart. Anyone who's still a liberal at 60 has no head. Benjamin Disraeli
The sun, with all the planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.
Man is not the enemy here, but the fellow victim. The real enemy is women's denigration of themselves. Betty Friedan
Happy are they who can hear their detractions and put them to mending. Shakespeare Every one of us is like a man who sees things in a dream and thinks that he knows them perfectly and then wakes up to find that he knows nothing. Plato
I often hear that right and wrong are up to the individual. Of course, that is nonsense. Right and wrong are not up to us. If right and wrong were up to us, that would make Hitler right because he thought he was right. And he was not right. Right and wrong exist. They are invisible realities that we discover. We do not invent them.
Charity is an ugly trick. It is a virtue grown by the rich on the graves of the poor. Unless it is accompanied by sincere revolt against the present social system, it is cheap moral swagger. In former times it was used as fire insurance by the rich, but now that the fear of Hell has gone... it is used either to gild mean lives with nobility or as a political instrument. Rebecca West The last temptation and the greatest treason is to do the right thing for the wrong reason. T. S. Eliot
It is not enough to do good. One must do it the right way. John Viscount Morley
The fullest life is impossible without an immovable belief in a Living Law in obedience to which the whole universe moves. Gandhi We have met the enemy and he is us. Pogo
Failure to understand what is demanded of us is the source of anxiety.
Money helps, though not so much as you think when you don't have it.
Louis Erdrich (B: 1954), Chippewa poet and author
Tell the truth but tell it slant -
The truth must dazzle gradually -
There is nothing as powerful as truth - and often nothing so strange. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Shakespeare When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness. Joseph Campbell
(America's obsession with the mere protraction of life prevents the transformation that attends the perception of death as an ally rather than a bogey.)
Death is the key that unlocks the door to our true happiness. Mozart
The poor wish to be rich, the rich wish to be happy, the single wish to be married, and the married wish to be dead. Ann Landers
Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. Gertrude Stein, 1874-1946
If we would only give, just once, the same amount of reflection to what we want to get out of life that we give to the question of what to do with a two weeks' vacation, we would be startled at our false standards and the aimless procession of our busy days. Dorothy Canfield Fisher, 1879-1958
What I do is live.
How I pray is breathe.
You have heard that (our forefathers) were told, "Love your neighbour and hate your enemy." But what I tell you is this: Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors; only so can you be children of your heavenly Father, who causes the sun to rise on good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the innocent and the wicked. If you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect? Even the tax-collectors do as much...