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Month: April 2022

“No well ordered society can leave to the individuals an absolute right to make final decisions, unassailable by the State, as to everything they will or will not do.” – Justice Hugo Lafayette Black and Justice William Orville Douglas, West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943)

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“Judgment is to be made of actions according to the times in which they were performed. The conduct of a wise politician is ever suited to the present posture of affairs; often by foregoing a part he saves the whole, and by yielding in a small matter secures a greater.” – “Comparison of Poplicola with Solon,” Plutarch’s Lives (trans. A. H. Clough)

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“The remission of debts was peculiar to Solon; it was his great means for confirming the citizens’ liberty; for a mere law to give all men equal rights is but useless, if the poor must sacrifice those rights to their debts, and, in the very seats and sanctuaries of equality, the courts of justice, the offices of state, and the public discussions, be more than anywhere at the beck and bidding of the rich. A yet more extraordinary success was, that, although usually civil violence is caused by any remission of debts, upon this one occasion this dangerous but powerful remedy actually put an end to civil violence already existing,” – “Comparison of Poplicola with Solon,” Plutarch’s Lives (trans. A. H. Clough)

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“The trading temper, independent and insubordinate, is absolutely opposed to the military spirit.” – Admiral comte Pierre André de Suffren de Saint Tropez, bailli de Suffren, Letter to Charles Eugène Gabriel de La Croix de Castries, marquis de Castries, baron des États de Languedoc, comte de Charlus, baron de Castelnau et de Montjouvent, seigneur de Puylaurens et de Lézignan, Autumn 1782

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“The average man is not a coward; but neither is he endowed by nature only with the rare faculty of seizing intuitively the proper course at a critical moment. He gains it, some more, some less, by experience or by reflection.” – Captain A. T. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660-1783

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“Most of the authors of the New Testament did not write particularly well, even by the forgiving standards of the koiné—that is, ‘common’—Greek in which they worked. The unknown author of the Letter to the Hebrews commanded a fairly distinguished and erudite style, and was obviously an accomplished native speaker of the tongue; and Luke, the author of both the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, wrote in an urbane, unspectacular, but mostly graceful prose; the author of the first letter attributed to Peter was clearly an educated person whose primary language was a fairly refined form of Greek, while the author of the second letter wrote in a somewhat bombastic style, of the kind classically called Asiatic Greek; but the language of most of the canon is anything but extraordinary. Paul’s letters possess an elemental power born out of the passion of his faith and the marvel of what he believes has been revealed to him, and his prose occasionally flowers into a plain but startling lyricism; but his Greek is generally rough, sometimes inept, and occasionally incoherent. The Gospel of Mark contains obvious solecisms and is awkwardly written throughout. The prose of the Gospel of Matthew is rarely better than ponderous. Even the Gospel of John, perhaps the most structurally and symbolically sophisticated religious text to have come down to us from late antiquity, is written in a Greek that is grammatically correct but syntactically almost childish (or perhaps I should say, ‘remarkably limpid’), and—unless its author was some late first-century precursor of Gertrude Stein—its stylistic limitations suggest an author whose command of the language did not exceed mere functional competence. Then, of course, the book of Revelation, the last New Testament text to be accepted into the canon—it was not firmly established there throughout the Christian world until the early fifth century—is, if judged purely by the normal standards of literary style and good taste, almost unremittingly atrocious. And, in the most refined pagan critics of the new faith in late antiquity, the stylistic coarseness of Christian literature often provoked the purest kind of patrician contempt. This is all evidence, however, of a deeper truth about these texts: They are not beguiling exercises in suasive rhetoric or feats of literary virtuosity; rather, they are chiefly the devout and urgent attempts of often rather ordinary persons to communicate something ‘seen’ and ‘heard’ that transcends any language, but that nevertheless demands to be spoken, now, here, in whatever words one can marshal. This is the special amphibology of Christian scripture. Whereas the Jewish Bible represents the concentrated literary genius of an ancient and amazingly rich culture—mythic, epic, lyric, historical, and visionary, in texts assembled over many centuries and then judiciously synthesized, redacted, and polished—the Christian New Testament is a somewhat unsystematically compiled and pragmatically edited compendium of ‘important documentation’: writings from the first generation of witnesses to the new faith, the oldest ambassadors to us from the apostolic and early postapostolic ages, consisting in quickly limned stories, theological discourses, and even a bit of historically impenetrable occasional writing. As such it draws one in by the intensity, purity, and perhaps frequent naiveté of its language, not by the exquisite sheen of its belletristic graces.” – David Bentley Hart, “Introduction,” The New Testament: A Translation (emphasis in original)

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“If there is no consciousness but only a dreamless sleep, death must be a marvelous gain. I suppose that if anyone were told to pick out the night on which he slept so soundly as not even to dream, and then to compare it with all the other nights and days of his life, and then were told to say, after the consideration, how many better and happier days and nights than this he had spent in the course of his life—well, I think that the Great King himself, to say nothing of any private person, would find these days and nights easy to count in comparison with the rest. If death is like this, then, I call it a gain, because the whole of time, if you look at it this way, can be regarded as no more than one single night.” – Plato, Socrates’ Defense (Apology) (trans. Hugh Tredennick)

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“I do not think that it is right for a man to appeal to the jury or to get himself acquitted by doing so; he ought to inform them of the facts and convince them by argument. The jury does not sit to dispense justice as a favor, but to decide where justice lies, and the oath which they have sworn is not to show favor at their own discretion, but to return a just and lawful verdict.” – Plato, Socrates’ Defense (Apology) (trans. Hugh Tredennick)

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“You are mistaken, my friend, if you think that a man who is worth anything ought to spend his time weighing up the prospects of life and death. He has only one thing to consider in performing any action—that is, whether he is acting rightly or wrongly, like a good man or a bad one.” – Plato, Socrates’ Defense (Apology) (trans. Hugh Tredennick)

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“War, with its many acknowledged sufferings, is above all harmful when it cuts a nation off from others and throws it back upon itself. There may indeed be periods when such rude shocks have a bracing effect, but they are exceptional, and of short duration, and they do not invalidate the general statement.” – Captain A. T. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660-1783

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“Neither individual nations nor men can thrive when severed from natural intercourse with their kind; whatever the native vigor of constitution, it requires healthful surroundings, and freedom to draw to itself from near and from far all that is conducive to its growth and strength and general welfare. Not only must the internal organism work satisfactorily, the processes of decay and renewal, of movement and circulation, go on easily, but, from sources external to themselves, both mind and body must receive healthful and varied nourishment.” – Captain A. T. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660-1783

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“There really is no reason / for much of anything humans do / once you get past hunting and fishing, / farming and shelter building. / Oh, sure, art makes sense too / if you look at the cave drawings. / Everything else is an agreed-upon / arrangement we promise / not to make fun of each other for— / sitting at desks making up stuff— / then we exchange pieces of paper / we agreed upon has value, / sometimes we laugh, / sometimes we cry, depending. / Nowdays everybody wants me to / buy a lot of gold but I would rather / have some dirt and a few seeds.” – Greg Kosmicki, “The Lucky Ones” (spelling in original)

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“In these three things—production, with the necessity of exchanging products, shipping, whereby the exchange is carried on, and colonies, which facilitate and enlarge the operations of shipping and tend to protect it by multiplying points of safety—is to be found the key to much of the history, as well as of the policy, of nations bordering upon the sea.” – Captain A. T. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660-1783

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“I was committed for two weeks to a mental health hospital for depression and suicidal behavior. Two weeks doesn’t sound long, but let me assure you that time is, in fact, relative. Imagine, if you will, being driven off in the middle of the night, poked and prodded by a doctor, having everything about you catalogued from your earrings to your underwear, being stripped and shoved in a shower, dressed in ill-fitting pink scrubs, marched out to a white-walled cage, and then watched. Watched by a panel of placating smiles, who ask questions for which they’ve already decided the answers. Watched as you color with the bright colored crayons, smile at everyone, swallow your pills, laugh too much, line up for the cafeteria, attend group and circle the happy face when you just want to yell, ‘I’m not in kindergarten!’ But you don’t because you want out, and, perhaps even more so, because you’re afraid you shouldn’t be let out. Sometimes I think I could spend a lifetime finding words in those two weeks alone.” – Beth McKinney, Rattle 56

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