The voyage and the view

“What’s gratifying about being human, what’s exciting about being part of the scientific enterprise, is our ability to use analytical thought to bridge vast distances, journeying to outer and inner space… it is the depth of our understanding, acquired from our lonely vantage point in the inky black stillness of a cold and forbidding cosmos, that reverberates across the expanse of reality and marks our arrival.” — Brian Greene, The Hidden Reality

Dearly maddened, we gather today in song

“The scheme of providence demands of us all that each man humbly perform his part, sing his own line in the terrestrial hymn, as the planets are singing, unheard, above us, and with charity forgive those to left and right when they falter.  That may sound pompous, simpleminded, but it’s true, or anyway I hope it’s true.  A man can go mad, discarding all tradition, reasoning out for himself the precise details of celestial and terrestrial law.” — John Gardner, “The Temptation of St. Ivo”

Yee-haw! Git along, little dogies

“The best way to do good to the poor is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.” — Benjamin Franklin (quoted in The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVIII, Ch. XXIV, Sec. 3)

What’s the role for unpopular information?

“A popular government, without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both.”  — James Madison (quoted in The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Ch. XXIII, Sec. 18)

Indirectly can be any direction

“The knowledge of what tends neither directly nor indirectly to make better men and better citizens is but a knowledge of trifles. It is not learning but a specious and ingenious sort of idleness.” — The Rev. Dr. William Smith (Provost, University of Pennsylvania, 1755-1779), quoted in The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Ch. XXIII, Sec. 15

Ignorance and silence in the name of God

“Learning has brought disobedience and heresy and sects into the world and printing has divulged them and libels against the best of governments. God keep us from both.” — Sir William Berkeley (Governor of Virginia, 1641-1677), quoted in The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Ch. XXIII, Sec. 3

I’ll have a slice of happiness, thank you, and a cup of joy on the side

“To despair was to wish back for something already lost.  Or to prolong what was already unbearable.  How much can you wish for a favorite warm coat that hangs in the closet of a house that burned down with your mother and father inside of it?  How long can you see in your mind arms and legs hanging from telephone wires and starving dogs running down the streets with half-chewed hands dangling from their jaws?  What was worse, we asked among ourselves, to sit and wait for our own deaths with proper somber faces?  Or to choose our own happiness?” — Amy Tan, “The Joy Luck Club”

Minding everyone’s business

“Gradually public opinion concerning the scope and purpose of government in its relation to the general welfare underwent a transformation. The view which had long been dominant was that national prosperity depended upon the prosperity of the manufacturing and commercial classes of the country; when they flourished the labourer would enjoy a ‘full dinner pail,’ the shopkeeper a good trade, the farmers high markets, and the professional classes would collect their fees; consequently it was only right that such important matters as the tariff and monetary standards should be determined according to the ideals of the great business interests of the country. The new view was that the object of legislation should be to aid all citizens with no special privilege or regard to any one class. Its birth was in the Granger movement. It was more widely disseminated by Populism, but its ablest presentation was by William Jennings Bryan, notably in his speech before the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1896:  ‘You have made the definition of a business man too limited in its application. A man who is employed for wages is as much a business man as his employer. The attorney in a country town is as much a business man as the corporation counsel in a great metropolis. The merchant at the crossroads store is as much a business man as a merchant of New York. The farmer who goes forth in the morning and toils all day—who begins in the spring and toils all summer—and who, by the application of brain and muscle to the natural resources of the country, creates wealth, is as much a business man as the man who goes upon the Board of Trade and bets upon the price of grain. The miners who go down a thousand feet into the earth, or climb two thousand feet upon the cliffs and bring forth from their hiding place the precious metals to be poured into the channels of trade, are as much business men as the few financial magnates, who, in a back room, corner the money of the world. We come to speak for this broader class of business men.’” — The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Ch. XXI, Sec. 36

Making the magic

“It’s in words that the magic is—Abracadabra, Open Sesame, and the rest—but the magic words in one story aren’t magical in the next.  The real magic is to understand which words work, and when, and for what; the trick is to learn the trick.” — John Barth, “Dunyazadiad”

Some things you just can’t buy

“You cannot conjure madness out of a cabbage.  You cannot craze a block of wood with an axe.  You cannot blow the brains from a squash.  You cannot sell such a fine fierce commodity as madness and pass it over a grocer’s counter.” — Joseph Stanley Pennell, The History of Rome Hanks and Kindred Matters

Paying it forward

“I am like the middleclass housewife who drapes her house with plush horrors: I festoon myself with small beasts and give them to eat and suck and warm them.  I am a truly generous mound of flesh.  I daily lay down my life not for my friends but for those hungry little persons I have never seen.  Stay, says my carrion, do stay and raise a bloody fine family—there’s room for us all here and food for the children.  Thus daily I am camped on, lived in and eaten.” — Joseph Stanley Pennell, The History of Rome Hanks and Kindred Matters

Perhaps not

“If in war time the theatre has made itself necessary, does it not follow that some day the Government, regarding the theatre as a necessary social institution for the American people, will give it Congressional support in its artistic maintenance, and recognize its importance by having it represented in the Presidential Cabinet by a Secretary of Fine Arts? This might do much to give direction and purpose to future American playwriting.” — Montrose J. Moses, The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Ch. XVIII, Sec. 29

Artists know

“The great and tragic fact of experience is the fact of effort and passionate toil which never finds complete satisfaction. This eternal frustration of our ideals or will is an essential part of spiritual life, and enriches it just as the shadows enrich the picture or certain discords bring about richer harmony.” — Morris R. Cohen, The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Ch. XVI, Sec. 21

When science was king

“Commonly we fix beliefs by reiterating them, by surrounding them with emotional safeguards, and by avoiding anything which casts doubt upon them—by ‘the will to believe.’ This method breaks down when the community ceases to be homogeneous. Social effort, by the method of authority, to eliminate diversity of beliefs also fails in the end to prevent reflective doubts from cropping up. Hence we must finally resort to the method of free inquiry and let science stabilize our ideas by clarifying them. How can this be done?” — Morris R. Cohen, The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Ch. XVI, Sec. 18

The view from without the cave

“Intellectual pioneers are rarely gregarious creatures. In their isolation they lose touch with those who follow the beaten paths, and when they return to the community they speak strangely of strange sights, so that few have the faith to follow them and change their trails into high roads.” — Morris R. Cohen, The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Ch. XVI, Sec. 18

Ideas whose time came

“Out of unrestricted competition arise many wrongs that the State must redress and many abuses which it must check. It may become the duty of the State to reform its taxation, so that its burdens shall rest less heavily upon the lower classes; to repress monopolies of all sorts; to prevent and punish gambling; to regulate or control the railroads and telegraphs; to limit the ownership of land; to modify the laws of inheritance; and possibly to levy a progressive income-tax, so that the enormous fortunes should bear more rather than less than their share of the public burdens.” — Washington Gladden (quoted in The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Ch. XVI, Sec. 12)

Welcome to America

“Dishonest men can be bought and ignorant men can be manipulated. This is the kind of government which private capital, invested in public-service industries, naturally feels that it must have.” — Washington Gladden (quoted in The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Ch. XVI, Sec. 12)