Thursday, July 7, 2022

Quote of the Day (Gustave Flaubert, on Human Speech)

“Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.”—French novelist Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), Madame Bovary (1857)

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Quote of the Day (Poet James Thomson, on Summer)

“Who would in such a gloomy state remain
   Longer than nature craves; when ev'ry muse
     And every blooming pleasure wait without,
       To bless the wildly devious morning walk?”— Scottish poet and playwright James Thomson (1700-1748), “Summer,” in The Seasons (1726-1730)

The accompanying photo I took eight years ago shows one of the best places to visit on any summer--or, for that matter, spring or fall--day: the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Quote of the Day (Oscar Wilde, on the One Thing Still Impossible in Russia)

Michael: “What has the tyrant done now?”

Vera Sabouroff: “Tomorrow martial law is to be proclaimed in Russia.”

Everyone: “Martial law! We are lost! We are lost!”

Alexis Ivanacievitch: “Martial law! Impossible!”

Michael: “Fool, nothing is impossible in Russia but reform.” — Anglo-Irish dramatist, novelist, and poet Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Vera: Or, The Nihilists (1880)

Monday, July 4, 2022

TV Quote of the Day (‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ With Barney’s Foolproof Method for Remembering Dates Like 1776)

[Barney explains his revolutionary system for remembering famous dates, such as 1776.]

Deputy Barney Fife [played by Don Knotts]: “The first number... is one.”

Sheriff Andy Taylor [played by Andy Griffith]: “Yeah.”

Barney: “Now, that's easy to remember 'cause that's the first number in the alphabet.”

Andy: “Yeah.”

Barney: “Now, the second number... is... you just remember... lucky... seven.”

Andy: “Lucky seven.”

Barney: “See? Now you got one and seven.”

Andy: “Yeah.”

Barney: “Now, what's the third number? Seven. Now, that's easy to remember 'cause you just remembered seven, see?”

Andy: [chuckles] “Yeah, that's right. Yeah.”

Barney: “Now, you got one, seven and seven.”

Andy: “One and... two sevens, yeah.”

Barney: “Now, what's the last number? All right, here's how you remember that: What's one... from... seven?”

Andy: “Six.”

Barney: “Six.”

[They laugh]

Barney: “1776.”

Andy: “Yeah, that's good.”

Barney: “Yeah, it works out, too.”

Andy: “Wouldn't it be just as easy just to go ahead and remember 1776?”

Barney: “Well, if you want to do things the easy way, you're never gonna learn anything!”The Andy Griffith Show, Season 3, Episode 23, “Andy Discovers America,” original air date Mar. 4, 1963, teleplay by John Whedon, directed by Bob Sweeney

Quote of the Day (John McCain, on America, ‘The Land That Repairs and Reinvents Itself’)

“We are living in the land of the free, the land where anything is possible. The land of the immigrant’s dream, the land with the storied past forgotten in the rush to the imagined future. The land that repairs and reinvents itself, the land where a person can escape the consequences of a self-centered youth and know the satisfaction of sacrificing for an ideal. The land where you can go from aimless rebellion to a noble cause, and from the bottom of your class to your party’s nomination for president.”—John McCain (1936-2018), U.S. Senator (R-AZ) and Vietnam veteran, POW and war hero, speech accepting the Liberty Medal, National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, Oct. 16, 2017

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Spiritual Quote of the Day (Edmund Burke, on the Religious Dissenting Spirit Behind the American Revolution)

“Religion, always a principle of energy, in this new people is no way worn out or impaired; and their mode of professing it is also one main cause of this free spirit. The people are Protestants; and of that kind which is the most adverse to all implicit submission of mind and opinion. This is a persuasion not only favourable to liberty, but built upon it. I do not think, Sir, that the reason of this averseness in the dissenting churches, from all that looks like absolute government, is so much to be sought in their religious tenets, as in their history. Every one knows that the Roman Catholic religion is at least coeval with most of the governments where it prevails; that it has generally gone hand in hand with them, and received great favour and every kind of support from authority. The Church of England too was formed from her cradle under the nursing care of regular government. But the dissenting interests have sprung up in direct opposition to all the ordinary powers of the world; and could justify that opposition only on a strong claim to natural liberty. Their very existence depended on the powerful and unremitted assertion of that claim. All Protestantism, even the most cold and passive, is a sort of dissent. But the religion most prevalent in our northern colonies is a refinement on the principle of resistance; it is the dissidence of dissent, and the Protestantism of the Protestant religion. This religion, under a variety of denominations agreeing in nothing but in the communion of the spirit of liberty, is predominant in most of the northern provinces; where the Church of England, notwithstanding its legal rights, is in reality no more than a sort of private sect, not composing most probably the tenth of the people. The colonists left England when this spirit was high, and in the emigrants was the highest of all; and even that stream of foreigners, which has been constantly flowing into these colonies, has, for the greatest part, been composed of dissenters from the establishments of their several countries, and have brought with them a temper and character far from alien to that of the people with whom they mixed.”—Anglo-Irish statesman and father of conservatism Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Speech on Conciliation with the Colonies, delivered March 22, 1775

The separation of church and state was one of the most tangled subjects in contemporary debates about government—a fact underscored by the explosion of commentary from both the left and right, much of it unhelpful, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade.

It would be a stretch to say, as many on the right would have it, that America was founded as an explicitly “Christian nation.”

But habits of mind formed in Americans’ religious practice—principally, those related to resistance to “all implicit submission of mind and opinion”—lay at the heart of American colonists’ increasing alienation from England, and those instincts would make it impossible for the Mother Country to continue to impose punitive legislation on the colonists, warned Edmund Burke.

One month before British troops clashed with the Americans at Lexington and Concord, this father of modern conservatism cautioned the House of Commons about the futility of coercion. A key part of his argument against force was the temperament of the colonists in their environment. British North America, he noted, was disproportionately composed of "dissenters from the establishments of their several countries."

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Quote of the Day (John Stuart Mill, on the Responsibility of Good Men Who Do Nothing)

“Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject. It depends on the habit of attending to and looking into public transactions, and on the degree of information and solid judgment respecting them that exists in the community, whether the conduct of the nation as a nation, both within itself and towards others, shall be selfish, corrupt, and tyrannical, or rational and enlightened, just and noble.”—English political philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), Inaugural Address Delivered to the University of St. Andrews (Feb. 1, 1867)

More than a century and a half after its original publication, Mill’s On Liberty remains relevant as the best defense of free speech and, indeed, the foundation of modern notions of toleration and liberalism.

His views on what citizenship entails—and the need for information-based judgment on the part of anyone who hopes to have a voice in the governance of a country—in the above quote should be weighed and pondered all the more.