Aphorisms and Fragments
There is one philosophy: Philosophize!
Humility works hard to satisfy its pride.
Pride covets Virtue; Vanity covets her appearance.
Good men find their greatest pleasure in being virtuous,
while the rest of us find great pleasure a virtue.
We tend to lose sympathy for a man to the extent that his suffering,
having quite overwhelmed him, begins to affect ourselves.
We generally reproach a man for the immodesty of his suffering
when it is ourselves who cannot bear so much as the suggestion of it.
If you cannot bring your imagination to life,
you can still bring life to your imagination, --
and that is the finer thing.
Cynicism is the denial of hope by the fear of disappointment.
Substance is the height of style;
good form takes the form of the good.
Patience isn’t waiting for something.
Crime may make a criminal,
but only conscience can make him guilty.
Women have flowers. Men have women.
How fragile is the crystal cup? How frail, the age'd vine?
With just a word, the dream is cut -- and all who dream it die.
Courage is ripeness of will.
Some won't drink, but want a drunk.
A warm humor satisfies all paradoxes.
Children always think they're playing.
Wise men carve the loneliest paths;
fools are always finding each other.
He elects, whom God has elected;
he chooses, who is chosen:
Free Will is Divine Intervention.
Inventions are higher discoveries. --
God is our most ingenious invention,
and our highest discovery.
The bell of the world is struck
by the birth of the man, or is silent.
Every head is a headstone;
every body, a grave for restless spirits.
I am a ferment of other minds.
The view that is not represented is never assented to.
My passion is tame. It's my reason that's wild.
Every man's philosophy is his own;
it will never fit anyone so well as himself,
and, even then, it will begin to pinch.
Have you been blinded in the darkest depths?
You will be blinded in the light, as well.
Look around you now.
Fantasy is the better part of reality.
Superficial talk is delusory; all reality is excavated.
The nut may not fall far from the tree,
but the roots spread into eternity.
The horizon recedes on the crest of an eternal dusk.
The wisdom of the earth is lofty in the underworld.
Judgment is the antithesis of understanding.
It is superfluous to judge a man if he is guilty in his own eyes,
and ridiculous if he is not.
The moral sense is strong in some, weak in others,
yet, even in this, the strong still persecute the weak.
Hatred of evil is the craftiest and least well-known of vices,
so easily is it mistaken for love of good.
The sins of a humble man are always before him, - therefore, he judges no one;
but a proud man overlooks his own sins, - to look upon the sins of another.
A genius is a man who has his madness,
but whose madness does not have him.
Nothing teaches, and nothing prejudices, like experience.
We walk clumsily in another man's shoes,
when we've yet to remove our own.
In order to know him,
it is not enough to walk a mile or two in a man's shoes;
one does not come to understand the nature
of drunkenness after a single drink.
Faith goes nowhere without her shadow of doubt.
A godless man doubts the existence of God
as a loveless man doubts the existence of love.
The finest line does not divide.
The subtlest minds fall through the cracks;
stupidity keeps us sane.
Silence is the wisdom of the foolish
and the folly of the wise.
The beautiful is a stain on the sublime.
The soul is a fallen woman,
and the Lord, her unlikely suitor.
She eyes Him always with suspicion,
unable to believe that her longing
is answered by His love.
She is coy, elusive, silly.
He is sincere and devoted in pursuit.
By and by, He will win her heart,
and, with it, the dowry of the world.
The heart is a treasurehouse, where the sweetest things are preserved.
The first requirement for greatness is the audacity to be great;
one must begin upon the heights to ascend beyond the clouds.
The Sun is a brilliant light,
but light must be carried underground,
and only a candle can serve.
Every work of art is an affirmation, however dark and brooding.
It may be that the greatest affirmation is provided by the darkest work,
for, here, the artist affirms creation even in the midst of the blackest pitch,
shrinking neither from the darkness, nor the work of expressing it;
while despair never lifts the brush, and hope scarcely feels its weight.
Great works of art create the illusion, not of reality, but of fiction;
it is only when we believe we are a safe distance from the battle
that we begin to discard our shields.
Good men are not free to do evil and evil men are not free to do good;
a warm heart cannot fail to give warmth, nor a cold heart chills.
To turn the other cheek is just to look the other way,
but trading blow for blow is the worst kind of hypocrisy.
There are those who see shipwrecked men and say,
"The sea is off-limits to sensible men!"
Perhaps it is so, and I would rather be senseless.
We resent the ones
who have given us the most,
for not having given us more;
it is with them that our appetites
and expectations have been spoiled.
The world is a longing for God.
God is a furnace of mystery,
and all creation is burning with questions.
All things speak of God, but the Voice of God is Silence.
Speaking well is the art of treating with equal respect the claims of honesty and tact.
Self-contempt is the highest form of pride.
Only the proud may be virtuous in humility;
the humble should cultivate a healthy pride.
Whether confident or insecure, self-rapport is the same in every man;
the self to which he remains attached is always the self that regards him,
and never the self that is regarded.
You can't judge a book by the book.
Ignorance is the price of education.
There is a teaching for every time and place,
but only one teaching is timeless and all-pervading;
the former may be taught, the latter learned.
A jack of all virtues is a master of none.
A wise man acts because he has something to do,
a fool because he has to do something.
[variation on Plato's "a wise man speaks, etc."]
He falls ill who is ill.
What is good cannot be true. Only what is great can be true. Truth belongs to the heights. She is free and without purpose, because she is great, and not good; purposefulness is good, but pure being is great. A good teacher teaches with purpose, so that others may learn. But a great teacher teaches for no reason at all, and only because she is a true teacher. What is true has no purpose; this is what it means to truly "be".
All men tell the truth;
liars tell the truth by lying;
their lie is their truth,
and, if they did not lie,
it would be untruth,
or else, they would not be liars.
Liars are always the last to hear the truths they speak.
I have nothing at all against scoundrels,
other than the fact that they are scoundrels.
A man who judges thinks he can enforce the laws of righteousness
by sacrificing the first among them.
An aphorism is a finale, in a nutshell.
To know an aphorism is human;
to know when to apply it, divine.
Who is more unreasonable:
the man who possesses no respect for human life,
or the man who expects it of him?
If a man is unfit to judge himself, who is fit to judge him?
I will surely take responsibility for myself,
but who will take responsibility for me?
All men are so inherently flawed, that we must look to their most valuable qualities, if we are to form a sympathetic estimation of their worth. What Shakespeare lacked, a fool could have provided. But Shakespeare is still Shakespeare, and a fool is still a fool.
Bright souls outshine the merely good; despite a cloak of vices,
a fugitive light breaks through between the shallow stitching.
And if such a soul were to be purified, and made good,
it would shine naked in the sun, and would outshine the sun.
Witness Jesus; the purified genius.
From those who cannot give their approval to Life, she accepts their detraction; and thus consoles them for the deprivation of all that she lacks (in their eyes). This is the freedom God, and Life, grants to a decadent: The freedom to curse one's captor. Let us not begrudge, as God does not begrudge, the decadent his right to curse the heavens and bemoan his lot. If we would be distinguished by our willingness to affirm Life, let us affirm Life's decadents, as well.
The Sun does not rise; the Earth rotates:
Nothing is created; everything is revealed.
Ignorance does not create error; error reveals ignorance.
It is the same with a man and his actions;
he does not create them, but they reveal him.
In silence there is sweetness.
Words fall, and often rise, into this;
and fall back through, to rise again.
The mind thrives on uncertainty, while the will starves.
Some speak boldly for action, and say, "nothing comes from inaction". But action comes from inaction, and who can draw that thin grey line where inaction ends and action begins? Surely, what changes we've seen in a sudden instant were prepared for ages underground.
Where there’s a way, there’s a will;
only the inevitable is ever truly possible.
Flesh is not merely the corruption of Spirit,
it is also the Divine Manifestation;
the Fall is also the Incarnation.
Herein lies distilled the mystery and essence
of the Christian cosmo-conception.
Not all who are wise convey wisdom,
not all who convey wisdom are wise;
one is spiritual, but another
has power to convey the spirit;
the gifts of grace are without discrimination.
The beauty of an infant is so pure that, in contrast, all the adults we meet seem to have acquired a dull, unattractive, and greasy patina. What makes the child glow, as if surrounded by a halo of gauzy light, is merely the absence of this film, which we might never notice, if not for the stark contrast provided by the child. Innocence is not a positive element of existence, in the sense that, it is not a thing in itself, but, rather, the absence of some other thing; it is an emptiness; a negative element; it appears only in the space that gives definition to forms. Our true nature is innocence, and it is regarded only in the absence of impurities. This is why saints glow again like children.
When the excavation of one area of life becomes exhausting, we can always find relief by turning to another area of life. When we have spent years, even decades, exhausting ourselves upon one area of life, we may spend years, even decades, finding relief in detachment from that area, - but, if life were only long enough, we would exhaust that relief as well, and turn back to the very things we thought we'd learned detachment from. Detachment is not the sign of maturity we like to suppose it is.
Who is moved by angels is moved by devils.
He blushes before beauty who cannot look upon homeliness.
Ask yourself if you are dreaming and, at once, you begin to awaken.
We are frequently engaged in many places at once, and present nowhere.
We learn, and often practice, to despise that which we are afraid of.
"There is a season to give and a season to receive":
Trying to cry on each other's shoulders,
we only end up butting heads.
Water carried over cliffs by water;
fire consumed in flames; the ego,
swallowed up by its own big mouth!
Our broken songs are half-composed,
and we ourselves, half-composed;
we sing ourselves,
and sing ourselves completely.
There are two ways humanity may yet preserve itself:
The first is by becoming more compassionate.
The second is by becoming more cruel.
And I'm not sure about the first.
There is nothing deeper than an apple. Scratch that.
There is nothing deeper than an apple -- given away.
Great truths are dropped from great heights,
so they are sure to crush a few egos.
He has courage to attack who lacks courage to defend.
The courage to jump is also the fear of not jumping.
If suicide is cowardly,
how much more so is the fear of death?
I do not affirm all that I say,
though I affirm the saying of it;
only a few ideas are close to me,
but there are many I have a care for.
It is one thing to make an argument,
another thing to make a case.
There are more inventors than there are
people who let themselves invent.
Many people have children as a substitute
for releasing their inner child.
Go with the flow... but dont forget the ebb.
Adversity creates vice before vice creates adversity.
A clever man may be deemed almost a genius
if he would apply his wit to matters of profundity.
The quality of his thoughts is found, as much,
in what he thinks about, as in how he thinks;
as the value of a light is reflected
by the value of the objects it illuminates,
and not by its own brilliance alone.
Dependence on rules leaves you at the mercy of exceptions;
an open mind is no less prepared than a well-ordered one.
The clearer our purpose, the quicker our progress.
This is the only equality I know: that when I look down, I experience a giddy sense of superiority, and when I look up, a sobering humility; but, when I keep my focus on the path directly before me, I feel myself the equal of every man.
It is easy to disregard a man's objection, and to rise above his offense, if we consider him a simple lunatic or brute. It is only to the extent that we respect him or his opinion, that we may even be provoked by them at all. We must have some humility for our pride to be stung.
"There are no contradictions,"?
He only spoke half-truths.
Consistency is self-contradiction.
All truths are contextual,
all wisdom contingent;
metaphors lack corners.
Truth is context; the "whole truth" has never been spoken, by anyone, ever.
There is no context. It is impossible to say everything. In attempting to say anything at all, our words must sit like bricks in the stream, surrounded on all sides by a restless uncertainty; or, like bits of cloth, frayed around the edges. No matter how clearly you articulate a truth, at the frontier of your speech there is ambiguity, and the likelihood that your insights will be subject to presumptions and displaced into inappropriate contexts is almost absolute. Only intuition circumferences the unspoken. Only wisdom knows her own.
The admonition to "Go within" can also be a subtle ploy of the ego.
We do not care to admit that we, as individuals, are incomplete,
and that wholeness may have more to do with learning cooperation,
than with "finding ourselves", or contenting ourselves with ourselves.
Self-centeredness is always being mistaken for self-reliance.
Sometimes the best thing to do is listen.
People often know what is best for themselves,
and in those instances we ought to let nature take her course.
The most reluctant patients are not always wrongly so;
they may refuse our prescriptions for better reasons than we know.
Many times it is our insistence on treating them which is bullheaded.
It may even be that God marks out certain people, at certain times,
and will not permit anyone else to “play doctor” before Himself;
though we may be called to assist at crucial moments,
as hands, to place the Surgeon's tools closer,
or daub the patient's burning brow.
A small hope is a cold comfort, warmed between praying hands;
or a grain of sand within an oyster, slowly nursed into a pearl.
If they doubt the value of the fruits,
how much more, the value of the seed?
The tragedy of human existence is not that things change,
but, that they change before we’ve grown tired of them,
and refuse to change long after we have.
The wheels of progress are greased
with the blood of the martyrs.
If you can love a man's art,
while despising his politics,
there is hope for civilization.
The watering of your favorite virtue,
brings the flowering of all the virtues.
There is divinity in idealism; to have an ideal is not to be godless, --
and it is a kind of blessedness to remain faithful to one's ideal.
When we need a reason to forgive,
a reason can always be found.
The trick is not needing one.
Frequent admissions of fault in oneself
breed tolerance for the faults of others.
To admit when you are wrong,
suggests that it is not your pride
which insists on being right.
Every school should have a garden.
Every word is an Arcanum.
Every man praises those virtues which he seems to possess in himself,
and finds a way to criticize those which he clearly does not possess;
while those who lack the power to reason,
and must find a way to the truth through intuition,
will tell you that reason is a dead end,
and only intuition lights the highest paths, --
those lacking intuitive power,
but well-armed with reason,
will reason their way to the heights,
and remark only upon the pitfalls of intuition.
Both seem to find fault in the method,
and rarely acknowledge it in themselves.
Wisdom is granted even in the supplication for wisdom; the request for grace is a grace; and the desire to know God's will is an evident manifestation of God's will.
Genius is silent, or offensive.
Sometimes we take the hint,
and sometimes we take the hit.
Love is certain;
for to be certain is to rest,
and there is no rest but in love.
Only love is at rest.
Only love is certain.
The key to happiness?
Demand nothing of yourself
and settle for anything.
Reason is to revelation
what the mind is to the soul.
Reason mediates revelation:
mind mediates soul.
For men of action, simplicity is character;
for men of thought, it is suicide.
The essential difference between a philosopher
and someone who is not a philosopher is this:
Both have a head full of contradictory and irreconcilable points of view,
but the philosopher knows it, -- and, beyond knowing it,
embraces this conflict as the fountainhead of creative thinking.
There is no such thing as "the last word", in wisdom, or in anything else. Even conversations continue when those who conversed have gone their separate ways. And there may be systems of philosophy, and men who claim to belong to them, but this is also a fib. No man has ever agreed on the essential points with any other man who has ever lived. Not entirely. We may have to dig for him, but we always find the individual. Though he surrender his reason to the common faith, he cannot silence the mind which whispers even out of the deep unconscious; and every mind is uniquely formed.
There are certain unconventional perspectives which an intellectual, having communicated, may find herself honored for as some kind of genius -- but, which a great many people have already articulated far more simply, only to find themselves sent to a madhouse to be "cured".
Nine times out of ten:
Religion is a man who smiles
and praises God's goodness, --
while burning His martyrs at the stake.
Religions are nice places to visit, but I wouldn't want to live in them.
I’ve not chosen a religion, but I’ve tasted the many cups.
To drunkards who protest that I drink not, but merely swish and spit,
I say, “Perhaps I am a connoisseur.”
They wear crosses like anchors around their necks,
and fall on their knees like ships run aground;
their hands, joined in prayer, fork the sand:
"Lord, deliver us from oceans, though we be ships!"
The steepled domes of churches gleam;
Turned-down goblets with broken stems.
These priests have drunk too much!!
Or is it not enough?
We light candles when the power goes out,
and pray to God when the candles burn down.
Praying to God when times are good is like
lighting candles in a house full of electricity;
its extremely illuminating,
and everyone should try it at least once.
The truth of love, spoken clearly, is like a great flood, purging the land of all that is merely superficial and unrooted in the natural order. Nothing false can stand in its wake. The mouths of the foolish and the wicked are stopped, and the tides of ignorance and animosity ebb like phantoms in the morning light. Only the truth of love has this magnificent cleansing power. But it must be spoken. It must never be silent.
Silence is wise; speaks no lies.
The words of a wise man never reach the ears of a fool.
If fools could be silent, wisdom could speak.
To most people,
the choice between flapping their gums
and holding their peace,
resembles the choice of a small bird
who must remain aloft, or, else,
perched on the nose of a crocodile.
To speak or not to speak;
that is the question.
All things are needful. Words find the ears for them.
That which is mortal in us is undisturbed by loud noises and harsh words. Being of the same nature as these, it will only grow louder and more harsh itself, in order to accommodate them. But that which is divine is truly delicate. The slightest noise, the merest hint of discord, is enough to dispel it. A mound of stones is not upset by a strong wind, but a mound of powder is lost in the weakest breeze. Though we may not disturb what is coarse by behaving in our usual way, we must take greater care not to disturb what is fine. So it is that we must be gentle with one another, not for the sake of what is mortal, but for the sake of what is divine.
The deepest questions are cultivated in the underworld, and the loftiest answers are harvested in the spheres; therefore, the one who’s job it is to tend and deliver them must necessarily be estranged from worldly matters to the extent that he is successful in his work. That this principle is so universally misunderstood may help to explain society’s hostility toward the visionary type. He is stigmatized for being different, while his differences are precisely what qualify him to take a detached perspective on the affairs of men, of nations, and of ages. Expected to abide by a conventional standard, he is constantly inhibited from pursuing his true calling, and the only thing capable of securing him a place in the world. Nor is it generally understood that the seemingly immaterial contributions he makes are of a subtle enough substance to reach (and nourish) the very roots of mankind. In the final analysis, he is the exception which exists in order to support their rule; the more oppressed for all that he upholds.
Mother God is unconditionally loving,
Father God makes impossible demands;
where they meet, a Messiah is born.
did you make the worms for the birds,
or the birds for the worms?
Like a vagrant,
I fall asleep on the steps of my prayer,
and never ascend to the door of His love.
A thousand unlocked doors between us,
but I still search for a key.
I was a fledgling crossing the ocean.
You were a branch floating by.
His words were clay,
but his thoughts were silver.
"All is One."
There is nothing else worth knowing and understanding.
The rest are details; for the tourists!
I sought the One Thing, but I found All Things.
Most people choose their beliefs according to what makes them feel good. This is why so many intelligent people are miserable; they are unable to deceive themselves about their condition, and must choose their beliefs according to what makes sense.
Generally, we can't get our hands on a little happiness or good fortune without taking credit for it, and blaming others for lacking it.
The answer is not to sit back and thank our stars for the advantages we enjoy,
but to live consciously, so that others may enjoy those advantages as well.
When you read someone's words, pay closer attention to the meaning of your own reactions, than to the meaning of their words. The meaning of their words is far from you, but the meaning of your reactions is well within your ken.
No authority demands our thoughtless adherence, and no statement is so hallowed, or so truthful, that it cannot be questioned. Indeed, the greatest, most sacred and most truthful statements, are those which invite interpretation, and, by their nature, seem to suggest a thousand divergent avenues of inquiry.
The form, which once seemed necessary to legitimize and bring reverence to the idea,
and, ultimately, to the dynamic life of the spirit which underlies it, has become an idol;
an end in itself; in many ways an end.
Form is modest, beautiful and deep, like silence.
Herd mentality is childish. Questioning authority, seeking for answers outside of the cultural mainstream, is an initiatory experience that can last for years, even decades, and it is a prerequisite for adulthood. Most people think growing up means learning to honor the expectations prescribed by the status quo. Most people never grow up.
There's no such thing as a bad poet.
Art is gold, polished or in the rough,
and every artist is a miner of gold.
To be precise, Lord, I do not believe
in the peacefulness of your kingdom,
but in the kingdom of your peace.
Fools will say that you are most yourself
when you are least in control of yourself.
Tragedy isn't about losing.
It's about almost winning.
Real tragedy is always ironic.
Like when your heart is in the right place,
and your head is up your ass.
Sometimes it takes great faith
to see what's right before your eyes.
Well said is well done.
Who can read Whitman, and not write? Who can be still for a moment, and not be deeply stirred? Here is the sigil and signet of health: a mind rooted in the bedrock of body; a body rising straight into a smile. Here is blood breezing through veins, and every hair perking up to meet the sun. Give me again the voice of that poet who neither mocks nor makes arguments, but witnesses, and waits; as he says.
You have to love Dostoevsky; that rambling, boiling, barreling genius. The characters he created are fuller, and more interesting, than many of the people you meet. And so many of them, like their creator, burn with a heart on fire; anxious, not for salvation, but for sainthood.
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