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A Few Of My Favorite Quotations

October 28, 2010

I find it near impossible to choose a favorite quotation.   Every time I come across a good one, I store it away in my private catalog.  After browsing through all I’ve listed over the past six years or so, I’d have to say my all time favorite quote is this one,

“Happy is the nation without a history.”
– Beccaria

As Schopenhauer noted, peaceful years appear in history books as brief pauses scattered here and there, while wars and revolutions dominate.   If you’ve ever had time to read Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland, the novel’s heroine, complained that history, “tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me.  The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences in every page; the men all so good for nothing , and hardly any women at all, it is very tiresome.”  I share her sentiments.  To be honest about it, human history is depressing.

But, cheer up!  My next favorite would probably go to John Heywood, the English poet and playwright.

“Many hands make work light.”
– John Heywood

He’s known for many famous sayings.  A few include, “Out of sight, out of mind”, “Better late than never”, “This hitteth the nail on the head”, “All is well that ends well”, “When the sun shines, make hay”, and “Haste makes waste.”

There’s no doubt that my favorite philosopher would be Bertrand Russell.

“…it is not enough to recognize that all our knowledge is in a greater or less degree, uncertain and vague, it is neccessary at the same time, to learn to act upon the best hypothesis without dogmatically believing it.”
– Bertrand Russell, Philosophy For Laymen

In life, it’s important to balance, “This is the best hypothesis which the data and evidence supports”, and “Even if this is so,  I may still be wrong.”

I have so many great quotations from Bertrand Russell.  Here’s another.

“Extreme hopes are born of extreme misery.”
– Bertrand Russell, The Future of Mankind

And we can’t forget Joseph Campbell.  You have to love Joseph Campbell.  He’s amazing.

“Not everyone has a destiny: only the hero who has plunged to touch it, and has come up again–with a ring.”
– Joseph Campebell, Hero With A Thousand Faces

I love that book.  It’s too bad that my brother borrowed it and never brought it back.  That also goes for several of my Teaching Company DVD series!  I still have Campbell’s The Masks Of God set though.  I keep it hidden in the corner of my study so family members won’t find them.

After reading Hero With A Thousand Faces, I kept wondering how I would define “bliss”.  Joseph Campbell always said, over and over, “follow your bliss.”  I’m going to be vain and put a quotation of my own, which comes from a deep influence Campbell had on me.

“You are experiencing bliss when the only way to distinguish dream from reality is that reality is much more vivid.”
– Jason Summers

I think this aligns well with several of Einstein’s quotations.  Einstein believed wholeheartedly in science and the scientific method, but you also find him saying things like this,

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
– Albert Einstein

Clearly Einstein felt imagination and dreaming an integral part of who we are, and a faculty which we must continually develop and exercise.  Another of my favorite philosophers, David Hume, felt the same way.

“Lively passions commonly attend a lively imagination.”
– David Hume

I think pursuing bliss requires the use of all of what we are, not just our rational faculties.  You have to always be dreaming, believing, and imagining, but also critical, analytical, and ever increasing in knowledge, all at the same time.  The pursuit of bliss requires the utilization of every aspect of who we are.  Notice I said “we”, not “you”.  I think we need to include everybody.  As I wrote the other day, none of us exist in isolation, separate from those around us and our environment.  When it comes to the pursuit of bliss, bring all your friends and family along too!

And for a few fun quotations,

“What is wrong with a counterfeit is not what it is like, but how it was made.”
– Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit

Greg bought me On Bullshit years ago as a gift.  It’s hilarious.

I suppose considering I’m a physicist, I find the next quote both hilarious and profound.  It comes from the Nobel laureate physicist, Enrico Fermi.

“… where is everybody?”
– Enrico Fermi

During a luncheon in 1950, a conversation broke out among prominent physicists about extraterrestrial civilizations, whether or not the speed of light can ever be exceeded, and so forth.

“It was after we were at the luncheon table, ” Konopinski recalls, “that Fermi surprised us with the question ‘but where is everybody?’ It was his way of putting it that drew laughs from us. ”

For all of you Physics nerds (are they any besides me?), you can read a detailed account of the incident  here.   The question raises a very good point, I think.  If life is everywhere throughout our universe, then where are they?  Shouldn’t we have visitors showing up all the time?  Then again, maybe they do, but they’re so intelligent that they don’t even bother communicating with us.  I don’t know.  Either way, I find it a profound question.

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