Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Wisdom of Twain

Don't fiddle with it!
by Charlie Leck

Sometimes, somewhere, someone says it so well that you don't need to analyze it or fiddle with it.

"It is not worthwhile to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man's character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible." [Mark Twain, Eruption]

"Americans too often teach their children to despise those who hold unpopular opinions. We teach them to regard as traitors, and hold in aversion and contempt, such as do not shout with the crowd, and so here in our democracy we are cheering a thing which of all things is most foreign to it and out of place - the delivery of our political conscience into somebody else's keeping. This is patriotism on the Russian plan." [Mark Twain]

The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them." [Mark Twain, Notebook, 1898]"

"I am plenty safe enough in his hands; I am not in any danger from that kind of a Diety. The one that I want to keep out of the reach of, is the caricature of him which one finds in the Bible. We (that one and I) could never respect each other, never get along together. I have met his superior a hundred times-- in fact I amount to that myself." [Mark Twain, in a letter to Olivia Clemens, 17 July 1889]

"To be a patriot, one had to say, and keep on saying, 'Our country, right or wrong,' and urge on the little war. Have you not perceived that that phrase is an insult to the nation?… An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war." [Mark Twain, Glances at History]

"So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: "Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor's religion is." Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code." [Mark Twain, A Biography]

"We easily perceive that the peoples furthest from civilization are the ones where equality between man and woman are furthest apart--and we consider this one of the signs of savagery. But we are so stupid that we can't see that we thus plainly admit that no civilization can be perfect until exact equality between man and woman is included." [Mark Twain, Notebook]

"We are discreet sheep; we wait to see how the drove is going, and then go with the drove." [Mark Twain, Autobiography]

"One of the proofs of the immortality of the soul is that myriads have believed in it. They have also believed the world was flat." [Mark Twain, Notebook, 1900]

"I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn't know." [Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi]

"The motto stated a lie. If this nation has ever trusted in God, that time has gone by; for nearly half a century almost its entire trust has been in the Republican party and the dollar – mainly the dollar. I recognize that I am only making an assertion and furnishing no proof; I am sorry, but this is a habit of mine; sorry also that I am not alone in it; everybody seems to have this disease." [Mark Twain, Eruption]

"Like all the other nations, we worship money and the possessors of it- they being our aristocracy, and we have to have one." [Mark Twain, Eruption]

"When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries of life disappear and life stands explained." [Mark Twain, Notebook, 1898]

"Concerning the difference between man and the jackass: some observers hold that there isn't any. But this wrongs the jackass. [Mark Twain, Notebook]

"If we would learn what the human race really is at bottom, we need only observe it in election times." [Mark Twain, Autobiography]

"The happy phrasing of a compliment is one of the rarest of human gifts, and the happy delivery of it another. [Mark Twain, Autobiography]

"The observance of Thanksgiving Day--as a function--has become general of late years. The Thankfulness is not so general. This is natural. Two-thirds of the nation have always had hard luck and a hard time during the year, and this has a calming effect upon their enthusiasm." [Mark Twain, Following the Equator]

"Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out...and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel. ..And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for the universal brotherhood of man – with his mouth." [Mark Twain, What Is Man?]

"When I am king, they shall not have bread and shelter only, but also teachings out of books, for a full belly is little worth where the mind is starved." [Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper]

"What God lacks is convictions- stability of character. He ought to be a Presbyterian or a Catholic or something- not try to be everything." [Mark Twain, Notebook]

"I wish Europe would let Russia annihilate Turkey a little--not much, but enough to make it difficult to find the place again without a divining-rod or a diving-bell." [Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad]

"Well enough for old folks to rise early, because they have done so many mean things all their lives they can't sleep anyhow." [Mark Twain, Mark Twain's Notebook]

Mark Twain may have been the most quotable man ever to use the English language – perhaps second to Shakespeare anyway! In terms of wisdom, I think Shakespeare comes in behind him.

1 comment:


    Much to my detriment, I fear
    There rests no other topic
    Before my mind--than one seen clear
    With strained focus myopic:

    It is the war--but not itself;
    Rather the milieu which
    Engendered it, the Golden Calf
    Worshipped by poor and rich.

    The whole distorted manner of
    Perverting facts to suit
    Narrow agenda, dealing rough,
    Spinning lies to recruit.

    Debasing currency of thought,
    Principles of free speech--
    These are the gist I have not bought,
    Each of which I would reach.

    Much to my detriment, I keep
    Devoting myself to
    This thankless struggle, mired so deep,
    While troubles but accrue.