quotes, quotes, everywhere...

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Puzzled at My Left Wing wrote this morning in "Question of the Day: Quoth the Raven" about collecting quotations, a practice that was once known as keeping a commonplace book. Few people seem to do so now, although modern technology has eliminated the drudgery of pen and paper.

I frequently make note of words that speak to me: Sometimes it's a phrase, sometimes a paragraph, sometimes an entire page. Here are a few of my favorites:

"I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine." (John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, 12 May 1780)

"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention." (Francis Bacon, "Of Studies")

"If a man is fortunate he will, before he dies, gather up as much as he can of his civilized heritage and transmit it to his children. And to his final breath he will be grateful for this inexhaustible legacy, knowing that it is our nourishing mother and our lasting life." (Will Durant, The Lessons of History)

In this age, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time... (John Stuart Mill, On Liberty)

"Most people would die sooner than think -- in fact they do so." (Bertrand Russell, The ABC of Relativity)

Here are some that I haven't yet verified:

"Be uncomfortable; be sand, not oil, in the machinery of the world." (attributed to Gunter Eich)

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." [attributed to Sinclair Lewis, often--mistakenly--from It Can't Happen Here)

"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats" (attributed to H.L. Mencken)

"Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, and finally you do it for the money." (attributed to Moliere)

"The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled." (attributed to Plutarch)

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on December 19, 2007 10:51 AM.

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