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Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 

Self-interest

"... what souls are these that run through this black haze?"
And he to me: "These are the nearly soulless
whose lives concluded neither blame nor praise.

They are mixed here with that despicable corps
of angels who were neither for God nor Satan,
but only for themselves. The High Creator

scourged them from Heaven for its perfect beauty,
and Hell will not receive them since the wicked
might feel some glory over them."

— Dante, Inferno III,29-48, John Ciardi, trans., Mentor Books, 1952, 1982.

"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."" — T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Church & State

The sword and crook are one, and only evil
can follow from them when they are together;
for neither fears the other, being one.

— Dante, Purgatorio XVI,110-112, John Ciardi, trans., Mentor Books, 1952, 1982.

Preaching

You mortals do not walk a single way
in your philosophies, but let the thought
of being acclaimed as wise lead you astray.

Yet Heaven bears even this with less offense
than It must feel when It sees Holy Writ
neglected, or perverted of all sense.

You do not count what blood and agony
planted it in the world, nor Heaven's pleasure
in those who search it in humility.

Each man, to show off, strains at some absurd
invented truth; and it is these the preachers
make sermons of; and the Gospel is not heard.

— Dante, Paradiso XXIX,85-96, John Ciardi, trans., Mentor Books, 1952, 1982.

The Big Picture

Oh grace abounding that had made me fit
to fix my eyes on the Eternal Light
until my vision was consumed in It!

I saw within Its depth how It conceives
all things in a single volume bound by Love,
of which the universe is the scattered leaves...

— Dante, Paradiso XXXIII,85-90, John Ciardi, trans., Mentor Books, 1952, 1982.

War

Oh shame to men! Devil with Devil damn'd
Firm concord holds, men only disagree
Of creatures rational, though under hope
Of Heavenly Grace: and God proclaiming peace,
Yet live in hatred, enmity, and strife
Among themselves, and levy cruel wars,
Wasting the earth, each other to destroy:
As if (which might induce us to accord)
Man had not hellish foes enow besides,
That day and night for his destruction wait.

— John Milton, Paradise Lost, II, 496-505, 1667

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is far worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. — John Stewart Mill

Faith & Reason

Without reason we would not know how to apply the insights of faith to the concrete issues of living. The worship of reason is arrogance and betrays a lack of intelligence. The rejection of reason is cowardice and betrays a lack of faith. — Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man, 20, 1955

The Greeks learned in order to comprehend. The Hebrews learned in order to revere. The modern man learns in order to use. — Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man, 34, 1955

Religious thinking is in perpetual danger of giving primacy to concepts and dogmas and to forfeit the immediacy of insights, to forget that the known is but a reminder of God, that the dogma is a token of His will, the expression of the inexpressible at its minimum. Concepts, words must not become screens; they must be regarded as windows. — Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man, 116, 1955

It is impossible for a man to begin to learn what he thinks he knows. — Epictetus

If you shut your door to all errors, truth will be shut out. — Rabindranath Tagore

Faith & Humor

God is a comic, playing to an audience that's afraid to laugh." — Voltaire
Thanks to Rev. Janet Sunderland, August 2001 Newsletter, Church of Antioch, Kansas City

"When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn't work that way, so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me." - John Howard, past Olympian, ultracyclist, and Ironman Triathlon world champ

Inanimate Things

Inanimate objects are dead in relation to man; they are alive in relation to God. — Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man, 97, 1955

Ultimate Concern

Certainly God is more than "a name for that which concerns man ultimately." Only saints are ultimately concerned with God. What concerns most of us ultimately is our ego. The Biblical consciousness begins not with man's, but with God's concern. The supreme fact in the eyes of the prophets is the presence of God's concern for man and the absence of man's concern for God. — Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man, 127, 1955

The Body of Christ

If we despise our brother, our worship is unreal, and forfeits every divine promise. When we come before God with our hearts full of contempt, and unreconciled with our neighbors, we are, both individually and collectively, worshipping an idol.... Not just our own anger, but the fact that someone has been hurt, damaged, or disgraced by us, who "has a cause against us," erects a barrier between us and God. Let us therefore as a Church examine ourselves, and see whether we have not often enough wronged our fellow men. Let us see whether we have tried to win popularity by falling in with the world's hatred, its contempt and its contumely. For if we do that, we are murderers. Let the fellowship of Christ so examine itself today, and ask whether, at the hour of prayer and worship, any accusing voices intervene and make its prayer vain. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 144-145, 1937.

Duty

It is our duty as human beings to proceed as though the limits of our capabilities do not exist. — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)
Thanks to Kay Goodnow

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. — Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

Studying without a Teacher

Too often we put saddlebags on Jesus and let the donkey run loose in the pasture. — Rumi, The Essential Rumi, Coleman Barks, trans., 256.
Thanks to Christopher Hoover.

Specialization

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, write a sonnet, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, solve equations, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. — Robert Heinlein, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long.

Business

The way you train the high-flying administrators, the mandarins, can be summed up in one sentence. It is to train people to be at ease with their consciences when they take decisions about things they do not understand. — Alan Dickinson (quoted in Rhodes, Deadly Feasts)

Many companies are attracted by a fantasy version of empowerment and simultaneously repelled by the reality. How lovely to have energetic, dedicated workers who always seize the initiative (but only when 'appropriate'), who enjoy taking risks (but never risky ones), who volunteer their ideas (but only brilliant ones), who solve problems on their own (but make no mistakes), who aren't afraid to speak their minds (but never ruffle any feathers), who always give their very best to the company (but ask no unpleasant questions about what the company is giving them back). How nice it would be, in short, to empower workers without actually giving them any power. — Peter Kizilos

Government

It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd. — Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume II, Chapter 4, Section 6, "What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear"

It's unwise to pay to much, but it's worse to pay to little. When you pay too much you lose a little money — that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot — it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it si well to add something for the risk you run. And if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better. — John Ruskin 1819-1900

Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm, but the harm does not interest them, or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves. - T. S. Eliot

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote! - Benjamin Franklin

Language

The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words. — Philip K. Dick (1928- 1982)

It depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is. — William Jefferson Clinton

When ideas fail, words come in very handy. — Goethe

Truth

In an age of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. — George Orwell
Thanks to Jay Nelson, Church of Antioch, Albuquerque, who uses it as a an e-mail signature.

As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand. — Josh Billings

Vanity

I went out of that gallery and into another and still larger one, which at the first glance reminded me of a military chapel hung with tattered flags. The brown and charred rags that hung from the sides of it, I presently recognized as the decaying vestiges of books. They had long since dropped to pieces, and every semblance of print had left them. But here and there were warped boards and cracked metallic clasps that told the tale well enough. Had I been a literary man I might, perhaps, have moralized upon the futility of all ambition. But as it was, the thing that struck me with keenest force was the enormous waste of labour to which this somber wilderness of rotting paper testified. At the time, I will confess that I thought chiefly of the Philosophical Transactions and my own seventeen papers upon physical optics. - H.G. Wells, in The Time Machine as quoted at the end of Al Garcia's publication list.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away". - Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Ozymandias"

Progress

It is astounding to realize that perhaps half of all human knowledge has been discovered or created in the past century. But then again, so has half the bullshit. — Mrs. Scooper, circa 1988

There is a kind of stupidity with which even the Gods struggle in vain. — Schiller

Equality

The demand for equality has two sources: one of them is among the noblest, the other is the basest of human emotions. The noble source is the desire for fair play. But the other source is the hatred of superiority. At the present moment it would be very unrealistic to overlook the importance of the latter.

There is in all men a tendency (only corrigible by good training from without and persistent moral effort from within) to resist the existence of what is stronger, subtler, or better than themselves. In uncorrected and brutal small men this hardens into an implacable and disinterested hatred for every kind of excellence…

Equality (outside mathematics) is a purely social conception. It applies to man as a political and economic animal. It has no place in the world of the mind. Beauty is not democratic; she reveals herself more to the few than to the many, more to the persistent and disciplined seekers than to the careles. Virtue is not democratic; she is achieved by those who persue her more hotly than most men. Truth is not democratic; she demands special talents and special industry in those to whom she gives her favors.

Political democracy is doomed if it tries to extend its demand for equality into these higher spheres. Ethical, intellectual, or aesthetic democracy is death. A truly democratic education - one which will preserve democracy - must be, in its own field, ruthlessly aristocratic, shamelessly "high-brow." — C. S. Lewis, "Democratic Education" (1944)

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