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There is one very valid test by which we may separate genuine, if perverse and unbalanced, originality and revolt from mere impudent innovation and bluff. The man who really thinks he has an idea will always try to explain that idea. The charlatan who has no idea will always confine himself to explaining that it is much too subtle to be explained.

— G.K. Chesterton, Daily News, December 9, 1911

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la rochefoucauld

More maxims of François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680):

  • “Fortune shews our Virtues and Vices, as Light does Objects.”
  • “‘Tis never more difficult to speak well than when we are ashamed of our Silence.”
  • “Since great Men can neither bestow Health of Body, nor Peace of Mind, we certainly pay too dear for all else they can.”
  • “Our Wisdom is no less at Fortune’s Mercy than our Wealth.”
  • “The Desire of appearing Persons of Ability often prevents our being so.”
  • “There are some Faults, which when well-managed make a greater Figure than Virtue itself.”
  • “We like better to see those on whom we confer Benefits, than those from whom we receive them.”
  • “We should not be much concerned about Faults we have the Courage to own.”
  • “In the Adversity of our Friends, we always find something that don’t displease us.”
  • “Misers mistake Gold for their Good; whereas ’tis only a Means for attaining it.”
  • “When our Merit declines our Taste declines.”
  • “There is near as much Ability requisite to know how to make use of good Advice, as to know how to act for one’s self.”
  • “We had rather speak ill of ourselves than not speak at all.”
  • “We give up our Interest sooner than our Taste.”
  • “We forgive as long as we love.”

And “We sometimes lose People whom we regret more than we sorrow for; and others whom we are sorry for, yet don’t regret.”

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“It is a waste of energy to be angry with a man who behaves badly, just as it is to be angry with a car that won’t go. The difference is that you can compel your car to go to a garage, but you cannot compel Hitler to go to a psychiatrist.” — Bertrand Russell

No More Pencils

school's out

School’s out for summer, Belleville, Illinois, 1974.

“There is, on the whole, nothing on earth intended for innocent people so horrible as a school.” — George Bernard Shaw

“It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.” — Albert Einstein

“I have not the least doubt that school developed in me nothing but what was evil and left the good untouched.” — Edvard Grieg

“I hope we still have some bright twelve-year-olds who are interested in science. We must be careful not to discourage our twelve-year-olds by making them waste the best years of their lives on preparing for examinations.” — Freeman Dyson

“Education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought.” — Bertrand Russell

“Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.” — E.M. Forster

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“Those writers who lay on the watch for novelty, could have little hope of greatness; for great things cannot have escaped former observation.” — Samuel Johnson

“It is not once nor twice but times without number that the same ideas make their appearance in the world.” — Aristotle

“What wise or stupid thing can man conceive
That was not thought of in ages long ago?” — Goethe

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“The leading advocates of the need to subject everything to the competitive test of the market are tenured economists.” — Sheen Kassouf

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

G.K. Chesterton admired the furrows in a plowed field, made by patient men who “had no notion of giving great sweeps and swirls to the eye”:

Those cataracts of cloven earth; they were done by the grace of God. I had always rejoiced in them; but I had never found any reason for my joy. There are some very clever people who cannot enjoy the joy unless they understand it. There are other and even cleverer people who say that they lose the joy the moment they do understand it.

(From Alarms and Discursions, 1911.)

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“All the glory of the world would be buried in oblivion, unless God had provided mortals the remedy of books.” — Richard de Bury