Lay of the Land

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Think of it like this: Geography is riding in a car along with Science and Art. Geography is, in fact, riding in the back seat. Science has been driving for seventy-five years, fighting with Art all the way. Science scorns Art; Art sneers at Science. Neither pays much attention to Geography, except for help with reading the map. Geography tries to take a nap, but cannot sleep. Geography tries to understand why Art and Science fight so, but gives up and looks out the window, which is really more interesting than the fight anyway. Art protests that Science drives too fast. Science snaps back that Art does not understand how to make progress. Geography sometimes sides with Art, often with Science, but neither cares much, nor do either of them care when Geography announces that they are now passing Cleveland. (Science grunts, eyes straight ahead; Art faces so as not to see Cleveland.) Finally, Geography can take no more and tells Science to pull in at the next rest stop.

— W.T. Grvaldy-Sczny, “A Diamond Anniversary,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 69 (1979), 1-3.

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“Cricket is a game which the English, not being a spiritual people, have invented in order to give themselves some conception of Eternity.” — Lord Mancroft

Worldly Wise

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Proverbs from around the world:

  • Choose your neighbor before your house and your companion before the road. (Arabic)
  • Forgiving the unrepentant is like making pictures on water. (Japanese)
  • God gives the grain, but we must make the furrow. (Bohemian)
  • There are two good men: one dead, the other unborn. (Chinese)
  • Give a loan and buy a quarrel. (Indian)
  • Law is a flag, and gold is the wind that makes it wave. (Russian)
  • Doubt is the key of knowledge. (Persian)
  • Death does not recognize strength. (African)
  • If the beginning is good, the end must be perfect. (Burmese)
  • Hunger increases the understanding. (Lithuanian)
  • Haste is the mother of imperfection. (Brazilian)
  • True happiness consists in making happy. (Hindi)
  • Experience is a precious gift, only given a man when his hair is gone. (Turkish)

(From The Penguin Dictionary of Proverbs, second edition, 1983.)

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Omne ignotum pro magnifico est. Everything unknown is assumed to be grand.” — Tacitus

“As a rule, what is out of sight disturbs men’s minds more seriously than what they see.” — Julius Caesar

“Ignorance is the parent of fear.” — Herman Melville

Clergymen and Chickens

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Why, let me ask, should a hen lay an egg which egg can become a chicken in about three weeks and a full-grown hen in less than a twelvemonth, while a clergyman and his wife lay no eggs but give birth to a baby which will take three-and-twenty years before it can become another clergyman? Why should not chickens be born and clergymen be laid and hatched? Or why, at any rate, should not the clergyman be born full grown and in Holy Orders, not to say already beneficed? The present arrangement is not convenient, it is not cheap, it is not free from danger, it is not only not perfect but is so much the reverse that we could hardly find words to express our sense of its awkwardness if we could look upon it with new eyes, or as the cuckoo perhaps observes it.

— Samuel Butler, “On Memory as a Key to the Phenomena of Heredity,” Working Men’s College, London, Dec. 2, 1882

Making Cases

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Testimony is like an arrow shot from a longbow; the force of it depends on the strength of the hand that draws it.

Argument is like an arrow from a crossbow, which has equal force though shot by a child.

— Robert Boyle, paraphrased by Samuel Johnson

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“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.” — J.M. Barrie

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“Many a long dispute among divines may be thus abridged: It is so; it is not so; it is so; it is not so.” — Ben Franklin