Pledge

One night in 1939, Wolcott Gibbs’ 4-year-old son Tony began chanting a song in the bathtub. It was sung “entirely on one note except that the voice drops on the last word in every line”:

He will just do nothing at all.
He will just sit there in the noonday sun.
And when they speak to him, he will not answer them,
Because he does not care to.
He will stick them with spears and throw them in the garbage.
When they tell him to eat his dinner, he will just laugh at them.
And he will not take his nap, because he does not care to.
He will not talk to them, he will not say nothing.
He will just sit there in the noonday sun.
He will go away and play with the Panda.
He will not speak to nobody because he doesn’t have to.
And when they come to look for him they will not find him.
Because he will not be there.
He will put spikes in their eyes and put them in the garbage.
And put the cover on.
He will not go out in the fresh air or eat his vegetables.
Or make wee-wee for them, and he will get thin as a marble.
He will do nothing at all.
He will just sit there in the noonday sun.

Pete Seeger liked this so much that he made a song of it — he called it “Declaration of Independence”:

“Today’s Work, Today’s Finish”

Chinese proverbs:

  • Enough feathers can sink a boat.
  • Laziness in youth spells regret in old age.
  • The dog that bites won’t bare his teeth.
  • Full of courtesy, full of craft.
  • Suspicions create imaginary fears.
  • No clouds, no rain; no rules, no gain.
  • One fight sullies two persons; one compromise benefits two persons.
  • Walk a road and it becomes familiar; do a job and it becomes easy.
  • Worry doesn’t seek out people — people find worry on their own.
  • Three people of a common mind can conquer the world.
  • The going is toughest toward the end of a journey.
  • The guilty party is the first to sue.
  • If you fall down by yourself, get up by yourself.
  • Thieves in the dark hate the moonlight.
  • Every drama requires a fool.
  • Perseverance is worth more than a vast estate.
  • Prolonged illness makes a doctor of a patient.
  • Smart people also do stupid things.
  • The masses decide what is right and wrong.
  • Gossip won’t harm a good person as stirring won’t spoil good wine.

And “Learning is like paddling a canoe against the current — you will regress if you don’t advance.”

Asked and Answered

Tennyson was plagued by autograph hunters.

As a pretext, one wrote to him asking which was the better dictionary, Webster’s or Ogilvie’s.

He replied by cutting the word Ogilvie’s from the letter, pasting it to a blank sheet of paper, and mailing it back.

See Pen Fatigue.

Empty Promises

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By substituting images for claims, the pictorial commercial made emotional appeal, not tests of truth, the basis of consumer decisions. The distance between rationality and advertising is now so wide that it is difficult to remember that there once existed a connection between them. Today, on television commercials, propositions are as scarce as unattractive people. The truth or falsity of an advertiser’s claim is simply not an issue. A McDonald’s commercial, for example, is not a series of testable, logically ordered assertions. It is a drama — a mythology, if you will — of handsome people selling, buying and eating hamburgers, and being driven to near ecstasy by their good fortune. No claims are made, except those the viewer projects onto or infers from the drama. One can like or dislike a television commercial, of course. But one cannot refute it.

— Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, 1985

A High Purpose

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The Massachusetts School Law of 1642 declared ignorance to be a satanic ill:

It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, as in former times by keeping them in an unknown tongue, so in these latter times by persuading from the use of tongues, that so that at least the true sense and meaning of the original might be clouded and corrupted with love and false glosses of saint-seeming deceivers; [we resolve] that learning may not be buried in the grave of our forefathers, in church and commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavors.

It ordered every town of more than 50 families to hire a teacher and every town of more than 100 families to establish a grammar school, an early step toward public education in the United States.

Unquote

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“How happy many people would be if they cared about other people’s affairs as little as about their own.” — G.C. Lichtenberg

“Most people enjoy the inferiority of their best friends.” — Lord Chesterfield

“We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others.” — La Rochefoucauld

“I set it down as a fact that if all men knew what each said of the other, there would not be four friends in the world.” — Pascal

Kinship

That is a simple rule, and easy to remember. When I, a thoughtful and unblessed Presbyterian, examine the Koran, I know that beyond any question every Mohammedan is insane; not in all things, but in religious matters. When a thoughtful and unblessed Mohammedan examines the Westminster Catechism, he knows that beyond any question I am spiritually insane. I cannot prove to him that he is insane, because you never can prove anything to a lunatic — for that is a part of his insanity and the evidence of it. He cannot prove to me that I am insane, for my mind has the same defect that afflicts his. All Democrats are insane, but not one of them knows it; none but the Republicans and Mugwumps know it. All the Republicans are insane, but only the Democrats and Mugwumps can perceive it. The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.

— Mark Twain, Christian Science, 1907

Rebuke

When Joseph Addison lent a sum of money to his friend Temple Stanyan, Stanyan became meekly agreeable, unwilling to argue with Addison as he used to.

At last Addison told him, “Sir, either contradict me or pay me my money.”

Biographer Peter Smithers calls this “a salvo of which Johnson himself might have been proud.”

Address

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Andrew Carnegie’s rules for speaking:

  1. Make yourself perfectly at home before your audience, and simply talk to them, not at them.
  2. Do not try to be somebody else; be your own self and talk, never “orate” until you can’t help it.

As a boy he’d joined a debating club, and “I know of no better mode of benefiting a youth than joining such a club as this. … The self-possession I afterwards came to have before an audience may very safely be attributed to the experience of the ‘Webster Society.'”

(From his autobiography.)