Category Archives: Quotations

The Deepest Joys Are The Simple Ones Shared with Family

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomIn the obituary of George H. W. Bush, The Washington Post provided this insight into the private life of the 41st President of the United States: “In 1988, Mr. Bush gave a list of the qualities he most cherished to Peggy Noonan, who wrote his speech accepting that year’s Republican presidential nomination. They were: ‘family, kids, grandkids, love, decency, honor, pride, tolerance, hope, kindness, loyalty, freedom, caring, heart, faith, service to country, fair (fair play), strength, healing, excellence. Mr. Bush viewed his family as part of his legacy. He was intensely proud of the sons who followed him into public service.”

Coincidentally, just a few days ago I came across rather serendipitously touching testimony to old age and family by Dick Thornburgh, former governor of Pennsylvania who served as the Attorney General of the United States under President Bush. His words are a gentle reminder, that as George H. W. Bush so firmly believed, family is the most important thing in life and the memories of time spent with family are life’s greatest treasure — but sometimes it takes advancing age to truly appreciate that truism:

“When I was growing up, the thought of someone aged seventy was coupled with images of incapacity and irrelevance. Having reached that age myself this year, I realize how inaccurate those im­ages were. To be sure, we all, sooner or later, reach an age when we begin to slow down. But as the years advance, I find myself more appreciative of everyday joys, especially the companionship of those I love. In an ironic way, my capacity for true enjoyment seems to have deepened with age. The blessings of family and loved ones have al­ways been particularly enriching. Memories of times spent with my wife, children, and grandchildren are among my most valued treasures. Simple events and conversations of the past increase in value as I rec­ollect them in later years. How often my beloved wife of thirty-nine years and I reminisce about the exciting and challenging opportunities we have been granted. And how often we thank God for giving us each other to provide the balance and inspiration necessary to persevere when the going gets tough. 

Four fine sons, two superb daughters-in-law, and now six grandchildren have been a special blessing to us. They assure that life is never dull. Our vicar­ious participations in their lives let us share in the fulfillment of every passing grade, each goal scored or starring role, each friendship cemented, and a suc­cession of job opportunities and residential acquisi­tions and improvements. Our congratulations-and commiserations over inevitable disappointments­ have always been graciously received. 

Such bonds are a two-way street. For my seventi­eth birthday, for example, my oldest son collected a list of “Greatest Hits: 70+ Memories of My Dad,” which he shared with all of us. Even the most dimly remembered of these events sprang to vivid reality with only a little prompting. Some were truly hilari­ous. And all contributed to a tapestry of remem­brance more valuable than any tangible gift could be…

One of our sons has a disability; he has mental retardation. In many ways, he has contributed the most to my comprehension of the good that can evolve from nearly every situation. He possesses a kind of quiet dignity that, despite his limitations, serves as an inspiration to all who know him. And his own values are very much in order. Recently, when visiting with us, he and I went to the Washington zoo. We saw all the animals and laughed to­gether at the antics of many of them. At the end of the excursion, I asked him what he had liked best about our experience, expecting a reply that took into account the unique characteristics of one or more of the animals we had seen. Instead, he responded, quite simply: “Being with you.”

What a precious gift God has given us in life. We all journey together and are sustained and strengthed by wonderful experiences such as these. In the final analysis, the deepest joys are indeed the simple ones and, as they accumulate over the years, we come to look forward to, rather than fear, the next successive milestone. May it ever be so!”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Wisdom on an Immigrant Father
The Wisdom of Pi Patel
The Wisdom of Hindsight
The Wisdom of a Grandmother
What Valuable Lesson Has Life Taught You?

For further reading: The Older the Fiddle, the Better the Tune: The Joys of Reaching a Certain Age by Willard Scott
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/george-hw-bush-41st-president-of-the-united-states-dies-at-94/2018/11/30/42fa2ea2-61e2-11e8-99d2-0d678ec08c2f_story.html?utm_term=.0f8b73b854cb


A Storyteller Can Remind Us that the Swallows Still Sing Around the Smokestacks

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Fiction cannot recite the numbing numbers, but it can be that witness, that memory. A storyteller can attempt to tell the human tale, can make a galaxy out of the chaos, can point to the fact that some people survived even as most people died. And can remind us that the swallows still sing around the smokestacks.”

American author, Jane Yyatt Yolen (born 1939) has written more than 365 books in the fantasy, science fiction and children genres. Her best-known work is the historical fiction novella, The Devil’s Arithmetic (1988), about a 12-year-old Jewish girl, Hannah Stern, from New York who is travels back in time to Poland in 1942 to experience the Holocaust. Stern witnesses the horrors of the Holocaust firsthand while living at a work camp. Ultimately she understands the profound importance of learning about the past. The novella won the National Jewish Book Award in 1989, and the television film adaptation (1999) was nominated for a Nebula Award. Yolen was awarded the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2009.


The Wisdom of Bill Moyers

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomBill Moyers (born 1934) is a respected journalist and political commentator. He served President Lyndon Johnson as White House Press Secretary in the 1960s. After his work at the White House, he produced many award-winning documentaries and news journal programs for PBS, including Bill Moyers Journal; The Power of Myth; The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis; In Search of the Constitution; A World of Ideas; Now with Bill Moyers; Faith and Reason; and Moyers on America. Moyer has received many awards: more than 30 Emmy Awards, the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, a lifetime Peabody Award, induction into the Television Hall of Fame, and the 2006 Lifetime Emmy Award. In bestowing the last award, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences noted: “Bill Moyers has devoted his lifetime to the exploration of the major issues and ideas of our time and our country, giving television viewers an informed perspective on political and societal concerns.” His observations and commentaries are as relevant today, particularly in a Trumpian world, as they were a decade ago (and earlier):

“The corporate right and the political right declared class war on working people a quarter of a century ago and they’ve won. The rich are getting richer, which arguably wouldn’t matter if the rising tide lifted all boats. But the inequality gap is the widest it’s been since 1929; the middle class is besieged and the working poor are barely keeping their heads above water. The corporate and governing elites are helping themselves to the spoils of victory — politics, when all is said and done, comes down to who gets what and who pays for it — while the public is distracted by the media circus and news has been neutered or politicized for partisan purposes.”

“[The public is] distracted by the media circus and news has been neutered or politicized for partisan purposes. [Consider] the paradox of Rush Limbaugh, ensconced in a Palm Beach mansion massaging the resentments across the country of white-knuckled wage earners, who are barely making ends meet in no small part because of the corporate and ideological forces for whom Rush has been a hero… As Eric Alterman reports in his recent book [What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News, 2003]… part of the red-meat strategy is to attack mainstream media relentlessly, knowing that if the press is effectively intimidated, either by the accusation of liberal bias or by a reporter’s own mistaken belief in the charge’s validity, the institutions that conservatives revere — corporate America, the military, organized religion, and their own ideological bastions of influence — will be able to escape scrutiny and increase their influence over American public life with relatively no challenge.”

“There is no more important struggle for American democracy than ensuring a diverse, independent and free media. Free Press is at the heart of that struggle.”

“For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington.”

“What’s right and good doesn’t come naturally. You have to stand up and fight for it — as if the cause depends on you, because it does.”

“The printed page conveys information and commitment, and requires active involvement. Television conveys emotion and experience, and it’s very limited in what it can do logically. It’s an existential experience-there and then gone.”

“Television can stir emotions, but it doesn’t invite reflection as much as the printed page.”

“We see more and more of our Presidents and know less and less about what they do.”

“This is the first time in my 32 years in public broadcasting that PBS has ordered up programs for ideological instead of journalistic reasons.”

“There are honest journalists like there are honest politicians — they stay bought.”

“The printed page conveys information and commitment, and requires active involvement. Television conveys emotion and experience, and it’s very limited in what it can do logically. It’s an existential experience — there and then gone.”

“Secrecy is the freedom tyrants dream of.”

“I work for him despite his faults and he lets me work for him despite my deficiencies.”

“Hyperbole was to Lyndon Johnson what oxygen is to life.”

“Democracy may not prove in the long run to be as efficient as other forms of government, but it has one saving grace: it allows us to know and say that it isn’t.”

“Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.”

“As a student I learned from wonderful teachers and ever since then I’ve thought everyone is a teacher.”

“Democracy belongs to those who exercise it.”

“We don’t care really about children as a society and television reflects that indifference to children as human beings.”

“Our very lives depend on the ethics of strangers, and most of us are always strangers to other people.”

“When I learn something new – and it happens every day – I feel a little more at home in this universe, a little more comfortable in the nest.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

For further reading: A Republic, If You Can Keep It
What is the Declaration of Independence Worth?
Is the United States a Democracy or Republic?

For further reading: https://practicaltheory.org/blog/2003/11/02/bill-moyers-interview/


The Dalai Lama on Living in the Material World

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Nowadays the world is becoming increasingly materialistic, and mankind is reaching toward the very zenith of external progress, driven by an insatiable desire for power and vast possessions. Yet by this vain striving for perfection in a world where everything is relative, they wander even further away from inward peace and happiness of the mind.”

From My Tibet (1995) by the 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan people. During his spiritual and political career, the Dalai Lama has earned numerous honorary doctorates and awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. In a global poll conducted by Harris Interactive in 2013, the Dalai Lama was considered the most popular world leader (he tied with former U.S. President Barack Obama).


Plato’s Warning: If You Don’t Vote, You Will be Governed by Idiots

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsPlato (427-347 BC) is considered one of the most brilliant and influential philosophers in history. Plato (his given name was Aristocles; Plato is his nickname, from platos, meaning “broad” since he had a broad physique and forehead.) was a student of Socrates and took what he learned to found the influential Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the West. Amidst a beautiful grove of olive trees, Plato taught some very fortunate and intelligent students (including Aristotle who later founded his own academy) philosophy, mathematics, politics, and astronomy. His most famous and influential work, that is still widely studied in universities, is the Republic, where Plato cover a broad (pun intended) range of significant topics: philosophy, ethics, moral psychology, epistemology, metaphysics, and of course, political philosophy. It is this last topic that concerns us today as we examine his views on political participation.

The quote that serves as the title of this post is actually a tongue-in-cheek variation (underscoring the importance of voting in a critical election) of the quote most often attributed to Plato, ubiquitous on the internet: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” There are many other variants of this famous quotation. Among them is this one crafted by poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson that appears in Society and Solitude (1870): “Plato says that the punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is, to live under the government of worse men.”

The source of all these variants is The Republic, (Book 1, 346-347), where Plato makes the point that if good, honorable, intelligent men do not to wish to serve in government, then they will be punished by being ruled by those who are bad, dishonorable, and dumb. The actual sentence is: But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule. For those who are curious to partake of the entire discussion of the issue among Socrates (Plato, of course, is speaking through Socrates), Glaucon (Plato’s older brother), and Thrasymachus (a sophist who believes essentially that it does not pay to be just), here is the relevant passage from The Republic

“Then, Thrasymachus, is not this immediately apparent, that no art or office provides what is beneficial for itself — but as we said long ago it provides and enjoins what is beneficial to its subject, considering the advantage of that, the weaker, and not the advantage the stronger? That was why… I was just now saying that no one of his own will chooses to hold rule and office and take other people’s troubles in hand to straighten them out, but everybody expects pay for that, because he who is to exercise the art rightly never does what is best for himself or enjoins it when he gives commands according to the art, but what is best for the subject. That is the reason, it seems, why pay must be provided for those who are to consent to rule, either in form of money or honor or a penalty if they refuse.” “What do you mean by that, Socrates?” said Glaucon. “The two wages I recognize, but the penalty you speak of and described as a form of wage I don’t understand.” “Then,” said I, “you don’t understand the wages of the best men for the sake of which the finest spirits hold office and rule when they consent to do so. Don’t you know that to be covetous of honor and covetous of money is said to be and is a reproach?” “I do,” he said. “Well, then,” said I, “that is why the good are not willing to rule either for the sake of money or of honor. They do not wish to collect pay openly for their service of rule and be styled hirelings nor to take it by stealth from their office and be called thieves, nor yet for the sake of honor, for they are not covetous of honor. So there must be imposed some compulsion and penalty to constrain them to rule if they are to consent to hold office. That is perhaps why to seek office oneself and not await compulsion is thought disgraceful. But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule. It is from fear of this, as it appears to me, that the better sort hold office when they do, and then they go to it not in the expectation of enjoyment nor as to a good thing, but as to a necessary evil and because they are unable to turn it over to better men than themselves or to their like. For we may venture to say that, if there should be a city of good men only, immunity from office-holding would be as eagerly contended for as office is now, and there it would be made plain that in very truth the true ruler does not naturally seek his own advantage but that of the ruled; so that every man of understanding would rather choose to be benefited by another than to be bothered with benefiting him.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Quotations Mistakenly Attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.
A Republic, If You Can Keep It
Is the United States a Democracy or Republic?

For further reading: The Republic by Plato (translated by Christopher Ellyn-Jones)
Society and Solitude by Ralph Waldo Emerson
https://www.thoughtco.com/all-about-platos-famous-academy-112520

https://www.iep.utm.edu/academy/
https://www.iep.utm.edu/plato/


Serendipitous Discoveries in Used Bookstores

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Still, anyone with a taste for wonder — not all, apparently, have it — should learn to haunt used bookstores, even more than stores that sell new books… Each person should take pains to scout his own city on this score… The used bookstore, unlike the catalogue or even the library, puts us in a place where we can come across and buy some unsuspected title that turns out to get at the essence of what is.

From Another Sort of Learning: Selected Contrary Essays on How Finally to Acquire an Education by James Schall, S.J.

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A Life Lived Without Principle and Virtue is Empty

alex atkins bookshelf moviesThe Emperor’s Club (2002) is a powerful, inspirational movie written by Neil Tolkin based on the short story “The Palace Thief” by Ethan Canin. The film presents us with two diametrically opposed characters: William Hundred, a disciplined and very principled classics professor, William Hundert, and Sedgwick Bell, an iconoclastic, arrogant, and ambitious student who will stop at nothing to win. While the first character values integrity and virtue (Hundert is fond of quoting Socrates: “It is not living that is important… but living rightly.”), the other disdains it. At the end of the film, which occurs many years later after graduation, when the characters are now in their 30s, Hundred catches Sedgwick cheating to win a history trivia competition. They run into one another in the bathroom; Hundert confronts Sedgwick in one of the film’s most memorable scenes, that is so relevant to what we are witnessing in America’s current leadership: 

“I have no doubt you’re more clever than I am and would find some way to discredit me. ‘We live in an age’ as Seneca said, ‘where successful and fortunate crime is called virtue.’ But as a student of history, I know there will come a moment after the noise and the parties, not tonight but sometime when you will be forced like all men to look at yourself, really look at yourself, Sedgwick. And in that moment you will be confronted by the emptiness of a life lived without principle and without virtue. And for that, I pity you.”

Sedgwick looks at his former history teacher with scorn, and snarls “Can I say, Mr. Hundert, who gives a shit. Who out there gives a shit.. honestly… about your principles and your Seneca and your virtues. I mean, look at you. What do you have to show for it all?… I live in the real world. Where people lie and cheat and scratch to get what they want. And I’m okay with that, so… I’m going to go out there and win that election. I’ll worry about my contribution later.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Most Expensive Movie Props
Most Famous Movie Quotations
Famous Love Quotes from Movies
Best Academy Award Quotes
Best Books for Movie Lovers

For further reading: The Emperor’s Club: The Shooting Script by Neil Tolkin


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