Human Nature

Only unfulfilled love is perfect.  All other kinds require tolerance for human defects.

Sex wouldn't be nearly so interesting if it weren’t so widely forbidden.

What’s sauce for the goose isn’t necessarily sauce for the gander.

Some use their intellect to seek truth, others to justify their preconceptions.

The truly strong are those who aren’t driven by the need to prove their strength.

Lawyers, actors and politicians must fool others.  In the process they often fool themselves.

We tend to forget that not all mothers are saints, nor all soldiers heroes.

All mothers are virgins in their children’s eyes.

Bird watching and yoga have become competitive sports.  What does that tell you about our society?

We live in a society in which actors are seen as more important than those they portray.

Nobody climbs Everest because it’s there.  They climb it because that’s where the top of the pecking order is.

The problem with people who are cool is that they often lack warmth.

Man is unique among animals.  It’s the only one with a sense of self-importance.

When the team we root for wins we think ourselves superior.

Mankind is an endangering species.

We hate and fear rejection because it makes us feel we were stupid to ask.

We are all part miscreant part hero.

Don’t confuse writers with the values they espouse; just because they applaud virtue doesn’t
mean they practice it.

Speed limits were made to be exceeded.

Ponce de Leon was looking in the wrong place.  While he searched Florida for the fountain of youth, he was carrying it in his head all along.

As parents we tend to overcompensate for the shortcomings of our own upbringings.

Sometimes we achieve peace more through struggle than detachment, provided the struggle is not on one’s own behalf, but for the benefit of others.

Cynics are as often disillusioned idealists as callous egoists.

There are as many centers of the universe as there are people.

Man is an animal with grandiose ideas.

Flattery will get you almost anywhere.

Sometimes the greatest sophisticates are the greatest naïfs.

Let’s not forget that great men aren’t always good men.

The Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge, Ruanda, Darfur.  What kind of animal is man?

Some people are sheep in wolves’ clothing.

We see others’ irrationality, but not out own.

One doesn’t have to get angry because somebody else does.

Humans have great difficulty accepting themselves for what they are.

If you can imagine it, somebody’s done it, and, if you can’t imagine it, somebody’s done that too.

The human animal is much preoccupied with reproduction.

We have the notion that it’s somehow noble to be human.  It’s true that we have exceptional capabilities compared to other members of the animal kingdom, but among those capabilities are an exceptional aptitude for doing harm to, even destroying, other creatures, our own kind, and our planet.

Intellectualizing is what intellectuals accuse each other of doing.

The main challenge to human welfare is human nature.

The trouble with Freud was that he suffered from uterus envy.

It’s too bad we don’t suffer from pre-traumatic stress syndrome.  There might be fewer wars.

Our intelligence enabled us to triumph over all other animals.  Unfortunately it may not be sufficient to prevent us from rendering our planet inhospitable to human life.

Words are the source of most human strife.

We get along so well with dogs because they can’t talk back.

Even saints aren’t altogether saintly.

When someone undermines our dignity we want to inflict the same pain on them, to restore the balance.

We devote so much effort to perfecting the quality of our lives that it ends up detracting from their quality.

Sometimes the fool is wiser than the wise men.

Now I know what over the hill means.  It’s when most of your ailments are no longer curable and you just have to learn to live with them.

It may be sweet to do nothing, as the saying goes, but after a while it becomes boring.

Men of great intelligence can sometimes be great fools.

We should train our minds as we train our bodies, but it’s much harder.

Men need the softness of women.  There’s so much hardness in our lives.

One can enjoy life without being an expert in anything.

Nationalism is just another form of tribalism, and too often that’s the case with religion as

Rhetoric, alas, is more powerful than reason.

Places that are the height of the exotic to us are banal to those who live there.

Ingénues are a thing of the past.

You know you’re old when, gathering with others your age, you invariably discuss your illnesses.

It’s hard for us to imagine that our grandparents weren’t always old.

The difference between the French and the English is that the French hyphenate their first names, the English their last.

No other animal is as destructive as man.

We’re doing our best to become an endangered species.

Confusion can be good.  It opens up the mind.

It’s our inner space that most needs exploring.

Mythology is replete with heroes.  History offers few whose heroism was unalloyed.

If we try hard enough to convince ourselves that the naked are clothed, we’ll end up believing it.

Fishing is a sport that tests the intelligence of a man against that of a fish.

A weed doesn’t think of itself as noxious.

The trouble with the military is that they have an overriding interest in winning that conflicts with their ability to see the wisdom of withdrawal.

We shouldn’t trust the military when they assure us they can win a war any more than we should have trusted tobacco executives when they told us that cigarettes didn’t cause cancer.

If a group of people try hard enough to convince themselves and each other of an absurdity, they’ll usually end up believing it.  This is what’s known as group think, or ideology, or religion.

It might be a better world if adults skipped.

We put too much faith in the integrity of the written word.

L’enfer, c’est nous.

Women are superior to men.  They laugh at themselves more readily.

It’s foolish to go around the world trying to find yourself.  Wherever you are, you’re there.

Today’s new thing is tomorrow’s history.

We are what we read.

The pacifist is as great a hero as the man of arms, if not greater.

The true hero is he who avoids violence.

Those things we wish to be so we tend to believe to be so.

If you leave things in the same place a long time, they become invisible.

The trouble with running on automatic pilot is that it isn’t necessarily programmed to take
you where you want to go. The human race is a Greek tragedy waiting to happen. The human need to make sense of everything leads to much nonsense.  Humans are animals that think they’re not animals. Empathy is the root of all true virtue. We remember best the things we’d most like to forget. Children learn by mimicking without questioning whether what they mimic is right or wrong.  Unfortunately many continue to do this as adults.

The marathon is an ego trip. The good thing about narcissism is that your love is always requited. Being smart doesn’t protect us from self-deception.   In fact, it may make us more adept at it. Humor is one of the best weapons. The trouble with theory is that it often blinds us to reality. Ishtar, also known as Astarte, was the goddess of love and war.  The ancients knew things about human relationships from which psychologists could learn. If Narcissus had had a camera, he would have spent his days taking selfies. Smartness isn’t the same thing as intelligence.

Just because someone is smart, even intelligent, doesn’t mean they’re rational.
Snobbery is irrational.  It’s based on pedigree, celebrity and manners rather than contribution or accomplishment.

Rooting for a team is a kind of tribalism.

Everybody should spend a few minutes a day in bumper cars.  Road rage would become passé.

The road of life is pitted with rabbit holes.

Youth is fond of newness.

We find capriciousness in a young woman charming.  When she gets older it’s another matter.

Love of country is often no more than self-love.  We consider ourselves worthy because we think our country is.

Cultivation of empathy is a more effective basis for ethical behavior than instilling fear of punishment, here or in the hereafter.  We’re too easily convinced that punishment isn’t likely or even (as among Islamist terrorists or ideological autocrats and their followers) that acts harmful to others are virtuous, whereas empathy is an instinct that, once activated, can’t be rationalized away.

Man is an apex predator.

Death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you.

It makes one happy to make somebody else happy.

We operate under the illusion that insults win arguments.


It isn’t the world that’s an illusion, but the deeper reality that some are convinced is hidden elsewhere.

We haven’t mastered reality, but we’re already concerned about virtual reality.

Clinton was on to a metaphysical truth.  We don’t know what is is.

If a tree falls in the desert and no one hears it, does anyone exist?

Brother can you spare a paradigm?

The secret of life?  Life is a treadmill.

We search for truth and find obscurity, so we embrace obscurity and think it’s truth.

I’m confused, therefore I am.

Metaphysics is like theology.  It’s seen to be profound because it professes to answer unanswerable questions.

Philosophy is the attempt to access through logic truths that are either non-existent or inaccessible through reasoning alone.

One Tycho Brahe or William Harvey is worth three Aristotles or five Platos.

Truth is ultimately conditional and probabilistic and can only be affirmed empirically, not through philosophical reasoning.

Philosophy is the search for the unknowable or non-existent.

The question “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” rather than a profound paradox is an example of human gullibility.

Which came first the chicken or the egg is a ridiculous question.  It’s like asking which came first the baby or the person.

Philosophy is a mental rope trick.  One’s conclusions depend on one’s assumptions.

If we don’t take sinners seriously as moral philosophers, who’s left?

Philosophy is a form of thought that attempts to know by reason that which is a matter of opinion or is only knowable empirically and for which there’s no empirical evidence.

Just because we don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s profound.

We confound the obscure with the profound.

Many can’t distinguish pretense from profundity; their instinct when faced with something they don’t understand is to ascribe deep significance to it.

Profundity should bring us closer to truth.  Most of what passes for profound moves in the opposite direction.

Profundity isn’t so much the revelation of difficult to discern truths as the setting aside of deeply rooted notions.

Ambiguity isn’t profound.  It’s just ambiguous.

The line between the profound and the sententious is anything but clear.

Sometimes things can be so subtle they’re imperceptible.

Conservatives are those who like things the way they were, or they think they were.

Just say no?  What kind of philosophy of life is that?

Conservatism is the politics of self-interest.

The greatest leaders are those who lead people to restrain their self-interest and emotions.

For a conservative, progress means going back to earlier times.

Plato overlooked an important point.  An aristocracy of intellect can be as self-interested and tyrannical as one of birth, money or priesthood.

Why should the integrity of nation states be sacrosanct?

When an allegation is characterized as absolutely ridiculous, you can be pretty sure it’s true.

Outrageous remarks, it seems, are always taken out of context.

The most important measure of civilization is compassion, not technology, culture, sophisticated institutions, power or the gross national product.

Extremism isn’t a matter of how far one is from the prevailing middle but of how far one is from a defensible position.

In greed we trust.

They speak of government of laws, not of men.  But who makes the laws?  And who interprets them?

We’ve progressed.  Patriotism is no longer the last refuge of scoundrels.  It’s the first.

Patriotism is as often a vice as a virtue.

The Gestapo were all patriots.

Liberté, Égalité, Sororité

Knowledge and intelligence, however great, are no guaranty of objectivity or impartiality.

A bird in the hand is worth any number of Bushes.

The belief in a perfect society is one of the most destructive ideas concocted by mankind.

Some advice to future Republican administrations: put the supply of combat forces out for competitive bidding; privatize Congress; outsource the Presidency.

Household democracy: one man one vote; one woman one and a half votes.

Conservatism is the belief that that good old-time religion should prevail, and that the haves should get to keep all they can lay their hands on.

Conservatism: an unholy alliance of religion and money.

Conservatism brings together the worst human instincts, greed, jingoism, vindictiveness and

We’ve gone through the me generation; we’re now into the me century.

Liberal means tolerant and generous.  Are these bad things?

Unfortunately, when it comes to politics, you can fool most of the people most of the time.

Bush was caught between Iraq and a hard place.

Is there such a thing as intellectually honest conservatives?  Perhaps, but if so, you can count them on the fingers of less than one hand.

A right winger is someone who loves Jesus but favors the death penalty, preemptive war and punishing poor Mexicans for trying to make a decent living.

Conservatives see no contradiction in being pro-life on the one hand and against gun control, in favor of the death penalty, indifferent or hostile to universal health care and war hawks on the other.

Executive privilege is what a President invokes when he or someone who has worked closely with him is lying.

It’s not so sweet to die for one’s country in a pointless war, and most wars are pointless.

Destiny is never manifest.

“Fiscal conservatives” are those who despise altruism, except where it saves them from having to pay taxes.

The best conservatives are those who are cautious about change, prefer prudence to audacity and evolution to revolution, are wary of excessive government and are intellectually honest, but that is a very rare breed.

How civilized a country is can be measured by its willingness to give autonomy or independence to ethnic enclaves.

The Chinese are right.  Before their conquest of Tibet it was dominated by aristocrats and monks who owned the land and treated peasant farmers like serfs.  Now Tibet is dominated by the Chinese government, which owns the land and treats all Tibetans like serfs.

It’s time to put the hens in charge of the foxes’ dens. 

Be careful about voting for the presidential candidate you'd rather have a beer with.  You might end up with suds in the White House.

Sovereignty: the right of nations to abuse their citizens, and claimed citizens, without outside protest.

Conservatism is the politics of the tribe.

A spin doctor is just another kind of quack.

Beware of those who wave the flag.  They’re usually waving it for some irrational or self-serving reason.

When our loved ones die in an arguably necessary war, that’s a tragedy.  When they die in an unnecessary one, it’s a crime.

It’s too bad the south didn’t win the civil war.  If it had, we wouldn’t be burdened with Texas.

Conservatives’ belief in trickledown isn’t much different from children’s belief in Santa Claus.

The trouble with U.S. liberals is that they tend just to talk to each other while the conservatives talk to the voters.

Compassionate conservatism means compassion for ones fellow conservatives and not much for anybody else.

Compassionate conservatism is an oxymoron.

Forget about Jesus.  What would Ronald Reagan do?

Where change is brought about by violence, the violent end up in control.

There’s a danger in leadership of becoming wedded to its formula for success while the world moves on.

Conservatives are for comfort for the comfortable.  The rest is rationalization.

Those who win power by force tend to rule by force.  This is the fate of revolutions.

For a conservative progress means going back to earlier times.

Conservative, in politics, has become a euphemism for mean-spirited.

Conservative politics is a meeting of the minds between those interested in preserving tradition and those interested in preserving their wealth.

Libertarianism would free us from government restrictions, or oppression if you will, and free
us to oppress others or be oppressed by them.

A conservative is one who wants to impose his beliefs on and preserve his assets and privileges at the expense of others.

There aren’t arms races.  There’s only been one, and it started when men first picked up sticks and stones to batter then impale one another.  Since then there’s been a constant escalation in technology and cost so that we devote more and more of our gross national products to the means of killing one another.

In politics, while some want to do what’s right, other’s want merely to rationalize their self-interest.

There are those who have honest differences on public policy based on what they think the results are likely to be, and there are those, usually at the political extremes, who use sophistry, appeal to emotion, distortion and even outright lies to support their beliefs.

What distinguishes America’s great leaders is that they were great for their goodness, not for their aptitude as conquerors.   Those who are against a war are usually right.

If you cling to the center of the road, you’re likely to get run over.

If fascism ever comes to America, it’ll start in Texas.

Conservatism is inevitably flawed by its alliance with privilege.

According to contemporary Republicans, conservation isn’t conservative.

Those are most warlike who have never fought and think they never will. Never trust conspiracy theorists.  They’re distrust of others is a projection of their own untrustworthiness. The Republican party 2013: the party of the privileged, the plutocrats, the greedy, the mean spirited, the callous, the bigots, the racists, the hatemongers, the warmongers, the punitive, the advocates of violence in all its forms. If you want to find the anti-Christ, you don’t need to look any farther than the fundamentalists, the Tea Party, Texas and the NRA. Constitutional originalism is the American version of sharia. Private enterprise and free markets can’t be trusted to do the right thing any more than government.  What’s needed with the former, as in the latter, is checks and balances.

Beware of those who preach national glory.

It’s very difficult to be a Republican in the era of Obama and the Tea Party while maintaining one’s integrity.

The problem in our country isn’t big government.  It’s big money.

American civilization won’t be destroyed by barbarian invasion but by ideologues quoting the Constitution.

A conservative is someone who doesn’t change his or her beliefs even when those beliefs are contradicted by evidence.

If you take $50 from someone by deception or extortion, that’s a crime.  If you take $50 million from a large number of people by deception or extortion, that’s just the magic of the free market.

Contemporary conservatism is an amalgam of a number of virtues, self-interest, greed, callousness, mean spiritedness, nationalism, xenophobia, jingoism, punitiveness, vindictiveness, a belief in patriarchy, theocratic tendencies and an aversion to change.

 “Intellectually honest conservative” has become an oxymoron.

Most academics are liberal because most of those who seek the truth are, while the vast majority of conservatives seek not truth but justification for their preconceptions.

Conservatives are those who are most concerned about maintaining their own benefits and privileges and/or enforcing religious strictures.  Liberals are those who are most concerned about the needs of others.

Freedom Caucus is a euphemism for the law of the jungle.

Libertarianism is seductive in its simplicity, but in the end it’s simplistic.

Conservatism is the politics of the self-centered, the greedy, the mean-spirited, the xenophobic, the tribal, the jingoistic and the theocratic.

Patriotism that places the interests of one nation over fairness and compassion for all is not a virtue but an evil.

Patriotism is essentially a form of tribalism.

Patriotism too easily becomes chauvinism.


Economists want to quantify everything.  How do you quantify joie de vivre, natural beauty, love?

Economic growth is a tiger from which we fear to dismount.

If there were a choice between economic growth and a decent life for all, which would be the better choice?

All but a very few economists are devotees of the cult of growth.

The world would be a better place if we were less concerned about more and more about better.

What’s more important, that our economy grow by one, two or three percent ad infinitum or that everybody have decent health care, education, housing and employment?

Economic growth is wonderful, but along with the goods it brings us a lot of garbage, junk food and last year’s fashions, the things we excitedly acquired and soon never looked at again.

Economics should be not about more, always more, but about meeting the basic needs of all.  Beyond that we would be better served by pursuing happiness through non-material means rather than through the endless acquisition of things.

Money is like a gas.  It tends to float up rather than trickle down. It’s the economy that counts.  Don’t worry about people.

Economists tend to consider growth the be all and end all.  Yet growth can be bad as well as good (e.g. the costs of abating pollution and dealing with its consequences increase the GDP), and it can fail to meet important needs such as health care for those unable to afford it.

Where does the Bible say that economic growth is the greatest good?

With its top-heavy income distribution, America is coming more and more to resemble a dystopian fantasy.

Free markets undermine themselves with too much freedom.


We’re each determined never to yield to force, yet we always expect others to do so.

Violence tends to escalate, whether perpetrated by those outside the law, or those within it.

Violence is rarely the solution.

The latest euphemism for prison is correctional facility.  Criminalization facility would be more apt.

Someone in possession of a gram of crack cocaine is a felon.  Someone who brings great harm or even death to thousands through the sale of a legal product is a pillar of society.

We’ve just completed a 30 years war on drugs and are going for 100.

In divorce and the war on drugs we must take care that victory doesn’t do as much harm to the victors as to the vanquished.

What if there were no heaven or hell and no redemption and after we died we spent all eternity experiencing again and again the good we have done others but also the harm and the results of our failures to do good?

Vengeance may be the Lord’s, but we have victim’s rights.

Vengeance is out of fashion.  It’s been replaced by closure.

Think about how to get what you want, not how to punish the person standing in the way of your getting it.

If you can’t make it better, let it go.  Revenge costs time and energy that simply add to the damage

Criminal justice is an oxymoron for the very poor and the very rich.

The legal profession is more about money than justice.

The Supreme Court should strive to avoid the initiation of constitutional amendments which can have unforeseen consequences much greater than any judicial interpretation and are much harder to reverse.  To achieve this purpose, the Court must not get too far behind or ahead of public opinion.


I don’t need to be reborn.  I got it right the first time.

God seems to be on the side of the biggest bucks.

The Bible is another of those Rorschach tests.  All see what they fancy in it.

“Theology” is an oxymoron.

Apocalypse is always tomorrow.

Where would the world be without heresy?

One man’s piety is another’s blasphemy.

Morality has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with how you treat your fellow man.

Do you suppose that God cares more about property rights than he does about the well-being of all his creatures?

There are those who are proud of their humility.

If you want to know the meaning of life, look in a dictionary.

The great mystery of religion is that anyone can believe the doctrines propagated in its name.

The Crusaders may have claimed more victims than the Huns.

The purpose of life is life.

We have a new version of the golden rule; do unto others whatever will do most for you.

Stoicism, Buddhist detachment, piety and altruism are all ways of escaping painful or unsettling feelings.  

Faith without reason is not a social good.

Revealed truth is incompatible with sound social policy. 

Let us not forget that faith is by definition irrational.

If we devoted more attention to ethics and less to religious dogma, the world would be a better place. 

Of the four forms of utopianism that flourished in the 20th century, fundamentalism, communism, fascism and anarchism only fundamentalism continues to thrive in this the 21st.

God is depicted as a man.  Does that mean He has a penis?  If so, why?

We don’t need the devil to account for evil.  Human nature is explanation enough.

The devil is a convenient excuse for our own worst instincts.

Who is the source of punitive religion, God or the devil?

What kind of god would care how you worshiped him, or even whether you did?

It’s curious that those who still believe lust is a sin more often than not believe that greed no longer is.

Sinners are drawn to Catholicism.  It’s hospitable to sin.

Worship of a deity is the original cult of personality.

There isn’t one antichrist but many and they aren’t godlike demons but ordinary folk who negate Christ’s message of compassion while professing their love of him.

You can’t love Jesus and hate your fellow man.

When it comes to salvation, only you can save yourself; no one else can save you.

Theology is the rationalization of the irrational.

The most discriminated against minority in America is atheists.

If one god is better than two or more, surely no god is best of all.

Don’t put your trust in leaders who profess to believe in the literal truth of scripture.  These are men who don’t want to be troubled by evidence.

Add priests to a collection of myths and superstitions and you get a religion.

The world would be a better place if men spent more time buggering each other and less shooting, bombing, bashing and skewering.

If you profess your love of Jesus enough, you can get away with just about anything.

The conviction that religious beliefs other than one’s own are false leads to all sorts of strife and mistreatment of one’s fellow humans.

Fundamentalists may say that God is love, but actually they believe he’s hate.

The first principle of ethics: permit no real harm in the name of theological harm.

The religious right is right.  Evolution is supposed to make us better adapted, but look what’s happening to the American mind.

Some engage in jihads, others conduct crusades.  Let us all instead wage peace.

The world took a big step backward when Christianity and then Islam took to the idea of divinely dictated scripture.

The believers have turned reverence for (human) life into a form of idolatry.

Intelligent design is the philosophy of the planned economy.

Saintliness isn’t a matter of piety or miracles.  It’s a matter of compassion, conviction and courage.

Religion has been good for architecture.

Much harm has been done in the name of that which is deemed sacred.

Would Jesus have voted for George W. Bush?  Or Donald Trump?!

It’s clear that man isn’t descended from the monkey.  No monkey is capable of the evils wrought by men.

Beware the undead and the born again.

People aren’t good or bad so much because of what they believe as because of what they feel.

There’s an awful lot that’s unchristian about Christianity.

Let us pray for the Roman Catholics.  May the Lord Our God enlighten their hearts so that they may acknowledge that the pope is anything but infallible.

Enlightenment isn’t a total transformation.  It’s a piecemeal, imperfect and never complete process.

The Bible says that God slew the first born of the Egyptians to make them let the Israelites go.  The authors of the good book apparently considered terrorism a legitimate tool of conflict.

I can’t imagine anything more boring than nirvana.

When we find there’s no rational answer, we look to mysticism to provide us with one.

I haven’t seen any evidence that the meek will inherit the earth, but maybe the cockroaches.

The only eternal truth is that there are no eternal truths.

The devil is anything but an atheist.

Religion is too often hijacked by the violent.

It’s what we do that counts, not what we believe.

Jesus’s message wasn’t “Love me.”  It was “Love your fellow man.”

America isn’t a Christian nation.  It’s a Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, Sikh, Rastifarian, Voodoo, Bahai, Wiccan, atheist nation.

The first multinational was the Catholic Church, and it still places corporate interests before public.

You don’t need a guru to find peace.  You can find it within yourself. 

If you want to know the truth about a religion, don’t ask anyone who considers it the truth.

One man’s revelation is another’s delusion.

In most cases, irreverence is more justifiable than reverence.

Don’t look to theologians for truth.  They’re an interest group.

The sound of one hand clapping isn’t. 

The secret of sacred mysteries is that there is no secret.

I consider religion a buffet from which I pick the good dishes and leave aside the dog meat and entrails.

What is the meaning of life is a meaningless question. Morality doesn't interest me.  I'm concerned about ethics. C.S. Lewis depicted God as a lion.  The lion, of course, is a predator.
The most important thing religion brings to society and the one most often lacking in the way religions are practiced, is compassion.  It’s interesting that the ten commandments have nothing to say about it. If the story of Adam and Eve is true, we are all products of incest. When a religion becomes reasonable it loses believers. What if Lucifer was a whistle blower?

The meaning of life is life.

Theology isn’t a search for truth.  It’s a search for justification.

If there is a God, He must be rolling His eyes.

Who am I to tell people what to do with their genitals?

Many of those who profess their Christianity most vociferously, when it comes to compassion, central to Jesus’s message, are Chinos, Christians in name only.

If the fundamentalists had their way America would look like the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The only difference between superstition and a religion is the number of people who believe in it.

A religion arises when a large number of people believe in a series of implausible and unverifiable events for a long enough time.

Efforts to impose Christian orthodoxy—school prayer, the teaching of intelligent design, vouchers for attendance at religious schools, anti-contraception policies, etc.—are a far greater threat to our society than sharia.

If Jesus were alive in America today, would he have voted for Donald Trump?

Anyone who says they know what God thinks is either delusional or a fraud.

Why would God have had to conceive a son and sacrifice him to free mankind from original sin?  If omnipotent, couldn’t he have just done it directly?

If Jesus and God are one, as the doctrine of the holy trinity holds, Jesus didn’t need to suffer on the cross.  He could have simply decided not to.  In fact, for all we know, he did.


Man’s stupidity is almost equaled by his intelligence.

For all our mastery of technology, we’re still prey to follies as flagrant as those of any earlier age.

Though our understanding of things biological, mechanical and electronic has increased manyfold, our capacity for self-deception hasn’t diminished one whit.

While we laugh or rage at others’ follies, we view our own as possessing  the greatest dignity and worth. 

Each age is convinced that its follies represent the highest level of human achievement.

Being a genius doesn’t prevent one from having foolish ideas.

Much of what most people believe is nonsense.


People not only don’t mention that the emperor has no clothes, they’ve convinced themselves that it’s not the case, and what’s more think it high fashion.

There are many emperors and many who are blind to their nakedness.

We have trouble remembering that form is not substance.

What’s fashionable today is often seen as ridiculous tomorrow.

Fashion makes fools of us all.

Those who live by fashion die by the same.

Everything is passé in time.

Today’s cutting edge is tomorrow’s old guard.

Today’s blue chip is tomorrow’s recyclable trash.

We live in an age of irony, one of retreat from life.

We adopt irony because we think it puts us above our fellows, but it also makes us less alive.

Irony is a post-modern form of egocentricity. ars gratia vanitatis

The good word “gay” has been sequestered.   It can no longer be used to  mean lighthearted. We should worry about words the way we worry about endangered species.

The good thing about the rapid pace of change in our times is that few fads last very long.

Let us kick off the shackles of fashion.


We think we’re what we accumulate.

Collecting is a poor substitute for creativity.

Diamonds are for people without imagination.

Economic growth is a tiger from which we fear to dismount.

If there were a choice between economic growth and a decent life for all, which would be the better choice?

We’re always chasing after more, but there’s always more to be had.

Enough is never enough.

Machines were made to free us but have made us slaves.

The elimination of poverty is more important than the creation of wealth.  Wealth should be seen as first and foremost a means for ending poverty.

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Let’s not forget that greed is a sin.

The trouble with  “the invisible hand” is that you don’t know what it’s up to when you can’t see it.

We have so many possessions in our affluent society that they get lost in the crowd.  We often can’t find them when we want them or don’t even know we have them.

Our lives are consumed by conveniences.

In a consumer society, invention is the mother of necessity.

Man does not live by bread alone.  He also lives by iPods, camera cell phones, Xboxes, LCD HD TVs, SUVs, McMansions and Cancun vacations.

There are many activities in life that are more fulfilling than trying to get the best price.

Today the money changers are no longer just in the temple.  They’re its priests.

Too many of us have deep pockets and shallow values.

The more extravagant the wedding, the shorter the marriage.

The term “bull market” is apt in more ways than one.

We’re obsessed with getting more, more of everything.  We might be better off if we
devoted our attention instead on how to make do with less.

The Arts

Art criticism is a form of intellectual flatulence.

Innovation in the arts has become hackneyed.
We make up for the rejection of the impressionists by accepting anything as good art as long as it’s new.

If your name is Stein, don’t name your daughter Phyllis.

In art, character and observation are more important than story.  In entertainment it’s the other way around.

Whether a story is good or not isn’t a matter of where it goes but how it gets there.

A thing of beauty is a joy until you get used to it.

Conceptual art: too much concept, too little art.

The avant-garde is no longer the vanguard.  It’s a lost detachment of foot soldiers milling around in a cul-de-sac.

When everything is avant-garde, nothing is avant-garde.

When all art is innovative, innovation becomes boring.

Once an artist demonstrates his brilliance, we see brilliance in whatever he does however nonsensical.

Literature these days suffers from excessive self-consciousness.

Oppression is the mother of literary invention.

If you want something new in literature, you don’t need to resort to stylistic novelty, nonsense or conundrums.  Each and every one of us is different in experience and worldview. 

We’re so obsessed with innovation and originality that we accept any sort of nonsense as long as it’s different from our usual way of saying things.

Writers who have been workshopped have been sawn, assembled, planed, sanded and lacquered.  Is that what we want in our writers?

In the end, fashion is the enemy of art.

Intellectualization is good for analysis but not for art.  The 20th Century was an era of intellectualization of the arts.

Art that tries to create art most often fails.  Art does better when it strives to create reality.

All good art is at bottom realism.

The artful slides all too easily into the arty.

Fashions in art die when they are of interest only to the cognoscenti.

If I like it, it’s good.  If I don’t, it isn’t.

The hallmark of serious fiction is perspicacious observation of how people behave and what they think and feel.

In the attempt to become more and more significant, the arts are becoming less and less

French culture is deathly ill, of too much French culture.

The arts have become avatars of the fashion industry.

The modernist revolution is no longer a revolution.  It’s the establishment.

Post-modern is more modern than post.

Can’t one remember without alluding to Proust?

Bad wars make good movies.

When an artistic fashion is appreciated by few but the cognoscenti it’s either revolutionary or moribund, usually the latter.

There’s something oxymoronic about an academic degree in creative writing.

The world is full of well-written books that don’t interest me.

The visual arts have descended to the level of the pet rock.

Sooner or later the cutting edge becomes dull.

Most critics are parasites.  They’re supposed to illuminate culture but more often simply exploit it.

Critics’ main fans are other critics.

Critics of the arts are prey to the delusion that what they like is good and what they don’t like is bad.

Originality isn’t everything, though many artists seem to think it is.

Calculation is no substitute for inspiration.  Contemporary poetry is 90% calculation.

Modernism is given to allusions, or is it illusions?

Opera: mediocre drama accompanied by sometimes glorious but mostly ho-hum music interspersed with recitative, a singsong form of monologue which is the musical and dramatic equivalent of plastic wood.

What counts most in the visual arts these days is self-promotion.  We’re still in the Warhol age.

Newer isn’t necessarily better.

The trouble with editing your own work is that you tend to see what you meant to say rather than what you actually said.

They talk about the banality of evil.  What about the evil of banality.

Contemporary rock bands are the musical equivalent of professional wrestling.

Novelty in the arts has gotten old.

There are too many people writing and not enough doing.

Innovation for innovation’s sake is as sterile as tradition for tradition’s sake.

Modernism in the arts has two preeminent characteristics, intellectualization and obsession with innovation.

Too many people want to be writers because it’s prestigious, not because they have a strong impulse to write or love doing it.

It’s rarely meaningful to talk of progress in the arts.

There are too many people today who want to be writers because they want to be writers rather than because there’s something they feel compelled to write about.

Writers used to write about heroes.  Now they think they’re the heroes.

Nothing could be more banal than death.

In the arts everybody wants to be in the vanguard, which means that the vanguard quickly becomes indistinguishable from the rear guard.

New isn’t necessarily good.



Poetry is the art of the implied.

Poetry is as much about what isn’t said as what is.

A poet has to learn to let the reader draw the inference, instead of drawing it for him.

The poet’s role is to reveal things others aren’t aware they’re seeing.

Poetry in its more esoteric forms is like philosophy and religion.  It makes much out of nothing.

Poetry today is in the oracular tradition; the more obscure it is, the more significant it’s seen to be.

We consider some poetry good or even great not despite our inability to understand it but because we can’t understand it.

Poetry is a religion of intellectuals, and would-be intellectuals.

Modern poetry is noteworthy for its obscurity.  Clarity is considered trite.

Few contemporary poets are guilty of  the sin of comprehensibility.

Poetry critics and professors love the cryptic.  It gives them something to interpret.

Poetry today is a sort of intellectual machismo.

I don’t want to have to decipher poetry.  I just want to experience it.

Today everybody is a poets’ poet.  The trouble is that nobody reads them except each other.

The trouble with much poetry today is that it tries too hard to convert emotional experiences into intellectual ones, and succeeds too often.

It’s time to let feeling back into poetry.

I look to be moved by a poem.  I’m not interested in poetry as a purely intellectual exercise.

There’s a notion in poetry circles today that a poem can’t be good if it’s easy to understand.

Many contemporary poets are afraid that if they write clearly, they’ll be rejected by their peers

There’s an arms race among contemporary poets to see who can be the most arcane and solipsistic.

Many contemporary poets think they live in a gated community.  Actually they live in a ghetto, and have locked themselves in.

It’s ironic that T.S. Eliot, one of the high priests of modernism, rejected the modern world.

Poetry is a narcissistic business.

There’s no need for any poem to be obscure.

In poetry it’s difficult to draw a line between substance and style.

The problem with contemporary poetry is that it’s become an academic discipline.

Erudition is the curse of contemporary poetry.

When poets become academics, poetry becomes pedantic.

Poetry has become academicized.  It’s fallen down the same hole as sociology and lit crit.

Writing poetry is so popular because it’s the only form of writing in which you’re not likely to be widely criticized for incomprehensibility.

Poetry is a license for serious nonsense.

Some think that poetry has to be incomprehensible to be good.

Some poets hear music in their heads.  In others’ you’ll hear the grinding of gears.

Much of contemporary poetry confuses ambiguity with profundity.

Contemporary poets devote a good deal of intellect to making their work incomprehensible.

Why is it that people think happiness a less suitable subject for poetry than depression?

Poetry is an expression of personality.

It isn’t the form that makes a poem.  It’s the feeling.

Beware the poetry-academic complex.

Poetic language isn’t so much a matter of precision as connotation.

Intellectualization will be the undoing of postmodern poetry, as sentimentality was of romanticism.

Poems are built by accretion, as an oyster builds a pearl.

Poetry is in the details.

Poetry is the only form of writing in which ambiguity is considered a virtue.

Contemporary poetry has gone down the intellectualized path of serial music, the nouvel roman and 20th Century art fads.  It will recede down the path of obscurity with them too.

I don’t want to have to interpret poetry.  I want to be moved or delighted by it.

If poetry that can mean something different to every reader is good, isn’t the ultimate poem a blank sheet of paper?

Taste in poetry is like taste in food, essentially arbitrary.

The dominant mode of contemporary poetry is studied incoherence.

We think that a poem we have to interpret is more profound than one whose meaning is evident.

Contemporary poetry seldom delights.  Reading it is more often a form of forced labor.

Discovering a new poet is like coming upon a land you didn’t know existed.

Where does the idea come from that poetry must mean something other than what it says?

Poetry is being done in by inbreeding.

As poetry becomes less and less relevant, its practitioners and camp followers develop an increasingly inflated notion of its importance.

It isn’t rhyme that makes a poem.

The purpose of poetry isn’t to tell the facts, but to stir up feelings.

They’ve drained all the blood out of poetry and replaced it with intellectualism, so that it’s pale and waxy like a freshly embalmed  corpse.

In striving to be original, poets today have strayed farther and farther from the communicative and apt.

With post-modernism they’ve squeezed all the joy out of poetry.

Post-modernism is modernism run amok.

In poetry, connotation is everything.

Contemporary poetry is dominated by pseudo-significance.

Ultimately what we like or dislike about a poet is his worldview.

Exaggeration is one of the most common faults of bad poetry.

The default setting for contemporary poetry is that if it’s comprehensible on first reading it can’t be good.

Contemporary poetry, like serial music, has alienated its audience.  It represents the triumph of theory over experience.

Every poem I don’t write is like an unborn child.

What I look for in a poem is an emotional experience, not an intellectual exercise.

The art of much contemporary poetry is to make nonsense seem plausible.  Even more so contemporary poetry critics.

Every reader reading the same poem reads a different one.

It’s the difference between synonyms that counts.

The essence of poetry is feeling.  All else is ornamentation.

The best thing that could happen to contemporary poetry would be for universities to do away with all poetry courses.

Contemporary poetry is suffering from academic arteriosclerosis.

Mediocre poets like the fashion for obscurity in contemporary poetry.  It obscures their

Ultimately what a poem has to say is more important than how it says it.

Instead of poets writing poems in the form of prose, prose writers should cast their work in the form of poetry.

Free association, like free markets, needs some regulation.

A poem should move or delight.  That’s my one essential requirement.

Poetry is, or should be, a form of forceful communication.

Poetry is an art that has alienated most of its audience.

Poetry that dedicates itself to evoking confusion and uncertainty has essentially only one theme, confusion and uncertainty.

You could write splendid poetry and, if you didn’t win the critical attention lottery, it might disappear without a trace and be unknown to future generations.

Contemporary poets try so hard to be different that they mostly end up sounding the same.

There’s something wrong with a poem that requires a pedant to interpret it.

When one sculpts a figure in wood or stone, one doesn’t shape it, one chisels or carves away the material that conceals it.  So it is with the editing of a poem.

Poetic license has been interpreted as a license to write unclearly.

Being a professional poet these days is a dubious distinction.

There’s so much poetry being written these days that if it were thrown away all in the same place it would create a landfill of epic proportions.

Language poetry is a cultural dead end, like les precieuses ridicules or 19th century salon painting.

“The Red Wheelbarrow” is a celebrity poem.  It’s famous because it’s famous.

Don’t look to poets for eternal truths.  They’re not philosophers.  They’re rhetoricians.

Poetry that tries to be philosophy often ends up being good as neither.   Poetry journals, of which there are so many, are published not so much for the benefit of poets, much less readers, as to feed the self-importance of their publishers. 

Finding a poem one likes is like panning for gold.  One has to sift through a lot of mud and grit to turn up a bit of the shiny stuff. The impact of some poems is dulled by their artistry.

Contemporary poetry is mired in pedantry.

The Emperor of Ice-Cream wears no clothes.

Most poetry today is not heartfelt, but headfelt, which of course is an oxymornon.

Oppression is a wonderful stimulus to the arts.  Contemporary American poetry could use some of it. 

What the poet has to say is important.  Does it move, arouse, amuse or at least interest us?  How he or she says it is important but not sufficient.

There are important similarities between poetry and religion.  Both involve incantation, mystification and reverence.

We tend to forget that what poets have to say is as important as how they say it.

Yeats thought the Byzantium of 1000AD a high point of civilization.  That tells you more about Yeats than about Byzantium.

Nonsense verse often makes more sense than that which is seen by the poetry authorities as deeply serious.

Before you write a poem ask yourself would this be interesting if it weren’t a poem?  If the answer is no, it won’t be interesting just because you cast it in poetic form.

The trouble with contemporary poetry is that it’s become a profession.

Don’t look for philosophical insights in poetry any more than you would in music.

The profundity attributed to poetry is much exaggerated.

Poets have long struggled for precision and evocativeness in their language.  Post-modern poets strive for ambiguity and puzzling disconnection between words and images, creating riddles with multiple possible solutions.

I don’t belong to a school of poets.  I belong to myself.

The power of poetry is in feeling, not metaphysics.

One of the problems with post-modern poetry is that it’s excessively influenced by theory.

Poetry and theory are a discordant combination.

Postmodern poetry has gone on far too long.  It's become innovation for innovation’s sake.

Poetry is that which evokes the ineffable.

Some poetry is magical, or at least a feat of prestidigitation, but much of it is just three card monte.

In poetry music is as important as meaning.

Too many contemporary poets view poetry as a license for nonsense.

Love people for what they are, not for what you’d like them to be.

Beware of Greeks bearing myths.

Concern yourself with what you can do, not what you can’t.

Resist thinking of an argument as a competition you have to win.

Marry a woman who likes your jokes.

If you speak in code, don’t be surprised if you’re misunderstood.

Never patronize a restaurant advertising fine food, and never trust anyone who says trust me.

Shake your fist in dance, not in anger.

Indignation is good for you.  It clears the sinuses.

When somebody asks you if you’d like some feedback, say, “No thanks.”  And, if you want to be really polite, you can add after a moment, “Thank you for not sharing that with me.”

Beware of wisdom.  It can make you pompous.

Distrust gurus.

The most important thing to know is the limits of one’s knowledge.

Being clear about the question is more important than having a plausible but unsubstantiated answer.

Be your own guru. Ignorance is bliss, until it turns around and bites you.

Remembering the rules doesn’t do much good unless you understand the reasons behind them. Know yourself or fool yourself. 

Patriotism, piety and chastity are all much overrated virtues.

Force is less often the solution than we’re inclined to think.

Icarus wouldn’t have made a very good rocket scientist.

Bombs are careless in their choice of targets.

Today Scrooge would be a yuppie.

Civilization is too often built on the backs of ordinary men.

The grass is often greener on the other side of the street because it’s been painted.

Eden is not a place but a state of mind.

Most adventures are in the mind.

We lavish subsidies on the having of children as if the world were insufficiently populated.

Propagation of the race is the ultimate tautology.

Things are universal in their particularity.

Innovations are seldom as consequential as advocates fancy or doubters fear.

Concern for humankind trumps patriotism any time.

My primary allegiances are to family, friends and the human race.  All others are secondary.

While some prophecies are self-fulfilling, others are self-defeating.

“Pretentious” is a pretentious word.

We used to have voices in the wilderness.  Now we have voices in cyberspace.

Aphorisms always exaggerate.

Man does not live by efficiency alone.

You may not be able to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but you can make something that looks an awful lot like one.

Dessert can never be too soon.

There is no demonstrable right or wrong.  There are merely altruism and egoism, compassion
and indifference, consistency and inconsistency, self-awareness and self-deception.

One’s workload expands to exceed the time available for it.

Talking with some people isn’t dialogue; it’s an interrupted monologue.

Our world is like a dog chasing its tail, the crazy calling the crazy crazy,

Not only are there emperors who have no clothes, most of them aren’t even emperors. 

You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.

They say that time is money, but you can make money.  You can’t make time.

There’s magic in names, not magic we can work upon their owners but the magic of things closely observed, for to learn their names it doesn’t suffice to just notice them in a perfunctory manner.

Tomorrow may not be another day.

Some bombs are smarter than others, but they’re all dumb.

It’s dirt poor or filthy rich.  Only the middle class is clean.

Compassion and generosity are by far the most important virtues.

The most dangerously insane are those who by clinical criteria are sane, the demagogues, the jingoists, the racists, the true believers.

As for capitalism I say, don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.  Just don’t let it run wild in the barnyard.

I’m no longer into road rage.  Customer service rage has left it in the dust.

Death is a funny fellow, all dressed up like the anti-hero of a Hollywood horror flick.

There are enough real puzzles in the world that no one should feel the need to struggle with contrived ones.

There’s a fine line between logic and sophistry.

“We have zero tolerance” means we used to tolerate it, but we got caught.

If Sisyphus were alive today, he wouldn’t be pushing a rock up a hill.  It would be a lawn mower.

Experience can blind us to what’s happening now.  This is the eternal weakness of military strategizing.

A cow may be sacred, but it’s still a cow.

A man needs a wife to warm his back and a woman a husband.

Yoga is a path to enlightenment, through contortion.

There is no limit to the number of territories one can find, journeying inwards.

I grew up in a nuclear family and raised my children in one.  In between there was the threat of nuclear war.  Now that’s all changed.  It’s gone nucular.

Insomnia is my constant companion.  It goes to bed with me like a spouse and is there when I awake.

Our planet, enjoy it while you still can.

The difference between the old world and the new is that here in the new world we have all night grocery stores, but we don’t have nightingales.

You don’t need to travel far to find the unfamiliar.  You just need to dig a little deeper where you are.

Reinventing the wheel isn’t a bad idea.  You sometimes come up with a better wheel.

It doesn’t matter much where I live geographically.  Basically I live in my mind.

Genius isn’t just a matter of seeing things others don’t see.  It’s also a matter of what you do with your insights.

Edison said that genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.  His work ethic was commendable, but without the 1% the 99% is worth next to nothing.

Birth is our first traumatic experience.

There’d be no death without life.

We produce too many lawyers and financiers in America and too few engineers.

Many books could be reduced to articles without significant loss.

We tell people what time to come to dinner.  Too bad it isn’t the custom to tell them also what time to leave.

The worst thing about sex isn’t sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies but the overpopulation it creates.

The true hero is he who eschews violence.

If a baker’s dozen is 13, a financier’s is 10.  The missing sixth is the financier’s fee.

Soldiering is considered an honorable profession, but is it a civilized one?  Soldiers are honored as much for humiliating and killing our enemies as for defending us.

The answer to lies or insults isn’t suppression.  That inevitably results in the suppression of truth.  The answer to lies or insults is truth.

What to us stinks, to a vulture is gourmet food.

Laughter is one of the best gifts of the gods.

What I want to know is when they are going to make croquet and tiddlywinks Olympic sports.

If you launder dirty money, does that makes it clean lucre?

Paris is a cliché. It's better to be good than to be great. Few slopes are slippery. Dogs are friendly, clumsy clowns.  Cats are aloof, lithe and dignified, but killers.

Where there’s no winter there’s no spring.

There’s no such thing as a little email.

Orthodoxy leads to stagnation, or worse.

It’s those who resist the allure of violence who are the greatest heroes.

We talk about the conventional wisdom.  What about the conventional stupidity?

We only ever know an interpretation, not just of history, but of events we're living through.

Sometimes the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

Just because we admire someone doesn’t mean we should approve of them.  Think Napoleon.

We should be more concerned about goodness than greatness.

Efforts to create utopias usually result in dystopias.

One picture may be worth a thousand words, but a few words may be worth thousands of pictures.

What is subject to endless growth?  Cancer and the human race.

Life is a perpetual motion machine.

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