A culling of quotes for life

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Jan 04, 2007 11:36 AM
A culling of quotes for life

After 37 years in the same chair, I am retiring as the editor of the editorial pages of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. I emphatically am not hanging up this column, which I hope to continue until the preacher starts lying at my funeral.

Throughout, I have been a quotes nut — a collector of compelling observations from life and literature. These are some of the best on the important things — life, liberty, laughter, philosophy, wilderness, etc. . . .

Oliver Edwards: “I have tried in my time to be a philosopher, but…cheerfulness was always breaking in.”

William Pitt: “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants.”

George Santayana: “Life is a comedy to those who think and a tragedy to those who feel.”

Abraham Lincoln: “If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made against me, this shop might as well be closed to any other business. I do the very best I know how — the very best I can. And I mean to keep on doing it until the end. If the end brings me out all right, then what they say against me will not amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, then ten angels, swearing I was right, would make no difference.”

Rafael Sabatini: “He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense the world was mad.”

Francis Parkman: “To him who has once tasted the reckless independence, the haughty self-reliance, the sense of irresponsible freedom, which the forest life engenders, civilization thenceforth seems flat and stale. Its pleasures are insipid, its pursuits wearisome, its conventionalities, duties, and mutual dependences alike tedious and disgusting….The wilderness — rough, harsh, inexorable — has charms more potent in their seductive influence than all the lures of luxury and sloth. And often he on whom it has cast its magic finds no heart to dissolve the spell, and remains a wanderer and an Ishmaelite to the hour of his death.”

Mark Twain: “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”

Calvin Coolidge: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education cannot: The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan press on has solved, and always will solve, the problems of the human race.

Barry Goldwater: “And if I should be accused of neglecting my constituents’ interests, I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty, and in that cause I am doing the very best I can.”

T.S. Eliot: “I confess . . . that I am not myself very much concerned with the question of influence, or with those publicists who have impressed their names upon the public by catching the morning tide and rowing very vast in the direction in which the current was flowing; but rather that there should always be a few writers preoccupied in penetrating to the core of the matter, in trying to arrive at the truth and to set it forth, without too much hope, without ambition to alter the immediate course of affairs, and without being downcast or defeated when nothing appears to ensue.”

Anon: “If you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly.”

Whittaker Chambers: “It is part of the failure of the West to understand that it is at grips with an enemy having no moral viewpoint in common with itself, that two irreconcilable viewpoints and standards of judgment, two irreconcilable moralities proceeding from two irreconcilable readings of man’s fate and future are involved, and, hence, their conflict is irrepressible.”

Frank Herbert: “Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.”

John Voelker: “I fish because I love to. Because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly. Because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape. Because in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing what they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion. Because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility, and endless patience. Because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time and I for one don’t want to waste the trip. Because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters. Because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness. Because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there. Because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid. And finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important, but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant — and not nearly so much fun.”