Thursday, April 8, 2010
Currently: sitting in the yet-to-be-created Edward Said Reading Room in Butler Library, full of wonderful books that have been owned, consumed, devoured, dedicated to, and praised by Edward Said. In it I found this hilarious and pithy gem: a book of aphorisms and statements by Charles Issawi, who, according to the Great God Wikipedia, used to teach at Columbia. It's a wonderfully wise compilation of complete randomness, and I love it.
A few of my favorite aphorisms:
ON INTELLECTUALS: Intellectuals are the salt of the earth. But how unpleasant is the soup that is oversalted.
SOME DEPRESSING THOUGHTS: I
-If a people tie the hands of their government, it cannot serve them; if they do not, it uses its hands to pick their pockets and squeeze their throats.
-The tragedy of politics: If you live with pirates, you must behave like a pirate ("a corsaire, corsaire et demi"); but if you behave like a pirate, you end by becoming one yourself.
-One cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs-- but it is amazing how many eggs one can break without making a decent omelette.
ON SOLVERS OF MIDDLE-EASTERN PROBLEMS: God sent Moses, and he couldn't fix it; he sent Jesus, and he couldn't fix it; he sent Muhammad, and he couldn't fix it. Do you think you can fix it?
ON POLITICAL ACTIVISTS: Those who have a satisfying life follow their own pursuits-- money-making, scholarship, art, love, sports, gardening, or stamp-collecting; those who do not, become political activists.
ON PREDICTION: If you predict the worst possible outcome of any situation, the probability of your being right is 0.9135.
ON REFORM: Most people do not go to the dentist until they have a toothache; most societies do not reform abuses until the victims begin to make life uncomfortable for others.
ON CYNICS: Cynics are right nine times out of ten; what undoes them is their belief that they are right ten times out of ten.