Wisdom & Provocation

"Education: the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty."

~Mark Twain

"There is no happiness. Only concentration."

~Al Pacino

“Sometimes at midnight, in the great silence of the sleep-bound town, the doctor turned on his radio before going to bed for the few hours’ sleep he allowed himself. And from the ends of the earth, across the thousands of miles of land and sea, kindly, well-meaning speakers tried to voice their fellow-feeling, and indeed did so, but at the same time proved the utter incapacity of every man truly to share in suffering that he cannot see.”

~Albert Camus, The Plague

“When shocking events happen, the lazy are quick to toss around adjectives like ‘unprecedented.’ There’s really no such thing. Curious minds search for illuminating historical parallels, however imperfect; they turn to the past to understand the present.”

~James Hohmann in The Washington Post

"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

~Henry Ford

“And let’s face it, Dad, it’s not for the sake of art. It’s because you just want to feel relevant again. Well, there’s a whole world out there where people fight to be relevant every day. And you act like it doesn’t even exist! Things are happening in a place that you willfully ignore, a place that has already forgotten you. I mean, who are you? You hate bloggers. You make fun of Twitter. You don’t even have a Facebook page. You’re the one who doesn’t exist. You’re doing this because you’re scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don’t matter. And you know what? You’re right. You don’t. It’s not important. You’re not important. Get used to it.”

~Sam, in Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), script by Alejandro González Iñárritu

We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.

~John Dewey, "How We Think"

"Many public-school children seem to know only two dates: 1492 and 4th of July, and as a rule, they don't know what happened on either occasion."

~Mark Twain

“The nation-state system is really ill-equipped to deal with how to solve the problems of global climate change.”

~William Gaudelli, Columbia University

“It is advisable that the teacher should understand, and even be able to criticize, the general principles upon which the whole educational system is formed and administered. He is not like a private soldier in any army, expected merely to obey, or like a cog in a wheel, expected merely to respond to and transmit external energy; he must be an intelligent medium of action."

~John Dewey

"Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul."

~Edward Abbey

“The evil in the world comes almost always from ignorance, and goodwill can cause as much damage as ill-will if it is not enlightened. People are more often good than bad, though in fact that is not the question. But they are more or less ignorant and this is what one calls vice or virtue, the most appalling vice being the ignorance that thinks it knows everything and which consequently authorizes itself to kill. The murderer's soul is blind, and there is no true goodness or fine love without the greatest possible degree of clear-sightedness.”

~Albert Camus, The Plague

“I told my comrades (who lay motionless, although occasionally a sigh could be heard) that human life, under any circumstances, never ceases to have a meaning, and that this infinite meaning of life includes suffering and dying, privation and death…. They must not lose hope but should keep their courage in the certainty that the hopelessness of our struggle did not detract from its dignity and its meaning.”

Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

“I realized that one reason people cling to false beliefs is because self-deception can sometimes be functional—it enables us to accomplish useful social, psychological or biological goals. Holding false beliefs is not always the mark of idiocy, pathology, or villainy.”

~Shankar Vedantam, “The Lure of Self-Deception”

“If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, "He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.”


"But as I grew older, as Chaos had her way with me, as I made a wreck of my own life and began to try to piece it back together, I started to wonder about this taxonomist [David Starr Jordan]. Maybe he had figured something out--about persistence, or purpose, or how to go on--that I needed to know. Maybe it was okay to have some outsized faith in yourself. Maybe plunging along in complete denial of your doomed chances was not the mark of a fool but--it felt sinful to think it--a victor?

~Lulu Miller, Why Fish Don't Exist

"If the world were perfect, it wouldn't be."

~Yogi Berra

"Between saying and doing, many a pair of shoes is worn out."

~Iris Murdoch