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[ Erasmus of Rotterdam, writing.... ]
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Aphorisms for a human[e] world
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Everything that's obvious is begging to be investigated....
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Vanitas! Like much other human cultural effort, when I die or cease paying my monthly Internet Service Provider fee, or my ISP gets driven out of business, or the Internet itself changes to discriminate in some new way against "personal web pages", etc., all I have done here will almost surely be lost.
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[ ] THINK [ ] [ Notice what's hiding in plain sight! ]
[ For the 21st century: Slow food! Slow reflection on all the fast things running around! ] [ ]
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Caveat: If the shoe doesn't fit, please don't think I'm trying to make you wear it.
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[ Return to previous aphorisms! ]Return to previous aphorisms 
 36In the land of the blind, a one-eyed person is deemed to have a medical defect, and his eye is cut out for his own good, to make him healthy and whole, so he can enjoy a fully human life as a citizen of a civilized society which prides itself on and honors itself for thus "perfecting what nature left not quite finished".[fn.39a[ Go to footnote! ]] And parents make sure their children get operated on, because they love their children and do not want them to suffer or be stigmatized for being "unclean" (or even just "different").[ Notice what's hiding in plain sight! ]
 37 Forces of Nature. Constipation: You can't do what you want to do. Diarrhea: You have to do what you don't want to do. Headache: You can do what you want but you can't enjoy it.
Reality is a thing to be overcome.
 38 Some persons can judge [many] books by their covers. Other persons can't judge a book even by its contents.
"Pearls before swine" has a flip side: If one is treated like swine, one cannot wear pearls as they deserve to be worn. The brutality of one's life circumstances may make you hurt fine things, no matter how hard you try to protect them, thus making it dubious, if you are treated badly, whether you can enjoy fine things no matter how much you appreciate them.
 39 The five elements: Earth. Air. Fire. Water. Manpower.
A basic theorem of media ontology: There is always something on television.
 40 I am a true believer in the Right to postnatal life!
Anent foetal rights: I agree: Children born to parents too poor or otherwise incapable of providing them a good life should be able to sue for wrongful birth. [Prospective parents should have to post surety bonds.]
Preventing teenage pregnancies & STD infections: Nobody ever got pregnant from masturbating ~ Promote abstinence and orgasms! [See: Quote #220]
 41 "Unthinkable!" "Unspeakable!" -- [ Notice what's hiding in plain sight! ]"Get real!"
"You" don't have to be right to get "your" way if "you" can get people to let "you" get away with being self-righteous: "How can you even imagine [whatever]?" "I can't believe you're actually [saying or doing whatever]!" "That's outrageous!"....
The unthinkable is not for that reason impossible or even improbable, but by saying it we reassure ourselves that we are too good for such a thing to be happen to us.
The Annals of Politically Correct Belief. We all know Stalin was wrong when he required scientists to believe Lysenko's theory that human races are genetically indistinguishable -- Oops! I meant to say: Lysenko's theory that acquired characteristics are inherited.
 42 Follow the leader? No! Follow the audit trail!
Where's Waldo? Could there possibly be a crowd that -- no matter why the people crowded together -- Could there be a crowd that was not promoting crowding: dissolution of self in a mass?
 43 Make bonsai, not banzai!
[In vino veritas. But also:] In garlic we trust. (Olive oil, too.)
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01May03: Every day for lunch at work, I have been eating beans with garlic in olive oil, at my work desk. I love them, and I buy them at a very upscale store: The Chappaqua Village Market. This day my manager asked me to eat them in the kitchen due to the smell. That will make me stop working for 10 minutes each day if I want to continue to enjoy their taste and possible health benefits. (May 05: Now the checkout clerk at The Chappaqua Village Market "knows me", and wraps each container of beans I buy in a separate plastic bag which she ties to keep the smell from escaping.)
[ In garlic we trust! Eat more garlic! ]
PizzBruschetterias. The ubiquitously inescapable in your face pizza would be tolerable -- if it was [lightly toasted] bruschetta, instead.
[ Crescit eundo.... ]People say I repeat myself. I hope I do. I hope I don't say things that don't bear repeating. (Each time I "repeat" something, it means more than the previous time, because each "repetition" provides opportunity to think about it some more.) [ ] [ Remember, reflect, renew.... ]
The grammatical period should generally be interpreted not as marking the end of a thought (a stop mark), but as marking where to go back and review a thought (a recursion mark). "Under magnification", a period should look like the icons immediately above ("[ Crescit eundo.... ]").
 46 "They" always told me: "Don't criticize unless you have a better alternative!" But criticism itself already is a better alternative, since it replaces their life-form of trying to please one's "betters", with egalitarian dialog ("democracy").
 47 Cutting. Even more damaging, and even more ubiquitous than the circumcision of the flesh is the circumcision of the spirit.
No people are so poor as to be forced to forego ritually mutilating their children (or even, sometimes, themselves).
The ultimate Jewish/Islamic surname: "Briskin" -- Yes, there is actually a dentist in Westchester County, New York USA who has this surname (Ed note: G-d help us, aka: Ojala!).
[ Notice what's hiding in plain sight! ]
[ With a cellphone, you are always on the spot! ]Our world of total surveillance (and total intrusion!). We are losing our privacy, not because a totalitarian government is wresting it away from us, but because we are all enthusiastically going out and buying cell phones. We are saving "them" the trouble! We have chosen to be interruptible [ 24 / 7 :: What makes it tick? ]: "Why did you forget your cell phone so we could not get in touch with you [for whatever reason]? Or did you have it, and not answer? What's wrong with you?" And we have chosen to have no excuse for not immediately reporting everything persons with power over us would want to know: "You have your cell phone! Why didn't you immediately let us know [whatever]? What is your problem?"[fn.37d[ Go to footnote! ]]
 49 The only situations in which a person can plausibly apologize for something they have done are ones in which they know they will suffer no punishment or penalty if they do not apologize. Many apologies really mean: "Don't hurt me!"
 50 If it don't hurt you, it's not virtue.
Show [whoever] you care: Make a useless sacrifice for them![See example: fn.92[ Go to footnote! ]]
 51 Do some persons oppose a woman's "right to choose" because they secretly suspect they do not deserve to have been chosen?[fn.104a[ Go to footnote! ]]
 52 The Higher Mediocrity: People who know they are better than others because they eat Pommes Frites and not French Fries.
 53 If what you want to say is not what persons want to hear, then losing your voice is good for your health. (It gives you a chance to ask yourself if you really want to say it before you write it to them.)
 54 Man is a narrative animal. We make ourselves become the characters we identify with in the stories we tell ourselves in our heads. We cannot become anything better than we can imagine ourselves being. This almost always means: We cannot become anything better than our society has taught us a person can become.
 55 The Golden Rule: Do unto employees as you would have them do unto customers.
 56Whatever else you do: Add value! ("value added"). What value are you going to add to the human[e] world [aka: Civilization...] in the next 24 hours?[ Tell me the value you are going to add! ]
Just So Story: How Educational Testing Service (ETS) saved the Persian Empire. Philip of Macedon: "Sorry, son, but you can't study with Aristotle. Your SATs were too low." Alexander: "Gee, Dad... How am I going to be able to conquer the world without an Aristotelean education?" Philip: "I'm sorry, son. I offered to send you to the Kaplan SAT Prep course, but you weren't interested. It's too late now."
Is it any wonder we have persons who say that anything can mean anything (postmodernists), after we have already demonstrated that by showing that everything can mean something entirely irrelevant to whatever it means -- I am referring to how, in school, anything from Alexander The Great to a neutron or God or the fossil record (etc.) can mean 5 points on the final exam, or any other "meaning" the teacher may choose to assign to it.
 57 The early bird gets worms. ~ Tempus fidget.
Growing older, feeling I have less time left to live, I find ever less reason to spend any more time than necessary asleep or in bed.
 58 Fingerspitzengefuhl means a combination of experience and subtle instinct to spot that something is wrong, or something is suspicious, or something is likely to happen despite the odds -- a sort of sixth sense, an intuition in one's fingers.... Originally [wrongly], I thought that, literally, it meant placing a little saliva ["spit"] on one's finger before checking something out. Knowing that art conservators often put some saliva on their finger before testing or cleaning an artwork ("saliva is a good solvent"...), I still like my mistake.
 59 [ Learn about knotted letter symbol! ]"My name": "Bradford" means: Broad river crossing: firm ground for people to step on and walk across on their journeys forward in life -- albeit they have to put up with me getting their shoes wet in the process.... (I seem to remember my mother saying I am named after a man to whom was attracted but did not marry.)
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See symbols I have designed which I prefer to use to identify myself: (1) "Knotted letter", and (2) Cat kanji.
Call me anything you like, as long as you say something nice: nurturing, appealing, etc.... (In any case, it's OK if you forget "my name".)
Looking back on what I say and write, when it's too late to undo it, often I find I have stated some detail which is not exactly accurate, or used a word with an embarrassingly inappropriate derogatory overtone. Alternatively or in addition, I see I left out a word or phrase which would have made my message much richer in content, and also elegant and rhetorically effective ("esprit d'escalier").
I am thus "self-defeating", because of what psychoanalysts call: toxic introjects (aka intrusive parents, et al.) which colonized my soul in the cumulative trauma of my childrearing which left me with repressed rage which continues to look for oblique ways to discharge itself because I still fear to do so directly. An aspect of this is that "my nerves are shot", my reflexes (here: my rhetorical responses...) are in subtle ways crippled.
Example: "Someone" says something to me that I find hurtful. My reflex reaction is to "snap back" with some oblique invective that makes it look like I am attacking them. This shifts attention to what I did, so what they did gets forgotten and thus they escape having to justify their behavior, while I get put on the spot to have to justify -- more usually, and worse: "apologize for" -- mine. "Your hair looks weird." "I woke up with it that way." A few minutes later, it dawns on me how I made myself look bad instead of helping the other person feel bad about what they did (and, more importantly, help and encourage them do better in future!). "What you just said came across as critical. I'm sure you didn't mean it that way. What did you mean to say?..."
Even better example: "Someone" asks me to do something I really don't want to do, or am even sure can't be done. Instead of snapping back at them, and making myself look "uncooperative", I should say something like: "I'll get right on that. Let me see what I can do about it, and I'll get right back to you...." Later, after enough time has passed for them to feel I have exerted myself sufficiently toward their desired objective, if I indeed could not do it or could not do it except at serious harm to myself, I could get back to them and say: "I tried everything, and it just didn't work. I'm really sorry, but I did everything I could...."
I should not "put my foot in my mouth": besmirching my self-presentation and weakening my own arguments. But maybe these lapses of mine are only 99% bad: If someone isn't willing to make even small "allowances" to try to understand what I have to say, then maybe -- except in cases where the person is doing something really bad --, maybe my failures do them a favor by giving them "an easy way out" so that they don't have to face up to their bad behavior and their bad character, and consequently they can continue to think well of themselves?
Read more of my "confessions"[ >> ]
Also: Chart my course in life[ >> ]
Also: Two (2) specific dumb things I did recently[ >> ]
Further: Dilbert cartoon self-defeating thing I've done at work[ >> ]
Further: The peremptory discourse of petty power[ >> ]
 60 ["Musical chairs"] Not every addicted person can find salvation by finding a job treating other addicts.
Example of a person who did: Rachel Lloyd, former prostitute who now works in a supervisory position in a New York City prostitution prevention/outreach program: "'I always had a strong work ethic. I took a year off just to shoplift, but I would take that seriously, too. I used to get up at 8 o'clock in the morning, put on a suit, bun my hair and go out. I was good, too." (Shaila K. Dewan, "Guiding the Young Away From the Oldest Profession", NYT, 12Dec02, p.B2).
 61 Would that Matisse had been inspired by geishas instead of odalisques!
 62 I believe mania can be the result of a gifted person trying to escape from living in a disappointing world by infusing it with ever more meaning it does not really have.
Similarly, a person can become grandiose as a reaction to not recieving appropriate recognition for their abilities and/or accomplishments.
 63 Why not speak, conciliatorily, of the complementary sex (gender), rather than, oppositionally: "the opposite sex"?
Another problem: Using the word: "sex", unlike: "gender", suggests a connotation of "getting some" -- or at least deserving to.
 64 Just like war is diplomacy carried out by other means, economics is politics carried on by other means.
 65 If it don't fit in the dishwasher, and you don't wan'na wash it, don't dirty it.
 66 My father said that in the military mess hall in World War II, they had a sign: "Take what you want. Eat what you take." (cf. Marx's: "From each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs.")
Even though I like to eat meat (preferably raw, although not so eagerly since mad-cow disease, etc.), I would willingly trade never eating meat again if someone would prepare me a gourmet vegetarian dinner every nite.
 67 Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Leonardo's Mona Lisa, and Josquin des Prez' Missa Panga Linguae, all combined, together with all the rest of "high culture", are worth nothing -- if you are being gassed (Zyklon-B, e.g.), or are in some other way being threatened in your lower biological needs.
 68 [ Crescit eundo.... ]Connoisseurship of exemplary instances during many years is the spice of life. Variety is distraction and dissipation.
 69 (Remember "book reports" in high school?) Why do a book report? To tell someone who has not yet read the book why they should -- or should not -- use up part of their all-too-short remaining life-time reading the book. (See how simple it is!)
 70 Often when "somebody" asks "you": "What's that you're reading? [They can clearly see the title words on the cover!] What's it about?", the only answer that will be genuinely helpful to them is: "It's not really something I can explain to you in 25 words or less." (Of course, they often don't appreciate this.)
 71 Maybe some persons do "run around like a chicken with its head cut off"; I find myself often running around like a chicken that somebody has tied a bag over its head (because they have tied a bag over my head, and then they poke at me to make me jump around...).
 72 Claritas et caritas.
 73 Why don't conservatives and liberals agree that they both want the government to meddle in persons' personal lives, but that each side wants the government to meddle (and not meddle) in different ways?
 74 Principle: When the neighbors enjoy their charcoal grill, the carbon monoxide and other toxic fumes always blow into my house.
 75 Obviously, initiatives to "balance" and integrate work and family life are important. But where is the space for each person to cultivate, beyond reproduction of individual and species life, the life of the mind?
 76 Whatever we make or do, we are also making our form of life ("how we live"..) as co-product (no matter how little we take note of this). [E.g.: If you are an auto worker, you make the social world of autoworkers as well as making cars; if you are an automobile company vice-president, you make the social world of corporate vice-presidents as well as making decisions about what cars will be made....]
 77 St. Erving of Goffman, bless us this day! Help us find a way to work the system we have no choice but to work in. This we ask in thy merciful name. [See also Aphorism #32.]
 78 The fons et origo of economics: Where exclusionary property relations begin (be they "private property" and "the market", or "The People's property" and the government...), friendship ends.
 Go to even more aphorisms[ Go to even more aphorisms! ]
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»35There is no last word on any subject....
Conversation has no end (conversation is open-ended...); conversation is ended by misfortunate impingements of finitude and death.
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Leisure is the basis of culture.
[ ] [ Leisure: Luxe, calme et volupte is the basis of culture! ]  | [ Have a leisured lunch at a French cafe! ] [ Have a leisured lunch at a French cafe! ]
Learn how a city can deserve to exist (Louis Kahn).
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What I believe ("The net").  [[ Go to 'This I believe' page via intro.... ]View intro!]

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Copyright © 2002 Brad McCormick, Ed.D.
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