“A wise man learns more from his enemies than a fool from his friends.”
Baltasar Gracian (1601-1658)
Born in the Spanish province of Aragon, Gracian studied theology in Zaragoza and took holy orders as a Jesuit in 1633. He was admired as an orator in his lifetime and much sought after for his sermons, which featured such novelties as reading letters purportedly sent from hell. Such flourishes were frowned upon by his superiors, whom he so frequently disobeyed that he was eventually banished to a small village in the Pyrenees. He is best known today for his satirical pilgrimage novel Criticon and his compendium of maxims The Art of Worldly Wisdom. These were so admired by Schopenhauer that he translated them into German. Later thinkers including Nietzsche, Defoe and Gide cite him as an influence.
With this post the Quote of the Week celebrates five years with Good Morning Gloucester, about two hundred and fifty entries. Just so you know, I write the bios based on my research to give the quote context, and one can click on the name or the picture that Joey adds to be connected to a Wikipedia entry for that particular author. Sometimes the adages are only attributed when I can’t find evidence of the direct quote; famous quipsters like Abraham Lincoln and Yogi Berra are often credited with things others actually said first.
I am always encouraged by your comments, and your suggestions are welcome too.
Many thanks to Joey and the GMG team for creating a forum where these lines can be shared. I find it astonishing how much wisdom there is in the world, and how the thoughts of famous men and women can apply to my own life. I hope you do too.
“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”
Agatha Christie (1890-1976)
Born Agatha Miller to a wealthy upper class family in Britain, she was home schooled and served as a volunteer nurse during the First World War. She married Archibald Christie in 1913, but they were divorced in 1926. Although she began to write during this period it was not until the publication of her first novel featuring Hercule Poirot that she enjoyed popular success. She went on to create several other characters, such as Miss Jane Marple, who have become staples of English crime literature and, more recently, the PBS series Mystery. Christie’s stage play, The Mousetrap, began its unequalled run in 1952 and is still running today. She is the most published novelist in history and trails only Shakespeare and the Bible in the number of books sold. She was made Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in 1972 and has won every literary award in her genre. She had a lifelong interest in archeology, which she frequently pursued with her second husband Sir Max Mallowan.
“Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.”
Edgar Bergen (1903-1978)
While this quote is variously attributed to Milan Kundera, Steven Wright, and others, the earliest citation I could find was from Bergen, who was born in Michigan, but spent much of his youth in Sweden. After his family returned to the United States, he taught himself ventriloquism and got his start in vaudeville, where he, and his dummy/alter ego Charlie McCarthy were discovered by radio producers for the Chase and Sanborn Hour. Even though the talents of a ventriloquist are harder to appreciate on the radio, the duo became big stars for their self-deprecating and often incisive humor, played against other well-known figures of the era such as Mae West and W.C. Fields. Bergen successfully made the transition to television and continued to work in the nightclub circuit until three days before he died. The beautiful and talented Candace Bergen is his daughter.
“Many of our prayers were not answered, and for this we are now grateful.”
William Feather (1889-1981)
A native of upstate New York, Feather moved to Cleveland as a teenager and graduated from Western Reserve University in 1910. He was a reporter for The Cleveland Plain Dealer for several years before starting The William Feather Magazine with a friend who owned a print shop. He later married Ruth Presley and borrowed against her inheritance to buy out the friend. As sole owner and publisher, he used the magazine to gain a national reputation as a “benevolent iconoclast” writing on business, taxation, and philosophy. He often sparred verbally with H. L. Mencken on issues such as a flat tax and advantages for businessmen. He remained editor of the magazine until his death at 92.
February 14, 2015
“The one thing a creator can bring to the table when everybody else has all the money and power, is centeredness and the ability to walk away. Never sit at a table you can’t walk away from.”
Joseph H. “Joss” Whedon (1964- )
The grandson, son and brother of screenwriters, Whedon is perhaps best known as the creator of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, although he also co-wrote Toy Story, and is the co-founder of the production companies Bellwether and Mutant Enemy. He wrote and directed The Avengers, the third highest grossing film of all time. Through his collaborations with Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios he created several series of graphic novels and sequential films sharing a common “universe” and themes centering on feminism, anti-authoritarianism, existentialism, and the importance of community. Winner of the Emmy and Saturn Awards, Whedon created the sci-fi cult-classic Firefly series and its follow-on movie Serenity.
“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”
Havelock Ellis (1859-1939)
Born in Britain to a sea-going family, Ellis spent many of his teen age years in Australia before returning to England to study medicine. In 1897 he published Sexual Inversion, the first book to study homosexuality and transgender issues objectively and without moral judgment. He was an active social reformer and president of the influential Galton Society which promoted eugenics, an attempt to improve human traits through controlled reproduction, later so discredited by the Nazis. His early studies on autoeroticism and narcissism prefigured those of Sigmund Freud. He was married to Edith Lees, an avowed lesbian, but they lived apart, and he himself complained of impotence for most of his life.
“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.”
Lou Holtz (1937- )
Best known as a football coach and motivational speaker, Holtz is a West Virginia native who had a brief career as a player at Kent State. Famously quick witted, his inspirational abilities have allowed him to hold head coaching positions at six different academic institutions and to compile a 249-132-7 record. Although hired by Notre Dame with a lifetime contract, it is rumored that he was forced to retire before he broke Knute Rockne’s record of 105 wins with that team. He is a commentator for ESPN and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008. A long-time Republican, he frequently appears on Fox News, but also donated to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 effort.
“It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety.”
Isaac Asimov (1920?-1992)
Born in Russia, Isaak Yudovich Ozimov immigrated to the United States with his parents at the age of three. A voracious reader of science fiction, he began writing as a pre-teen, selling his first piece in 1939 to Amazing Stories Magazine. He would go on to become one of the most prolific of sci-fi and hard science writers, publishing an astonishing 500 books in nine of the ten categories of the Dewey Decimal System, while simultaneously holding a tenured position as Professor of Biochemistry at Boston University. Recognized as one of the most brilliant men of his age, he was Vice President of Mensa, and opined that Carl Sagan and Marvin Minsky were the only two people he knew who were smarter than he. In his science fiction work he is perhaps best known for his Foundation Series and for I, Robot which propounds the Three Laws of Robotics, incorporated by an entire generation of writers from Roddenberry and Clarke to Ellison and Silverberg. He was a six-time winner of the Hugo Award and has a crater on Mars and an asteroid named in his honor.
“You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”
Ayn Rand (1905-1982) from the GHS Guidance Newsletter
Born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Rand moved to the United States in 1926 with the intention of becoming a screenwriter. After two unsuccessful novels and a largely unnoticed play, she wrote The Fountainhead, published in 1943, which established her fame as a writer and was later made into a popular movie. Her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, expanded on her rationalist, anti-romantic themes, which she labeled Objectivism. This book essentially ended her career as a novelist, as she became more and more influential in Republican and conservative political circles for her libertarian philosophies, which rejected altruism and promoted laissez-faire capitalism. She continued to lead the Objectivist movement until her death due to complications of heavy smoking and decades of amphetamine use.
“Happiness equals reality minus expectations”
Tom Magliozzi (1937-2014)
A native of Cambridge (our fair city) MA, Magliozzi was, with younger brother Ray, host of the NPR call-in show “Car Talk” which started locally on WBUR before going national, first as a weekly segment with Susan Stamberg on Weekend Edition, then in its own right as an hourly program, produced by Doug (The Subway Fugitive) Berman. Although they were auto mechanics and owners of a garage, Tom had an engineering degree from MIT and later an MBA and PhD from Northeastern and Boston Universities. He ran an international consulting business and taught at the university level for many years, but it was his infectious laugh and unbridled silliness for which he is most remembered. The show was recognized with the Peabody Award in 1992, and is widely considered to have changed the nature of public radio.
“The world is full of willing people, some willing to work, the rest willing to let them.”
Robert Frost (1864-1963)
Often cast as the quintessential New England rural poet, Frost was a San Francisco native, who then spent the majority of his youth in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He attended Dartmouth and Harvard Colleges, but graduated from neither, ultimately settling in Derry, New Hampshire, where he wrote many of the poems for which he is most famous including “Mending Wall.” He taught English at Pinkerton Academy, (my alma mater) and at Middlebury College for many years. Frost’s gift was to be able to take the doings of everyday people and express them in the vernacular while teasing out the deeper meanings that we are often too busy to see. Although he was recognized and honored in his lifetime, winning four Pulitzer prizes, receiving more than forty honorary degrees, and reading “The Gift Outright” at John Kennedy’s inaugural, he was no stranger to grief and depression, losing both his parents at an early age and outliving all but two of his six children.
“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”
Beverly Sills (1929-2007)
Born Belle Miriam Silverman in Brooklyn to immigrant parents from Ukraine, Sills won her first singing contest at age three and would go on to win first place on both the Major Bowles Amateur Hour and Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, the American Idol of their day. She broke into opera in the late forties, specializing in the work of Donizetti, Rossini and Massenet, and by 1971 appeared on the cover of Time Magazine as “America’s Queen of the Opera”, despite limiting her career to spend more time at home with her children, both born with disabilities. She retired from singing in 1980, but continued in the public eye, first as director of the New York City Opera, then Chair of Lincoln Center, and finally of the Metropolitan Opera, while simultaneously offering her celebrity to the March of Dimes and other charities. She was the recipient of four honorary doctorates, multiple Emmy and Grammy nominations, and the 1980 Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.”
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)
A Jamaica Plain native, Plath wrote and published poetry from an early age. Educated at Smith College, where she edited the college magazine, she received a Fulbright grant to study at Cambridge University in England, where she met and later married poet Ted Hughes. She struggled with depression throughout her life, spending significant time at McLean’s hospital in Belmont and receiving electroshock therapy. Plath is credited with popularizing the confessional poetry genre and won the Pulitzer Prize for her collection Ariel. She survived a number of suicide attempts, but ultimately succumbed just after the publication of her novel The Bell Jar, leaving two children aged 2 and nine months.
“I would rather be able to appreciate things I can’t have, than have things I am not able to appreciate.”
Elbert Green Hubbard (1856-1915)
An Illinois native, Hubbard enjoyed early wealth as a successful salesman for the Larkin Soap Company. Inspired by John Ruskin and William Morris, the self-described socialist founded the Roycroft Press and later the Roycroft Community in East Aurora, New York, whose shops produced furniture and printing that had a profound influence on the Arts and Crafts Movement. During the First World War he was fined and had his passport revoked for printing anti-war commentary. He successfully appealed directly to President Woodrow Wilson for it to be reinstated and traveled to Europe to report on the war. Hubbard and his wife were returning to the States on the RMS Lusitania when it was torpedoed by a U-boat and sank off Ireland, both died. Another Hubbard quote: “Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out of it alive.”
“…the intrigue of existence would be purposeless without the element of the ineffable.”
Timothy Wilson (198?- ) From Quantum Art Review (as is the bio below.)
Timothy was born and raised in rural Maine. Upon graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design he enrolled briefly at the Grand Central Academy before moving back to Maine to work as a creative designer for a clothing company. Not long after, he decided to leave the portence of a successful career and pursue a life as a frustrated painter. In November he will be undertaking a two month Fellowship in the Hudson Valley courtesy of the Art Students League. Timothy keeps his studio in Portland, Maine where he occasionally cat sits for his sister’s purebred Persian. His solo exhibition at the Steven Amedee Gallery in New York City opens in October.
With thanks to Nick Bover
August 29, 2014
“They say such nice things about people at their funerals that it makes me sad that I’m going to miss mine by just a few days.”
Gary Edward “Garrison” Keillor (1942- )
The Minnesota native has been the host of the popular radio show “A Prairie Home Companion,” a fixture on NPR since 1974 portraying life in the fictional Midwestern town Lake Wobegon. Thrice married, Keillor’s folksy story telling mixed with literary allusions has been published in the New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and Salon.com.
His liberal politics and opposition to the policies of George W. Bush have raised the ire of some of his conservative listeners, but he has been a sought-after speaker and voice-over artist. Keillor has won the Peabody Award, the National Humanities Award, the Steinbeck Award, a Grammy, and the first Moth Award for excellence in story-telling.
August 21, 2014
To be disciplined is to follow in a good way
To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way
Consider everything as an experiment
Nothing is a mistake
There is no win
There is no fail
There is only MAKE
Don’t try to analyze and create at the same time
They are different processes
Be happy when you can manage it
It is lighter than you think
There will be new rules next week.
Excerpted from the Immaculate Heart College Art Department rules
Sister Mary Corita (1918-1986)
Born Frances Elizabeth Kent, the Iowa native joined the Roman Catholic Sisters of the Immaculate Heart in 1936. She studied art at Otis College of Art and Design and the Chouinard Institute and received her BA from Immaculate Heart College where she laterbecame the Chair of the Art Department. She said her work was influenced by Buckminster Fuller and Charles and Ray Eames, with whom she enjoyed close relationships as she developed her signature style of painting and serigraphy, said by many to have changed the course of modern art. Corita Kent left the sisterhood in 1968, moved to Boston, and devoted herself to a highly successful life as a studio artist. Among her best known works are the “Love” postage stamp from 1985 and the controversial gas storage tanks on the Southeast Expressway in Dorchester which are said to contain the profile of Ho Chi Minh.
With thanks to Christina Sun, in whose excellent Bowsprite: A New York Harbor Sketchbook I found this excerpt.
Gregory R Bover
A reprise from March 2012
“God gave men both a penis and a brain, but only enough blood to run one at a time.”
Robin Williams (1952-2014) R.I.P.
A Chicago native, Williams attended Claremont McKenna College and the Juilliard School, breaking into television as the alien Mork on “Happy Days”. Mork was such a popular character that the spin-off “Mork and Mindy” ran four years providing Williams with the perfect vehicle for his unparalleled mimicry and improvisational impersonations.
A veteran of dozens of film roles from Peter Pan to the deranged killer in Insomnia, Williams received an Academy award for his portrayal of a Harvard professor in Good Will Hunting, as well as several Emmys, Golden Globes and other awards.
Williams continued to perform stand-up comedy and was active in support of myriads of charities, several connected to his battles with substance abuse and depression. Thrice married, the quote may reflect self-awareness.
August 1, 2014
“The trouble is, you think you have time.”
Gautama Buddha (circa 563-483 BCE)
Although the exact historicity of his life is lost in time it is generally accepted that Siddhartha Gautama, born a prince in what is now Nepal, was a member of the warrior/ruler class who, as a mature and married man, renounced his noble life and began many years of wandering and study, ultimately rejecting the extremes of asceticism and hedonism to establish a middle way to spiritual awakening. He spent the rest of his life teaching the Dharma, or the nature of things, and expounding the Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths, the acceptance of which is said to be the route to Nirvana, the perfect peace of a mind free from ignorance, greed and hatred. He is also reputed to have said ”No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”
With thanks to Shelley Vincent
July 24, 2014
Confidence is 10% hard work and 90% delusion.
Elizabeth Stamatina “Tina” Fey, (1970- )
A Pennsylvania native, Tina Fey was interested in comedy from an early age and got her foot in the door with The Second City improv group, moving to Saturday Night Live as a writer in 1992. She later became an on-screen performer and ultimately head writer for the series. She is probably best known for her spot-on impersonation of vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin, and her long tenure as co-anchor of the Weekend Update segment, first with Jimmy Fallon and later with Amy Poehler. She left SNL in 2006 to develop the sitcom 30 Rock and has appeared in more than a dozen movies. She is one of the most highly paid actresses working today and is often listed as one of the most influential women in show business. Fey is a multiple winner of the Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards. In 2010 she was honored with the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the youngest recipient to date.