Quotes #14: All Too Human Frailty:
When One or More Are Gathered...
Whenever more than one person is present, society instantly exists. The moment that one person wants something of the other, language or some other means of communication is born. And so the interactive effect of society on language and communication and vice versa begins.
Out of the struggle to understand and live together, civilization is born as people start coping with their all too human frailty.
Humans are Social Animals That Sometimes Act That Way:
The Common Human Tragedy:
The Natural State of Chaos
are Civilizing Influences to Tame, Educate, and Uplift
The Common Human Tragedy: The Natural State of Chaos
"Most human beings have to spend
their lives in utter vulnerability.
and survive only through the restraint shown by more powerful
neighbors. All are born unequal, in terms of capacity or
strength. All are born in the inherent frailty of the human
condition, naked and helpless, vulnerable all through life to
the will of others, limited by ignorance, limited by physical
weakness, limited by fear, limited by the phobias that
"...during the time men live
without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in
that condition that is called war, as is of every man, against
every man... Man in a state of nature is a brutish beast."
"Two people cannot be alone together
for upwards of half an hour without one emerging as the superior."
"Our lives are suspended like
our planet in gimbals of duality, half sunlight and half shadow.
If we plead with nature, it is in vain; she is wonderfully
indifferent to our fate, and it is her custom to try
everything and to be ruthless with incompetence.
Ninety-nine percent of all the species that have lived on
Earth have died away, and no stars will wink out in
tribute if we in our folly soon join them."
"In a culture of electronic violence,
images that once caused us to empathize with the pain and trauma of
another human being, excite a momentary adrenaline rush. To be numb
to another's pain - to be acculturated to violence - is one of the
worst consequences our technological advances. That indifference
transfers from the screen, TV, film, Internet, and electronic games
to our everyday lives."
"Reason is a biological product:
a tool whose power is inherently and substantially
restricted. It has improved how we do things; it has not
changed why we do things. Reason has generated knowledge
enabling us to fly around the world in less than two
days. Yet we still travel for the same purposes that
drove our ancient ancestors --
religion, romance, curiosity, or escape from
overcrowding, poverty, and persecution.
The Implied Social Contract: The Attempt to Bring Order to Chaos
"Society is indeed a contract.
It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a
partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. As
the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many
generations, it becomes a partnership not only between
those who are living, but between those who are living,
those who are dead, and those who are to be born."
"'Society everywhere is in
conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.
The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is
its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names
"Some of my unhappiest moments
have been in organizations. Somehow it seems to be quite
respectable to do things in organizations that you would never
do in private life. I have had people insult me to my face in
front of colleagues. I have had my feelings rammed down
my throat on the pretext that it would do me good. I have
been required to do things which I didn't agree with
because the organization wished it... In my worst moments
I have thought organizations were places designed to be
run by sadists and staffed by masochists."
"Go light on the vices, such as
carrying on in society. The social life ain't restful. Avoid
running at all times. Don't look back. Something may be gaining
"What has crippled our political
discourse is a long-indurated habit of demanding from government
qualities that should be sought, primarily, in other aspects of
our social life. Government plays a limited role in human activity,
and it should have the aspects suited to its limits. It cannot be
the family, the church, the local club, the private intellectual
circle - all of which show the anti-governmental qualities some
seek to impose on the state. When government does not show all the
human virtues, it is rejected as contributing to none of them. That
asks too much of government, as a preliminary to expecting nothing
"Any law that takes hold of a
man's daily life cannot prevail in a community, unless the vast
majority of the community are actively in favor of it. The laws
that are the most operative are the laws which protect life."
"Any relations in a social order
will endure, if there is infused into them some of that spirit
of human sympathy which qualifies life for immortality."
"Men heap together the mistakes
of their lives, and create a monster they call Society."
"Chaos often breeds life, when order
"There are four ways, and only four
ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated
and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we
look, what we say, and how we say it."
"The art of communication is the
language of leadership."
An Organized Society Requires Us All to Play Language Games
"Language is the armory of the
human mind, and at once contains the trophies of its past and
the weapons of its future conquests."
"In the game known as Broken
Telephone (or Chinese Whispers) a child whispers a phrase
into the ear of a second child, who whispers it into the ear
of a third child, and so one. Distortions accumulate, and
when the last child announces the phrase, it is comically
different from the original. The game works because each
child does not merely degrade the phrase, which would
culminate in a mumble, but reanalyzes it, making a best
guess about the words the preceding child had in
"The fun of Pinker's game
(see above) is forever destroyed by simply changing the
rules so that instead of whispering the sentence to the
next person we write it on a slip of paper (or a computer
screen) and hand it along. Now there is no room for
interpretation or creativity. Yet that may be the direction
we are heading."
Language Confines, Defines, and Describes Experience
"The individual's whole
experience is built upon the plan of his language."
"Language which makes
communication possible is also the construct which prevent
us from having a pure experience with the Source. Language
serves as an intermediary between the pure 'bubble of
information' that floats down to us from the source and
the finite minds at various levels of consciousness which
struggle to interpret and comprehend that information."
"Intuition is the clear
conception of the whole at once."
"Language shapes the way we
think, and determines what we can think about."
"If we spoke a different
language, we would perceive a somewhat different world."
"Even now as you are speaking
to me, are the words you are thinking in our language or in
"To have another language
is to possess a second soul."
"Language is the inventory
of human experience."
"Words are the leaves of the
tree of language, of which, if some fall away, a new succession
takes their place."
"Language is a process of free
creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner
in which the principles of generation are used is free and
infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words
involves a process of free creation."
"Those who know nothing of
foreign languages, knows nothing of their own."
"Language is the blood of the soul
"Language furnishes the best proof
that a law accepted by a community is a thing that is tolerated and
not a rule to which all freely consent."
Language Divides and Conquers in the Struggle to Communicate
"Britain and America: two great
countries divided by a common language."
"Look at the... deterioration
which our Queen's English has undergone at the hands of the
Americans! Look at those phrases which so annoy us in their
books and speeches, at their reckless exaggeration and
contempt for congruity!"
"The American language is in a
state of flux based upon survival of the unfittest."
"The problems of society will
also be the problems of the predominant language of that
society. It is the carrier of its perceptions, its attitudes,
and its goals, for through it, the speakers absorb entrenched
"'The fact that any alien race
communicates with another is quite remarkable' Troi says as she
lifts Picard's clear glass cup filled with coffee from his
desk. 'We are stranded on a planet. No language in common
but I want to teach you mine.' Troi points to the cup and
says 'S'smarith... what did I just say?' Picard answers
'Cup? Glass?' Troi asks 'Are you sure? I might have meant
liquid, clear, brown, hot. And we conceptualize the
universe in the same way.'"
"Legal language enshrouds
the law, hiding it from the public it exists to serve. The
idiom of the lawyer leads to public ignorance of the content
of the law (which paradoxically refuses to recognize that
ignorance of the law should be a defence), to uninformed
criticism and to unmerited praise. It provokes the indifference
of too many laymen towards the law and the contempt of
litigants for a system they do not understand."
"The future business of
businesses that have a future will be about subtle differences,
not wholesale conformity. About diversity, not homogeneity;
about breaking rules, not enforcing them. About pushing the
envelope, not punching the clock; about invitation, not
protection; about doing it first, not doing it
"right". About making it better, not making it
perfect; about telling the truth, not spinning bigger
lies; about turning people on, not 'packaging' them.
Perhaps above all, about building convivial communities
and knowledge ecologies, not leveraging demographic
"Electric communication will
never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their
soul encourages another person to be brave and true."
"Language is a city to the
building of which every human being brought a stone."
"To effectively communicate,
we must realize that we are all different in the way we
perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide
to our communication with others."
"How many languages are
there in the world? How about 5 billion! Each of us talks,
listens, and thinks in his/her own special language that
has been shaped by our culture, experiences, profession,
personality, mores and attitudes. The chances of us meeting
someone else who talks the exact same language is pretty
Luckily There are Civilizing Influences to Tame, Educate, and Uplift
"There can be no be no better
instruction... than that every man who is to deal with his
neighbor to follow these commandments.
'Whatsoever ye would that
others should do unto you, do ye also unto them,'
'Love thy neighbor as thyself.'
If these were always followed, then
everything would instruct and arrange itself; then no law
books nor courts nor judicial actions would be required. All
things would quietly and simply be set to rights, for
everyone's heart and conscience would guide them."
were eager for good advice, especially advice concerning their
conduct. Children who wanted to be more grown up and adults
who wanted to be smarter, shrewder, or more couth, consumed
manuals of advice and instruction, written here or
"There are men who would
quickly love each other if once they were speak to each
other; for when they spoke they would discover that
their souls had only separated by phantoms and delusions."
"A thought which does not
result in an action is nothing much, and an action which
does not proceed from a thought is nothing at all. It is
civilization that marries thought with action in a way
which benefits everyone."
"Man's chief purpose... is
the creation and preservation of values. That is what gives
meaning to our civilization and the participation in this
is what gives significance, ultimately, to the individual
"Be the master of your will
and the slave of your conscience."
"Don't point a finger:
lend a hand.
"It is a myth, not a
mandate, a fable not a logic, and symbol rather than
a reason by which men are moved."
"The progress of
civilization is the degree to which intelligence has
prevailed over wealth and brute force."
with order, grows with liberty, and dies with chaos."
The Court of Public Opinion, the Laws of Etiquette, the Moral of Manners
"Things being understood,
knowledge became complete.
"Manners or etiquette
('accessibility, affability, politeness, refinement,
propriety, courtesy, and ingratiating and captivating
behavior') call for no large measure of moral determination
and cannot, therefore, be reckoned as virtues. Even though
manners are no virtues, they are a means of developing virtue....
The more we refine the crude elements in our nature, the
more we improve our humanity and the more capable it grows
of feeling the driving force of virtuous principles."
"Manners are of more importance
than laws. Upon them, in a great measure the laws depend. The
law touches us but here and there, and now and then. Manners
are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase,
barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform,
insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in.
They give their whole form and colour to our lives.
According to their quality, they aid morals, they supply
them, or they totally destroy them."
"Manners must adorn knowledge,
and smooth its way through the world. Like a great rough
diamond, it may do very well in a closet by way of curiosity,
and also for its intrinsic value."
"As any student of civility would,
I find it a fascinating notion: that there are professions for
which incivility is a requirement... I am skeptical of their
morality, because they fail to convey a message that
we are, all of us, not lone drivers but
fellow passengers.It may be that
law and politics seem so dismally rude because their principal
ethic is merely one of victory, an ethic materially enriching
and emotionally satisfying, but morally unimportant."
"Empathy and fellow feeling form
the very basis of morality. The capacities for empathy, for
feeling responsibility toward others and for reaching out to
help them can be stunted or undermined early on, depending on
a child's experiences in the home and neighborhood. It becomes
too easy to turn our backs on fellow human beings... to have
'compassion fatigue.' Technology, we are learning, is not
"Seek to purge yourself
from "'idols' or tendencies to error. These come
from human nature ("idols of the tribe"), from
individual temperament and experience ("idols of
the cave"), from language ("idols of the
marketplace"), and from false philosophies
("idols of the theater")."
"When men are pure, laws
are useless. When men are corrupt, laws are broken."
The Cycle of Life and The Evolution of Consciousness
"Author John Vernon had this
unexpected reading experience when he opened the pages of
the tattered 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica
handed down to him by his father-in-law:
"In olden days, a glimpse of
stocking was looked on as something shocking. But now, God
knows, anything goes. Good authors too who once knew better
words now only use four-letter words writing prose, Anything
goes. The world has gone mad today and good's bad today, and
black's white today, and day's night today."
"Today, when man seems to have
reached the beginning of a new, richer, happier human era, his
existence and that of the generations to follow is more
threatened than ever. How is this possible?"
At the End of All Our Wanderings, We Find Ourselves for the First Time
"The life of every individual,
if we survey it as a whole and in general, and only lay
stress upon its most significant features, is really always
a tragedy, but gone through in detail, it has the character
of a comedy. For the deeds and vexations of the day, the
restless irritation of the moment, the desires and fears of
the week, the mishaps of every hour, are all through chance,
which is ever bent upon some jest, scenes of a comedy."
"To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection
of children. To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of friends. To appreciate beauty,
to find the best in others. To leave the world a little
better place than we found it, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition. To know even
one life breathed easier because you lived. This is to have
succeeded." (This is to have lived. -EM)
"For more and more people
the world is coming to resemble a
filled with new kinds of beings -- Gastarbeiters and boat
people and Marielitos -- as well as new kinds of realities:
Rwandans in Auckland and Moroccans in Iceland.
"Darkness cannot drive out
darkness; only light can do that.
"We have met the enemy and
he is us."
"No nation should take its good
luck for granted, no society should become complacent about
its harmony, no community should deny the power of the
unexpected to upend settled lives. But equally no nation
should forget to salute its citizens, celebrate its achievements
and build an identity based on a mature understanding of
"It was the best of times, it
was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the
age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief, it was the
epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the
season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the
winter of despair'..."
"I have a dream that one day
this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its
creed: 'We hold these truths to
be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
"A journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step."
"One can begin to reshape the
landscape with a single flower."
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