I’ve always enjoyed quotes, proverbs, aphorisms…but for the latter I was mostly enamored of those of La Rochefoucauld (more on this below).
The author introduces us to the five laws of aphorisms, which differentiate them from other kinds of quotes and sayings:
1. It must be brief
2. It must be definitive
3. It must be personal
4. It must have a twist
5. It must be philosophical
#4 is the key. We should be surprised or confused.
Geary then goes on to present and discuss aphorisms by many aphorists, divided by theme into eight chapters. They range from the Ancients to the modern day, and include both the serious and lighthearted. I have sticky markers on so many pages, I definitely won’t be able to quote all of them here, but will choose a few:
“What upsets people is not things themselves but their judgments about things”. – Epictetus
“Necessity saves us the trouble of choosing.” –Vauvenargues (1715-1747)
“The most entertaining surface on earth is the human face.” –Lichtenberg (1742-1799)
As for La Rochefoucauld - reading his now, I realize it must have been during a very difficult period in my life, because they certainly are cynical:
“In the adversity of even our best friends we always find something not wholly displeasing.” Ouch!
“We seldom praise except to get praise back.”
Ah, Ben Franklin, quoted in the chapter about the rise of the American One-Liner:
“He that lieth down with dogs, shall rise up with fleas.”
“Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.” [I ought to take better note of this one!]
And our local author Henry David Thoreau:
Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.
I never knew Alexander Pope was the author of these:
“A little learning is a dangerous thing.”
“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
“Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”
Geary makes an interesting observation, that from the 17th to the 19th century, “there was an unusually high correlation between poor health and being a great aphorist. Chamfort, Joubert, Nietzsche, Pascal, and Vauvenargues all suffered more or less constant bouts of serious illness, as did Lichtenberg and Alexander Pope, both of whom were hunchbacks.”
Towards the end, Geary includes one chapter of light verse, which contains this gem by Samuel Hoffenstein (1890-1947):
Babies haven’t any hair;
Old men’s heads are just as bare; -
Between the cradle and the grave
Lies a haircut and a shave.
Not only the aphorisms themselves, but the commentary and background on them made this a great read. Recommended!
This book was in the book box when I opened the package tonight. I am taking the contents of the box to meet-up tomorrow because some of the locals have expressed an interest. After that, we shall see what happens. I think this book is on my wishlist, though, so I will be keeping a close eye on it tomorrow.
Released 2 yrs ago (8/14/2016 UTC) at Silver Spring, Maryland USA
CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES:
Rather than schlep the whole box to meet-up, I sent out a list of the contents. This book was dibsed, so I'mtaking it to its next reader.
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