Aphorisms When Thinking About Trump (II)

“O you who complain of ingratitude, have you not had the pleasure of doing good?” Sebastién Roch Nicolas Chamfort.

“Fear not those who argue but those who dodge.” Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach.

“The man who is too old to learn was probably always too old to learn.” Henry S. Haskins.

“A party which is not afraid of letting culture, business, and welfare go to ruin completely can be omnipotent for a while.” Jakob Burckhardt.

“A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.” Dr. Samuel Johnson.

“The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

“The people who are most bigoted are the people who have no convictions at all.” G.K. Chesterton.

“Any mental activity is easy if it need not take reality into consideration.” Marcel Proust.

“Unanimity is almost always an indication of servitude.” Charles d Rémusat

“There is no patriotic art and no patriotic science.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

“Science has promised us truth. . . . It has never promised us either peace or happiness.” Gustave Le Bon

“Perhaps in time the so-called Dark Ages will be thought of as including our own.” Georg Christoph Lichtenberg.

“Always mistrust a subordinate who never finds fault with his superior.” John Churton Collins.

“Experience shows us that the first defense of weak minds is to recriminate.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

“The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.” Thomas Carlyle.

“Every man likes the smell of his own farts.” Icelandic proverb.

“When one had not had a good father, one must create one.” Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.

“The secret of the demagogue is to make himself as stupid as his audience so that they believe they are as clever as he.” Karl Kraus.

“The triumph of demagogies is short-lived. But the ruins are eternal.” Charles Pierre Péguy

“Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power.” George Bernard Shaw.

Snippets

I attended a Quaker-style meeting about racial justice. I went believing that I need to know my prejudices to have a chance of overcoming them. The meeting was a personal success. As soon as someone started to read a poem, I realized that I am instinctively intolerant of poetry. Having confronted this inner demon, I have resolved to work on lessening my poetic prejudice. Suggestions?

“It seemed preposterous that there were still poets out there among us.” Ottessa Moshfegh, Death in Her Hands.

Whoever said that slow and steady wins the race never attended a track meet.

Often after a natural calamity—hurricane, tornado, earthquake, fire—a person who pretends to believe in God’s love says that the devastation has been the Lord’s judgment on the United States, usually because we have not punished some people for the “sin” of loving someone of their sex. Now there have been outbreaks of Covid-19 after people have congregated in churches. How now should we interpret God’s judgment?

“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.” Jonathan Swift.

          The Christian radio station gave a few brief Bible readings, although where the sacred words left off and commentary began was not always clear. It also presented short inspirational stories and exhortations. Mostly, however, it played music, and mostly that music fell into the rock category. I remembered back to when rock ‘n roll started. (Alas, I am old enough to remember when “Rocket 88,” Bill Haley, and Elvis Aron were all new.) I recalled how ministers smashed 45s saying that rock was music of the devil. This made me think about how powerful He is. In only the relatively short span of my lifetime, He had transformed a genre that would send me to eternal damnation into music that was now for the devout. Hallelujah!

“It is the test of a good religion whether you make a joke about it.” G.K. Chesterton.

I parked downtown the other day at a parking meter. I fumbled for coins but found that there was unexpired time—long enough for me to complete my errand–on the meter. It was not a huge joy, but it did make me feel a bit better. Metered parking, however, increasingly requires us to go to one of those machines and buy a slip with a time printed on it to put on the car’s dashboard. This wipes out that possibility of finding unexpired time on a meter. Those slip machines deprive us of a good feeling, minor though it is. Or does anyone, when leaving a parking place, give the slip with time remaining on it to someone pulling into a spot? If someone handed me such a slip, it would produce joy and effusions of thankfulness. Even so, I have never handed my unexpired slip to another driver.

Will a new generation know what “Rita the Meter Maid” is about?

Snippets

          I went to a theater production of “Paradise Lost,” based, it claimed, on the words of John Milton. I did not think much of the play’s quality, but the group putting on the play was a Christian group. On some level they succeeded with me. Eve was not initially naked as Biblical authenticity should have required but was clothed in a filmy fabric that moved and flowed and shaped over her body. She was lovely, and well before that consequential bite of the forbidden apple, all was foreshadowed because I was thinking about ripe, luscious fruit.

          Whenever the president speaks, I keep hoping in vain for more splendid flashes of silence.

          “Silence is the unbearable repartee.” G.K. Chesterton.

          At Madison Square Garden, Hammer of the Harlem Globetrotters got us in the audience to do a wave, then a reverse wave, and finally a slow motion wave. Even though this is all a hokey cliché, I hope you, like me, can still find pleasure in the wave.

          It’s such a surprise to hear people discussing cheating in American professional sports and find out that they are not talking about Boston.

          When I looked over to see who had sat next to me at the bar, I was surprised because he seemed close to my age, and few of the patrons of this place can remember Eisenhower, much less Truman, as president. He nursed his beer and was quiet for a few moments before he pointed to the book I had placed on the counter and asked what I was reading. It was clear that he was not really interested in that but that he wanted to talk. (Note. I did not say that he wanted to converse.)

          He told me that he was a retired real estate attorney from Atlanta and had been in a big firm. He was now living in Portland, Oregon, which he and his wife had picked after exploratory vacations.

          He was in Brooklyn to visit his son, who was a freelance cinematographer after graduating from Boston College. He has given his son, he told me more than once, advice about things the son should do to be a successful freelancer. I wondered what this big-firm real estate lawyer knew about either freelancing or cinematography.

          He was not staying with his son who lived in Bed-Stuy but at a downtown Brooklyn hotel. He said, “His apartment is even too squalid for me.” I wondered what he knew of squalid.

          I said that I was leaving soon. He was quick to tell me that he was meeting his son at the bar in a few minutes and said that I would enjoy meeting him. And then he said it again. I wondered if he was uncomfortable meeting his offspring. After a few more minutes, he looked at his phone and said that his son was not coming. He left three minutes later. And I wondered whether this was as sad as it seemed.

          “The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.” Fran Lebowitz.