If one abandons their principles when tested by struggle, they were never true principles but advertisements for character they never possessed.
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If one abandons their principles when tested by struggle, they were never true principles but advertisements for character they never possessed.

-Tiffany Madison

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Tom Paine has almost no influence on present-day thinking in the United States because he is unknown to the average citizen. Perhaps I might say right here that this is a national loss and a deplorable lack of understanding concerning the man who first proposed and first wrote those impressive words, 'the United States of America.'But it is hardly strange. Paine's teachings have been debarred from schools everywhere and his views of life misrepresented until his memory is hidden in shadows, or he is looked upon as of unsound mind.We never had a sounder intelligence in this Republic. He was the equal of Washington in making American liberty possible. Where Washington performed Paine devised and wrote. The deeds of one in the Weld were matched by the deeds of the other with his pen.Washington himself appreciated Paine at his true worth. Franklin knew him for a great patriot and clear thinker. He was a friend and confidant of Jefferson, and the two must often have debated the academic and practical phases of liberty.I consider Paine our greatest political thinker. As we have not advanced, and perhaps never shall advance, beyond the Declaration and Constitution, so Paine has had no successors who extended his principles. Although the present generation knows little of Paine's writings, and although he has almost no influence upon contemporary thought, Americans of the future will justly appraise his work. I am certain of it.Truth is governed by natural laws and cannot be denied. Paine spoke truth with a peculiarly clear and forceful ring. Therefore time must balance the scales. The Declaration and the Constitution expressed in form Paine's theory of political rights. He worked in Philadelphia at the time that the first document was written, and occupied a position of intimate contact with the nation's leaders when they framed the Constitution.Certainly we may believe that Washington had a considerable voice in the Constitution. We know that Jefferson had much to do with the document. Franklin also had a hand and probably was responsible in even larger measure for the Declaration. But all of these men had communed with Paine. Their views were intimately understood and closely correlated. There is no doubt whatever that the two great documents of American liberty reflect the philosophy of Paine....Then Paine wrote 'Common Sense,' an anonymous tract which immediately stirred the fires of liberty. It flashed from hand to hand throughout the Colonies. One copy reached the New York Assembly, in session at Albany, and a night meeting was voted to answer this unknown writer with his clarion call to liberty. The Assembly met, but could find no suitable answer. Tom Paine had inscribed a document which never has been answered adversely, and never can be, so long as man esteems his priceless possession.In 'Common Sense' Paine flared forth with a document so powerful that the Revolution became inevitable. Washington recognized the difference, and in his calm way said that matters never could be the same again. It must be remembered that 'Common Sense' preceded the declaration and affirmed the very principles that went into the national doctrine of liberty. But that affirmation was made with more vigor, more of the fire of the patriot and was exactly suited to the hour... Certainly [the Revolution] could not be forestalled, once he had spoken.{The Philosophy of Paine, June 7, 1925}

-Tom Paine

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When I was a child, an angel came to say,A true friend is coming my warrior to sweep you away,It won’t be easy the path because it leads through hell,But if you’re faithful, it will be the greatest story to tell,You will move God’s daughters to a place of hope,Your story will teach everyone there is nothing they can’t cope,You will suffer a lot, but not one tear will you waste,Because for all that you do for me, you will be graced,For I am bringing you someone that wants to travel your trail,Someone you already met when you passed through heaven’s veil,A warrior, a friend that whispers your heart’s song,Someone that will run with you and pull your spirit along,Don’t you see the timing was love's fated throw,Because I put you both there to help one another grow,I am the writer of all great stories your chapters were written by me,You suffered, you cried because I needed you to see,That your faith in my ending goes far beyond two,It was going to change more hearts than both of you knew,So hush my child and wait for my loving hand,The last chapter is not written and still in the sand,It is up to you to finish, before the tide washes it away,All that is in your heart, I’ve put their for you to say,This is not about winning, loss or pain,I made you the way you are because true love stories are insane,I wrote you in heaven as I sat on its sandy shore,You know with all of my heart I loved you both more,There is no better ending two people seeing each other's heart,Together your spirits will never drift apart,Because two kindred spirits is what I made you to be,The waves and beach crashing together because of-- ME.

-Shannon L. Alder

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My son, you are just an infant now, but on that day when the world disrobes of its alluring cloak, it is then that I pray this letter is in your hands.Listen closely, my dear child, for I am more than that old man in the dusty portrait beside your bed. I was once a little boy in my mother’s arms and a babbling toddler on my father's lap.I played till the sun would set and climbed trees with ease and skill. Then I grew into a fine young man with shoulders broad and strong. My bones were firm and my limbs were straight; my hair was blacker than a raven's beak. I had a spring in my step and a lion's roar. I travelled the world, found love and married. Then off to war I bled in battle and danced with death.But today, vigor and grace have forsaken me and left me crippled.Listen closely, then, as I have lived not only all the years you have existed, but another forty more of my own.My son, We take this world for a permanent place; we assume our gains and triumphs will always be; that all that is dear to us will last forever.But my child, time is a patient hunter and a treacherous thief: it robs us of our loved ones and snatches up our glory. It crumbles mountains and turns stone to sand. So who are we to impede its path?No, everything and everyone we love will vanish, one day.So take time to appreciate the wee hours and seconds you have in this world. Your life is nothing but a sum of days so why take any day for granted? Don't despise evil people, they are here for a reason, too, for just as the gift salt offers to food, so do the worst of men allow us to savor the sweet, hidden flavor of true friendship.Dear boy, treat your elders with respect and shower them with gratitude; they are the keepers of hidden treasures and bridges to our past. Give meaning to your every goodbye and hold on to that parting embrace just a moment longer--you never know if it will be your last.Beware the temptation of riches and fame for both will abandon you faster than our own shadow deserts us at the approach of the setting sun. Cultivate seeds of knowledge in your soul and reap the harvest of good character.Above all, know why you have been placed on this floating blue sphere, swimming through space, for there is nothing more worthy of regret than a life lived void of this knowing.My son, dark days are upon you. This world will not leave you with tears unshed. It will squeeze you in its talons and lift you high, then drop you to plummet and shatter to bits . But when you lay there in pieces scattered and broken, gather yourself together and be whole once more. That is the secret of those who know.So let not my graying hairs and wrinkled skin deceive you that I do not understand this modern world. My life was filled with a thousand sacrifices that only I will ever know and a hundred gulps of poison I drank to be the father I wanted you to have.But, alas, such is the nature of this life that we will never truly know the struggles of our parents--not until that time arrives when a little hand--resembling our own--gently clutches our finger from its crib.My dear child, I fear that day when you will call hopelessly upon my lifeless corpse and no response shall come from me. I will be of no use to you then but I hope these words I leave behind will echo in your ears that day when I am no more. This life is but a blink in the eye of time, so cherish each moment dearly, my son.

-Shakieb Orgunwall

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Youth was the time for happiness, its only season; young people, leading a lazy, carefree life, partially occupied by scarcely absorbing studies, were able to devote themselves unlimitedly to the liberated exultation of their bodies. They could play, dance, love, and multiply their pleasures. They could leave a party, in the early hours of the morning, in the company of sexual partners they had chosen, and contemplate the dreary line of employees going to work. They were the salt of the earth, and everything was given to them, everything was permitted for them, everything was possible. Later on, having started a family, having entered the adult world, they would be introduced to worry, work, responsibility, and the difficulties of existence; they would have to pay taxes, submit themselves to administrative formalities while ceaselessly bearing witness--powerless and shame-filled--to the irreversible degradation of their own bodies, which would be slow at first, then increasingly rapid; above all, they would have to look after children, mortal enemies, in their own homes, they would have to pamper them, feed them, worry about their illnesses, provide the means for their education and their pleasure, and unlike in the world of animals, this would last not just for a season, they would remain slaves of their offspring always, the time of joy was well and truly over for them, they would have to continue to suffer until the end, in pain and with increasing health problems, until they were no longer good for anything and were definitively thrown into the rubbish heap, cumbersome and useless. In return, their children would not be at all grateful, on the contrary their efforts, however strenuous, would never be considered enough, they would, until the bitter end, be considered guilty because of the simple fact of being parents. From this sad life, marked by shame, all joy would be pitilessly banished. When they wanted to draw near to young people's bodies, they would be chased away, rejected, ridiculed, insulted, and, more and more often nowadays, imprisoned. The physical bodies of young people, the only desirable possession the world has ever produced, were reserved for the exclusive use of the young, and the fate of the old was to work and to suffer. This was the true meaning of solidarity between generations; it was a pure and simple holocaust of each generation in favor of the one that replaced it, a cruel, prolonged holocaust that brought with it no consolation, no comfort, nor any material or emotional compensation.

-Michel Houellebecq

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The night before brain surgery, I thought about death. I searched out my larger values, and I asked myself, if I was going to die, did I want to do it fighting and clawing or in peaceful surrender? What sort of character did I hope to show? Was I content with myself and what I had done with my life so far? I decided that I was essentially a good person, although I could have been better--but at the same time I understood that the cancer didn't care.I asked myself what I believed. I had never prayed a lot. I hoped hard, I wished hard, but I didn't pray. I had developed a certain distrust of organized religion growing up, but I felt I had the capacity to be a spiritual person, and to hold some fervent beliefs. Quite simply, I believed I had a responsibility to be a good person, and that meant fair, honest, hardworking, and honorable. If I did that, if I was good to my family, true to my friends, if I gave back to my community or to some cause, if I wasn't a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough. At the end of the day, if there was indeed some Body or presence standing there to judge me, I hoped I would be judged on whether I had lived a true life, not on whether I believed in a certain book, or whether I'd been baptized. If there was indeed a God at the end of my days, I hoped he didn't say, 'But you were never a Christian, so you're going the other way from heaven.' If so, I was going to reply, 'You know what? You're right. Fine.'I believed, too, in the doctors and the medicine and the surgeries--I believed in that. I believed in them. A person like Dr. Einhorn [his oncologist], that's someone to believe in, I thought, a person with the mind to develop an experimental treatment 20 years ago that now could save my life. I believed in the hard currency of his intelligence and his research.Beyond that, I had no idea where to draw the line between spiritual belief and science. But I knew this much: I believed in belief, for its own shining sake. To believe in the face of utter hopelessness, every article of evidence to the contrary, to ignore apparent catastrophe--what other choice was there? We do it every day, I realized. We are so much stronger than we imagine, and belief is one of the most valiant and long-lived human characteristics. To believe, when all along we humans know that nothing can cure the briefness of this life, that there is no remedy for our basic mortality, that is a form of bravery.To continue believing in yourself, believing in the doctors, believing in the treatment, believing in whatever I chose to believe in, that was the most important thing, I decided. It had to be.Without belief, we would be left with nothing but an overwhelming doom, every single day. And it will beat you. I didn't fully see, until the cancer, how we fight every day against the creeping negatives of the world, how we struggle daily against the slow lapping of cynicism. Dispiritedness and disappointment, these were the real perils of life, not some sudden illness or cataclysmic millennium doomsday. I knew now why people fear cancer: because it is a slow and inevitable death, it is the very definition of cynicism and loss of spirit.So, I believed.

-Lance Armstrong

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When we began researching the film on behalf of Channel 4, which had commissioned and paid for it, the response from individual child protection workers inside and outside Cleveland was universally positive. Everyone we met wanted what they saw as the true (and hidden) story of Cleveland to be told at last: the story of how very young children - many of them pre-verbal - had been abused, first sexually by an adult, then systemically by courts and lawyers who returned them to abusive families. Each of these workers had knowledge of individual children from the crisis. Some were still working in the Middlesbrough area. Yet none had any contact with the families, none had been allowed to retain documentation and none knew of any official child protection agency that had tracked what happened to the children after the three fraught summer months of 1987.The key to resolving the puzzle of Cleveland was the children. What had actually happened to them? Had they been abused - or had the paediatricians and social workers (as public opinion held) been over-zealous and plain wrong? Curiously — particularly given its high profile, year-long sittings and £5 million cost — this was the one central issue never addressed by the Butler-Sloss judicial testimony and sifting of internal evidence, the inquiry's remit did not require it to answer the main question. Ten years after the crisis, my colleagues and I set about reconstructing the records of the 121 children at its heart to determine exactly what had happened to them.(p19)In the film we dealt with several of these cases. One case concerned one of the first families to be ‘reunited’ — the word, the very loaded word, used by all newspapers and television covering the case — with their children. Yet the social services file not apparently considered by the courts — makes very uncomfortable reading. It shows that the family — mother, father and three children — had been known to social services for some time prior to the 1987 crisis. • All three children were said to have behavioural problems - including an incident in which they dug up the floorboards and set fire to the family home. • They were listed as having an alarming number of bruises and scars on their young bodies. • All were seriously underweight. • They had contact with a close family relation who was recorded as having abused other children as an adolescent. • One of the children had drawn a picture for a National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) officer working with him — a picture of an adult man apparently buggering a boy. • At least one of the three children had expressed extreme reluctance to return home. This information and the risk to those children it implies was never properly tested in court. Faced with the juggernaut of press reporting and public opinion, the protection of children took a back seat. (p21)

-Heather Bacon

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Even if it were possible to cast my horoscope in this one life, and to make an accurate prediction about my future, it would not be possible to 'show' it to me because as soon as I saw it my future would change by definition. This is why Werner Heisenberg's adaptation of the Hays Office—the so-called principle of uncertainty whereby the act of measuring something has the effect of altering the measurement—is of such importance. In my case the difference is often made by publicity. For example, and to boast of one of my few virtues, I used to derive pleasure from giving my time to bright young people who showed promise as writers and who asked for my help. Then some profile of me quoted someone who disclosed that I liked to do this. Then it became something widely said of me, whereupon it became almost impossible for me to go on doing it, because I started to receive far more requests than I could respond to, let alone satisfy. Perception modifies reality: when I abandoned the smoking habit of more than three decades I was given a supposedly helpful pill called Wellbutrin. But as soon as I discovered that this was the brand name for an antidepressant, I tossed the bottle away. There may be successful methods for overcoming the blues but for me they cannot include a capsule that says: 'Fool yourself into happiness, while pretending not to do so.' I should actually want my mind to be strong enough to circumvent such a trick.

-Christopher Hitchens

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Each religion makes scores of purportedly factual assertions about everything from the creation of the universe to the afterlife. But on what grounds can believers presume to know that these assertions are true? The reasons they give are various, but the ultimate justification for most religious people’s beliefs is a simple one: we believe what we believe because our holy scriptures say so. But how, then, do we know that our holy scriptures are factually accurate? Because the scriptures themselves say so. Theologians specialize in weaving elaborate webs of verbiage to avoid saying anything quite so bluntly, but this gem of circular reasoning really is the epistemological bottom line on which all 'faith' is grounded. In the words of Pope John Paul II: 'By the authority of his absolute transcendence, God who makes himself known is also the source of the credibility of what he reveals.' It goes without saying that this begs the question of whether the texts at issue really were authored or inspired by God, and on what grounds one knows this. 'Faith' is not in fact a rejection of reason, but simply a lazy acceptance of bad reasons. 'Faith' is the pseudo-justification that some people trot out when they want to make claims without the necessary evidence.But of course we never apply these lax standards of evidence to the claims made in the other fellow’s holy scriptures: when it comes to religions other than one’s own, religious people are as rational as everyone else. Only our own religion, whatever it may be, seems to merit some special dispensation from the general standards of evidence.And here, it seems to me, is the crux of the conflict between religion and science. Not the religious rejection of specific scientific theories (be it heliocentrism in the 17th century or evolutionary biology today); over time most religions do find some way to make peace with well-established science. Rather, the scientific worldview and the religious worldview come into conflict over a far more fundamental question: namely, what constitutes evidence.Science relies on publicly reproducible sense experience (that is, experiments and observations) combined with rational reflection on those empirical observations. Religious people acknowledge the validity of that method, but then claim to be in the possession of additional methods for obtaining reliable knowledge of factual matters — methods that go beyond the mere assessment of empirical evidence — such as intuition, revelation, or the reliance on sacred texts. But the trouble is this: What good reason do we have to believe that such methods work, in the sense of steering us systematically (even if not invariably) towards true beliefs rather than towards false ones? At least in the domains where we have been able to test these methods — astronomy, geology and history, for instance — they have not proven terribly reliable. Why should we expect them to work any better when we apply them to problems that are even more difficult, such as the fundamental nature of the universe?Last but not least, these non-empirical methods suffer from an insuperable logical problem: What should we do when different people’s intuitions or revelations conflict? How can we know which of the many purportedly sacred texts — whose assertions frequently contradict one another — are in fact sacred?

-Alan Sokal

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