Kindness trumps everything. Kind people are magnets for all of the good things in life.
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Kindness trumps everything. Kind people are magnets for all of the good things in life.

-Tom Giaquinto

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It is the fate of great achievements, born from a way of life that sets truth before security, to be gobbled up by you and excreted in the form of shit. For centuries great, brave, lonely men have been telling you what to do. Time and again you have corrupted, diminished and demolished their teachings; time and again you have been captivated by their weakest points, taken not the great truth, but some trifling error as your guiding principal. This, little man, is what you have done with Christianity, with the doctrine of sovereign people, with socialism, with everything you touch. Why, you ask, do you do this? I don't believe you really want an answer. When you hear the truth you'll cry bloody murder, or commit it. … You had your choice between soaring to superhuman heights with Nietzsche and sinking into subhuman depths with Hitler. You shouted Heil! Heil! and chose the subhuman. You had the choice between Lenin's truly democratic constitution and Stalin's dictatorship. You chose Stalin's dictatorship. You had your choice between Freud's elucidation of the sexual core of your psychic disorders and his theory of cultural adaptation. You dropped the theory of sexuality and chose his theory of cultural adaptation, which left you hanging in mid-air. You had your choice between Jesus and his majestic simplicity and Paul with his celibacy for priests and life-long compulsory marriage for yourself. You chose the celibacy and compulsory marriage and forgot the simplicity of Jesus' mother, who bore her child for love and love alone. You had your choice between Marx's insight into the productivity of your living labor power, which alone creates the value of commodities and the idea of the state. You forgot the living energy of your labor and chose the idea of the state. In the French Revolution, you had your choice between the cruel Robespierre and the great Danton. You chose cruelty and sent greatness and goodness to the guillotine. In Germany you had your choice between Goring and Himmler on the one hand and Liebknecht, Landau, and Muhsam on the other. You made Himmler your police chief and murdered your great friends. You had your choice between Julius Streicher and Walter Rathenau. You murdered Rathenau. You had your choice between Lodge and Wilson. You murdered Wilson. You had your choice between the cruel Inquisition and Galileo's truth. You tortured and humiliated the great Galileo, from whose inventions you are still benefiting, and now, in the twentieth century, you have brought the methods of the Inquisition to a new flowering. … Every one of your acts of smallness and meanness throws light on the boundless wretchedness of the human animal. 'Why so tragic?' you ask. 'Do you feel responsible for all evil?' With remarks like that you condemn yourself. If, little man among millions, you were to shoulder the barest fraction of your responsibility, the world would be a very different place. Your great friends wouldn't perish, struck down by your smallness.

-Wilhelm Reich

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I . . . hurried to the city library to find out the true age of Chicago. City library! After all, it cannot be anything but Chicagoesque. His is the richest library, no doubt, as everything in Chicago is great in size and wealth. Its million books are filling all the shelves, as the dry goods fill the big stores. Oh, librarian, you furnished me a very good dinner, even ice cream, but—where is the table? The Chicago city library has no solemnly quiet, softly peaceful reading-room; you are like a god who made a perfect man and forgot to put in the soul; the books are worth nothing without having a sweet corner and plenty of time, as the man is nothing without soul. Throw those books away, if you don't have a perfect reading-room! Dinner is useless without a table. I want to read a book as a scholar, as I want to eat dinner as a gentleman. What difference is there, my dearest Chicago, between your honourable library and the great department store, an emporium where people buy things without a moment of selection, like a busy honey bee?The library is situated in the most annoyingly noisy business quarter, under the overhanging smoke, in the nearest reach of the engine bells of the lakeside. One can hardly spend an hour in it if he be not a Chicagoan who was born without taste of the fresh air and blue sky. The heavy, oppressive, ill-smelling air of Chicago almost kills me sometimes. What a foolishness and absurdity of the city administrators to build the office of learning in such place of restaurants and barber shops!Look at that edifice of the city library! Look at that white marble! That's great, admirable; that means tremendous power of money. But what a vulgarity, stupid taste, outward display, what an entire lacking of fine sentiment and artistic love! Ah, those decorations with gold and green on the marble stone spoil the beauty! What a shame! That is exactly Chicagoesque. O Chicago, you have fine taste, haven't you?

-Yone Noguchi

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Religion has clearly performed great services for human civilization. It has contributed much towards the taming of the asocial instincts. But not enough. It has ruled human society for many thousands of years and has had time to show what it can achieve. If it had succeeded in making the majority of mankind happy, in comforting them, in reconciling them to life and in making them into vehicles of civilization, no one would dream of attempting to alter the existing conditions. But what do we see instead? We see that an appallingly large number of people are dissatisfied with civilization and unhappy in it, and feel it as a yoke which must be shaken off; and that these people either do everything in their power to change that civilization, or else go so far in their hostility to it that they will have nothing to do with civilization or with a restriction of instinct. At this point it will be objected against us that this state of affairs is due to the very fact that religion has lost a part of its influence over human masses precisely because of the deplorable effect of the advances of science. We will note this admission and the reason given for it, and we shall make use of it later for our own purposes; but the objection itself has no force.It is doubtful whether men were in general happier at a time when religious doctrines held unrestricted sway; more moral they certainly were not. They have always known how to externalize the precepts of religion and thus to nullify their intentions. The priests, whose duty it was to ensure obedience to religion, met them half-way in this. God's kindness must lay a restraining hand on His justice. One sinned, and then one made a sacrifice or did penance and then one was free to sin once more. Russian introspectiveness has reached the pitch of concluding that sin is indispensable for the enjoyment of all the blessings of divine grace, so that, at bottom, sin is pleasing to God. It is no secret that the priests could only keep the masses submissive to religion by making such large concessions as these to the instinctual nature of man. Thus it was agreed: God alone is strong and good, man is weak and sinful. In every age immorality has found no less support in religion than morality has. If the achievements of religion in respect to man’s happiness, susceptibility to culture and moral control are no better than this, the question cannot but arise whether we are not overrating its necessity for mankind, and whether we do wisely in basing our cultural demands upon it.

-Sigmund Freud

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{The final resolutions at Robert Ingersoll's funeral, quoted here}Whereas, in the order of nature -- that nature which moves with unerring certainty in obedience to fixed laws -- Robert G. Ingersoll has gone to that repose which we call death.We, his old friends and fellow-citizens, who have shared his friendship in the past, hereby manifest the respect due his memory. At a time when everything impelled him to conceal his opinions or to withhold their expression, when the highest honors of the state were his if he would but avoid discussion of the questions that relate to futurity, he avowed his belief; he did not bow his knee to superstition nor countenance a creed which his intellect dissented.Casting aside all the things for which men most sigh -- political honor, the power to direct the futures of the state, riches and emoluments, the association of the worldly and the well- to-do -- he stood forth and expressed his honest doubts, and he welcomed the ostracism that came with it, as a crown of glory, no less than did the martyrs of old.Even this self-sacrifice has been accounted shame to him, saying that he was urged thereto by a desire for financial gain, when at the time he made his stand there was before him only the prospect of loss and the scorn of the public. We, therefore, who know what a struggle it was to cut loose from his old associations, and what it meant to him at that time, rejoice in his triumph and in the plaudits that came to him from thus boldly avowing his opinions, and we desire to record the fact that we feel that he was greater than a saint, greater than a mere hero -- he was a thoroughly honest man.He was a believer, not in the narrow creed of a past barbarous age, but a true believer in all that men ought to hold sacred, the sanctity of the home, the purity of friendship, and the honesty of the individual. He was not afraid to advocate the fact that eternal truth was eternal justice; he was not afraid of the truth, nor to avow that he owed allegiance to it first of all, and he was willing to suffer shame and condemnation for its sake.The laws of the universe were his bible; to do good, his religion, and he was true to his creed. We therefore commend his life, for he was the apostle of the fireside, the evangel of justice and love and charity and happiness.We who knew him when he first began his struggle, his old neighbors and friends, rejoice at the testimony he has left us, and we commend his life and efforts as worthy of emulation.

-Robert Ingersoll

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I feel to that the gap between my new life in New York and the situation at home in Africa is stretching into a gulf, as Zimbabwe spirals downwards into a violent dictatorship. My head bulges with the effort to contain both worlds. When I am back in New York, Africa immediately seems fantastical – a wildly plumaged bird, as exotic as it is unlikely.Most of us struggle in life to maintain the illusion of control, but in Africa that illusion is almost impossible to maintain. I always have the sense there that there is no equilibrium, that everything perpetually teeters on the brink of some dramatic change, that society constantly stands poised for some spasm, some tsunami in which you can do nothing but hope to bob up to the surface and not be sucked out into a dark and hungry sea. The origin of my permanent sense of unease, my general foreboding, is probably the fact that I have lived through just such change, such a sudden and violent upending of value systems.In my part of Africa, death is never far away. With more Zimbabweans dying in their early thirties now, mortality has a seat at every table. The urgent, tugging winds themselves seem to whisper the message, memento mori, you too shall die. In Africa, you do not view death from the auditorium of life, as a spectator, but from the edge of the stage, waiting only for your cue. You feel perishable, temporary, transient. You feel mortal. Maybe that is why you seem to live more vividly in Africa. The drama of life there is amplified by its constant proximity to death. That’s what infuses it with tension. It is the essence of its tragedy too. People love harder there. Love is the way that life forgets that it is terminal. Love is life’s alibi in the face of death. For me, the illusion of control is much easier to maintain in England or America. In this temperate world, I feel more secure, as if change will only happen incrementally, in manageable, finely calibrated, bite-sized portions. There is a sense of continuity threaded through it all: the anchor of history, the tangible presence of antiquity, of buildings, of institutions. You live in the expectation of reaching old age.At least you used to.But on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, those two states of mind converge. Suddenly it feels like I am back in Africa, where things can be taken away from you at random, in a single violent stroke, as quick as the whip of a snake’s head. Where tumult is raised with an abruptness that is as breathtaking as the violence itself.

-Peter Godwin

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