"I see by your outfit you may be a preacher."
"Yes, I am, - of the non-theistic, non-sectarian sort." [...]
"Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen"
-- Roger Zelazny: Creatures of Light and Darkness
[See also: the Worshippers-'R'-Us sketch by the Frantics]
Heck is where people go who don't believe in gosh.
Conscious is when you are aware of something and conscience is when you wish you weren't.
A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean a mother
Man is so happily formed that he has no reliable [source] of truth, but several excellent sources of falsehood. [...] But the most ridiculous cause of his errors is the conflict between sense [i.e. the senses] and reason.
From The Artful Universe by John D. Barrow (Oxford University Press, 1995):
As I look around the room I'm working in, man-made colour shouts back at me from every surface: books, cushions, a rug on the floor, a coffee-cup, a box of staples -- bright blues, reds, yellows greens. There is as much colour here as in any tropical forest. Yet while almost every colour in the forest would be meaningful, here in my study almost nothing is. Colour anarchy has taken over. This has dulled our response to colour. From the first moment a baby is given a string of multi-coloured -- but otherwise identical -- beads to play with he is unwittingly being taught to ignore colour as a signal. [source of quote unknown, possibly N. Humphrey, A History of the Mind (Vintage, 1993) or N. Humphrey, Consciousness Regained (Oxford University Press, 1979)][Chapter 4, p. 184]
The human understanding is no dry light, but receives an infusion from the will and affections, whence proceed sciences which may be called 'sciences as one would'. For what man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections colour and infect the understanding.
-- Francis Bacon, Idols of the Tribe, from Novum Organum (1620)
From Wilfrid Hodges, An Editor Recalls Some Hopeless Papers, The Bulletic on Symbolic Logic, Vol 4, No 1, March 1998 [PostScript version available here]:
From The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges:
In Alexandria over five hundred years later, Origen, one of the Fathers of the Church, taught that the blessed would come back to life in the form of spheres and would enter rolling into heaven.
Life is like a bowl of soup with hairs floating on it. You have to eat it nevertheless. -- Flaubert
From Special Illumination: The Sufi Use of Humour by Indries Shah:
"Ah, yes," said the doctor, "you must do this and not do that; you must eat this and drink that ..." and he droned on for a time.
Presently the patient started to walk out.
"You haven't paid me for my advice" said the leech.
"Ah, but I am not taking it!"
Finally he called him in for a private talk.
"I have been giving you exercises and teachings for many years now, and I fail to descry any change in you, and I am becoming perturbed" he told him.
"I am glad that you have noticed at last" said the disciple, "for I have personally felt for some months that you are not trying hard enough!"
"As an ordinary bottle, yes" said Nasrudin, "but I am going to stuff it with straw before I put my head on it."
"I'll have an elephant sandwich" he said.
"Sorry, Sir," answered the the waiter, "but we cannot cut up an elephant for only one sandwich.
One day a scholar ran into a gang of bandits who threatened to kill him. "I think you are a spy or a police agent" the chief said.
"No I am no - I'm only a poor scholar" said the unfortunate captive.
"How can you prove it?"
"I can read from a book".
"That's no good to us: we're all illiterates. How do we know you will really be reading, and not just making it all up?"
So they killed him. "I didn't become head of this band of outlaws just by believing everything people told me, you know," said the chief. And his wisdom was, of course, unanimously applauded by his men.
As she was about to alight on the planet, she met another angel homeward bound, to report.
"What are you doing here?" asked the second angel.
"I am going to illuminate a certain mystic, who will now at last be promoted to a high rank!"
"You are too late", said the returning angel, "He has already been made head of his own Order of monks."
"I am the greatest man in the world" said the Mulla.
After the case one of his friends said: "Nasrudin, why did you say that?"
"Yes," said the Mulla, "it is rather a pity - but I had to tell them just this once: I was on oath, you see."
From Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah (Octagon Press, 1967):
[From The Three Fishes, p. 3]
[From The Sultan Who Became an Exile, p. 37]
"You have to learn how to teach, for Man does not want to be taught. First of all, you will have to teach people how to learn. And before that you have to teach them that there is still something to be learned. They imagine that they are ready to learn. But they want to learn what they imagine is to be learned, not what they have first to learn. When you have learned all this, then you can devise the way to teach. Knowledge without special capacity to teach is not the same as knowledge and capacity."
[From The Story of Fire, p. 41-42]
[From The Gnat Namouss - and the Elephant, p. 58]
Now Arif was a young man at the time, who had far less apparent authority than anyone in the community. Therefore the elders took possession of whatever they wanted from the land which had been left, and they allocated to Arif a few trifles only, which nobody else wanted.
Many years later Arif, grown to strength and wisdom, went to the community to claim his patrimony. "There are the objects which we have allocated to you in accordance with the Will," said the elders. They did not feel that they had usurped anything, for they had been told to take what they wished.
But, in the middle of the discussion, an unknown man of grave countenance and compelling presence appeared among them. He said: "The meaning of the Will was that you should give to Arif that which you wished for yourselves, for he can make the best use of it."
In the moment of illumination which this statement gave them, the elders were able to see the true meaning of the phrase, "Let them give that which they wish to Arif".
"Know", continued the apparition, "that the testator died unable to protect his property, which would, in case of his making Arif his legatee in an obvious sense, have been usurped by this Community. At the very least it would have caused dissension. So he entrusted it to you, knowing that if you thought that it was your own property you would take care of it. Hence he made a wise provision for the preservation and transmission of this treasure. The time has now come for it to be returned to its rightful use."
Thus it was that the property was handed back; the elders were able to see the truth."
[...] In some dervish circles this story is taught as an illustration of the claim: "You have many endowments which are yours on trust alone; when you understand this, you can give them to the rightful owners."
[From The Bequest, p. 66-67]
The time came when he realized he must redeem his oath. But he did not wish to give away so much money. So he thought of a way out.
He put the house on sale at one silver piece. Included with the house, however, was a cat. The price asked for this animal was ten thousand pieces of silver.
Another man bought the house and cat. The first man gave the single piece of silver to the poor, and pocketed the ten thousand for himself.
Many people's minds work like this. They resolve to follow a teaching; but they interpret their relationship with it to their own advantage. Until they overcome this tendency by special training, they cannot learn at all.
[...] The trick described in this story, according to its dervish teller (Sheikh Nasir el-Din Shah) may be deliberate - or it may describe the warped mind which unconsciously performs tricks of this kind. [...]
[From The Oath, p. 68]
[Commentary on The Gates of Paradise, p. 76]
The bird promised to give the first piece of advice while still in the man's grasp, the second when he reached a branch, the third after he gained the top of a mountain.
The man agreed, and asked for the first piece of advice.
The bird said: "If you lose something, even it it be valued by you as much as life itself - do not regret it."
Now the man let the bird go, and it hopped to a branch.
It continued with the second piece of advice: "Never believe anything which is contrary to sense, without proof."
Then the bird flew to the mountain-top. From here it said: "O unfortunate one! Within me are two huge jewels, and if you had only killed me they would have been yours!"
The man was anguished at the thought of what he had lost, but he said: "At least now tell me the third piece of advice."
The bird replied: "What a fool you are, asking for more advice when you have not given thought to the first two pieces! I told you not to worry about what had been lost, and not to believe in something contrary to sense. Now you are doing both. You are believing something ridiculous and grieving because you have lost something! I am not big enough to have inside me huge jewels. You are a fool. Therefore you must stay withing the usual restrictions imposed on man."
[From Three Pieces of Advice, p. 132]
But they found no gold. [...] Finally, it occurred to them that, since the land had been prepared, they might as well now sow a crop. [...] They sold this crop and prospered that year.
After the harvest was in, the sons thought again about the bare possibility that they might have missed the buried gold, so they dug up their fields, with the same result.
After several years they became accustomed to labour, and to the cycle of the seasons, something which they had not understood before. Now they understood the reason for their father's method of training them, and they became honest and contented farmers. [...]
[...] The teacher, faced with impatience, confusion and covetousness on the part of the students, must direct them to an activity which is known by him to be constructive and beneficial to them, but whose true function and aim is often hidden from them by their own rawness.
This story, underlining the claim that a person may develop certain faculties in spite of his attempts to develop others, is unusually widely known. This may be because it carries the preface, "Those who repeat it will gain more than they know."
It was published both by the Franciscan, Roger Bacon (who quotes the Sufi philosophy and taught at Oxford, from which he was expelled by order of the Pope) and the seventeenth century chemist Boerhaave.
This version is attributed to the Sufi, Hasan of Basra, who lived nearly twelve hundred years ago.
[From Three Parable of the Greedy Sons, p. 144-45]
"I am a grammarian, and I have unfortunately fallen, due to my ignorance of the path, into this deep well, in which I am now all but immobilized," responded the other.
"Hold, friend, and I'll fetch a ladder and rope," said the dervish.
"One moment, please!" said the grammarian. "Your grammar and diction are faulty; be good enough to amend them."
"If that is so much more important than the essentials," shouted the dervish, "you had best stay where you are until I have learned to speak properly."
And he went on his way.
[From The Grammarian and the Dervish, p. 193]
From A Mathematician's Apology by G. H. Hardy (Cambridge University Press, Canto Edition, 1994):
[Section 2, p. 66]
[Section 7, p. 78-79]
From Shakespeare, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, I, i:
I rather would entreat they company
To see the wonders of the world abroad
Than, living dully sluggardiz'd at home, Wear out thy youth with shapeless idleness.
From Teri Perl, Math Equals: Biographies of Women Mathematicians (Addison Wesley, 1978):
Sonya Kovalevskaya had been an extraordinarily versatile and talented woman. With the greatest of ease she could turn from a lecture on Abel's functions, to research on Saturn's rings, to the writing of verse in French or a novel in Russian or a play in Swedish, to sewing a lace collar for her little daughter Fufi. In reply to a friend's surprise at her involvement in literature as well as mathematics, she wrote,
Many who have never had an opportunity of knowing any more about mathematics confound it with arithmetic and consider it an arid science. In reality however, it is a science which requires a great amount of imagination, and one of the leading mathematicians of our century states the case quite correctly when he says that it is impossible to be a mathematician without being a poet in soul.... one must renounce the ancient prejudice that a poet must invent something that does not exist, that imagination and invention are identical. It seems to me that the poet has only to perceive that which others do not perceive, to look deeper than others look. And the mathematician must do the same thing. [Source of quote: Sonya Kovalévsky, Her Recollections of Childhood, translated by Isabel F. Hapgood, The Century Co., New York, 1895, p. 316]
At the time of her death, Sonya Kovalevskaya was at the very height of her fame. By penetrating deeply into the methods of mathematical research, she had made brilliant discoveries. Her contributions are considered equal to those of any mathematician of her day by any of her colleagues who are qualified to judge.
From Laura Lee, The Pocket Encylopedia of Aggravation (Black Dog & Leventhal, 2001, ISBN 1579122175):
[Introduction, p. 10]