Not Cut Out for Discussion

“I am a good listener and a good hearer: I understand at once, and clearly. But usually I only know the right answer later. And so, with certain exceptions, I am not cut out for discussion, and least of all for conversation. I can very well remember that one of the most painful experiences of my youth was when I had the absolutely certain feeling that an assertion made by someone was false, and I could offer nothing in reply, or only the most ridiculously inadequate reply, because my tongue was paralysed by my inarticulate thoughts. On the other hand it was this very impotence to answer on the spot which occasioned my endeavours to attain clarity, and to break up the solid rock of my feeling of certainty, to carve out of it logical arguments.” (Theodor Haecker, 1950, Journal in the Night)

The Third Thought

“The man who acts at once, on first thoughts, will make many mistakes, both in theory and in practice; it is seldom that first thoughts are best, though then indeed in quite a different degree when it is a matter of doing something good. One should do it on the spot! The man who acts on second thoughts, the careful man, lives more securely; he will have fewer disappointments. Second thoughts can of course include an indefinite number of thoughts. Decision really lies then, in the third thought, that outweighs all the others, the first and the second. And so right living implies three thoughts. Might they not be distinguished by the fact that first and second thoughts are almost always ‘inspired’, and only the third follows upon a conscious, logical judgment? Far from it, the third thought may well be ‘inspired’.” (Theodor Haecker, 1950, Journal in the Night)

A Clean and Tidy Classification

“A clean and tidy classification which awakens a sense of completeness and of a proper emphasis upon the individual parts, is an intellectual pleasure, though it must not be allowed to cloak the danger of arbitrariness and subjectivism. How difficult it is, in fact, to interpret in any detail, even the most certain, universally valid, objective classifications of being, life and death for example, good and evil, ugly and beautiful, will, reason and feeling! How almost impossible it is to penetrate their inter- relationship!” (Theodor Haecker, 1950, Journal in the Night)

Equal and Unequal

“Man, it seems, is not equal to setting up a just social order on his own. He is hardly able even to perceive the two principles upon which he has to build, namely that men are equal and unequal, and consequently that he must be true to both principles. As a rule he prefers the easier way and takes only one as his starting point: either equality, or inequality. The result of this one-sidedness is always a catastrophe. But even if the necessity and the validity of both principles are recognised theoretically (and this is still far from being the case) the immeasurable difficulty only begins in applying the principles in practice. And I am of the opinion that at this point man cannot, of his own strength, reach a satisfactory conclusion. He needs illumination, the immediate help of God in prayer and in leadership.” (Theodor Haecker, 1950, Journal in the Night)

The Great Faults of Conversation

“– What are the great faults of conversation? Want of ideas, want of words, want of manners, are the principal ones, I suppose you think. I don’t doubt it, but I will tell you what I have found spoil more good talks than anything else; — long arguments on special points between people who differ on the fundamental principles upon which these points depend. No men can have satisfactory relations with each other until they have agreed on certain ultimata of belief not to be disturbed in ordinary conversation, and unless they have sense enough to trace the secondary questions depending upon these ultimate beliefs to their source. In short, just as a written constitution is essential to the best social order, so a code of finalities is a necessary condition of profitable talk between two persons. Talking is like playing on the harp; there is as much in laying the hand on the strings to stop their vibrations as in twanging them to bring out their music.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table)

What a Satire

“– What a satire, by the way, is that machine [Babbage’s] on the mere mathematician! A Frankenstein-monster, a thing without brains and without heart, too stupid to make a blunder; that turns out results like a corn-sheller, and never grows any wiser or better, though it grind a thousand bushels of them!” (Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table)

“In the light of this description the analogy so passively received nowadays, of the mind as computer, is manifestly fallacious. A computer does not think, it feels nothing, and what it is said to ‘know’ — bits of information all cast in the digital mode — has no fringe. Nor has it a memory, only storage room. On any point called for, the answer is all or none. Vagueness, intelligent confusion, original punning on words or ideas never occur, the internal hookups being unchangeable; they were determined once for all by the true minds that made the machine and the program. When plugged in, the least elaborate computer can be relied on to work to the fullest extent of its capacity; the greatest mind cannot be relied on for the simplest thing; its variability is its superiority. Homer nods, Shakespeare writes twaddle, Newton makes mistakes, you and I have been known to talk nonsense. But they and we can (as the phrase goes) surpass ourselves, invent, discover, create. The late John von Neumann, mathematician, logician, and inventor of game theory, would not allow one to liken the mind to a computer. He knew how his mind worked and he understood his computer. So goodbye to all the bright remarks, in fiction and conversation, about programming oneself to pass an interview.” (Jacques Barzun, A Stroll with William James)

All Truly Creative Minds

“The ground for your complaint seems to me to lie in the constraint imposed by your reason upon your imagination. I will make my idea more concrete by a simile. It seems a bad thing and detrimental to the creative work of the mind if Reason makes too close an examination of the ideas as they come pouring in — at the very gateway, as it were. Looked at in isolation, a thought may seem very trivial or very fantastic; but it may be made important by another thought that comes after it, and, in conjunction with other thoughts that may seem equally absurd, it may turn out to form a most effective link. Reason cannot form any opinion upon all this unless it retains the thought long enough to look at it in connection with the others. On the other hand, where there is a creative mind, Reason — so it seems to me — relaxes its watch upon the gates, and the ideas rush in pell-mell, and only then does it look them through and examine them in a mass… You critics, or whatever else you may call yourselves, are ashamed or frightened of the momentary and transient extravagances which are to be found in all truly creative minds and whose longer or shorter duration distinguishes the thinking artist from the dreamer. You complain of your unfruitfulness because you reject too soon and discriminate too severely.” (Freud, 1900, The Interpretation of Dreams)

Collections of Horace Translations

Available at:

  • 195 English Translations of Horace’s Carpe Diem (PDF)
  • 220 English Translations of Horace’s Integer Vitae (PDF)
  • 156 English Translations of Horace’s Aequam Memento (PDF)
  • 209 English Translations of Horace’s Otium Divos (PDF)
  • 239 English Translations of Horace’s Donec Gratus Eram (PDF)
  • 181 English Translations of Horace’s Diffugere Nives (PDF)

Lift Up Your Hearts

“It is not without good reason, it seems to me, that the Church forbids the promiscuous, reckless, and indiscreet use of the holy and divine songs which the Holy Spirit dictated to David. We must not mix God into our actions except with reverence and with devout and respectful attention. His word is too divine to have no other use than to exercise our lungs and please our ears; it should be uttered from the conscience and not from the tongue. It is not right that a shop apprentice, amid his vain and frivolous thoughts, should entertain himself and play with it. Nor assuredly is it right to see the holy book of the sacred mysteries of our belief bandied about a hall or a kitchen. Formerly they were mysteries; at present they are sports and pastimes. It is not in passing and in whirlwind fashion that we should handle so serious and venerable a study. It must be a premeditated and sober action, to which we should always add this preface of our service, sursum corda, and always bring even the body disposed in a demeanor that attests a particular attention and reverence. It is not everyone’s study; it is the study of the persons who are dedicated to it, whom God calls to it. The wicked, the ignorant, grow worse by it. It is not a story to tell, it is a story to revere, fear, and adore. Comical folk, those who think they have made it fit for the people to handle because they have put it into the language of the people! Is it just a matter of the words, that they do not understand all they find in writing? Shall I say more? By bringing it this little bit closer to the people, they remove it farther. Pure ignorance that relied entirely on others was much more salutary, and more learned, than this vain and verbal knowledge, the nurse of presumption and temerity. I also believe that this freedom for everyone to disperse a word so sacred and important into so many kinds of idioms has in it much more danger than utility. The Jews, the Mohammedans, and almost all others have espoused, and revere, the language in which their mysteries were originally conceived; and any alteration or change in them is forbidden, not without reason. Are we quite sure that in the Basque country or Brittany there are enough competent judges to warrant this translation made into their language? The universal Church has no judgment more arduous and solemn to make. In preaching and speaking, the interpretation is vague, free, mutable, and piecemeal; so it is not the same thing. One of our Greek historians justly accuses his age because the secrets of the Christian religion were scattered about the market place in the hands of the merest artisans, so that anyone might argue and talk about them according to his lights; and he thinks that it was shameful of us, who, by the grace of God, enjoy the pure mysteries of piety, to let them be profaned in the mouths of ignorant and common people, seeing that the Gentiles forbade Socrates, Plato, and the wisest men to speak of and inquire into the things committed to the priests of Delphi. He says also that the factions of princes in theological disputes are armed not with zeal but with anger; that zeal takes after divine reason and justice when it guides itself with order and moderation, but changes into envious hatred and produces tares instead of wheat and nettles instead of grapes when it is guided by human passion.” (Montaigne, tr. Donald Frame)

To Give Them Courage

“L’avaricieux le prie pour la conservation vaine et superflue de ses thresors; l’ambitieux, pour ses victoires et conduite de sa passion; le voleur l’employe à son ayde pour franchir le hazart et les difficultez qui s’opposent à l’execution de ses meschantes entreprinses, ou le remercie de l’aisance qu’il a trouvé à desgosiller un passant. Au pied de la maison qu’ils vont escheller ou petarder, ils font leurs prieres, l’intention et l’esperance pleine de cruauté, de luxure, d’avarice.” (Montaigne, Des Prières)

“The covetous man sueth and praieth unto him for the vaine increase and superfluous preservation of his wrong-gotten treasure. The ambitious he importuneth God for the conduct of his fortune, and that he may have the victorie of all his desseignes. The theefe, the pirate, the murtherer, yea and the traitor, all call upon him, all implore his aid, and all solicite him, to give them courage in their attempts, constancie in their resolutions to remove all lets and difficulties, that in any sort may withstand their wicked executions and impious actions, or give him thanks if they have had good successe; the one if he have met with a good bootie, the other if he returne home rich, the third if no man has seene him kill his enemie, and the last though he have caused an execrable mischiefe. The souldier, if he but goe to besiege a cottage, to scale a castle, to rob a church, to pettard a gate, to force a religious house, or any villanous act, before he attempt it praieth to God for his assistance, though his intents and hopes be full-fraught with crueltie, murther, covetise, luxurie, sacrilege, and all iniquitie.” (John Florio Translation)

“The miser prays to him for the vain and superfluous conservation of his treasures; the ambitious man, for his victories and the guidance of this passion; the thief uses his help to pass through the risks and difficulties that oppose the execution of his wicked enterprises, or thanks him for having found it easy to cut a passer-by’s throat. Standing beside the house they are going to scale or blow up, they say their prayers, with their intentions and hopes full of cruelty, lust, and avarice.” (Donald Frame Translation)