646. It Is Not Necessary Always to Speak of Weighty Matters

It is not necessary always to speak of weighty matters. Sometimes there is more value to be had in a conversation that centers on pointless trivia. It seems to me, from reflecting on these anecdotes about Dr. Johnson, that it is better for our well-being to seek out associates who have something pleasant and constructive to say for themselves, rather than spend our time with those who are branded with perpetual scowls. There is no need to pass judgment on all things, or pronounce a verdict on every question. There is wisdom in levity, and longevity in lightheartedness. Cant has its uses; so let us use it in good health.

Quintus Curtius, “On Idle Or Trifling Speech”

637. The Situation Selects the Man

” … Weapons and provisions are illusions, and do not make a man or a people strong:  only strong character can do this.  Yet hardship has a way of raising up men of good character to leadership positions.  During times of peace and quiescence, men of great character and leadership ability are often passed over or hidden away.  Their talents and abilities are rarely appreciated by those who know only comfort and security.  When we neglect men of talent, character, and masculine virtue, and exalt the incapable, the corrupt, the venal, and the incompetent, we put our very security at risk.  But in times of crisis, everything can change.  The situation selects the man; and the man masters the situation through force of will.”

– Quintus Curtius

603. False Ground

“You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.”

― John O’Donohue

587. Abuse

“For I have heard that most of that which bears the name of learning, and which has abused such quantities of ink and paper, and continually employs so many ignorant unhappy souls for ten, twelve, twenty years in the university (who yet, poor wretches, think they are doing something all the while ) – as logic, etc., and several other things (that shall be nameless lest I should misspell them) – are much more absolutely nothing than the errantest play that e’er was writ.”

– Aphra Behn

582. Never Underestimate

“I believe you!’ the artiste exclaimed finally and extinguishes his gaze. ‘I do! These eyes are not lying! How many times have I told you that your basic error consists in underestimating the significance of the human eye. Understand that the tongue can conceal the truth, but the eyes – never! A sudden question is put to you, you don’t even flinch, in one second you get hold of yourself and know what you must say to conceal the truth, and you speak quite convincingly, and not a wrinkle on your face moves, but – alas – the truth which the question stirs up from the bottom of your soul leaps momentarily into your eyes, and it’s all over! They see it, and you’re caught!”

― Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita