Cantina Quote o’ The Week: Carl Sagan (Yes, Again)

…It is here that we are, in some pain and with no guarantees, working out our destiny.

Carl Sagan

Some people may find that a rather grim, depressing quote, but it’s uplifting to me.  No, we haven’t got any guarantees.  Yes, there is pain.  But only some.  And we’re the ones working out our destiny.  That means we get to choose the direction we go, and that’s a hopeful thing indeed.

Cantina Quote o’ The Week: Carl Sagan

…No scientist on Earth knows how a planet might blow itself up, which is probably just as well.

Carl Sagan

Dearest Carl.  Reading Cosmos changed my life pretty much forever, and this is one of the lines that did it.  He knew there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a good laugh while you were reading your science.

If you haven’t read Cosmos, go do so forthwith.  Then follow up with Pale Blue Dot, and top it off with The Demon-Haunted World.

Cantina Quote o’ The Week: Xenophon

Excess of grief for the dead is madness; for it is an injury to the living, and the dead know it not.


You know what, forget Plato.  Xenophon was a much better writer, and reading his Memorabilia was a sheer joy.  He lived an interesting life, which included palling around with Socrates, being a mercenary, and getting his ass exiled from Athens likely for both of the above (Athens, it seems, didn’t appreciate mercenaries if they weren’t fighting for Athens).  Most people turn to Plato for their Socrates fix, but Xenophon knew him too, so if you’re tired of pompous assery, go Xenophon.

The quote above strikes me as a soldier’s quote.  It’s good advice for us all.  Remember it when my time comes: I want the cantina flowing with drink, laughter and love.  None of this maudlin sendoff stuff, m’kay?

Cantina Quote o’ The Week: Jean-Paul Sartre

Life begins on the other side of despair.

            –Jean-Paul Sarte

If you’ve never read Sartre, don’t do so unless you’re ready for a head trip.  The Existentialists aren’t an easy read on the best of days, and Sartre was a master of the philosophy, which means you’ll walk away feeling as though your brain has been pounded, stretched, stomped on, and pureed by many large men in spiked boots.  However, there are many truths in Sartre’s existentialist worldview, including the fact that hell is other people – and spending an eternity with them in a room filled with Second Empire furniture.

I highly recommend No Exit.  Then, if your brain isn’t suitably pummeled, try Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf.   Then consider that I read both of these when I was still in high school, by my own choice, and you might begin to understand why I’m a little weird.

Cantina Quote o’ The Week: Muhammed Ali

It’s just a job.  Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand.  I beat people up.

Muhammed Ali

I trust everybody knows who Muhammed Ali is.  If not, click the link, and then you’ll understand the quote, and why it’s so damned funny.

I’m not a boxing fan meself, but I’m definitely a fan of anyone who can say that with a straight face.

Cantina Quote o’ The Week: Blaise Pascal

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

Blaise Pascal

Despite sounding like a Gnu Atheist gigantidick, Blaise Pascal was a 17th Century mathematician and physicist whose name you should curse if you don’t like getting injections, as he had a little something to do with the invention of syringes.  He’s also the guy who came up with Pascal’s Triangle, which is apparently important to mathematicians.

The above quote comes from his Pensées, in which he not only defended Christianity, but included his famous Wager.

Cantina Quote o’ The Week: William Blake

“When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do.”

William Blake

Of course, Blake was a visionary, a poet and artist who saw art as life and science as death, so his truth can’t be understood as scientific truth.  Still, an excellent and useful quote, especially when it comes to dickish arguments.

If you’re a metal fan, you really mustn’t miss Bruce Dickinson’s The Chemical Wedding, which is not only superb metal but injects Blake right through the soundstream into your brain, which isn’t a bad way at all to spend an evening.

Cantina Quote o’ The Week: Epicurus

It is vain to ask of the gods what a man is capable of supplying for himself.


No, Epicurus wasn’t an atheist.  No, he wasn’t a hedonist.  But he believed in living a pleasant life, thought the gods couldn’t be bothered with humans, and enjoyed evidence-based thinking.  In a culture where women were usually shut away in their houses and kept from education, he allowed women into his school, along with slaves.  All in all, the kind of philosopher with ideas worth considering.

From the above quote, one gets the impression he would have agreed with the sentiment, “Wish in one hand and shit in the other…”

Cantina Quote o’ The Week: E.B. White

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

        –E.B. White

Alas, I don’t know quite where this quote came from.  I just know that I love it, because I live it every day.

E.B. White, of course, was the author of Charlotte’s Web, which is a good book for determining who among us is destined to grow up a sociopath or a critic.  If you didn’t cry, you’re probably one or the other.

He’s also the White of Strunk & White fame.  He also satirized Freud.  No wonder he won the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Cantina Quote o’ The Week: For Scirnis

The length of my life and the day of my death were fated long ago.

For Scirnis

No, that’s not a person, but a poem, specifically from the Poetic Edda.  The translation online, alas, is a lot more King James-Englishy, and not as wonderfully, poetically succinct:

“To a destined day has mine age been doomed,
And my life’s span thereto laid.”

Poor Skirnir (whose journey this poem is about).  Being the servant of Freyr, especially when Freyr’s feeling lovesick, isn’t especially easy.