Bits of Borrowed Wisdom For an Anxious New Year

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Dan Berrigan, Jesuit priest, anti-war activist, poet:
Start with the impossible. Proceed calmly toward the improbable.

—-
A. E. Houseman:
The laws of God, the laws of man,
He may keep that will and can;
Not I: let God and man decree
Laws for themselves and not for me;
And if my ways are not as theirs
Let them mind their own affairs.
Their deeds I judge and much condemn,
Yet when did I make laws for them?
Please yourselves, say I, and they
Need only look the other way.
But no, they will not; they must still
Wrest their neighbor to their will,
And make me dance as they desire
With jail and gallows and hell-fire.
And how am I to face the odds
Of man’s bedevilment and God’s?
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.
They will be master, right or wrong;
Though both are foolish, both are strong.
And since, my soul, we cannot fly
To Saturn nor to Mercury,
Keep we must, if keep we can,
These foreign laws of God and man
————

Brendan Behan:
I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.
————-

Umberto Eco:
I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.
————-

Otto von Bismarck:
While drinking beer, there’s an inherent desire for people to criticize their government.
————-

Albert Camus:
I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice.
————-

Seamus Heaney:
History says,
Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme
————-

Czeslaw Milosz:
Not that I want to be a god or a hero.
Just to change into a tree, grow for ages, not hurt anyone.
————-

Jack Gilbert:
Imagine if suffering were real.
Imagine if those old people
were afraid of death.
What if the midget or the girl
with one arm
really felt pain? Imagine how
impossible it would be
to live if some people were
alone and afraid all their lives.
————

Charles Foucault:
There is one case when we must resist evil forcefully. It is when it is not a case of defending ourselves but of protecting others. It takes forcefulness to defend the weak and the innocent when their oppressors wrong them. The spirit of peace is not a spirit of weakness but a spirit of strength.

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