by Robert Wilkinson
Besides the not-so-odd quartet of musicians listed below, June 24 is also the birthday of the great journalist, short story writer, and satirist Ambrose Bierce. Time for some dry humor!!
If you don't know who he was, prepare for a journey through some great quotes. Quite a few are sardonic, cynical, and blunt skewerings of social conventions and pretentions which just might make you laugh out loud!
A contemporary of Mark Twain's, his life was bookended by the American Civil War and the Mexican Revolution. He is most famous for his "The Devil's Dictionary" as well as a host of other essays, articles, and short stories displaying his biting social criticisms. Among the most well known of his works is "An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge." In 1962 this was made into a short in France that won the Academy Award for best short film in 1963, and was used in the last season of the original "Twilight Zone."
Without further ado, here are some quotes from his writings that offer glimpses of life through the penetrating gaze of Ambrose Bierce:
Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.
Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
Revolution, n. In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment.
Patriotism. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name.
Conservative, n: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others.
Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility.
Destiny: A tyrant's authority for crime and a fool's excuse for failure.
Education, n.: That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.
Photograph: a picture painted by the sun without instruction in art.
History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.
Cynic, n: a blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.
Insurance - an ingenious modern game of chance in which the player is permitted to enjoy the comfortable conviction that he is beating the man who keeps the table.
Debt, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver.
A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.
A total abstainer is one who abstains from everything but abstention, and especially from inactivity in the affairs of others.
Alliance - in international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other's pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third.
Cabbage: a familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man's head.
Experience - the wisdom that enables us to recognise in an undesirable old acquaintance the folly that we have already embraced.
Acquaintance. A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to.
Belladonna, n.: In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly poison. A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues.
Compromise, n. Such an adjustment of conflicting interests as gives each adversary the satisfaction of thinking he has got what he ought not to have, and is deprived of nothing except what was justly his due.
Admiration, n. Our polite recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves.
Prejudice - a vagrant opinion without visible means of support.
Edible - good to eat and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm.
Lawsuit: A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.
Ocean: A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills.
The slightest acquaintance with history shows that powerful republics are the most warlike and unscrupulous of nations.
Vote: the instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.
War is God's way of teaching Americans geography.
We submit to the majority because we have to. But we are not compelled to call our attitude of subjection a posture of respect.
There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don't know.
Religion. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
Genius - to know without having learned; to draw just conclusions from unknown premises; to discern the soul of things.
Future - That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.
And on that note, I suppose I've exposed the cynic to be a man of deep Soul.
RIP Ambrose. May the world continue to find wit and wisdom from those who think outside the box.
© Copyright 2011 Robert Wilkinson