Define "a Life"...

... still searching for a clear definition of that thing people keep telling me I need to get...

Location: Springfield, PA

Friday, April 18, 2008

Quote o' the Day

I recently signed up at to get a daily e-mail with -- what else? -- some quotations in it. It's long been a sort of innocent vice of mine that I enjoy finding quotes and sayings in rather random ways. (I used to love the boxes of Celestial Seasonings teas for this, until the formerly small private company got big, went corporate and lost its personality.) I call this a vice because I'm enough of a rhetorician that I cannot in good conscience avoid acknowledging the perils of quoting out of context; my real vice, then, is the fact that I hardly ever hunt down the original context for these things.*

Anyway, today's e-mail contained the following, which I particularly like. (And which, I think, holds little risk of great misrepresentation or misinterpretation when taken on its own.)

"Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe."
-- Edmund Burke
Irish Orator, Statesman

Oddly enough, one of my other frequently-visited quotation sites had this today:

You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom. You can only be free if I am free.
-- Clarence Darrow
American Lawyer

Both thoughts well worth remembering.

(*I am also guilty on rare occasions of knowingly taking a quote out of context, although this is usually only in the most casual of uses. The most acute exception is a snippet from Augustine with which I fell in love at first sight. It was, as I first saw it: "Love, and do what you will."
Of course it was inevitable that context was going to constrain it. What saddened me more deeply was the discovery that the out-of-context quote was also a sloppy -- or at least loose -- translation. The phrase is "Dilige et quod vis fac." The "love" referred to is not from amo -are [to love (passionately); fall in love with, be fond of] but rather dilige, from diligo -ligere [to choose out; to prize , love, esteem highly]. The distinction -- and this is coming from my extremely rusty undergrad Latin -- seems to steer the intention away from the romantic or passionate love with which I'd originally associated it. This ought not be surprising, given Augustine's post-conversion attitude towards the passions of his youth, but I was nonetheless disappointed. In my heart, yet restless though it most definitely is, I want it to be Ama et quod vis fac.)


Blogger Rob S. said...

Actually, the context reveals the Burke quote to mean exactly the opposite:

"Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe... PSYCHE!!!"

(Later, of course, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog amended it to: "Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe... FOR ME TO POOP ON!")

Okay.. it's late and I'm punchy. Off to bed.

2:47 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Or as George Michael put it:

All we have to do now
Is take these lies and make them true somehow
All we have to see
Is that I don't belong to you
And you don't belong to me
You've gotta give for what you take


4:47 PM  
Blogger Greg! said...

We should all study The Wisdom of George Michael.


11:33 PM  

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