COMMENTARY ON 10 FAMOUS PARADOXICAL QUOTES
I’m intrigued by the profound pronouncements of great minds, dead and alive. Sometimes, their sayings point out contradictions in various aspects of life which may not be noticed at a superficial glance. In this post, I’ve chosen ten of such sayings for a brief examination. The resultant commentary is a combination of my views, some facts and a smattering of what I consider to be widely-held opinions on the issues raised. Happy reading!
1. “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates, Greek philosopher (470-399 B.C.)
Popular rendering: “The more you learn, the more you realise how little you know,” probably adapted from Einstein’s “The more I learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know.” – Albert Einstein, German-born physicist (1879-1955)
Smart people acknowledge how boundless knowledge is. That is why, I presume, the higher you go in a discipline, the narrower the specialisations become. I’m reminded of the African-American botanist and inventor, George Washington Carver (1860s-1943), who studied the peanut so much and developed many products and 105 recipes from it.
I once heard a story that Carver was a Christian and prayed that God should teach him so much about nature. God, the story says, pointed him to the peanut and although he worked with other crops, the prodigious amount of products he invented based on it (some sources claim over 300)) show the infiniteness of knowledge.G. H. Carver's sustained study of the peanut demonstrates that knowledge is infinite. Click To Tweet
2. “Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down.” – Author Unknown
This is hilarious! All I can say is that I’ve seen countless occasions in real life and in the movies where someone screamed at another to stop telling them to calm down. That is how effective that admonition can be!
(Related: 10 Wisdom for Life Quotes)
3. “Force is often used to enforce peace and an A bomb did bring world war 2 to a shuddering halt.” – Nidhie Sharma, Indian writer and filmmaker
Much as one abhors violence, you cannot argue with the fact that it becomes inevitable sometimes or with that historical tidbit cited above. We just pray that reason and compromise prevail in every conflict situation that brews around us before matters come to a head.
4. “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”
Popular rendering of “We learn from history that we do not learn from history” and “What experience and history teaches us is that people and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.” – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, German philosopher (1770-1831)
What can I say? Although this sounds so cynical, evidence to support it continues to mount with the passage of time. And so it was in Nigeria, that in 1983, General Muhammadu Buhari toppled a democratically elected civilian government and became the head of a very dictatorial military regime. When he was unseated in a bloodless coup in 1985, Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief.
Before then, in 1977, while Buhari was Minister of Petroleum, $2.8 billion of public money went missing. Similarly, in 1997, while he served as the Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund, $500 million of public money was lost. Buhari was never required to account for these missing funds, although he was widely linked to them in the media, probably because he was a former military general and head of state.
Come the buildup to the 2015 elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presented him as a reformed democrat and anti-corruption crusader! His campaign was largely funded by state governors who donated their states’ allocations from the federal government to the party while owing workers many months of salary arrears and halting ongoing projects. Even his own submissions about his cash and property ownership vastly changed during the few months of the campaigns casting grave doubts on the veracity of his claims and his much touted loathing of corruption. Yet, he won the presidential elections!
A few months into his administration, Buhari unleashed his repressive style of leadership on Nigerians and corruption is soaring. The latest scandal in the Petroleum Ministry, which he is heading, is diversion of funds to the tune of $26 billion! This is record breaking, even for Nigeria!Wisdom is picking the good from the past and avoiding the mistakes therein. Click To Tweet
5. “The darkest hour is just before the dawn.” – Thomas Fuller, English theologian and historian (1608-1661)
This is usually applied to those who are facing trying circumstances, to encourage them that when things are hardest, relief is probably right round the corner. A similar quote from another Christian writer states that, “A true work of God often moves from difficult to impossible to done!”
(Related: From Difficult to Impossible to Done!)
6. Likes repel but opposites attract. This idea is from basic electricity and magnetism, but it is often applied to romantic relationships. It is expected that people with opposite attributes would complement each other and find the other’s company more stimulating, rather than boring and predictable. Of course, if they are too different, they would have so little by way of meeting grounds in their frames of reference to begin a relationship.
7. “The only thing that is constant is change.” – Heraclitus, Greek philosopher (540-480 B.C.) He believed that “life is flux” as Joshua J. Mark puts it, with change being the only constant.
At the same time, we hear that human beings are creatures of habit. People feel more comfortable with the familiar. No wonder, they often resist change. Not that I’m saying we should welcome every new-fangled idea, but there comes a time for unhealthy habits and anachronistic practices to be discontinued, as was the case with slavery in the Americas and the killing of twins in some parts of Nigeria on the superstitious belief that they were evil.
8. “The man who is most aggressive in teaching tolerance is the most intolerant of all: he wants a world full of people too timid and ashamed to really disagree with anything.” – Criss Jami, American writer
This is the tragicomic situation foisted on society by the prevalent pandering to political correctness. According to Dr. Michael Brown, American Christian writer and host of nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio show, the present liberal tolerance is actually highly intolerant. Members of the LGBT community are hailed for ‘coming out of the closet’, transgendering and they hold gay pride parades.
In Western countries, such as the United States, Christians are pressured to join the bandwagon and endorse them. When they refuse to, on the grounds that the LGBT lifestyle is condemned in the Bible, they are labelled as hateful and bigoted. Worse than that, Christian businesses are targeted by LGBT activists demanding they provide services for their weddings. When they decline on faith grounds, they are sued and slammed with heavy fines or have their businesses shut. That is how ‘tolerant’ these folks are!
(Related: Dear American Believer, Do not Waste Your Indian Summer!)
9. “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” —Theodor Seuss Geisel, American Writer, Cartoonist, Animator (1904-1991)
Popular rendering: “You never know the value of something/someone until you lose them.” We shouldn’t take our experiences or the people in our lives for granted. We should appreciate their contributions to building us and enabling us to live out our purpose.If you must lose someone or something precious, let it not be because you neglected them. Click To Tweet
10. “Women live longer than men because they often cry.” – Wan Chengkui, Chinese health expert and Professor of The Fourth Military Medical University
Men are usually expected to be tough, so they tend to bottle up their emotions, including painful episodes. Women in many parts of the world feel no pressure to be tough, so they weep more and this is cathartic, helping them to cope better with trauma and thus live longer.
This is, of course, the traditional view of the genders. In contemporary societies where gender differences are seen as anathemas, many would scoff at such an assertion and the subsequent explanation. What do you think?
Well, it’s been fun sharing these quotes and my take on them. I would like you to share your impressions about them.
Are there similar quotes that you love? Do post them in the comments too.
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