Annex to Dave Hiles' Virtual Office

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Quotes and Reflections

On this page I intend to accumulate quotes that I find inspiring and useful, that others may find interesting and worth reflecting upon. I have no overall theme in mind, but of course one might emerge over time. In general, the topics will range over my academic, professional, personal and current concerns. Where ever possible, I have cited my sources. The most recent additions are placed at the top. My own reflections, where appropriate, are placed down the right-hand side.


Quotes: Reflections:
Indra's Net
In the heaven of Indra there is said to be a network of pearls, so arranged that if you look at one, you see all the others reflected in it, and if you move into any part of it, you set off the sound of bells that ring through every part of the network, through every part of reality. In the same way, each person, each object in the world, is not merely itself, but involves every other person and object and, in fact, on one level, is every other person and object."

                               The Avatamsaka Sutra.

Everything exists in relationship. Everything!

I have been through Thomas Cleary's text twice now, and I cannot find the page upon which this quote is based. If anyone can e-mail me the precise source for this quote, I would be very grateful indeed.

Seeing the invisible
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

[This quote from The Little Prince serves to remind us of what really matters in trying to make sense of the events and things in the world around us.

In Saint-Exupéry's Wind, Sand and Stars, he writes:
"To grasp the meaning of the world of today we use a language created to express the world of yesterday. The life of the past seems to us nearer our true natures, but only for the reason that it is nearer our language" p.70 ]

Media Control
"The issue is . . . whether we want to live in a free society or whether we want to live under what amounts to a form of self-imposed totalitarianism, with the bewildered herd marginalized, directed elsewhere, terrified, screaming patriotic slogans, fearing for their lives and admiring with awe the leader who saved them from destruction while the educated masses goose-step on command, repeat the slogans they're supposed to repeat, the society deteriorates at home, we end up serving as a mercenary enforcer state, hoping that others are going to pay us to smash up the world. Those are the choices. That's the choice that you have to face. The answer to those questions is very much in the hands of people exactly like you and me."

Noam Chomsky

[This quote from Chomsky seems so relevant to the crisis current at the time of posting it here (24/3/03). It was written more than ten years ago, but seems just as relevant today. From the start of the war with Iraq, the issue of the legality of that war was conveniently forgotten by most of the media. Only in the aftermath of the war, with the failure to find any WMDs has the issue been readdressed. 

On the one hand the unprecedented media coverage of the conflict, with access to front line images, seemed to be completely contrary to Chomsky's propaganda model. While on the other hand, the illusion of free access and 24 hour breaking news, served the interests of those who wanted us to forget that the war had no UN mandate and was contrary to international law. 

We need to be reminded that the majority of world opinion did not give its permission for us to smash up the world.]

Manufacturing Consent
"It's not the case, as the naive might think, that indoctrination is inconsistent with democracy. Rather, ( . . ) it's the essence of democracy. ( . . . In a democratic state) you have this problem . . . people (are) so curious and so arrogant that they don't have the humility to submit to a civil rule and therefore you have to control what people think. And the standard way to do this is to resort to what in more honest days used to be called propaganda - manufacture of consent - creation of necessary illusions (. . . democracy) is a game for elites, its not for the ignorant masses, who have to be marginalized, diverted and controlled - of course for their own good."

 Noam Chomsky

[I love this quote from Chomsky. It reminds us to keep the right perspective in trying to understand political events. Indoctrination is the essence of democracy. In a democracy it is necessary to control what people think, i.e. manufacturing consent, necessary illusion. Democracy is a game for elites.

The "talking-up" of a war with Iraq by the US and UK governments was an exercise in manufacturing consent. However, there are two observations worth making here: (i) public opinion against the war held its own corner very well, at least until the war started, and (ii) the US and UK governments discovered that the same mechanisms did not seem to be operating with respect to manufacturing international consent!!

The discourses of war at one moment took a rather surprising turn. In desperation, the UK government resorted to plagiarism in producing its so-called "dossier". And, US foreign policy towards Iraq seemed to be little better than that of "old West" vigilantism. The US sees itself as the self-appointed guardian of world law and order. But someone taking the law into their own hands is a dangerous strategy that this world does not need.]

On not letting things be  
"What comes to pass does so not so much because a few people want it to happen, as because the mass of citizens abdicate their responsibility and let things be."

Antonio Gramsci
(quoted by George Monbiot)

[War is an obscenity, and the "talking up" of war is just as obscene. Recently, the US and UK governments "talked up" a war with Iraq that was not sanctioned by the UN. In order to claim support, both the US and UK governments were counting upon Gramsci's principle of hegemony, the implied consent of the people by their inaction. 

Before 9/11, the idea of an unprovoked war with Iraq would have been unthinkable. Yet, despite the failure of all of the efforts of the CIA to establish a link between Al Quida and Iraq, a war with Iraq was undertaken.  

The war was not inevitable. It was everyone's  responsibility to not let things be.]   

War with Iraq - the humanitarian scenario
"The outbreak of disease in epidemic if not pandemic proportions is very likely . . . As many as 500,000 people could require treatment to a greater or lesser degree as a result of direct or indirect injuries . . . It is estimated that the nutritional status of some 3.03m people countrywide will be dire and that they will require therapeutic feeding. This consists of 2.03m severely and moderately malnourished children under 5 and one million pregnant women . . . It is estimated that there will eventually be some 900,000 Iraqi refugees requiring assistance, of which 100,000 will be in need of immediate assistance."  

CASI summary of leaked UN Report

[The war with Iraq was portrayed by the US and UK governments as a war with "Saddam". But the reality is that it is the people of Iraq who were killed, who are starving, who are diseased, and who will become homeless. 

It is fairly certain that more children will die in the aftermath of the war than military personnel killed in combat. The people that "talk-up" wars don't tell us that.]

On not believing your ears
"When I urged a meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science to recognize the absurdity of regarding human beings as automata, the distinguished neurologist, R.W. Gerard, answered me passionately: 'One thing we know, ideas don't move muscles!' I could not believe my ears."

Michael Polanyi

[Since I take the view that it is ideas that move my fingers over this keyboard as I type, and it is ideas that can stop me from moving forward when some danger is apparent, I am with Polanyi on this one. Richard Gelwick, in his book The Way of Discovery, describes Polanyi's work as a Heuristic Philosophy, which I see as very much concerned with a re-enlightenment, a rethinking of the enlightenment project that has been with us for some 300 years.]
What is the idea of a university?
"[The current crisis in higher education] . .  means reconsidering the idea of a university and then abolishing most of them . . . . . in a spirit of uncritical optimism, the difficult question of what a university should be for has been ignored for decades." 

Minette Marrin

[I cannot agree with very much that is in Marrin's article, except perhaps the urgent need to face up to this difficult question of what a university should be for. It is a question that I have thought about a great deal for some twenty years, and for the past ten years or so I have become aware that the answer has more to do with student numbers and funding, rather than what is being taught. I am not against the expansion of student numbers in principle, provided a proper debate of what a university could be for also takes place. If the target of 50% of the population receiving a higher education in the UK is to be reached, then we will have to seriously consider the need for fourth and fifth class degrees. Unthinkable, perhaps, but let's think it through!]
Stranger than science will allow
" . . not only is the world we live in far stranger than scientific culture will allow, but [ . ] science is as much about active concealment as discovery."

Colin Bennett

[This is a point that followers of Charles Fort will find familiar. As Bennett points out: "Fort's books contain a unique phenomenology founded on observation of exceptions rather than rules."]  
With our thoughts we make the world
"We are what we think.
All that we are arises in our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world."


[This is an idea that comes close to much recent phenomenological thinking. But, it is worth noting that the idea has been around for at least 2,500 years!!] 
Intimations of irreality
"Hladik felt the verse form [for his drama] to be essential because it makes it impossible for the spectators to lose sight of irreality, one of art's requisites."

Jorge Luis Borges

[This is taken from the story of Jaromir Hladik, the 'hero' of Borges' The Secret Miracle. Borges here seems to be pointing to the human signature that all art must carry. Art does not record or imitate reality, but brings into play the human reality that can offer meaning and significance to the events portrayed. 'Irreality' is what the human mind imaginatively brings to the bare skeleton of realism.]
Understanding life backwards
"It is perfectly true, as philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards."

Søren Kierkegaard

[However we engage with life, backwards or forwards, we can only come to know life by taking part.]
Only if we live differently
" . . certainty is not a proof of truth . . . the world everyone sees is not the world but a world which we bring forth with others . . . the world will be different only if we live differently."

Humberto Maturana & Francisco Varela

[That the world we see is mere appearance, is of course a theme that runs through many spiritual and philosophical systems of knowledge. The emphasis here is on the power that we have to make different this world that we are bringing forth.] 
Of third-order knowledge
"Out of the sum total of the meanings that are deduced from the contacts with numerous single objects of the environment there grows a unified view of the world into which we find ourselves “thrown” (to use an existentialist term), and this view is of the third order. There is a strong reason to believe that it is really quite irrelevant what this third-order view of the world consists of, as long as it offers a meaningful premise for one’s existence . . .  what is important, however, is that we operate with a set of premises about the phenomena perceived and that the interaction with reality in the widest sense will be determined by these premises . . .  reality is very largely what we make it to be."

Paul Watzlawick, Janet Beavin & Don Jackson

[The idea, that reality is very largely what we make it to be, very much appeals to me. This quote from Watzlawick, Beavin & Jackson's Pragmatics of Human Communication is so helpful in getting this idea across. They propose that first- and second-order knowledge are fairly straightforward, but third-order knowledge is such that it is really "quite irrelevant" what it consists of, so long it can offer some basis for creating and circulating meanings in human culture.]
"A story that is a most precious possession because it is sacred, exemplary, significant.

Mercia Eliade

[We really must learn to value the place of stories in our lives.]
"A myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world
. . .  mythmaking is essential in gaining mental health . . . without myth we are like a race of brain-injured people unable to go beyond the word to hear the person who is speaking." 

Rollo May

[In the Foreword to Rollo May's The Cry for Myth he writes that " . . Western society has but lost its myths . . (and) . . there is an urgency in the need for myth in our day". To my own mind, that urgency is becoming more and more  desperate everyday.]
This is what fools people:
". . a man is always a teller of tales, he lives surrounded by his stories and the stories of others, he sees everything that happens to him through them; and he tries to live his life as if he were recounting it."

Jean-Paul Sartre

[Sartre is concerned here with how life's events can become adventures, i.e. can be given significance and meaning. His proposal is that we do this through stories. ]

Leadership and change
"Years of study and experience show that the things that sustain change are not bold stokes but long marches - the independent, discretionary, and ongoing efforts of people throughout the organization. Real change requires people to adjust their behavior, and that behavior is often beyond the control of top management. . . . in difficult situations, leaders who have neglected the long march often fall back on the bold stroke. It feels good (at least to the boss) to shake things up, but it exacts a toll on the organization."

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

[I can't help but think how relevant this is to the way change has been managed in the University over these past few years. I continually observe management styles that have done irreparable harm to morale, and usually have only served to undermine quality rather than enhance it.]

Disabling institutions
"Beyond a certain level, medicine engenders helplessness and disease; education turns into the major generator of a disabling division of labour   . . . our major institutions have acquired the uncanny power to subvert the very purposes for which they have been engineered and financed originally."

Ivan Illich

[The point is - we must always be prepared to think the unthinkable. Of course, it is very easy to dismiss Illich's cynical view. But,  all  institutions and professions need to be vigilant to the uncanny powers that Illich claims are at work.]

Disabling professions
"The disabling of the citizen through professional dominance is completed through the power of illusion . . . 
The first enslaving illusion is the idea that people are born to be consumers and that they can attain any of their goals by purchasing goods and services. This illusion is due to an educated blindness for the worth of use-values in the total economy. . . What people do or make but will not or cannot put up for sale is as immeasurable and as invaluable for the economy as the oxygen they breathe."

Ivan Illich

[Ivan Illich, in his essay "Disabling Professions", lists five enslaving illusions. The first of these has come to be so embedded in our modern-day institutional practices such that it is now hardly ever challenged. I have always maintained that the things that are really significant and important about human action and experience usually cannot be quantified or measured in any simple way. The best example of this is "goodwill", something that indeed has a use-value as important as the oxygen we breathe, but is taken for granted and abused in the most appalling manner by employers, managers, etc., in modern-day society".]

Living and creating
"I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create."

William Blake


Seeing the wood for the trees
"We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to become like other people."

Arthur Schopenhauer

[This is of course the quote that heads my web page. It is also the quote that I use to introduce two modules that I teach, one on Humanistic-Existential and the other on Discursive Psychology. An odd combination some would think, but a tension that I feel lies at the heart of psychology. As human beings we are to a large extent socially/culturally constructed, but there is also a part of us that gives us the potential to be authentic.]
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste . . .
"You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;  you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."

Max Ehrmann

[I carry a copy of the Desiderata with me where ever I go, and it is this brief excerpt that I mutter to myself in times when things seem to be getting me down.]
All shall be well . . .
"All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."

Julian of Norwich

[This is the most profound statement of hope that I know of. Of course, hope does not necessary offer any guarantees, but I do know that human life without hope would be unbearable.]



William Blake (1804) Jerusalem, plate10. (Geoffrey Keynes. 1966. Blake Complete Writings. OUP. p. 629).  [Back]

Colin Bennett (2002) Politics of the Imagination: The life, work and ideas of Charles Fort. Critical Vision. (p. 12).   [Back]

Jorge Luis Borges (1956/1970) The Secret Miracle. (Translated by Harriet de Onís, and collected in Labyrinths: Selected stories and other writings. Penguin, 1970. p.121).  [Back]

Noam Chomsky (1994) Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the media. (Edited by Mark Achbar). Black Rose Books. (Transcript available here).   [Back]

Thomas Cleary (1993) (Trans.) The Flower Ornament Scripture (A translation of The Avatamsaka Sutra). Shambala. (Full text here). [Back]

Dhammapada: The Sayings of the Buddha. (Interpreted and Translated by Thomas Byrom. Shambala, 1993).  [Back]

Max Ehrmann (1927) Desiderata. (Reprinted: Ehrmann, M. The Desiderata of Happiness. Souvenir Press, 1986.)   [Back]

Mercia Eliade (1963) Myth and Reality. p. 1.  [Back]

Ivan Illich (1977) Disabling Professions. Marion Boyars. p. 27 - 29.  [Back]

Søren Kierkegard (Quoted in W.H. Auden (Ed.) (1952/1999) The Living Thoughts of Kierkegaard. New York Review Books.  [Back]

Minette Marrin (2002) The big academic lie that is killing our universities. Sunday Times, November 17th, p. 19.  [Back]

Humberto Maturana & Francisco Varela (1987/1998) The Tree of Knowledge: The biological roots of human understanding. Revised Edition. Shambala.  [Back]

Rollo May (1991) The Cry for Myth. p. 15.   [Back]

Julian of Norwich (1373) Revelations of Divine Love. Chap. 27.  [Back]

Michael Polanyi (1959) The two cultures (Footnote 3). (Reprinted in Knowing and Being: Essays by Michael Polanyi, Edited by M. Grene. Routledge & Kegan Paul.)    [Back]

Jean-Paul Sartre (1938/1965) Nausea. (Trans. R. Baldick). Penguin. (p. 61)  [Back]

Arthur Schopenhauer (1851/1995) Counsels & Maxims.  Prometheus Books; p.25.  [Back]

Watzlawick, P., Beavin, J.H. & Jackson, D.D. (1967) Pragmatics of Human Communication: A study of interactional patterns, pathologies, and paradoxes. W.W. Norton & Co.  (p. 261)  [Back]




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