Monday, October 29, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences. Conclusion.

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, a blunt commentary on Americans' use of English.

What is wrong with the following phrases?

right on; up tight; chicken out; totally destroyed; completely destroyed; partially surrounded; completely surrounded; partially damaged; completely abandoned; completely eliminated; rather unique; very unique; totally unique; last-ditch talks; costly walkout; confidence factor; in a punting situation/forced to punt; powerful Ways and Means Committee; all-important Rules Committee; uneasy truce; scenario; agreement hammered out; embattled chief executive; eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation; more importantly ' ongoing dialogue; flipside; growth potential; capabilities; viability; mesh; optimal; innovative; target area; inputs; outputs; components; segments; configurations; environmental impact; time-span; bare bones; market strategies; management teams; high retention characteristics; got good wood on; got a big jump; they came to play; that has to be....

Most are tired, outworn and sometimes redundant phrases.

Thus ends the latest edition of "Significant Sentences," interesting sentences from interesting books. In some cases, the books are out of print and readers would not be able to buy them. In other cases used copies of the books are too expensive to purchase. The few used copies available for Hal Borland's Twelve Moons of the Year cost $95 for a book that once sold new at one-quarter of that amount. The ideas from that book and all of the others featured in this blog deserve to be remembered and read and savored over and over again.

Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking is the last book to be featured in "Significant Sentences," not because I could not find other memorable books with memorable sentences, but because no one cares. I thank all of you who have read my blog, "Significant Sentences." I have thoroughly enjoyed providing this service.

All the best.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 07

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

"The British seem so detached and serene to us that their true feelings often go unnoticed." p. 164.

"It might be added also that the British unduly handicap themselves with the names they apply to some foods--bloaters, pilchards, scrag end, bubble-and-squeak, toad-in-the-hole, nosh, fry-up, faggots, roly-poly pudding, stodge, black pudding, spotted dog." p. 173.

"Tourism: ...there is enormous competition for going somewhere nobody you know has been." p. 179.

"Rome tourist leaflet urging travel to the U.S.: '...not true that Americans live on coffee for breakfast, martinis for lunch and frozen foods for dinner.' " p. 183.

Some examples of the decline in use of the English language:

"...nobody takes medicine but rather medication...." p. 2.

William Simon: "One cannot ad hoc tax reform." p. 2.

"There are those who think it is better to say 'impacted on' than 'hit.' " p. 3.

"Can we stop something, preventive medicinewise, from happening?" p. 3.

Redundancy: "...young juveniles." p. 3.

Tired phrases: "You've got to be kiddin'; it's a bad scene; how does that grab you? Just for openers; it's a fun idea; fantastic; it's the in place; is he for real? Back to square one; that's the name of the game; who's counting? bottom line; wild; would you believe? Out of sight; lots of luck; what can I tell you? What have you done for me lately? Is alive and well; it's a whole new ball game." p. 4.

"...parameter vs. boundary or limit; viable...." p. 4.

"...eventuated...." p. 5.

"...good team player...." p. 7.

Inflated language: "...indicated/said; prior to/ before; undertaken/done; subsequent/after...." p. 8.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 06.

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

" 'Authored': Why not, 'He playwrighted a play' ?" p. 144.

"I think it may be better to grunt unintelligibly than to use such language [as the Hampshire College 'working paper'], for it is so impersonal and manufactured as to be almost inhuman." p. 145.

"A large part of social scientific practice consists of taking clear ideas and making them opaque." p. 146.

"On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln was on the side of social scientists when he said, 'God must have loved the people of lower and middle socio-economic status, because he made such a multiplicity of them.' " p. 148. [Lincoln actually said, "Common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them."]

"The answers [in sports interviews] are purely ritualistic, but nobody minds." p. 152.

" 'Putting it all together' [in sports] was identified as the key to success a few years ago, and it has swept all other explanations before it." p. 153.

"There is no way to measure the destructive effect of sports broadcasting on ordinary American English, but it must be considerable." p. 155. [To which I add Allan Iverson's, "I should have went to practice," a butchered verb tense--("I should have ran....") used by so many sports commentators that I long ago lost count. What did they teach him in those English classes that he attended at Georgetown University? RayS.]

Monday, October 22, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 05.

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

How's this for gobbledygook and jargon from educated people who should know better?

"In June, 1974, Hampshire College in South Amherst, Massachusetts graduated its first class. Plans for the college were set out in December 1966, as a 'working paper,' and these were some of the positions taken:

"...that social structure should optimally be the consonant patterned expression of culture; that higher education is enmeshed in a congeries of social and political change; that the field of the humanities suffers from a surfeit of leeching, its blood drawn out by verbalism, explication of text, Alexandrian scholiasticism and the exquisite preciosities and pretentiousness of contemporary literary criticism; that a formal curriculum of academic substance and sequence should not be expected to contain mirabilia which will bring all the educative ends of the college to pass, and that any formal curriculum should contain a high frangibility factor, that the College hopes that the Hampshire student will have kept within him news of Hampshire's belief that individual man's honorable choice is not between immolation in a senseless society or withdrawal into the autarchic self but instead trusts that his studies and experience in the College will confirm for him the choice that only education allows; detachment and skill enough to know, engagement enough to feel, and concern enough to act, with self and society in productive interplay, separate and together, that an overzealous independence reduces linguistics to a kind of cryptographic taxonomy of linguistic forms, and that the conjoining of other disciplines and traditional linguistics becomes most crucial as problems of meaning are faced in natural language; and that the College expects its students to wrestle most with questions of the human condition, which are, What does it mean to be human? How can men become more human? What are human beings for?"

Incredible! Try summarizing that in a single sentence.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 04.

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

"Polls...put...the emphasis in an election in the wrong place, on who is thought to be ahead, rather than on what the candidates propose and what their election might mean." p. 73.

"Politicians should be encouraged to stand for what they believe in, not try to smell out the exact mosaic of attitudes and positions that will appeal t the greatest number." p. 73.

" helped to sell foreign products if they were called 'imported' rather than 'foreign.' " p. 76.

"I am...uncomfortable when I hear the breakdown of voting results according to religion and race and national origins...because it helps to perpetuate divisions that we might be better off without, because it leads people to go on thinking of themselves in a particular way, as members of a particular group...." p. 79.

"Spontaneity is all right provided they can rehearse it first." p. 81.

"Another approach to nominating is the alliterative: 'Richard who had demonstrated courage in crisis from Caracas to the Kremlin.' " p. 92.

Jargon: "The capacity to generate language viability destruction." p. 128.

"The ability to use jargon is learned at an increasingly early age." p. 141.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 03.

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

" 'Massive' doesn't even mean large any more...goes by without registering...means nothing." p. 29.

"You may convince that; you may convince of; you may not convince to." p. 32.

"What makes the incorrect more attractive than the correct?" p. 33.

"Gresham's Law tells us that the less valuable currency will force the more valuable out of circulation." p. 33.

"Why do American politicians invariably say 'I would hope' "? p. 34.

"A 'serious crisis' is the only one to 'true facts.' "p. 35.

"When does a sheet of paper metamorphose into a document?" p. 45.

"No practice in Washington is more beloved than that of attributing statements to sources who cannot be named." p. 49.

"One reason that language is debased in Washington is that it rests so often on assumptions that are unexamined." p. 51. [RayS: For example, today, in the Iraq War, newspapers and reporters on TV constantly refer to the "insurgents." What is an "insurgent"?]

"Politics has a way of bringing on meaningless language." p. 65.

"People who say 'judgmental' think they are important." p. 70.

"...anything that depersonalizes is an enemy of language." p. 71. [RayS: For example, "Wop," "Polak," etc.]

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 02.

Signficant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

"...stiffness and bloat are almost everywhere." p. 9.

"Television...exalted the picture and depreciated the word." p. 11.

"The prevalence of 'Y'know' is one of the most far-reaching and depressing developments of our time, disfiguring conversations wherever you go.... Attend meetings at NBC and elsewhere in which people of high rank and station, with salaries to match, say almost nothing else." p. 14.

"Some people collapse into 'y'know' after giving up trying to say what they mean." p. 14.

"Language, then, sets the tone of our society." p. 17.

"Most of us will never speak...succinctly or concretely; we may, however, aspire to; for direct and precise language, if people could be persuaded to try it, would make conversation more interesting, which is no small thing; it would help to substitute facts for bluster, also no small thing; and it would promote the practice of organized thought and even of occasional silence, which would be an immeasurable blessing." p. 18.

"Still, it remains true that since nothing is more important to a society than the language it uses--there would be no society without it--we would be better off if we spoke and wrote with exactness and grace, and if we preserved, rather than destroyed, the value of our language. p. 18.

"The desire for weightiness even creeps into the language of television weather forecasts: Why [is] 'major thunderstorm activity' preferred to 'major thunderstorms?' " p. 23.

"We love to pump air into the language." p. 24.

"American journalism has a way of fastening on words and sucking them dry." p. 28.

" 'Meanwhile' now serves about as much purpose as clearing of the throat." p. 28.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 01.

Strictly Speaking: Will America Be the Death of English?
Edwin Newman
Indianapolis/New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc.

RayS: I like nothing better than a good rant on the state of the English language today and Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking.... is one of the more effective rants that I have encountered. A film was made using Newman as the narrator and the words from his book. I used it in an inservice program with school administrators and they were enthralled. His message is clear. Our business language is full of pomposity and redundancy and tired, meaningless phrases. Enjoy--and learn from--these significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking....

Cover: "Newman's wry eye focuses on the sorry state of the English language as a reflection of the sorry state of society."

Cover: "If words are devalued, he [Newman] argues, so are ideas and so are human beings."

Cover: "He [Newman] rejoices in language that is lucid, graceful, direct, civilized."

"...the state of the language is a commentary on the state of our society." p. 1.

"Not only has eloquence departed but simple, direct speech as well, though pomposity and banality have not." p. 4.

"It is at least conceivable that our politics would be improved if our English were...."

"If we were more careful about what we say, and how, we might be more critical and less gullible." p. 5.

"Those for whom words have lost their value are likely to find that ideas have also lost their value." p. 5.

"A world without mistakes [in language] would unquestionably be less fun." p. 6.

"Harry Truman used to say "irrevalent" and stress the third syllable in "incomparable"; but Mr. Truman never had any trouble getting his points across." p. 6.

"As a veteran I was in an army hospital in 1947, and a fellow patient asked me what another patient did for a living. I said he was a teacher. 'Oh,' was the reply, 'them is my chief dread.' A lifetime was summed up in those six syllables. No way to improve on that." p. 6.

"Certainly those involved in Watergate had had far more education than the national average, yet one of the things that the Watergate hearings revealed was a poverty of expression, an inability to say anything in a striking way, an addiction to a language that was almost denatured, and in which what little humor did occur was usually unintentional." p. 7.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 18.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "The Inner Galaxy"

"I remain oppressed by the thought that the venture into space is meaningless unless it coincides with a certain interior expansion." p. 298.

"...a play in which man was destined always to be a searcher, and it would be his true nature he would seek." p. 300.

Montaigne: "The conviction of wisdom is the plague of man." p. 310.

"Century after century, humanity studies itself in the mirror of fashion, and ever the mirror gives back distortions, which for the moment impose themselves upon man's real image." p. 301.

Montaigne: "We are, I know not how, double in ourselves, so that what we believe we disbelieve, and cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn." p. 302.

"It is man's folly, as it is perhaps a sign of his spiritual aspirations, that he is forever scrutinizing and redefining himself." p. 303.

"Few of us can be saints; few of us are total monsters." p. 304.

"Man's altruistic and innately cooperative character has brought him along the road to civilization...." p. 305.

"The open-ended, unpredictable." p. 306.

"Perhaps, it is always the destined role of the compassionate to be strangers among men." p. 310.

"For the seed of man is thistledown, and a puff of breath may govern it, or a word from a poet torment it into greatness." p. 310.

"It was the failures who had always won, but by the time they won they had come to be called successes. This is the final paradox, which men call evolution." p. 311.

Comment: I think this last quote is one of my most memorable from Loren Eiseley: "It was the failures who had always won, but by the time they won they had come to be called successes. This is the final paradox, which men call evolution." It comes at the end of an essay devoted to man's exploration--not the exploration of continents and space--but man's inner exploration in search of his own nature. And, Eiseley decides, that inner nature is a paradox.

This essay concludes the significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower. According to some, Eiseley himself was a failure as a scientist and as a college administrator. One could infer from his biography--Fox at the Wood's Edge by Gale Christiansen--that he was also a failure as a teacher and perhaps, measured by some critics, as a man--as his father was also a failure. One scientist said of Eiseley's essays, "It's cute, but it's not science."

In my opinion, Eiseley successfully explored humanity and nature with a scientist's insight and a poet's sensitivity and expressed his explorations in memorable words. It is my hope that people will continue to read his essays and be as inspired as I have been to believe in and fulfill the evolving and improving nature of humanity.

What do you think?


Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 17

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "How Natural is 'Natural' "?

" our day he [man] has pierced so deeply through the screen of appearances that the age-old distinctions between matter and energy have been dimmed to the point of disappearance." p. 283.

"He [man] holds the heat of suns within his hands and threatens with it both the lives and the happiness of his unborn descendants." p. 284.

Pascal: "There is nothing natural which we do not destroy." p. 284.

"As society improves physically, we assume the improvement of the individual and are all the more horrified at those mass movements of terror which have so typified the first half of the twentieth century." p. 284.

"The special value of science lies not in what it makes of the world, but in what it makes of the knower." p. 291.

"The Renaissance thinkers were right when they said that man, the Microcosm, contains the Macrocosm." p. 293.

Kierkegaard: "Maturity consists in the discovery that there comes a critical moment where everything is reversed, after which the point becomes to understand more and more that there is something which cannot be understood." p. 294.

"Man's quest for certainty is, in the last analysis, a quest for meaning." p. 295.

" see, beyond the natural, to that inexpressible realm in which the words 'natural' and 'supernatural' cease to have meaning." p. 296.

Reflections: You can't get more cryptic than the last sentence. I think Eiseley means that at some point the natural and the supernatural come together as one entity. Make of that what you want.

I really like the sentence on page 291 that the goal of science is not what it makes of the world but what it makes of the knower. What does that sentence mean to you? RayS.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 16.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "The Illusion of the Two Cultures." [RayS note: The two cultures are scientific and artistic.]

Sir Eric Ashby: "To train young people in the dialectic between orthodoxy and dissent is the unique contribution which universities make to society." p. 267.

"Our lives are the creation of memory and the accompanying power to extend ourselves outward into ideas and relive them." p. 267.

"...failure to distinguish the purposes of science from those of literature." p. 268.

"Man, the tool user, grows convinced that he is himself only useful as a tool." p. 269 .

On being discovered reading Tolkein's The Fellowship of the Ring by a young scientist: " 'I wouldn't waste my time with a man who writes fairy stories.' He might as well have added, 'or with a man who reads them.' " p. 269.

"...there can be found in all ages and in all institutions--even the institution of professional learning--the humorless man with the sneer, or if the sneer does not suffice, then the torch...." p. 269.

"In its day and time this hand ax was as grand an intellectual achievement as a rocket." p. 270.

"...the kind of mind which, once having shaped an object of any sort, leaves an individual trace behind it which speaks to others across the barriers of time and language." p. 271.

"Today's secular disruption between the creative aspect of art and that of science is a barbarism that would have brought lifted eyebrows in a Cro-Magnon cave." p. 271.

"The convenient label 'mystic' is, in our day, readily applied to men who pause for simple wonder." p. 272.

"To many it must appear that the more we can dissect life into its elements, the closer we are getting to its ultimate resolution." p. 273.

"From a single point his [the scientist's] discovery is verifiable by other men who may then, on the basis of corresponding data, accept the innovation and elaborate upon it in the cumulative fashion which is one of the great triumphs of science." p. 273.

"Artistic creation, on the other hand, is unique...not cumulative." p. 273.

"As the French novelist Francois Mauriac has remarked, each great novel is a separate and distinct world operating under its own laws with a flora and fauna totally its own." p. 273.

"There is communication in a work of art, or the work is a failure, but the communication releases our own visions, touches some highly personal chord in our own experience." p. 273.

"The artist...touches the hidden strings of pity...searches our hearts...makes us sensitive to beauty...asks questions about fate and destiny." p. 274.

"...great literature, whose meanings...can never be totally grasped because of their endless power to ramify in the individual mind." p. 274.

" emotional hunger which is the prerogative of the artist." p. 276.

"In fact it is one of the disadvantages of big science, just as it is of big government, that the availability of huge sums attracts a swarm of elbowing and contentious men to whom great dreams are less than protected hunting preserves." p. 277.

" the aid of the artistic imagination, those humane insights and understandings which alone can...enable us to shape ourselves, rather than the stone, into the forms which great art has anticipated." p. 279.

Reflections: Science analyzes people; art shapes them. Science and art both create. Science and art should both communicate. Let's explore how science and art could both work together as they did in the days of the Cro-Magnon man. We need to bring the two cultures back together again.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 15.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "The Lethal Factor."

"Before we pass, it is well to think of what our final image as a race may be." p. 255.

"Humanity's restless mind would try all paths, all horrors, all betrayals." p. 256.

"...great music would lift him momentarily into some pure domain of peace." p. 256.

"He would kill for shadowy ideas more ferociously than other creatures kill for food; then, in a generation or less, forget what bloody dream had so oppressed him." p. 256.

" appears that behind every unifying effort in the life of man there is an opposite tendency to disruption, as if the force symbolized in the story of the Tower of Babel had been felt by man since the beginning." p. 258.

"...with bigness there often emerges a dogmatic rigidity." p. 260.

C.S. Lewis: " the modern era the good appears to be getting better and the evil more terrifying." p. 260.

"I am just primitive enough to hope that somehow, somewhere, a cardinal may still be whistling on a green bush when the last man goes blind before his man-made sun." p. 261.

"If it should turn out that we have mishandled our own seems a pity that we should involve the violet and the tree frog in our departure." p. 261.

Thomas Beddoes: "Thou art, old world/ a hoary, atheistic, murdering star." p. 261.

Erich Frank: "History and the world do not change, but man's attitude to the world changes." p. 265.

Reflections: A pessimistic Eiseley reflects on "Judgment Day." Our "man-made sun" will blind and then destroy the planet, and it's a shame that we will take the frog and the cardinal with us.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 14

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "Walden: Thoreau's Unfinished Business."

"...looking is in itself the business of art." p. 236.

Jung: "Technics and science have indeed conquered the world, but whether the soul has gained thereby is another matter." p. 236.

"Thoreau saw nature as another civilization, a thing of vaster laws and vagaries than that encompassed by the human mind." p. 235.

"The universe was in motion, nothing was fixed." p. 236 .

"Modern man...could not imagine so much as exists." p. 237.

"Mind prints are what the first man left, mind prints will be what the last man leaves, even if it is only a beer can dropped rolling from the last living hand." p. 239.

"Thoreau was a stay-at-home who traveled much in his mind...." p. 241.

"Seeing is not the same thing as understanding." p. 241.

"One man sees with indifference a leaf fall; another with the vision of Thoreau invokes the whole of that nostalgic world which we call autumn." p. 241.

"One man sees a red fox running through a shaft of sunlight and lifts a rifle; another lays a restraining hand upon his companion's arm and says, 'Please. There goes the last wild gaiety in the world. Let it live. Let it run.' "

"He transmutes the cricket's song in an autumn night to an aching void in the heart; snowflakes become the flying years." p. 241.

"Only man is capable of comprehending all he was and all that he has failed to be." p. 241.

Thoreau: "Find eternity in each moment." p. 242.

Thoreau: "There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of life getting a living." p. 245.

Thoreau: "I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness while the birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window or the noise of some traveler's wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time." p. 245.

Thoreau: "I grew in those seasons like corn in the night." p. 245.

"A hundred years after his [Thoreau's] death people were still trying to understand what he was about. They were still trying to get both eyes open." p. 248.

Reflections: From Our Town: Emily: "I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back--up the hill--to my grave. But first--wait! One more look. Good-by, good-by, world. Good-by, Grover's Corners... Mamma and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking...and Mamma's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths...and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Stage Manager: "No. The saints and poets, maybe--they do some."

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 13.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "Thoreau's Vision of the Natural World."

"...a banal writer who somehow managed to produce a classic work of literature." p. 223.

"Neither science nor literature was his [Thoreau's] total concern." p. 224.

"He [Thoreau] was a fox at the wood's edge, regarding human preoccupations with doubt." p. 224.

"Behind nature is hidden the chaos as well as the regularities of the world." p. 225.

Alfred North Whitehead: "Science is concerned not with the causes but the coherence of nature." p. 229.

"Man is in process, as is the whole of life." p. 230.

Thoreau: "All change is a miracle to contemplate, but it is a miracle that is taking place every instant." p. 231.

"Thoreau views us all as mere potential." p. 231.

"As a somewhat heretical priest once observed, 'God asks nothing of the highest soul but attention.' " p. 232.

"He [Thoreau] had, in the end, learned that nature was not an enlarged version of the human ego." p. 233.

"Thoreau, as is evidenced by his final journals, had labored to lay the foundations of a then unnamed science--ecology." p. 234.

[Reflections: Clearest statement of Eiseley's belief that evolution means change and change means development and development is potential. We are all in process. Eiseley also reinforces his belief that nature and man must work together, the goal of ecology. "The Fox at the Wood's Edge" is the title of a biography of Eiseley by Gale Christiansen.]

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 12.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "The Winter of Man."

"We fear the awesome powers we have lifted out of nature and cannot return to her." p. 205.

Title of Essay: "Man Against the Universe."

"The accretion of ideas through the centuries does change the intellectual climate." p. 208.

" the contemporary mass conscious of the innovator in its midst." p. 208.

"As our probes into nature become more sophisticated, the greater becomes our reliance upon the specialist, while he, in turn, appeals to a minute audience of his peers." p. 208.

" great act of scientific synthesis is really fixed in the public mind until that public has been prepared to receive it through anticipatory glimpses." p. 209.

"Without detracting in the least from Darwin's massive and major achievement, one may observe that the literate public was in some measure ready to receive his views." p. 209.

"Emerson: 'What terrible questions we are learning to ask.' " p. 212.

"Emerson: 'Nature knows neither palm nor oak, but only vegetable life, which sprouts into forests and festoons the globe.' " p. 216.

"Between the telescope and the microscope the...universe has widened, that's all." p. 218.

"The shifting unseen potential that we call nature has left to man but one observable dictum, to grow." p. 221.

Reflections: Man's mind is expanding, but as our knowledge grows more specialized and understood only by an audience of specialists, nature continues simply to grow.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 11.

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's essays on nature and humanity's relationship to it.

Title of Essay: "Science and the Sense of the Holy"

"When I was a young man engaged in fossil hunting in the the Nebraska badlands, I was frequently reminded that the ravines, washes and gullies over which we wandered resembled the fissures in a giant exposed brain." p. 186.

"In Civilization and Its Discontent, Freud speaks...of a friend who claimed a sensation of eternity, something limitless, unbounded--'oceanic'...." p. 188.

"Two types of practitioners in science: One is the educated man who still has a controlled sense of wonder before the universal mystery, whether it hides in a snail's eye or within the light that impinges on that delicate organ. The second kind of observer is the extreme reductionist who is so busy stripping things apart that the tremendous mystery has been reduced to a trifle...." p. 190.

" 'The whole of existence frightens me,' protested the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard; 'from the smallest fly to the mystery of the incarnation everything is unintelligible to me, most of all myself." p. 190.

"By contrast, the evolutionary reductionist Ernst Haeckel, writing in 1877, commented that 'the cell consists of matter...composed chiefly of carbon with an admixture of hydrogen, nitrogen and sulfur. These component parts, properly united, produce the soul and body of the animated world, and, suitably united, become man.' " p. 191.

Einstein: "A conviction akin to religious feeling of the rationality or intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a high order." p. 191.

Ahab: "All my means are sane.... My motives and my object mad." p. 199.

"The tale [Moby Dick] is not of science, but it symbolizes on a gigantic canvas the struggle between two ways of looking at the universe: the magnification of the poet's mind [Ishmael] attempting to see all, while disturbing as little as possible, as opposed to the plunging fury of Ahab with his cry, 'Strike, strike through the mask, whatever it may cost in lives and suffering.' " p. 200.

Reflections: Two philosophies of science.