Aphorisms by Hart Pomerantz

Hart Pomerantz was almost expelled from his Jewish parochial school for asking if smelling pork was also a sin. He studied philosophy, then went into criminal law, and in 1968 met fellow-Canadian Lorne Michaels, creator and producer ofSaturday Night Live. The two became partners in show biz comedy. In 1969, Pomerantz went to Hollywood and wrote jokes for Laugh-In as well as for comedians such as Woody Allen, Bob Newhart and Joan Rivers. He did turns on TV with a Canadian show similar to Saturday Night Live and another program,This Is The Law. Now he practices employment law and, he confesses, is “addicted to writing aphorisms. I am trying to find a treatment center for rehab. I tried AA but was informed it was not Aphorisms Anonymous.” A selection of the choicest Pomerantz:

The tip of the iceberg is all that’s left.

When driving south we are passing through the futures of those driving north.

Prayer begins with our hands together and ends with our hands out.

Praying to God for help is like calling 911 and being put indefinitely on hold.

The sooner the world comes to an end, the sooner we can start over again.

Conquering the world is exciting, but managing it is tedious.

In a perfect world, the woman would also fall asleep after sex.

Aphorisms by the Great Dr. Pangloss

Who among us has not sometimes had occasion to question the wisdom of Dr. Pangloss’s assertion: “It is proved that things cannot be other than they are, for since everything is made for a purpose, it follows that everything is made for the best purpose.” If this is indeed the best of all possible worlds, then we should be mighty grateful we don’t live in the second or third or fourth best of all possible worlds. And, when you’re in need of a little reminder of this happy fact, tune into Pangloss Wisdom, where you will find a bit of Voltaire’s sarcasm/Pangloss’ optimism paired with a quotation from another author/source of wisdom. In Candide, Voltaire had the indefatigable Dr. Pangloss relentlessly putting a positive spin on everything in his naively enlightened way. On my first visit to Pangloss Wisdom, I was treated to the Panglossian

Surely this is the best of all possible worlds.

paired with this from Boris Pasternak:

Man is born to live, not to prepare to live.

Try the “Hit me again” button for a fresh delivery of wit. When I did, I got the Panglossian effusion

Surely All is Well in the World!

paired with Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s observation:

Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.

If you don’t find this amusing enough, click on the “Insult me button,” after which you will be confronted with a Shakespearean slur, such as: “Thou whoreson impudent embossed rascal!” If you’re a glutton for punishment, keep your cursor on the “Insult me again” button. These delightful diversions are brought to you by Chris Seidel, clearly a big fan of Candide.

Aphorisms by Don Paterson

Don Paterson is a Scottish musician and poet. He is featured in Geary’s Guide as a member of the “Poets and Painters” species (pp. 297-298). He has won a load of U.K. literary awards, including the Forward Prize, the Whitbread Prize for Poetry and the T.S. Eliot prize (twice). His new collection of aphorisms is calledThe Blind Eye: A Book of Late Advice. Paterson practices a rounded, ruminative form of aphorism, influenced by writers like E.M. Cioran and Elias Canetti. And like the aphorisms of these two authors, Paterson’s sayings are often somberly contemplative—reflections on the wisdom of advice given, or received, too late. Paterson often aphorizes about aphorisms, too, as in these selection from The Blind Eye:

The lapidary coldness of the aphorism assuages a grief or a grievance far better than the poem. It erects a stone over each individual hurt.

Allowed myself a smile this morning at a letter innocently referring to ‘my love of the aphoristic form.’ Christ—do you think if I really had a choice, I would write this? We occupy the margins through fate, not allegiance.

Read a whole book of aphorisms by N. It felt like swallowing an entire bottle of homeopathic remedy, whose total absence of effect did nothing but reinforce my suspicion that the aphorism is only useful in small measured doses—but even then it’s only a kind of intellectual placebo, prompting ideas the reader should have prompted in themselves anyway.

Aphorisms by Rob Montone

In keeping with exceedingly brief aphoristic oeuvres (see Aphorisms by Howard B. Schechter), I hereby present two (plus some more) aphorisms by Rob Montone. Mr. Montone heard a radio interview in which I incorrectly attributed the aphorism “Love the sinner, but hate the sin” to Gandhi. He gently pointed out that the saying originated quite a few years earlier (like, um, 1,500 years earlier) with St. Augustine. Mr. Montone describes himself as “a closet writer of music, poetry and prose when not working in the high-tech industry.” He lives in the historic village of East Aurora, where Elbert Hubbard used to philosophize and write aphorisms. I added the Gandhi correction to the Corrections and Clarifications section of my Web site, and will correct Geary’s Guide if/when I ever get a chance to do a revised and expanded edition. In the meantime, here is Mr. Montone, in his own words:

A great bargain is no bargain if it’s something you don’t need.

When family fails, there’s the community; when the community fails, there’s family.

The perfect path is the one you’re on.

We become old as we become blind, not the other way around.

The grass is never greener.

There’s a little bit of each of us in all of us.

Don’t judge a person by his religion; judge the religion by the person it’s created.

Aphorisms by Howard B. Schechter

Howard B. Schechter has, so far, only written two aphorisms. That’s one of the smallest oeuvres of any aphorist, ever. “I lived in a log cabin in upstate New York for two years,” he says, “with a fireplace for heat, a spring house, outhouse, and small barn for our oxen and cows. It was my first job out of college and set a lifelong interest in gardening, blacksmithing, early American everything, and of course, tools. We lived by our edges: scythes for harvesting, saws for woodcutting, butcher knives, axes, chisels, and dozens of other tools. If it wasn’t sharp, you worked harder and less productively.” From this experience comes:

It’s easier to keep your knife sharp than it is to sharpen your knife.

Mr. Schechter currently makes cutlery and ornamental iron in his personal coal forge and teaches in a Ph.D. program at an online university. After watching the chaos at the Dome in New Orleans after Katrina, he wrote:

The veneer of civilization is three meals thick.

Mr. Schechter’s two sayings are so apt that I can only hope he keeps writing…

This just in (Dec. 10, 2007). Now there are three…

Most make time to be ill, few take time to be well.

Contrary to popular belief, time bears no resemblance to money whatsoever. People say time is money, but it’s not. You can’t earn time or save it. You can’t beg, borrow or steal it. It cannot be given or received. You can only spend time—invest it, wisely or unwisely—but it never pays you back in kind. That’s why time is always in such short supply, even though demand is always so high. And that’s why money is such poor compensation for all the time we lose in making it. Like wealth, time can be wasted, dissipated, frittered away. But while fortunes can be rebuilt in a day, no amount of diligence, savvy or hard work can ever restore even a moment of lost time. Nor does its value ever fluctuate; nothing is more commonplace—everyone has time—yet nothing is more precious. “Time isn’t measured by length but by depth,” German poet Isolde Kurz wrote. And time doesn’t tarry long on the surface; its richest deposits are found only in the deepest pockets.

This abbreviated essay originally appeared in the December issue of Ode, on newsstands now.

Aphorisms by The Nietzsche Family Circus

If you love aphorisms and you love that wacky German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and you love that adorable comic strip The Family Circus, you’re gonna love this. My nephew, Dan Schank, recently alerted me to The Nietzsche Family Circus, which pairs a random Family Circus cartoon with a random quotation from Nietzsche. It is a truly astonishing combination. I was treated to the bespectacled Family Circus dad reading a Christmas story to his darling brood, with this Nietzsche caption underneath:

A pair of powerful spectacles has sometimes sufficed to cure a person in love.

And under a drawing of the Family Circus son, eating what appears to be a bowl of shredded wheat, this awesome Nietzschean proclamation:

Every tradition grows ever more venerable—the more remote its origin, the more confused that origin is. The reverence due to it increases from generation to generation. The tradition finally becomes holy and inspires awe.

The Nietzsche Family Circus is brought to you by the good folks at Losanjealous, an L.A. Web site publishing original creative content and the best local independent music and events calendars. You can refresh the page as often as you wish—careful, it’s addictive!—and share your favorites by clicking on a permalink. Enjoy The Nietzsche Family Circus with your bowl of shredded wheat today!

Aphorisms by Aleksandar Krzavac

More proof, if such were needed, that the Balkans is one of the world’s aphoristic hot spots. Aleksandar Krzavac is a Serbian journalist, illustrator and playwright. He is the author of the satirical play Ludi I Zbunjeni (Crazed and Confused People), and his cartoons (sometimes erotic) have appeared widely in Serbian newspapers and magazines. Like a lot of Balkan aphorisms, Krzavac’s sayings are highly sarcastic, highly political, and highly amusing. Without a solid grounding in recent Balkan history, though, a lot of them go right over your head. “Most of my almost 2,000 aphorisms are not translatable,” Krzavac says, “or do not fit the Anglo-Saxon temperament and way of thinking.” The aphorisms that are translatable are well worth a read, and well-suited to every temperament. A selection:

Even the dead are unequal; some are in mausoleums.

The cult of personality has nothing to do with culture.

Not everything is black, the firefly said while looking at another firefly’s ass.

They say, “You are on the right path.” I think I am at a crossroads.

The revolution that eats its children starves to death.

If size mattered, dinosaurs would rule the world.

Aphorisms by Joseph F. Conte

Joseph F. Conte says his two most interesting jobs have been as editor of a thoroughbred racing magazine in New York City and tour guide at a 900-year-old castle complex in Bergen, Norway. He writes about classical music, art, literature and philosophy, and he’s so far penned some 700 aphorisms. He cites Leibniz on the virtue of concision: “The intelligent author encloses the most of reality in the least possible compass.” Conte’s own aphorisms approach that ideal: They encapsulate a large chunk of reality in an extremely small space, while leaving plenty of room for thought. A selection from Maxims and Minims of a Philosopher, “in honor,” Mr. Conte says, “of La Rochefoucauld”:

Have your dreams, sure, but stay awake and do your work.

Just enough is plenty.

That which you love can become the banner by which you live.

Failure is an opportunity for you—to blame someone else.

Ice breaks up bridges; but a thawing wind breaks up ice.