Aphorisms by Mina Loy

Mina Loy always considered herself more of a visual rather than a verbal artist. She was born in London in 1882, and first established a reputation as a post-Impressionist painter. She lived in Paris during the early years of the 20th century and was involved in all of the artistic movements of the time: dadaism, futurism, surrealism. She moved to the U.S. in 1916, and in 1921 Ezra Pound wrote to Marianne Moore, editor of Poetry magazine: “Is there anyone in America except you, Bill [William Carlos Williams] and Mina Loy who can write anything of interest in verse?” One of Loy’s verses, “Aphorisms on Futurism,” is an aphorism sequence as much as it is a poem. My thanks Lori Ellison for alerting me to Mina Loy. Excerpted aphorisms:

THE velocity of velocities arrives in starting.

LOVE the hideous to find the sublime core of it.

LOVE of others is an appreciation of one’s self.

MAY your egotism be so gigantic that you comprise mankind in your self-sympathy.

TIME is the dispersion of intensiveness.

THE Futurist can live a thousand years in one poem.

More of God’s Aphorisms

Do aphorisms proselytize? I suppose they do, but in a uniquely non-dogmatic way. They raise more questions than they answer. If anything, they undermine faith—faith in a particular political philosophy, faith in a football team, faith in human nature in general, faith in yourself in particular, faith in a god—rather than support it. And they often do that through humor, the best antidote for excessive certainty. Even someone as serious as Aristotle recognized the importance of jokes:

Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.

Often, things are not always as copasetic as they seem, and an aphorism can help restore your faith—faith in a particular political philosophy, faith in a football team, etc…—by challenging it. Any faith that does not welcome, and cannot withstand, a challenge is not much of a faith at all. My favorite aphorism on the subject is by the always-challenging Karl Kraus:

It is an enigma to me how a theologian can be praised because he has struggled his way to unbelief. The achievement that always struck me as most heroic and praiseworthy was struggling through to belief.

In that spirit, here’s some more fun with faith-based aphorisms:

artificial intelligence

read the bible

free coffee

don't be so open-minded

staying in bed

God’s Aphorisms

Forgive your enemies...Drive through any small town or suburb in America and you’ll see them: the signposts outside churches and other places of worship advertising the next service or sporting some verse from the Bible.

Some churches seem to be getting into the aphorism business, at least judging by these aphoristic snapshots sent to me courtesy of Joseph F. Conte.

Read these, and be redeemed:

God does not believe in atheists God so loved the world Walmart Some Questions

Aphorisms via Bits & Pieces

I’m indebted to my cousin, Matt, for sending me a sample copy of Bits & Pieces, “the magazine that motivates the world.” It’s a peculiar publication: a tiny pamphlet, just 24 pages, with nothing but quotations, aphorisms and inspirational stories in it, kind of like Reader’s Digest’s “Quotable Quotes” in booklet form. Bits & Pieces is published by Ragan’s Motivational Resources, whose publications are, according to the company website, “designed to bring you hope, lift your spirits, and encourage you to stretch toward your potential.” The authors are a mix of celebrities, writers and business executives, most of whom I had never heard of before. Some bits and pieces I found uplifting:

Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. —Susan Ertz

Truce is better than friction. —Charles Herguth

There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do. —Freya Madeline Stark

Worry is a misuse of the imagination. —Dan Zadra

Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

On the Origins of the Fortune Cookie

The New York Times ran an interesting article on the origins of the fortune cookie recently, “Solving a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside a Cookie“. It details research that suggests the fortune cookie is a Japanese, not a Chinese, invention. The popularity of the fortune cookie as an after-dinner treat is relatively recent, dating back to around the beginning of the 20th century. But Yasuko Nakamachi, wo spent six years tracing the history of the snack, has found evidence that it originated in Japan in the late 19th century. Previous theories suggested a proto-fortune cookie was the “moon cake,” baked in China in the 14th century. Whatever the true origins, the fortunes inside the cookies are certainly changing with the times. Nakamachi recently found this one in Japan:

To ward off lower back pain or joint problems, undertake some at-home measures like yoga.

Surely a case of new age wisdom packaged in very old dough… The Times piece also contains some 500 reader comments answering the question, What is the most memorable fortune you’ve found in a fortune cookie?, including this one:

Your face is like a welcome mat.

and the ever-popular:

That was not really chicken…