Aphorisms by Greg Linster

Greg Linster (@GregLinster) presents a dozen sayings that riff off a wide range of fellow aphorists, from Valery (“One never finishes a work of art; one abandons it”) to Groucho Marx (“I wouldn’t join any club that would have me as a member”). Linster takes gently satirical swipes at academe, marketing, aphorists (yikes!) and, most importantly, himself, deftly demonstrating the aphorism’s crucial role in confronting us with the (not always so pleasant) truth about ourselves and others.

Citing aphorisms rarely signifies intelligence, then again, neither does creating them.

The cheapest is rarely the least expensive.

Amassing an easy fortune often becomes a great misfortune.

Reality wears many different masks.

The trouble with reality is that it doesn’t seem all that real.

When all else fails, wax epistemic.

One never truly finishes an essay, but yet we publish them anyway.

Ambition is the cancer of happiness.

We’re all victims of someone’s beliefs, namely our own.

I don’t want to be associated with any academic discipline that allows people like me to be members of it.

Man is the only beast that tries to deny his beastliness.

Marketing: it gets people to buy new things that look used and used things that look new.

More ‘Abramisms’ by Beston Jack Abrams

I first blogged about Beston Jack Abrams back in 2007 and had the pleasure and honor of meeting him in person around that time in Philadelphia. Mr. Abrams is a 90-something former pharmaceutical executive who indulges his aphoristic gifts to the full in Abramisms: Lives of the Ancient Aphorist, Volumes I and II. “There is a Jewish tradition called ‘Tikkun Olum’, a concept that each of us is obliged to contribute to alleviating as best we can the difficulties of our world,” Mr. Abrams writes. “These short expressions, I hope, deserve to be called ‘aphorisms’ … and will serve in a small way to discharge my obligation. As an aid to your reading, let me share with you some of my beliefs: We should elevate asking sincere questions and focused listening to a higher level; silence is a vastly underused information aid; solitude [especially in the age of the ‘twitter’], is not an affliction but an emotional and intellectual oasis; how we respond to the approach of a strange person or idea measures our courage and capacity to grow, and better information can be acquired by the freer use of doubt and curiosity.” Abramisms: Lives of the Ancient Aphorist contains remarkably wise and funny sayings by an “ancient aphorist” who is still very much in the prime of life. Here are a few…

The ear is a better communicator than the tongue.

If you feel offended you are ready to write an aphorism.

Happiness thrives on a diet of reduced expectations.

To change is difficult; to admit its necessity is more so.

A well conceived conclusion may also be an introduction.

Maturity arrives when we do not feel diminished by what we do not know.

Certainty is a claim not a condition.

The Judaic and commonly ignored remedy for violence is to realize that the hand that holds a book cannot hold a gun.

To walk through the valley of introspection requires courage, to report the results requires even more courage.

At this point I am less concerned about the future simply because there is less of it; and as for death, as with any adversary, fear is reduced as proximity increases.

If we allow ourselves to become inattentive, we will soon be insignificant.

To be a success first show up, pay attention and then show up again.

There is no alchemy that changes opinions into facts; the search continues for an alchemy that allows facts to alter opinions.

The past should be valued as a source of light rather than a place of residence.

Aphorisms by William Shakespeare

It’s always amazing to be reminded of the extent to which Shakespeare (Geary’s Guide, pp. 213-214) is the source of so many proverbial phrases that have entered English. Having recently read Julius Caesar, and watched the riveting 1953 film version with James Mason, John Gielgud and Marlon Brando, I noticed two famous phrases in particular: “let loose the dogs of war” and “the evil that men do lives after them.” Like everything Shakespeare wrote, Julius Caesar is replete with wondrous aphorisms. Here are a few:

The fault … is not in our stars but in our selves that we are underlings.

Rudeness is sauce to his good wit, which gives men stomach to digest his words with better appetite.

The eye sees not itself but by reflection by some other things.

Lowliness is young ambition’s ladder, where to the climber upward turns his face: But when he once attains the upmost round, he then unto the ladder turns his back, looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees by which he did ascend.

Between the acting of a dreadful thing and the first motion, all the interim is like a phantasm or a hideous dream: The genius and the mortal instruments are then in council and the state of a man, like to a little kingdom, suffers then the nature of an insurrection.

When beggars die there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.

Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.

There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to Fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.

More Aphorisms by ‘Solomon Slade’

Well, the candy corn and pumpkins are already out in the stores and we all know what that means … it’s almost Christmas! And when Christmas rolls around, of one thing you can be sure: ‘Solomon Slade’, pseudonymous aphorist, will be bringing out a new collection. Solomon delighted us in 2009 and doesn’t disappoint this year, either, stuffing his aphoristic stocking with Solomonic wisdom and festive wisecracks. Here are selections from Solomon’s Mine; what Solomon has mined is now all yours… Have an aphoristic Christmas!

The difference between surprise and suspicion is whether the number of eyebrows raised is even or odd.

Nature never forgets a birthday.

Weightlifters gain muscle with repetition—rumors gain weight.

Accepting blame is often a subterfuge for stopping criticism.

Skyscrapers don’t end till they run out of stories—like tedious people.

Why can’t nature draw a straight line?

Many heroes would not be so if they had lived another hour.

Forgiveness can be a form of retribution.

If our elbows bent the other way, we could constantly pat ourselves on the back, but we wouldn’t be able to masturbate. Tough call.

People with nothing to do need the most rigid schedules.

Lovers walk at slow speed for fear of reaching a destination.

Aphorisms by Yahia Lababidi

Yahia Lababidi (Geary’s Guide, p. 289) was born in Cairo to Egyptian and Lebanese parents. He describes his aphorisms as “the biography of my mental, spiritual and emotional life” and elaborates on that definition in this interview on the blog Arabic Literature (in English). “Proverbs are like coral reef … fossils of philosophies merging with living truths,” he says. “Good aphorisms aspire to this, too.” Here is a selection of Yahia’s latest aphorisms:

Aphorisms are the echoes of our silences.

Bow so low and you kiss the sky.

Infatuation, as any hothouse flower, will only flourish in a climate-controlled environment. A degree more, or less, and it withers.

Our wants tend to scare things off; so that the more desperately we want a thing, the less likely we are to get it.

Our morality is determined by the level of immorality that we can afford to live with.

Those for whom the natural is extraordinary, tend to find the extraordinary natural.