Aphorisms by Scott F. Parker

Scott F. Parker is co-editor of Coffee—Philosophy for Everyone: Grounds for Debate (Wiley-Blakcwell, 2011). His prose and poetry have appeared in Philosophy Now, Oregon Humanities, and Sport Literate, among other publications. His aphorisms, a selection of which is forthcoming in Whole Beast Rag‘s Homme Issue (12/1/13), are steeped in close readings of literature and philosophy, from which Parker brews close observations on the psychology of writing. Enjoy with a nice mug of coffee.

Dreams of gods—epiphenomena of neuron clusters—turtles all the way down. The most effective way to become an atheist is to first become a god.

Literature: writing that means more than it says.

A brief commentary on originality:

Even in Kyoto—
hearing the cuckoo’s cry—
I long for Kyoto.

Even in Portland—
gray clouds obscuring mountain—
I long for Portland.
—After Basho

Sound advice is distinguished less by the quality of the advice than by the quality of the sound.

An undervalued version of truth. The lucky person is the one who hears what he needs to hear when he needs to hear it.

A postmodern apothegm: In the beginning was the World, and the World was with words, and the World was Words.

Aphorisms by Laurence Musgrove

Laurence Musgrove—a professor of, among other things, rhetoric and composition, creative writing (poetry), and visual thinking at Angelo State University in Texas—lists the influences of his aphoristic alter-ego, Tex, as Buster (Keaton), Henry (David Thoreau), Duke (a.k.a. John Wayne), and Groucho (Marx). Tex, a straight-talkin’ Texan line drawing sporting a speech bubble and a Stetson, might also cite such illustrious predecessors as Josh Billings (Geary’s Guide, pp. 13-16), Frank McKinney (Kin) Hubbard (GG, pp. 38-39) and Will Rogers (GG, pp. 53-54). Like these three aphorists, Tex dispenses folksy, homespun wisdom with a distinctly Western twist and, like Hubbard’s cartoon incarnation, Abe Martin, Tex comes fully if minimally illustrated…


Musgrove’s site Texosophy: Aphorisms, Advice & Wisecracks showcases Tex’s (which, when said aloud, sounds like ‘Texas’) sayings, many of which take the form of a Billings-esque dialectic:

Man waz kreated a little lower than the angels, and he haz been a gitting a little lower ever since. —Josh Billings


Tex and Billings also both practice cacography, the deliberate misspelling of words for phonetic effect.

Hubbard, who died in 1930, wrote a syndicated column/cartoon for more than 25 years that chronicled the sayings and doings of Abe Martin and the other denizens of the fictional Brown County, Indiana. Tex is similarly prolific if less widely published. Musgrove has lately been producing a drawing and saying a day, conveniently preserved in the Texosophy archives. Tex and Abe share a similar wry, funny, gently chiding disposition.

The world gets better every day—then worse again in the evening. —Abe Martin



In Tex, Musgrove has added a real original to the line of witty, wisecracking American philosophers that began with Poor Richard.



More Aphorisms by William Markiewicz

I first wrote about William Markiewicz back in 2007, and he has now published a small book of aphorisms accompanied by his original woodcuts in Poland, Drzeworyt-Aforyzm.

Markiewicz’s aphorisms are catechetical in the original sense of that word, derived from Greek terms meaning to ‘sound out thoroughly’ or ‘teach by word of mouth.’ The sayings sound out spiritual and moral dilemmas—the nature of faith, the confrontation with mortality. The religious overtones are enhanced by the scriptural nature of the woodcuts, which often treat of Biblical themes. Markiewicz’s collection is a thorough, thoughtful spiritual handbook. A selection:

Nature never repeats itself. The one who portrays nature is the only one who has a chance at originality.

Intuition: going your way without inquiring about the way.

Don’t try to accept the inevitable; you do that already by living. Learn how to accept the acceptance.

If nobody needs us, we don’t need ourselves.

If you have the key, the wall becomes a gate.

Hell is when there is no reason to live and no courage to die.

Aphorisms by Jack Friedland

Jack Friedland prefaces his aphorism collection, Reflections on Society and Life, with a quote from Oscar Wilde: “To get into the best society nowadays, one has either to feed people, amuse people or shock people. To be in [society] is merely a bore. But to be out of it simply tragedy.” Friedland’s sayings dissect the psychological motivations behind our social transactions, providing nourishment, amusement and the occasional shock of recognition along the way. A selection:

Narcissism is the other side of self-pity.

The more pleasure something gives us in the short  run, the more difficulties it tends to cause in the long run.

Live life at the extremes, but do it in moderation.

Life is too short to be in it for anything but the long haul.

Success, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder.

Obsession is passion without depth.

Ignoring reality is easy—it is getting reality to ignore us that it difficult.

The “Great Firewall” of China Metaphor Reconsidered

This piece from the China Digital Times considers whether we need a new metaphor to describe Internet censorship in China: “Our view of Chinese Internet censorship is shaped by one particular metaphor – “the great firewall of China”. Actually, this is a metaphor inside a metaphor because the word “firewall” means different things to different people. To a builder, it’s a wall or partition designed to inhibit or prevent the spread of fire. To a computer scientist, on the other hand, a firewall is a piece of software designed to prevent unauthorised or unwanted communications between computer networks or hosts … Firewall-type activity does indeed describe aspects of the Chinese approach to the internet. But it’s been obvious for a while that the subtlety of the regime’s approach to managing the network has gone way beyond the binary allow/disallow nature of the firewall metaphor.”

Aphorisms by Máighréad Medbh

Irish poet Máighréad Medbh describes Savage Solitude: Reflections of A Reluctant Loner (Dublin: Dedalus Press, April 2013) as “a dramatised internal conversation in the mind of a ‘reluctant loner’, and takes the form of 303 aphoristic colloquies and fragments, incorporating 202 quotes from a variety of sources … There are three voices: One; The Other; and I. One is the voice of instinct. It is fearful and only hears itself. The Other is the voice of the larger world in the form of quotations—from scientists, poets, fiction authors, artists, philosophers, psychologists, mystics, loners. The third voice, I, is the rational portion of the self, and the only voice that also listens.” Excerpts from Savage Solitude have been published in Axon, an online journal about the creative process; you can read some of those here…

2: bird


A flock of birds traverses the silent sky. Today, it is the only event that has made impact. For a moment One knows what it is to be borne on the wind, unasking.

The Other

‘Only that day dawns to which we are awake.’ —Henry David Thoreau: Walden


Birds fly without thought. I, being human, must think. Alone, I carry thought as a burden. If I were to empty my mind, would I be bird, and is that bliss?

4. pathless


The limpid silence is a land without carp, censure or discernible danger. Neither crop nor creature inhabits; there is no haven or prison. The terrain is pathless. One looks to the sky, waiting for the pole star to rise, but it is not that world.

The Other

‘A human being is spirit. But what is spirit? Spirit is the self. But what is the self? The self is a relation that relates itself to itself or is the relation’s relating itself to itself in the relation; the self is not the relation but is the relation’s relating to itself. A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity, in short, a synthesis. A synthesis is a relation between two. Considered in this way, a human being is still not a self.’ —Søren Kierkegaard: The Sickness unto Death


We are fired up by relevance, created by context. A single point in a dark universe might as well not exist. Even two points are without context. Create a triangle and we have pattern, the force that drives our minds. In the brain, the map is the same as the territory. I must begin to draw.

105. synthetic passions

The Other

‘We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest.’ —Thomas Merton: The Seven Storey Mountain


As a lone child, One felt nothing such as they call happiness or unhappiness. There were phenomena like grass, attractive objects, strong-smelling animals, midsummer blue—and a face that lived in them.


The search for the essential self in a society of constructed selves has echoes of Sartre’s distinction between the being which is en soi (in itself) and that which is pour soi (for itself). The en soi is unselfconscious, the pour soi reflexive. Very few people have never wished for the reflexive faculty to be stilled, just for a moment.