Curtis Dahlgren
"The Most Brilliant Thoughts of All Time," part V
By Curtis Dahlgren
September 2, 2010

"We have it in our power to begin the world over again." — Thomas Paine, c. 1774

IT'S NO SECRET THAT OUR PRESIDENT WANTS TO "REMAKE" AMERICA (in a less liberty-oriented style). We have seen in the past year how he governs when he only thought he had absolute "power" (just ask Bart Stupak). Ever wonder how he would govern if he actually GOT absolute power? Ask the people of Eastern Europe or Cuba.

This is the final column for now in a series based on a book review of "The Most Brilliant Thoughts of All Time" by John M. Shanahan — who also created the "Hooked on Phonics" program. I meant to mention that in the previous columns, because that alone would make Shanahan a hero in my book. If this country had taken the money it spent on Midnight Basketball and bought Hooked on Phonics tapes for public schools, we wouldn't have so much illiteracy (or illiterate athletes).

A friend of mine would like to see more of my thoughts (thanks), but in actuality finding and putting in order some of the greatest proverbs of all time is probably one of the things I was "born to do." SO:

  • "The world's great men have not commonly been great scholars, nor great scholars great men." — Oliver Wendell Holmes (1806-94)

  • "Our principal writers have nearly all been fortunate in escaping regular education." — Christopher Grieve

  • "A liberal is a man who will give away everything he doesn't own." — Frank Dane

  • "Equality of opportunity is an opportunity to prove unequal talents." — Lord Samuel (1870-1916)

  • "Fortune soon tires of carrying anyone long on her shoulders." — Baltasar Gracian (1601-58)

  • "Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision." — Peter Drucker

  • "One man's wage rise is another man's price increase." — Harold Wilson

  • "And diff'ring judgements serve but to declare that truth lies somewhere if we knew but where." — William Cowper

  • "When two men in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary." — William Wrigley, Jr.

  • "If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn't thinking." — General Geo. Patton

  • "Unanimity is almost always an indicator of servitude." — Charles de Remusat (1797-1875)

  • "No government can be long secure without a formidable opposition." — Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81)

  • "He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill." — Edmund Burke (1729-97)

  • "We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still." — John Stuart Mill (1806-73)

  • "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." — Abbott Liebling

  • "Perhaps in time the so-called Dark Ages will be thought of as including our own." — George Lichtenberg (1742-99)

  • "Learning hath gained most by those books by which the printers have lost." — Thomas Fuller (1608-94)

  • "A man writes for an audience of about ten persons. Of course if others like it, that is clear gain. But if those ten are satisfied, he is content." — Alfred Whitehead (1861-1947)

  • "Read the best books first, or you may not be able to read them at all." — Henry David Thoreau (1817-62)

  • "The great American novel has not only already been written, it has already been rejected." — Frank Dane

  • "You know who the critics are? The men who have failed in literature and art." — Disraeli

  • "Look wise, say nothing, and grunt. Speech was given to conceal thought." — Sir Wm. Osler (1849-1919)

  • "Reading is sometimes an ingenious device for avoiding thought." — Sir Arthur Helps (1813-75)

  • "Literature is most about having sex and not much about having children; life is the other way around." — David Lodge

  • "Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life." — Robert Louis Stevenson

  • "The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people who can write know anything." — Walter Bagehot (1826-77)

  • "How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." — Thoreau

  • "Of all cold words of tongue or pen, the worst are these: 'I knew him when -.'" — Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943)

  • "Autobiography is a preemptive strike against biographers." — Barbara Harrison

  • "Great geniuses have the shortest biographies: Their cousins can tell you nothing about them." — Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82)

  • "To do easily what is difficult for others is the mark of talent. To do what is impossible for talent is the mark of genius." — Henri Amiel (1821-81)

  • "Ignorance is the mother of admiration." — George Chapman (1559-1634)

  • "Bad artists always admire each other's work." — Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

  • "There is nothing more dreadful than imagination without taste." — Goethe (1749-1834)

  • "Acting is therefore the lowest of the arts, if it is an art at all." — George Moore (1852-1933)

  • "Read the Good Book first." — Curt Dahlgren (1942- )

  • "Thousands kiss the book's outside who ne'er look within." — Wm. Cowper

  • "Equality of opportunity means the opportunity to be unequal." — Wm. Sharp (1855-1905)


I wonder if you were as struck as I was by the number of great thinkers who lived and wrote during the 1800s? That was no accident. America had come on the world stage in the latter half of the 1700s, and although today's history "scholars" will refuse to admit it, America's DWASPs (dead white anglo-saxon protestants) opened up a whole 'nother world of thought. Thomas Paine put it this way:

"So deeply rooted were all the governments of the old world, and so effectually had . . tyranny . . established itself over the mind, that no beginning could be made in Asia, Africa, or Europe, to reform the political condition of man.

"Freedom had been hunted around the globe; reason was considered rebellion, and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think.

"The sun needs no inscription to distinguish him from darkness, and no sooner did American governments display themselves to the world, than despotism felt a shock, and men began to contemplate redress . . .

"The insulted German and the enslaved Spaniard, the Russ and the Pole are beginning to think."

That's why Tom Paine had so boldly written in the 1770s:

"We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation, similar to the present hath not happened since the days of NOAH."


© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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