MONDAY, JANUARY 14
REVERENCE FOR LIFE
At sunset of the third day, near the village of Igendja, we moved along an island set in the middle of the wide river. On a sandback to our left, four hippopotamuses and their young plodded along in our same direction. Just then, in my great tiredness and discouragement, the phrase "Reverence for Life" struck me like a flash. As far as I knew, it was a phrase I had never heard nor ever read. I realized at once that it carried within itself the solution to the problem that had been torturing me. Now I knew that a system of values which concerns itself only with our relationship to other people is incomplete and therefore lacking in power for good. Only by means of reverence for life can we establish a spiritual and humane relationship with both people and all living creatures within our reach. Only in this fashion can we avoid harming others, and, within the limits of our capacity, go to their aid whenever they need us.
— Albert Schweitzer (born January 14, 1875)
THE CHANNELS OF HUMAN VALUES
The universe may be indifferent to our ideals and our virtues, but this is all the more reason why we must keep them alive. They are values created by humanity in its long struggle for a satisfactory life, and we must preserve and increase them. The devotion to goodness, the love of truth, the sense of beauty, the urge of duty, the marvelous creativity, the loyalties, the heroisms, and the nobilities of man are essentially human characteristics, and so far as we know do not exist apart from us. Therefore, we must sustain them, otherwise they will disappear. We are the channels through which the life of humanity flows, and we should seek to purify the stream as it passes through us, realizing that the manner in which we give expression to these values will determine the life of the future, as well as the character and worth of our own life. So while we know not whence we came nor whither we go, we do know that we are here, and during this brief period of existence, we can do much to control its character, to make it miserable or happy. Our chief business, therefore, is to put beauty in place of ugliness, good in place of evil, laughter in place of tears; to dispel error with knowledge, hatred with love; displace strife and contention with peace and co-operation. And somehow within us there is a voice which urgently calls us to these tasks. It is the life-urge. It is the aspiration after better things. It is man at his best and bravest. It is what many call divine. Some even call it God. In any case, it is religion.
— John H. Dietrich (born January 14, 1878)
THE CONTEST BETWEEN FACTS AND BELIEFS
As you all know, there is a great deal of difference between the things that 'are facts' and the things which we 'believe to be facts.' Every text-book of history of every land tells the story of the past as the people of that particular country believe it to be true, but when you cross the frontier and read the text-book of the nearest neighbour, you will therein find a very different account. … Here and there, of course, an historian or a philosopher or another queer person will read all the books of all the countries, and perhaps he will come to an appreciation of something that approaches the absolute truth. But if he wishes to lead a peaceful and happy life, he will keep this information to himself.
— Hendrik Willem van Loon (born January 14, 1882)
TUESDAY, JANUARY 15
Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning. It is the lifting of a burden or the canceling of a debt. The words "I will forgive you, but never forget what you have done" never explain the real nature of forgiveness. Certainly one can never forget, if that means erasing totally for his mind. But when we forgive, we forget in the sense that the evil deed is no longer a mental block impeding a new relationship. Likewise, we can never say, "I will forgive you, but I won't have anything further to do with you." Forgiveness means reconciliation, a coming together again. Without this, no man can ever love his enemies. The degree to which we are able to forgive determines the degree to which we are able to love our enemies.
— Martin Luther King, Jr. (born January 15, 1929)
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 16
FROM BALLADS OF A BOHEMIAN
It's coming soon and soon, mother, it's nearer every day,
When only men who work and sweat will have a word to say;
When all who earn their honest bread in every land and soil
Will claim the Brotherhood of Man, the Comradeship of Toil;
When we, the Workers, all demand: “What are we fighting for?” ...
Then, then we'll end that stupid crime, that devil's madness—War.
— Robert Service (born January 16, 1874)
SUPERSTITION IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE
The policy of the emperors and the senate, as far as it concerned religion, was happily seconded by the reflections of the enlightened, and by the habits of the superstitious, part of their subjects. The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord.
The superstition of the people was not embittered by any mixture of theological rancour; nor was it confined by the chains of any speculative system. The devout polytheist, though fondly attached to his national rites, admitted with implicit faith the different religions of the earth. Fear, gratitude, and curiosity, a dream or an omen, a singular disorder, or a distant journey, perpetually disposed him to multiply the articles of his belief, and to enlarge the list of his protectors. The thin texture of the Pagan mythology was interwoven with various but not discordant materials.
— Edward Gibbon (died January 16, 1794)
THE HUSKS OF DEAD MEN’S THOUGHTS
We are not at all anxious to keep terms with the old theologies, much less to gloss over any real differences between falsehood and truth. But the terminologies of religion become so vague and so emptied of their primitive meaning, long before they fall into desuetude, that it is necessary to subject them to a clear analysis to see for what ideas they stand, or whether they stand for any. It is a fact very familiar to the historian of opinions, that an old system of theology may pass clean away, and a very different one take its place, without the least change in the old creeds and nomenclatures, just as the Roman republic passed into the empire, and liberty changed into despotism, without the least change in the forms of government. Nay, when men become secretly conscious that the ancient faith is leaking out of its symbols, it is quite observable how they cling to the symbols with a fiercer dogmatism, in order to elude the charge of innovation and heresy. In this extreme anxiety to preserve the husks of dead men's thoughts, it may come to pass that those whose creeds are hostile may agree substantially both in opinion and sentiment.
— Edmund Hamilton Sears (died January 16, 1876)
THURSDAY, JANUARY 17
A HOME FOR THE CHILDREN OF EARTH
In our solar system, with its thousands of millions of miles of span, our little planet is almost lost in solitude; yet astronomers tell us that the solar system is merely a point of light in the vast deeps of the stars; that in those illimitable spaces are stars so far away that light from them reaches us only after thousands of years. And beyond our universe are others, universe beyond universe, until the mind reels, staggering into those unimaginable paths of eternity. Yet here on this tiny, little lost world, forgotten by the timeless stars, man has been bravely battling for life, trying by cooperative effort to build a home, a satisfying, beautiful home for the Children of Earth, striving, in spite of crushing defeats, to entrench his values in a none too friendly world.
— A. Eustace Haydon (born January 17, 1880)
THE MODERN RELIGIOUS IDEAL
This new religious hope carries in the heart of it the old quest of the ages. As our fathers [and mothers] sought the satisfying life thousands of years ago so we still seek, but the vista of vision is wider and the problems more appalling. We seek the elimination of evil not an explanation of it. We can no longer sit idly by, lulled by the anaesthetic of faith, while the evils of a maladjusted social order overwhelm millions of our fellows, while those who come smiling into life with high hopes go down defeated and crushed to futile death. The modern religious ideal must guarantee to the children of men [and women] a free opportunity for full life, the values of personality, the satisfaction of being creative factors in a worthwhile world, the thrill of responsibility of sharing in a real way in the making of a progressively better culture, the joy not only of sharing the values of the past, the hopes of the present but also of creating, in thought and act, elements to enrich the future heritage of man. A united humanity, served by scientific knowledge, master of material things, organized about an ideal of a shared life which will make possible the opportunity for satisfying living to every individual soul this is the religious goal to which the old religions of the world are moving.
— A. Eustace Haydon (born January 17, 1880)
TRUTH IS THE CHILD OF ETERNITY
No science has been reached, no thought generated, no truth discovered, which has not from all time existed potentially in every human mind. The belief in the progress of the race does not, therefore, spring from the supposed possibility of his acquiring new faculties, or coming into the possession of a new nature.
Still less does truth vary. They speak falsely who say that truth is the daughter of time; it is the child of eternity, and as old as the Divine mind. The perception of it takes place in the order of time; truth itself knows nothing of the succession of ages. Neither does morality need to perfect itself; it is what it always has been, and always will be. Its distinctions are older than the sea or the dry land, than the earth or the sun. The relation of good to evil is from the beginning, and is unalterable.
— George Bancroft (died January 17, 1891)
FRIDAY, JANUARY 18
THE MILITARY AND DEMOCRACY
Standing armies are the oppressive instruments for governing the people, in the hands of hereditary and arbitrary monarchs. A military republic, a government founded on mock elections and supported only by the sword, is a movement indeed, but a retrograde and disastrous movement, from the regular and old-fashioned monarchical systems. If men would enjoy the blessings of republican government, they must govern themselves by reason, by mutual counsel and consultation, by a sense and feeling of general interest, and by the acquiescence of the minority in the will of the majority, properly expressed; and, above all, the military must be kept, according to the language of our Bill of Rights, in strict subordination to the civil authority.
— Daniel Webster (born January 18, 1782)
The power of the human soul is to remain calm and unafraid amid all the shifting circumstances of the environing world! The human spirit possesses just that power – the power to preserve its own health, the power to hold itself steady and true to the normal standard, the power not to dictate or control circumstances, but to guard itself from being overwhelmed and destroyed by circumstances.
But the spiritual system is not automatic. It is not controlled by a nerve and a muscle, but by a conscious thought. You have to practice serenity. You have to think about courage. You have to brace yourself with stout resolve to withstand “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”
— Julian C. Jaynes (born January 18, 1854)
THE SECRET OF RELIGION
What is the secret of religion, do you ask? It is the same as the secret of any truth in life. It begins just where we are today. Fidelity, honesty, purity, truth, — you can have no religion without them, any more than you can have any life at all that is worth the name without them. And, on the other hand, you can have no life that is complete until all these run up into the spiritual virtues which are their perfection, and are warmed and made alive by religious trust.
— Henry Wilder Foote (1838-1889)
SATURDAY, JANUARY 19
SUPERIOR AND GENEROUS SPIRITS
I have sometimes amused myself by endeavouring to fancy what would be the fate of an individual gifted, or rather accursed, with an intellect very far superior to that of his race. Of course he would be conscious of his superiority; nor could he (if otherwise constituted as man is) help manifesting his consciousness. Thus he would make himself enemies at all points. And since his opinions and speculations would widely differ from those of all mankind — that he would be considered a madman is evident. How horribly painful such a condition! Hell could invent no greater torture than that of being charged with abnormal weakness on account of being abnormally strong.
In like manner, nothing can be clearer than that a very generous spirit — truly feeling what all merely profess — must inevitably find itself misconceived in every direction — its motives misinterpreted. Just as extremeness of intelligence would be thought fatuity, so excess of chivalry could not fail of being looked upon as meanness in the last degree — and so on with other virtues. This subject is a painful one indeed. That individuals have so soared above the plane of their race is scarcely to be questioned; but, in looking back through history for traces of their existence, we should pass over all the biographies of the "good and the great," while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows.
— Edgar Allan Poe (born January 19, 1809)
A REAL PROVIDENCE
In the name of the Past and of the Future, the servants of Humanity —both its philosophical and its practical servants — come forward to claim as their due the general direction of the world. Their object is to constitute at length a real Providence in all departments — moral, intellectual and material.
— Auguste Comte (born January 19, 1798)
THE ONLY DAY WE HAVE
Today is your day and mine, the only day we have, the day in which we play our part. What our part may signify in the great whole we may not understand; but we are here to play it, and now is our time. This we know: it is a part of action, not of whining. It is a part of love, not cynicism. It is for us to express love in terms of human helpfulness.
— David Starr Jordan (born January 19, 1851)
SUNDAY, JANUARY 20
In the silence and the shadow
Of this mystic twilight hour,
There are thoughts that haunt me strangely,
With their deep, unspoken power;
And I lean across the mem'ries,
Bridging 'tween my heart and thine,
Gazing on the hopes that, buried,
In my life no longer shine.
And the moon so fair and tender,
In her radiant vestal light,
And the stars that break in splendor
On the azure shores of night,
Seem only gleams of madness
From a broken, tortured heart,
With its buried dreams of gladness,
From the cruel world apart.
Ah, the past comes up before me,
Like a friend from distant lands,
And I strive to hold the pressure
Of her shadowy worshipped hands.
I strive to breathe the perfume
That once floated through her bloom,
But I only read the writing
Fate has graven o'er her tomb.
I only see the gravestones
Of the hopes I've "loved and lost,"
With the dead blooms falling o'er them
In a cruel, blighting frost.
And the mem'ries gather o'er me,
Like the flakes of winter snow,
Till the past that comes before me,
Makes the present half a woe.
Yet I know the future leaneth
From her regal home afar,
Like a tender smile that beameth
From the evening's fairest star,
And I'll not untomb the buried
Past we loved long ago,
To read again the splendor
That but faded into woe.
As the days that May-time bringeth,
Crowned with beauty and with light.
Only drop their regal glory
In the bosom of the night,
Yet the day-dawn shineth fairer
When the darksome night is o'er,
So the light will break out clearer
On the glad Eternal shore.
When the storms of earth are over,
And the Heavenly land is won,
And the moaning and the torture
Of this weary life are done :
Then the cross that makes us wander,
Drooping weary foreheads down,
Will be taken from us, Marcus,
For a starry angel-crown.
— Agnes Leonard Hill (born January 20, 1842)
LIBERTY AND RESTRAINT
No human being, however great or powerful, was ever so free as a fish. There is always something that he must or must not do; while the fish may do whatever he likes. All the kingdoms of the world put together are not half so large as the sea, and all the railroads and wheels that ever were, or will be invented are not so easy as fins. You will find, on fairly thinking of it, that it is his restraint which is honorable to man, not his liberty; and, what is more, it is restraint which is honorable even, in the lower animals. A butterfly is much more free than a bee; but you honor the bee more, just because it is subject to certain laws which fit it for orderly function in bee society. And throughout the world, of the two abstract things, liberty and restraint, restraint is always the more honorable. It is true, indeed, that in these and all other matters you never can reason finally from the abstraction, for both liberty and restraint are good when they are nobly chosen, and both are bad when they are badly chosen; but of the two, I repeat, it is restraint which characterizes the higher creature and betters the lower creatures and from the ministering of the archangel to the labor of the insect from the poising of the planets to the gravitation of a grain of dust the power and glory of all creatures, and all matter, consist in their obedience, not in their freedom. The sun has no liberty a dead leaf has much. The dust of which you are formed has no liberty. Its liberty will come with its corruption. And, therefore I say that as the first power of a nation consists in knowing how to guide a plow, its second power consists in knowing how to wear the fetter.
— John Ruskin (died January 20, 1900)
THE VOICE OF GOD
For me the voice of God, of Conscience, of Truth or the Inner Voice or ‘the still small Voice’ mean one and the same thing. I saw no form. I have never tried, for I have always believed God to be without form. One who realizes God is freed from sin for ever. ... But what I did hear was like a Voice from afar and yet quite near. It was as unmistakable as some human voice definitely speaking to me, and irresistible. I was not dreaming at the time I heard the Voice. The hearing of the Voice was preceded by a terrific struggle within me. Suddenly the Voice came upon me. I listened, made certain that it was the Voice, and the struggle ceased. I was calm. The determination was made accordingly, the date and the hour of the fast were fixed. ... Could I give any further evidence that it was truly the Voice that I heard and that it was not an echo of my own heated imagination? I have no further evidence to convince the sceptic. H e is free to say that it was all self-delusion or hallucination. It may well have been so. I can offer no proof to the contrary. But I can say this — that not the unanimous verdict of the whole world against me could shake me from the belief that what I heard was the true voice of God.
— Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)
A CRY FROM THE DEPTHS
Religion is a cry from the depths. The noblest natures among men have been religious ones. No soul of mighty faculties, of sensibilities strong enough to sound the depths, fine enough to feel the heights, of the world-mystery and grandeur, has been an indifferent, irreligious soul. They have bowed to the royalty of religious truth, either by their joyful possession of it or by their cry for it. Only the surface of our nature can nurture an atheistic plant; when its deeps are ploughed, the latent seed of faith begins to germinate, and the promise of a piety vigorous and sinewy as the structure of the oak lifts itself above the soil.
— Thomas Starr King (1824-1864)
|Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)|