Concept Exchange Society


Wednesday, September 10, 1997 6:30 pm

At Glenn Johnston's House.

Presentation: Marvin Chester

Mind Play: The Meaning in Words

Pre-Meeting Notice:

All paths lead nowhere.

Attention to health is life's greatest hindrance.

Terse statements of immutable truth? I think so.

I propose to offer my choice of ranking aphorisms for open discussion. My candidates for stunningly packaged profound truths.
An aphorism can be the analogue to a key equation of physics; a compact statement of a law of nature. It directs our attention to how nature works.

I am curious to know whether others agree with my selection. Those who wish are invited to bring their own cherished epigrams for examination.

Perhaps we can invent an aphorism to sum up what we find.


Our little band of Concept Exchangers included Roberto, Meredyth, Rachel, Glenn, Don, Roger, Kevin and myself.

I first read a selection of puny but delightful truths like H. L. Mencken's definition of immorality: "The morality of those having a better time".

Then I launched into a reading from G. B. Shaw's "Man And Superman". I had prepared a 10 minute piece entirely fabricated from extracts from Act III of the debate between Don Juan and the Devil.
This debate is fundamentally about the meaning of meaning: What does it mean to speak of 'meaning in life'?
It contains the very long monologue (clipped in my reading) where Don Juan contrasts appearance with content:

They are not moral; they are only conventional.
They are not virtuous; they are only cowardly.
Not dutiful; only sheepish.
Not courageous; only quarrelsome.
Not determined; only obstinate.
Not considerate; only polite.
Not intelligent; only opinionated.

Click here to read the full Shaw Abstract.

Earlier I had set out a dozen folded pieces of paper numbered on the outside for people to select. Inside each fold was an aphorism. Each person in turn presented for discussion the aphorism he or she had selected. Here they are with some of the comments.

#1. Something's lost when something's gained.
Comment from Don: Sounds like the 'conservation of something'.

#2. An unjust peace is better than a just war.
Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE)
Roman orator, poet, statesman
Related thoughts:
Peace is what the privileged want. The indignant want war.

Only the dead know the end of war.    Incorrectly attributed to Plato (427-347? B.C.) but according to Chuck Hagen of Cal Poly University in California, properly attributable to George Santayana, "Soliloquies in England and Later Soliliquies" (New York: 1922) in Soliloquy Number 25 called "Tipperary."

#3. Goodness shouts. Evil whispers.
Balinese Proverb
#4. Goodness whispers. Evil shouts.
Tibetan proverb
Related thoughts:
The opposite of truth is untruth; the opposite of a great truth is another great truth. - - attributed to Neils Bohr

Nature's rule is the symbiosis of incompatibles

#5. All paths lead nowhere.
(Don't know author)
Kevin Comment:
There are no paths but that your footsteps make them.

Related thoughts:
All paths lead nowhere. Mercifully, ignorant self-confidence chooses us some path or another.
Comment: It's not a matter of ignorance, it's a matter of innocence! It ought to read innocent self-confidence.
Anticomment: Innocence relieves us of the obligation to lessen our ignorance.

Rachel Comment:
Of course there are paths. And they evidently lead somewhere. I wanted to go to K-Mart yesterday. I traveled along the streets and got there!

#6. Righteous indignation is a temper tantrum.

#7. Desire is the cause of all suffering
the Buddha
M. Comment:
Desire is also the cause of all achievement. So the source of pain is the source of pleasure. It is Desire

#8. With love comes worry.
Every one agreed with this one. Except Kevin. He allowed that he can love without worry.

#9. The mask I wear is my own face.

#10. Soul is a chemical product.
Not well received!

#11. Grant me the strength to accept what I cannot change,
the courage to change what I can
and the wisdom to distinguish between the two.

Reinhold Niebuhr 1892-1971
M. Comment:
We are blessed in that many lack that wisdom. G. B. Shaw tells why.

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." -- George Bernard Shaw

Evidently a reasoned statement; the statement of a reasonable man. Such a deep insight comes then from a reasonable man. Does not this insight count as progress?

Related thought!
"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure, and the intelligent are full of doubt." -- Bertrand Russell

#12. Better turn work into play than play into work.

With the last aphorism read and debated we congratulated each other on our perspicacity and the meeting was adjourned.

September 1997
Marvin Chester

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© m chester 1997 Occidental CA