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Commonplace Book 3

Dreams are real as long as they last. Can we say more of life?

Havelock Ellis

All this is full. All that is full.
From fullness, fullness comes.
When fullness is taken from fullness,
Fullness still remains.
Om shanti shanti shanti.

Isha Upanishad

All existent phenomena are mere appearances to the mind; lacking concrete self-existence they come into being from the interplay of various causes and conditions. They arise, abide and disappear, all the while constantly changing. This is true of ourselves as well.

Lama Thubten Yeshe, Introduction to Tantra (2001)

As irrigators lead water where they want,
As archers make their arrows straight,
As carpenters carve wood,
The wise shape their minds.


The Great Way knows no impediments;
It does not pick and choose.
When you abandon attachment and aversion
You see it plainly;
Make a thousandth of an inch distinction,
Heaven and Earth spring apart.
If you want it to appear before your eyes,
Cherish neither “for” nor “against.”
To compare what you like with what you dislike,
That is the disease of the mind.
Then you pass over the hidden meaning;
Peace of mind is needlessly troubled.

Seng Tsin, the Third Patriarch of Zen, Believing in Mind

Zen is a way of being free from all conditions while in the midst of conditions.

Justin F. Stone, Zen Meditation (1995)

My belief in the Hindu scriptures does not require me to accept every word and every verse as divinely inspired. Nor do I claim to have any first-hand knowledge of these wonderful books. But I do claim to know and feel the truths of the essential teaching of the scriptures. I decline to be bound by any interpretation, however learned it may be, if it is repugnant to reason and moral sense.


History has demonstrated that inadequate legislation supported by mass action can accomplish more than adequate legislation which remains unenforced for the lack of a determined mass movement.

Martin Luther King, to Richard Nixon

He who is well established [in Tao] cannot be pulled away. He who has a firm grasp [of Tao] cannot be separated from it.

Lao Tse

One is moving, it is true, toward the end of life, but that end is now a goal, and not a reef in which the vessel may be dashed.

George Sand

The learning process is always two things – analyze, and forget.

Anner Bylsma (cellist)

There is, sir, a critical moment in every man’s wooing, when his mistress may be won, which if he carelessly neglect to prosecute, he may wait long enough before he gain the like opportunity.

Attributed to Marmon’s Antiquary

If you’re going to repeat something [in music], it’s probably going to be for emphasis or echo.

David Russell, guitar master class

Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.

William Blake

Man’s exile is ignorance; his homeland is knowledge.

Honorius of Autun

Time exists so that everything doesn’t happen at once; space exists so that everything doesn’t happen to you.


The goal of philosophy is not to know what men have thought, but rather the truth of things.

Thomas Aquinas

Comics are time made spatial.

Art Spiegelman

Gentility is what is left over from rich ancestors when the money is gone.

John Ciardi

King, either try to be stronger than the Romans, or else keep quiet and do what you are told.

Marius, to Mithradates, according to Plutarch’s Life of Marius

He has a right to his opinion as I have to mine; his error does me no injury.


The goods about which you have inquired are the best of their kind made in the

Last sentence dictated by Sherwood Anderson, in his paint factory in Elysia, Ohio, November 27, 1912

History buries most men, and then exaggerates the height of those left standing.

John Updike, Memories of the Ford Administration (1992)

The great activity of our life is to love.

Fr. Alfred Boeddeker

I see God as one act – just loving, like the sun is always shining

Fr. Alfred Boeddeker

Too much history; not enough geography.

Sir Isaiah Berlin, on Jewish history

Nations would be terrified, if they knew by what small men they were governed.


Therefore, be “unattached,” let things work; let brain centers work; work incessantly, but let not a ripple conquer the mind.

Swami Vivekananda, Karma Yoga (1896)

Hypocrisy is the Vaseline of political intercourse.

Pieter-Dirk Uys

Be what you is, cuz if you is what you ain’t, you ain’t what you is.

Supposed tombstone in Tombstone, Arizona

Questioner: Why is there evil in the world?

Sri Ramakrishna: To thicken the plot.


The laugh track is the lowest form of Fascism.

Paul Krassner

What country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not reminded from time to time, that the people preserve the spirit of resistance … ? Let them take arms. What signify a few lives lost? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

Thomas Jefferson, 1787

May I be no one’s enemy, and may I be the friend of that which is eternal and abides. May I wish for every person’s happiness and envy none. May I never rejoice in the ill-fortune of one who has wronged me. May I, to the extent of my power, give needful help to all who are in want. May I never fail a friend. May I respect myself. May I always keep tame that which rages within me. May I accustom myself to be gentle, and never be angry with others because of circumstances. May I know good people and follow in their footsteps.

Stoic Greek prayer (on panel at First Unitarian Church of Berkeley, California)

Marriage teaches you loyalty, forbearance, self-restraint, meekness, and a great many other things you wouldn’t need if you had stayed single.

Jimmy Townsend

Bill Clinton is Jell-O; Newt [Gingrich] is the mold.

Prof. Gerald Manheim, George Washington University (1994)

If you’re absolutely practical – and I hope I am – a coffin is only a box. One calls it a coffin, and when you’ve called it a coffin, it immediately has all sorts of associations.

Joe Orton, Loot (1965)

Any deception I may have practiced was not intended to deceive you …

Joe Orton, Loot (1965)

In all ages and countries the king is representative. There are times when the nation must think as one, feel as one, and find issue for its common emotions in symbolic act. At such moments the king is the supreme individual of the race, incarnating its will in ritual acts, giving to its ideal the coherence and endurance of personality.

J. E. A. Jolliffe, The Constitutional History of Medieval England (4th ed. 1961)

Sometimes in music it is sufficient to think something – doing it is already too much.

Leon Fleisher, piano master class, 1995

Dear Isadora,
Penis penis vagina thrust penis cum. Vagina breast sticky orgasm clitoris, buttocks breast hairy soft sticky cum? Sweaty, anal anus, sweaty hand job lips and tongue? Cucumber whipped cream belly button nipple. Hard, slippery vaginal cum penis suck, blow penis cum fuck “cock.” Creamy wet reentry hole, soft labium penis scrotum. Flaccid! Erect relationship blow job. Vagina rub rubbing pubic hair pelvis. Thrust thrust thrust thrust cum. Thrusting intimacy coming into slippery groping stretch. Thrusting cucumber vaginal come! Orgasm, throbbing fluid release. Orgasm, thrusting saliva penis cum. Yum! Penis hair body stroking.
Love, Fart

Letter to sex columnist Isadora Alman, in S.F. Bay Guardian, March 1, 1995

As a lawyer you are either a social engineer or a social parasite.

Thurgood Marshall

Light parted form darkness
day from night
earth from the primal waters
And the voice of Paul Robeson
was divided from the silence.

Pablo Neruda

In this republican country, amid the fluctuating waves of our social life, somebody is always at the drowning point.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Remember to love while you still dare to;
Remember to live while you’re still alive.

Old Norwegian saying

Revolutions are much easier started than controlled, and the men that begin them seldom end them …. Human passions are like the winds – when aroused they sweep everything before them in their fury. The wise and the good who attempt to control them will themselves most likely become the victims.

Alexander Stephens (Vice President of the Confederacy)

I’ve always known I was one of God’s chosen snobs.

Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen)

We are living in the middle of redemption. The kingdom of Israel is being rebuilt. The entire Israeli Army is holy. It symbolizes the rule of the people on its land.

Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook (c. 1967)

Carrier of love and sympathy
Messenger of friendship
Consoler of the lonely
Bond of the scattered family
Enlarger of the common life.

Inscription on Washington DC post office (by Charles W. Eliot)

There are three toads at the bottom of my garden: line, color and form.

Willem de Kooning

Hard writing makes easy reading.

Ernest Hemingway

He had delusions of adequacy.

Walter Kerr

Whatever happens, we have got
The Maxim gun, and they have not.

Hilaire Belloc

There once was a man named Eugene
Who invented a fucking machine.
Concave or convex,
It could fit either sex,
And was terribly easy to clean.


Old legitimate monarchies are everywhere declining, and Demos stands ready to swallow them down its miry throat.

Gabrielle d’Annunzio

The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.

Louis D. Brandeis, Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 479 (1928)

Where no one commands, everyone commands; where everyone commands, no one commands but chaos.

Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

We have lived long but this is the noblest work of our whole lives. It will transform vast solitudes into thriving districts. The United States take rank this day among the first powers of the earth. The instruments which we have just signed will cause no tears to be shed. They prepare ages of happiness for innumerable generations of human creatures.

Robert Livingston, after signing the Louisiana Purchase treaty

He reset his watch by every clock he passed.

Said of Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII)

It was by making myself a Catholic that I won the war in the Vendée, by making myself a Moslem that I established myself in Egypt, by making myself an ultramontane that I turned men’s hearts toward me in Italy. If I were to govern a nation of Jews I would rebuild the Temple of Solomon.

Napoleon Bonaparte

The orderly management of decline.

Task of British establishment, as defined by Sir William Armstrong (chief of British civil service under Edward Heath)

To me it seems that all sciences are vain and full of errors that are not born of experience, mother of all certainty.

Leonardo da Vinci, Trattato della pittura (Treatise on Painting)

Little by little a person becomes good, as a water pot is filled by drops of water.


I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Lincoln was not a type. He stands alone – no ancestors, no fellows, no successors.

Robert G. Ingersoll (1894)

The choice of our people, Mr. President, is between statehood and extermination.

Chaim Weizmann to Harry Truman, April 9, 1948

The ignorant are lucky, but we can’t all be so lucky as to be ignorant.

Mark Barbasch MD

Said the famous Miss Sappho of Greece,
What I like even more than a piece,
Is to have my pudenda
Rubbed with the enda
The little pink nose of my niece.


If you’re going to tell the truth you’d better be funny, otherwise they’ll kill you.

Mark Twain

You were never the water, only the wave.


I’d love a hot dog from that central computer.

Timothy Leary, on his deathbed (Quoted by his son Zach Leary)

Freedom lies in its exercise.


I’m losing my memory – memory is almost everything – but it’s not everything – there’s something else – but I forget.

Timothy Leary

Anybody who’s bored isn’t paying close enough attention.

Timothy Leary

Moderation in some things, excess in others.

Timothy Leary (?)

If the end doesn’t justify the means, what does?

Robert Moses

If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

John Chancellor

Bad habits are better than no habits.

Joel Solkoff (1996)

I never tell a lie; but the truth: not to everyone. (Le falsità non dico mai mai, ma la verità no a ogniuno.)

Paolo Sarpi

No man but a blockhead ever wrote a line except for money.

Samuel Johnson

Loudness is the beginning of violence.

Ted Jones

The Church that marries the Spirit of the Age will be a widow in the next.

Dean Inge

If your mind is still, like a broken gong, you have entered nirvana, leaving all quarrels behind you.


The disciples of Gautama are wide-awake and vigilant, absorbed in the Dharma day and night.


You trust your mother, but you cut the cards.

Scanlan’s Monthly

Transformations going on in an empty world which confronts us
Appear real all because of ignorance:
Try not to seek after the true,
Only cease to cherish opinions.

Seng Ts’an, On Believing in Mind

Clinging is never kept within bounds,
It is sure to go the wrong way;
Quit it, and things follow their own courses,
While the essence neither departs nor abides.

Seng Ts’an, On Believing in Mind

If an eye falls asleep,
All dreams will by themselves cease;
If the mind retains its absoluteness
The ten thousand things are of one suchness.

Seng Ts’an, On Believing in Mind

One in all / All in one –
If only this is realized,
No more worry about your not being perfect.

Seng Ts’an, On Believing in Mind

Cet animal est très méchant:
Quant on l’attaque, il se defend!

Hilaire Belloc, “La Ménagerie”1

Do not give attention to what others do or fail to do; give it to what you do or fail to do.


Personal God (ishwara) is no other than Impersonal God or Nirguna Brahman experienced through the veil of time, space and causation.

Swami Bhaskarananda, The Essentials of Hinduism (1994)2

Those who remember the past are condemned to repeat it too. That’s a little history joke.

Michael Herr, Dispatches (1977)

So the state spat out to the perfumed few what it had sucked up from the sweating many.

Thomas & Elizabeth Cohen, Words and Deeds in Renaissance Rome (1993)

How miserable that man is that governs a people where six parts of seven at least are poor, endebted, discontented and armed.

William Berkeley, Governor of Virginia (1676)

The way of the herdsman [gaucho] is a trail of sorrows and little cows. The sorrows are all his; the little cows all belong to someone else.

Atuhualpa (Argentine poet, not the Inca)

India is like kissing God through an inch of shit.

Michael Bowen, Journey to Nepal (1970)

Control in modern times requires more than force, more than law. It requires that a population dangerously concentrated in cities and factories, whose lives are filled with cause for rebellion, be taught that all is right as it is.

Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (1980)

The thing to remember is, if you see something horrible, don’t cling to it, and if you see something beautiful, don’t cling to it.

Dudrom Nyingma

My happy future is in my past.

Henry Jaglom, Always, But Not Forever (film, 1985)

Music is always better or worse than it sounds.

Mark Lilienthal, at Allen Ginsberg memorial service (April 20, 1997)

Lonely old courage teacher.

Robert Haas, same event, speaking of Ginsberg.

Really in the animal soup of time.

Robert Haas, same event.

When the saints go marching out.

Diane di Prima, same event.

“You must tell the truth.”

“That’s a terribly defeatist attitude.”

Joe Orton, What the Butler Saw (1969)

His body had a mind of its own.


Achieve Shakespeare’s ends, by Shakespeare’s means if possible, but achieve Shakespeare’s ends.

Harley Granville-Baker

  1. This animal is very naughty.  When you attack it, it defends itself!
  2. Not Swami Bhaskarananda Saraswati (1833-1899).