Old Year, New Year

Luis Rubio

The end of each year brings nostalgia for what’s gone, expectation for what’s coming, fear of the unknown and optimism for the opportunities that the New Year might bring with it. Today, the last day of a complex and contentious year, is a good time to reflect upon what the big thinkers, entrepreneurs and statesmen wondered before each one of these emotions.

The future… something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.

                                                                       C.S.Lewis, 1941

We must confess that at present the rich predominate, but the future will be for the virtuous and ingenious

                                                                       Jean de la Bruyere, 1688

 Fortune can take from us nothing but what she gave us.

                                                                       PubliliusSyrus, c 50BC

In ages of faith, the final aim of life is placed beyond life. The men of such ages are therefore used naturally and, as it were, involuntarily, to fix their gaze for many years on a static object toward which their progress is ever directed, and they learn by imperceptible degrees to repress a thousand small passing desires so as to satisfy more effectively this one great permanent longing which torments them. When these same men wish to concentrate upon worldly affairs, these habits come into their own. They readily settle upon one general and sure goal as an object for their actions here below and direct all their efforts toward it. You do not see them indulging in new projects every day but they do have definite plans which they never tire of pursuing.This explains why religious nations have often achieved such lasting results. They discovered the secret of success in this world by concentrating upon the next.

                                                                       Alexis de Tocqueville, 1831

In politics, what begins in fear usually ends in folly

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1830

 Worry over what has not occurred is a serious malady

Solomon ibnGabirol, c 1050

What makes a tyrant frightening?“His guards,” the man says, “ and their swords, and the chamberlains, and those who shut out people who try to enter.”Why is it, then, that when you bring a child in front  of him when he is surrounded by his guards, the child isn´t afraid? It is because he child doesn´t properly notice the guards? Now, if someone is fully aware of the, and of the fact that they’re carrying swords, and has come precisely because he wants to died, as the result of some misfortune, and is seeking and easy death at someone else’s hand, he won´t be frightened of the guards ether, will he?“No, because he wants the very thing that causes them to be frightening.”Well then, if someone who has no particular desire either to die or to live, but is happy to accept whatever is granted, comes into the presence of the tyrant, what is to prevent him from approaching him without fear?            “Nothing.”

Epictetus, c100

Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear

Albert Camus, c 1940

It is life, life that matters, life alone -the continuous and everlasting process of discovering it- and not the discovery itself!

Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1868

The world is equally astonished –and resentful- at every new discovery, but in a short time accepts it as a commonplace.

Gertrude Atherton,1923

Science is a cementery of dealideas.

Miguel de Unamuno, 1913

 What one man can invent another can discover.

Arthur Conan Doyle, 1905

There are men in this city, and also there come other person every day from different places by reason of its greatness and goodness, who have very clever minds, capable of devising and inventing all manner of ingenious contrivances. And should it be legislated that the works and contrivances invented by them could not be copied and made by others so that they are deprived of their honor.

Venetian Statute on Industrial Brevets, 1495

The basic question one must ask is this: Why do people do all the things that, taken together, form the impressive image of a totally united society giving total support to its government? For any unprejudiced observer, the answer is, I think, self-evident: they are driven to it by fear.For fear of losing his job, the schoolteacher teaches things he does not believe; fearing for his future, the pupil repeats them after him; for fear of not being allowed to continue his studies, the young man joins the Youth League and participates in whatever of its activities are necessary; fear that, under the monstrous system of political credits, his son or daughter will not acquire the necessary total of points for enrollment at a school leads the father to take on all manner  of responsibilities and  “voluntarily” to do everything required. Fear of the consequences of refusal leads people to take part in elections, to vote for the proposed candidates, and to pretend that they regard such ceremonies as genuine elections;  out of fear for their livelihood, position, or prospects, they go to meetings, vote for every resolution they have to, or at least keep silent: it is fear that carries them through humiliating acts of self-criticism and penance and the dishonest filling out of a mass of degrading questionnaires; fear that someone might inform against them prevents them from giving public, and often even private, expression to their true opinions.

The basis of optimism is sheer terror.

Oscar Wilde, 1891

Old Year, New Year: what’s gone is gone; now comes the time of opportunities, if we know how to grab them. Happy New Year!


PS. All quotes from the extraordinary journal Lapham’s Quarterly