On the Transience of Fame and the Myth of Glory

“It is a pathetic thought. We struggle, we rise, we tower in the zenith a brief and gorgeous moment, with the adoring eyes of the nations upon us, then the lights go out, oblivion closes around us, our glory fades and vanishes, a few generations drift by, and naught remains but a mystery and a name.”
-Mark Twain

What does it really mean, when we pass into inevitable oblivion, to possess fame or claim glory?  Fame vanishes and glory dies in the press of our own ego.

It is nothing but what we leave behind that is important in the end. Best to consider what that might be while it is still in our power, lest we be caught with nothing at all to show for it

On Justice and Trial by Jury

“The humorist who invented trial by jury played a colossal practical joke upon the world, but since we have the system we ought to try and respect it. A thing which is not thoroughly easy to do, when we reflect that by command of the law a criminal juror must be an intellectual vacuum, attached to a melting heart and perfectly macaronian bowels of compassion.”
-Mark Twain, New York Tribune, March 1873

That it must be some enormous practical joke is never more obvious than for the juror, sitting amongst eleven strangers – suddenly compatriots in judgement – charged with directing how a blindfolded Lady Justice is to play her hand. It gives reason to doubt that justice is even possible.

But it is in the deliberation room where the inadequacy of trial by jury really sinks in. Just as it also dawns that it is best means of justice yet devised – no matter how flawed.

On Town Hall Meetings

“The thug is aware that loudness convinces sixty persons where reasoning convinces but one.
-Mark Twain

But those sixty people are convinced of an argument upon which there is no basis in reason – the thug makes a fool of his followers and a mockery of rational thought.

On Why Racism is Silly

“I have no race prejudices, and I think I have no color prejudices or caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. Indeed I know it. I can stand any society. All that I care to know is that a man is a human being–that is enough for me; he can’t be any worse.”
-Mark Twain

The point isn’t if you’re  white, black, a jew, muslim, easterner, westerner, northerner, southerner, atheist, theist, liberal, or conservative. You’re human, and worthy of suspicion. I’m human too.

On How to Spot a Pessimist

“Pessimist: the optimist who didn’t arrive”
-Mark Twain

Just showing up requires a level of optimism that the true pessimist is unwilling to give.

On Timing

“I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one”
-Mark Twain

The difference between a million dollar idea and the worthless boasts of a crank is like the difference between a great joke and a terrible one -timing.

On Blowing Smoke

“It is a talent by itself to pay compliments gracefully and have them ring true. It is an art in itself.”
– Mark Twain, speech, “The Lost Lotos Club”

You da’ man… No you da’ man… 

On the Value of Education

“Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge.”
-Mark Twain

The better the education, the more you know what you don’t know – unless you’re too stupid. Then you know everything.

On Finally Being at Rest

“Death, the refuge, the solace, the best and kindliest and most prized friend and benefactor of the erring, the forsaken, the old, and weary, and broken of heart, whose burdens be heavy upon them, and who would lie down and be at rest.” 
-Mark Twain

Lying down in peace, knowing that the burdens of this life have been fulfilled, the wrongs committed released, the injuries suffered healed. To finally, at last, rest with an unburdened soul. 

That is perhaps the best we can hope for.

On Being Truly Virtuous

“The weakest of all weak things is a virtue that has not been tested in the fire.”
-Mark Twain

It’s one thing to act virtuously and not know any better, quite another to remain so when aware of the options.