On Governors, Morals, and Ladies of the Night

Mark Twain on the many kinds of morals and man has...“Morals consist of political morals, commercial morals, ecclesiastical morals, and morals.”
-Mark Twain

Strangely, it is not unique. That men wear on their sleeve’s the morals that they preach, but not the morals that they actually live by. Often it leads to self-destruction.

That’s why it is often best to steer clear of those that shout their morality too loud, for they likely know all too well of what they speak…

On Experiencing True Cold – And the Strange Things That Happen When You Do

Mark Twain and arctic cold“The captain had been telling how, in one of his Arctic voyages, it was so cold that the mate’s shadow froze fast to the deck and had to be ripped loose by main strength. And even then he got only about two-thirds of it back.”
-Mark Twain, Following the Equator

It’s more than “a chill”. When it gets cold, arctic cold, funny things happen. It’s a kind of cold that hardens and bites all it touches. The very air you breathe turns crystalline, like fine beads of tiny white diamonds. 

Everything turns to ice if you’re out in it long enough.

Even your own shadow.




Photo from the first edition of Following the Equator – Source: TwainQuotes.com

On Party and Patriotism

“No party holds the privilege of dictating to me how I shall vote. If loyalty to party is a form of patriotism, I am no patriot. If there is any valuable difference between a monarchist and an American, it lies in the theory that the American can decide for himself what is patriotic and what isn’t. I claim that difference. I am the only person in the sixty millions that is privileged to dictate my patriotism.”
-Mark Twain

Party politics is the reality of our political process, but does it always foster a truly patriotic spirit?

Nobody, whether Democrat, Republican, or any other political party, can decree what constitutes individual patriotism. For better or worse, that is left for me to decide – but only for me. You’ll have to decide for yourself, as will what is now some 300 million other American souls.

What a messy business this American republic is. And when it works, what a miracle.

On New Years Resolutions

“Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.”
-Mark Twain, Letter to Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, Jan. 1863

And thank goodness another New Years is over.

On Frustration with Democrats in Congress

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of congress. But I repeat myself.”
–Mark Twain

Suppose the Democrats started to effectively engage the Bush White House on the abuse, incompetence, and deception of the past seven years.

But then I’d just be dreaming.

On the Value of Questioning Authority

Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense”
-Mark Twain

Any power, belief, idea, or proclamation can only prove its worth through contempt and, if worthwhile and right, redemption.

It is by trial that our characters, and our ideas, or forged.


On “Patriotism” and the Conscience of a Nation

“We have a bastard Patriotism, a sarcasm, a burlesque; but we have no such thing as a public conscience. Politically we are just a joke.”

We get the leaders we deserve, we rally around them and question the patriotism of anyone with the moral courage to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

This is not patriotism, and far worse avowed disloyalty, for it calls itself something for which it is not.

Did I mention that we get the leaders we deserve?


On Congressional Debate of MoveOn.org and Rush Limbaugh

“…the smallest minds and the selfishest souls and the cowardliest hearts that God makes.”
-Mark Twain, letter fragment, 1891

MoveOn.org’s ad and most of what I hear Limbaugh say is designed to provoke. And provoke it does: hours on end of meaningless pronouncements and shortsighted platitudes, while accomplishing nothing – no binding legislative action from this legislative body – except to further the divisive nature of character assassination through partisan politics.  

This isn’t what we elect a congress to do, is it?

On Intelligent Design

“It now seems plain to me that that theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one…the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals.”
-Mark Twain, The Lowest Animal

A theory such as Intelligent Design seems to fall short in explaining the madness endemic in human behavior. At least that’s the way Twain saw it, especially as he grew older (and wiser).

Lest we feel any twinge of superiority to the times in which he expressed himself, a serious consideration of our world today shows that Mark Twain’s words are no less applicable now as they were then.

Mr. Clemens surely turns in his grave.



On University Degrees

“Now then, to me university degrees are unearned finds, and they bring the joy that belongs with property acquired in that way; and the money-finds and the degree-finds are just the same in number up to date–three: two from Yale and one from Missouri University.

It pleased me beyond measure when Yale made me a Master of Arts, because I didn’t know anything about art; I had another convulsion of pleasure when Yale made me a Doctor of Literature, because I was not competent to doctor anybody’s literature but my own, and couldn’t even keep my own in a healthy condition without my wife’s help. I rejoiced again when Missouri University made me a Doctor of Laws, because it was all clear profit, I not knowing anything about laws except how to evade them and not get caught.

And now at Oxford I am to be made a Doctor of Letters–all clear profit, because what I don’t know about letters would make me a mutli-millionaire if I could turn it into cash.”
Mark Twain, Autobiography

It shouldn’t be the degree that really matters, but, if the degree holder has really learned anything, what it represents.