On How Wisdom is Knowing That You Don’t Know

“Some things you can’t find out; but you will never know you can’t by guessing and supposing; no, you have to be patient and go on experimenting until you find out that you can’t find out.”
-Mark Twain, Eve’s Diary

Give it time, you’ll eventually know how much it is that you’ll never know.

You’ll then have taken the first halting steps toward wisdom.

On Remaining Curious

“If there wasn’t anything to find out, it would be dull. Even trying to find out and not finding out is just as interesting as trying to find out and finding out; and I don’t know but more so.”
-Mark Twain

It’s impossible to know everything, and dangerous to think you do. But to remain curious, there’s the thing.

And if wanting to know as much about everything as you can doesn’t make the world a more interesting place, it might make you more interesting to the world.  

On Truth and the Public Trust

The Pen and the Sword - Which is Mightier?When an honest writer discovers an imposition it is his simple duty to strip it bare and hurl it down from its place of honor, no matter who suffers by it; any other course would render him unworthy of the public confidence.
-Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad

The writer is best when he is the impostor’s worst enemy.

Image source courtesy of


On Elections, Politics, and Human Nature

“If we would learn what the human race really is at bottom, we need only observe it in election times.”
Mark Twain, Autobiography

Elections reflect the highest ideals of society, executed by the lowest means of human nature.  

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 the 60th Parallel and the Center of the Universe

Mark Twain's LattitudeThere isn’t a Parallel of latitude but thinks it would have been the Equator if it had had its rights.”
-Mark Twain, Following the Equator

The center of the world, that’s what the equator thinks of itself. A balmy middle of equal days and nights, one after the other, on and on, breezing along in the warm sun.

But stand at any point on earth – say, for instance, the 60th parallel – where polar bears lumber and long winter nights reveal shimmering curtains of light from the rarefied, electrically-charged atmosphere known as Aurora Borealis.

What, then, is so special of the equator? All points are at once center and edge. Head out long enough in one direction and you’ll soon be back right where you started. Every place is its own equator.

Mark Twain takes a break:
I don’t think Mark Twain ever visited the 60th parallel, but, well, somebody has to. I’ll be away for the next three weeks on an Earthwatch expedition to Churchill, Manitoba. It seems as if Mark Twain would rather stay nearer the “equator” and wait for his adoring admirer to come full circle. We’ll be back the first week of March. Keep the faith.   

On Accepting Compliments and Liking It

Mark Twain knows how to accept complimentsI do not make any pretense that I dislike compliments. The stronger the better and I can manage to digest them.”
-Mark Twain, speech, “The Last Lotos Club”

Do go on.

Really, though, enough about me…

How was I?

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.