Quotations: On Pain and Suffering


“No, God does not give us explanations; we do not comprehend the world, and we are not going to. It is, and it remains for us, a confused mystery of bright and dark. God does not give us explanations; he gives us a Son. . . . A Son is better than an explanation.”

—Austin Farrer, “The Country Doctor”

“Every war movie, good or bad, is an antiwar movie.” —Steven Spielberg, “Of Guts and Glory”

“. . . after all, the manner in which a person dies, the little details of an autopsy, say, whether the corpse has spots on its liver or lungs, doesn’t in any way cancel the loss.”

—Ted Kooser, The Poetry Home Repair Manual

A high station in life is earned by the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace.”

—Tennessee Williams

8 Weeks to Learn Russian: Send Me Your Tips


In eight weeks I’ll be in Kiev, the Ukraine, for a full week. My mission: to teach a course in philosophy for five straight days. I’ll have an interpreter. So I don’t have to know a single word of Russian to get by. But I don’t want to get by. I want to have as much useful Russian under my belt by the time I get there.

I’ve found that a trip to a new destination, where they speak an unfamiliar language, provides me with the greatest initial inspiration to learn that language. I want to exploit that initial burst of energy and learn as much as I can. I won’t be fluent when I reach my destination, but people will know that I’ve made the effort and will realize that I want to learn their language. So I’ll get more help when I’m there, and I’ll have something to build on. My question for you: What’s the best way to build that foundation when I have eight weeks to go?

Quotes to Live By


“No matter what side of an argument you’re on, you always find some people on your side that you wish were on the other side.” —Jascha Heifetz

“Genius is only a superior power of seeing.” —John Ruskin

“I not only use all the brains I have, but all that I can borrow.” —Woodrow Wilson

“Every war movie, good or bad, is an antiwar movie.” —Steven Spielberg, “Of Guts and Glory”

“Happy is the man who learns from his own failures. He certainly won’t learn from anyone else’s.” —Austin Farrer, “St. Mark”

“. . . there is a tremendous social responsibility that comes with any public act we do, and that includes creative acts, as well.” —Charles Johnson, in his interview with Diane Osen for The Book That Changed My Life

—Charles Johnson, in his interview with Diane Osen for The Book That Changed My Life

Survival of the Fittest? Richard Dawkins Duped


On Thursday, March 20, I plan to see a screening of the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The documentary features Ben Stein, author, cultural commentator, finance guru, and occasional film actor. Last September, Ewen MacAskill reported that the film’s premise is “that scientists sympathetic to intelligent design are penalised by being denied academic posts.” His brief article, published in The Guardian, reports that Richard Dawkins is among those who were interviewed for the film. And now Dawkins is showing a spot of upsetness. His complaint appears to be that he was duped by the producers of the film. “At no time was I given the slightest clue that these people were a creationist front,” said Dawkins. (See Ewen MacAskill, “Dawkins rails at ‘creationist front’ for duping him,” The Guardian [September 28, 2007].)

Ben Stein’s reply is interesting: “I don’t remember a single person asking me what the movie was about.”

A couple years ago I was asked by Penn and Teller to be interviewed for a religious feature they were taping. I knew their reputation, and asked for a sample video of a similar program they had produced. I watched the sample carefully, more than once, and telephoned a few of my friends to get their advice about whether to go ahead with the interview. About half of them said to go for it, while the other half advised against it. I phoned Penn and Teller and thanked them for the invite, but told them that I was not interested in doing the interview. That was that.

I haven’t seen Ben Stein’s film yet. But I can’t work up much sympathy for Dawkins’s consternation, regardless of its quality. Surely he could have inquired a little more fully about the specific nature and aims of this film, before agreeing to be interviewed. There’s a Darwinian explanation for what happened to Richard Dawkins. It’s called “survival of the fittest.”

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