I first blogged about Eino Vastaranta’s aphorisms in 2010. He lives and blogs in Helsinki. This new selection is from his book Vastalauseita (‘Objections’ or ‘Protests’ in English), which contains 300 aphorisms and was published last year, as well as some sayings he intends to publish in his next collection.
From a bird’s-eye view we’re all shitheads.
People and animals are tortured because they don’t talk.
Natural diversity increases, thanks to mutations.
Supporters of nuclear power tilt against windmills.
A gift for someone who has everything? A sense of proportion.
The exclamation mark: a cannon shooting its own ankle.
What you want done unto you you have to do yourself.
He who is not an enigma to himself doesn’t know himself.
Dreams were the first movies.
Imagination, to really soar, must keep one foot on the ground.
Birds don’t fly because they’re in a hurry.
Serbian aphorist Aleksander Cotric (Geary’s Guide, p. 30), whom I blogged about in 2009 and 2010, sends selections from the anthology of Serbian aphorisms for children he edited. Parental guidance suggested…
Many things were not finished because they were not started. —Jovan Jovanovic Zmal (1833-1904)
Just go on reading books and you will end up being the same as those who wrote them. —Dusan Radovic (1922-1984)
Parents make mistakes. No wonder children get beaten. —Dragan Susic (1932-2009)
Where are you, my father, to give me another piece of advice I will not follow? —Branislav Crncevic (1933-2011)
When I am not noticed, I pretend not to be there. —Savo Martinovic (1935)
I walked Marina home today. Why doesn’t she live farther? —Zoran Stanojevic (1942)
I don’t know how old I am. It changes every year. —Zoran T. Popovic (1957)
When my father doesn’t want to talk to me, I know what he would like to say. —Aleksander Cotric (1966)
The clever understand your words. The wise understand your silence.
Funny is when reality shines.
It is hard to learn anything new, blinded as we always are by everything we already know.
I almost always expect the unexpected – and I’m usually wrong.
There are few things in the universe more stubborn than a bad idea.
Beauty has more shapes than Evil has disguises.
Good lyrics are crippled poems made whole again by music.
Uncertain and unafraid should be our default setting.
A friend that behaves like an enemy is neither.
Always arrive hungry.
Unconditional love is often given by those simply too lazy to negotiate suitable terms.
Les Coleman (Geary’s Guide, p. 28) died on January 17. He was a kind and witty man, endlessly alert to the surreal and Dada-esque aspects of real life, which he translated into his visual and aphoristic art. I was fortunate to get to know Les over the past few years and on one visit to his South London home bought a work I treasure: a drawing of two goldfish swimming in separate compartments of a water-filled hourglass. “Les Coleman was a rare bird,” according to his friend and fellow artist Patrick Hughes, “a fine artist who devoted himself to comedy. All through his career Les stuck to his vision of art evoking laughter, a grim smile or a subtle grin.” That profound, absurdist comic vision is plain to see in Les’ wonderful aphorisms, of which I’ll never get enough…
A thorough inspection of the birthday suit revealed a number of holes.
True deception goes unnoticed.
Wind supports all flags no matter what the flag supports.
A bridge has no allegiance to either side.
The distance a goldfish swims is not controlled by the bowl.
Audience: play watched from the stage.
The more a ball bounces the less it bounces.
Puppets go to sleep the moment they break free from their strings.
Each page in a book knows its opposite page by heart.
Glass is silent until broken.
Headstone: death’s bookmark.
The metaphor-minded, aphoristically inclined Dave Lull sends news of ‘Bad Metaphors, Bad Tech‘ by Rob Goodman in The Millions. “It’s only in terms of what’s old that the newest technologies make initial sense,” Goodman writes, a point also made beautifully by Owen Barfield in his exquisite book History in English Words: “When a new thing or a new idea comes into the consciousness of the community, it is described, not by a new word, but by the name of the pre-existing object which most closely resembles it.” Here’s a central paragraph from Goodman’s piece:
“More than smoothing over progress after the fact, metaphors themselves often drive progress. The insight that turned a balloon into a piece of Baroque art was the same kind of jump that turned a billowing shirt into a flying machine. But if smart figurative thinking can spark and explain new technologies, defective metaphors can do just the opposite. When the words and images we use to familiarize the new become too familiar — when metaphors start to die, or when we forget that they’re only tools — they can become some of the most powerful forces against innovation. It’s not always technical walls that stop change in its tracks. Sometimes, innovation is limited by language itself.”
Some echoes are spitefully returned
to themselves unheard
Who marinate in spotlights
are condemned to be burnt
Infinity is the last
of its kind
Let your own arms hold
Down close to certain flowers
all excesses are sufficiencies
Wit defies death
but death defines wit
The indefatigable aphoristic archeologist Dave Lull alerts me to selected aphorisms by David P. Gontar, adjunct professor of English and philosophy at Inner Mongolia University in China and author of Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays. If you want to read more, Gontar’s aphorisms appear in the January 2013 issue of the New English Review. A selection:
Democracy is a brawl settled in advance by counting heads.
The rich man cannot enter the kingdom of heaven because he is already there.
A mystery is a topic about which the more is learned the less is understood.
The seekers of Truth find only each other.
To see things as they are is to see them as they might be.
A little toxin is the best tonic.
Success is not the avoidance of error but the making of the right mistakes.
In the long run there is no long run.
Fascinating piece in the NY Times, ‘In Gun Debate, Even Language Can Be Loaded‘, on the ubiquity of gun metaphors in daily language: “No wonder it is hard to get rid of gun violence when Washington cannot even get rid of gun vocabulary. The vernacular of guns suffuses the political and media conversation in ways that politicians and journalists are often not even conscious of, underscoring the historical power of guns in the American experience. Candidates “target” their opponents, lawmakers “stick to their guns,” advocacy groups “take aim” at hostile legislation and reporters write about a White House “under fire.”
Back in January of 2011, after Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot, I took part in a Takeaway discussion on the influence of metaphor in political rhetoric and imagery.
And, of course, Sartre said: “Words are loaded pistols.”
Tom Jacobs of Pacific Standard has uncovered another nifty study of the unconscious influence of basic metaphors of morality, this one having to do with judgments of good and bad, right and wrong: “When faced with an ethical issue, do you tend to come down strongly in one direction or the other? Or do you opt for a more nuanced response? Newly published research suggests the answer may depend, in part, on whether you have been exposed to a metaphorically resonant visual cue. Specifically, it finds greater polarization of opinion among people who have peripherally gazed at a black-and-white pattern.” Read the full article here.
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