Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Setting Sun World

Throughout history and continuing until our day, forces for corruption, selfishness, ignorance, and aggression have vied against the influences of wisdom, compassion, and awakened mind. We categorized quotes on these two themes as "Setting Sun" and "Rising Sun."

As the cliché asks, is the glass half empty or half full? Pessimists may be able to more frequently claim being right but optimists may more often claim happier lives. Politicians and religious leaders frequently use pessimism as a way of demoralizing opposition and discouraging challenges to their rule. Scam artists and business advertising frequently use optimism in similar ways. The Setting Sun World approach nourishes pessimism, depression, passivism, and neglect. It disavows any idea of progress and sinks into despair, it deprecates development and disbelieves evolution. Normally, people think of the placebo effect and it’s twin, self-fulfilling prophesy, as a kind of joke, a laughable con that makes us believe fantasies. In the scientific world, however, we see an ever-increasing appreciation and respect for the physical results of our brain activity—the neurotransmitters, endorphins, dopamine, and many still unexplained influences. In the name of “reality,” the Setting Sun world view, only creates more retrogression, suffering, and corruption.

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Quotes (125)

“The ignorant and simple-minded burn with the fires of greed, anger and folly. Obsessed with ideas of birth, growth and destruction, they fall into the habit of grasping becoming fixated and attached.”

Buddha गौतम बुद्ध 563 – 483 BCE via Shan Dao
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
Awakened Truth
from Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra

“To be wealthy and honored in an unjust society is a disgrace.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"

18. The Sick Society

“The governments of latter-day society have not stored up the necessities of life, they have not diluted the purity of the world, destroyed the simplicity of the world, and made the people confused and hungry... law and justice are at odds”

Wenzi 文子 1
"Authentic Presence of Pervading Mystery.”
from The Wenzi, Wénzǐ 文子

“Civil strife is as much a greater evil than war as war itself is worse than peace.”

Herodotus Ἡρόδοτος 1 via Shan Dao
“The Father of History”
from Histories

“The sage honors his inborn, basic goodness rising in influence when sanity reigns in society; enduring protected by silence when the Way does not prevail.”

Zisi 子思 481 – 402 BCE via Daniel K. Gardner, Shan Dao
(Kong Ji or Tzu-Ssu)
Confucius' grandson and early influence on Neo-Confucianism
from Doctrine of the Mean, Maintaining Perfect Balance, Zhongyong 中庸

“The rich have become so unsocial, those who own property had rather throw their possessions into the sea than lend aid to the needy, while those who are in power circumstance would less gladly find a treasure than seize the possessions of the rich.”

Isocrates Ἰσοκράτης 436 – 338 BCE
from Works

“The life of a fool is worse than death.”

Koheleth 1
from Ecclesiastes קֹהֶלֶת‎

“When the directives of the leadership are ignored because of factionalism, laws are broken out of treachery, intellectuals busy themselves fabricating clever deceits, mettlesome men occupy themselves fighting, administrators monopolize authority, petty bureaucrats hold power, and cliques curry favor to manipulate the leadership. Then, even though the nation may seem to exist, the ancients would say it has perished.”

Liú Ān 劉安 1 via Thomas Cleary
from Huainanzi

18. The Sick Society

“When rites and duties become decorations they breed artificial and hypocritical people.”

Liú Ān 劉安 1 via Thomas Cleary
from Huainanzi

19. All Methods Become Obstacles

“Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun. If you do not, the sun will soon set, and you with it.”

Marcus Aurelius 121 – 219 CE

35. The Power of Goodness

“They mistake the pointing finger for the moon. They are idle dreamers lost in form and sensation.”

Yòngjiā Xuānjué 永嘉玄覺 665 – 713 CE
(Yung-chia Ta-shih; Yōka Genkaku; "The Overnight Guest")
from Song of Enlightenment 证道歌

“I am sick and tired of this life of endless passion, aggression, and ignorance”

Chamaripa ཙཱ་མཱ་རི་པ། 840 – 940 CE via Shan Dao
(Cāmāripa, “The Siddha Cobbler”)
Mahasiddha #14

“The rich man with no generosity,
Though he has collected wealth through avarice,
At the time of death will be naked and empty-handed.”

Gesar of Ling གེ་སར་རྒྱལ་པོ། 1 via Robin Kornman
from Gesar of Ling Epic

“Intellectually brilliant but shallow… they increase the thorns of arbitrary opinion as they show off their ability and understanding… a great pity!”

Yuanwu Keqin 圜悟克勤 1063 – 1135 CE
(Yuánwù Kèqín)
from Zen Letters

“Intellectually brilliant but shallow… they increase the thorns of arbitrary opinion as they show off their ability and understanding… a great pity!”

Yuanwu Keqin 圜悟克勤 1063 – 1135 CE
(Yuánwù Kèqín)
from Zen Letters

“What else imperils and slays cities, countries, and individuals as much as the amassing of wealth which cannot be gained without harming others?”

Dante 1265 – 1321 CE
(Durante degli Alighieri)

“Heaven wheels above you, displaying to you her eternal glories, and still your eyes are on the ground.”

Dante 1265 – 1321 CE
(Durante degli Alighieri)

“Men shut their doors against a setting sun.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from Timon of Athens

“Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from Macbeth

“Can anything be more ridiculous than that a man should have the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of the water, and because his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have none with him?”

Blaise Pascal 1623 – 1662 CE
One of the greatest French writers of all time
from Pensées

“The supreme mystery of despotism, its prop and stay, is to keep men in a state of deception, and with the specious title of religion to cloak the fear by which they must be held in check, so that they will fight for their servitude as if for salvation.”

Baruch Spinoza 1632 – 1677 CE

71. Sick of Sickness

“Drinking and gambling are curses that lessen any man’s mind and strength and waste his substance.”

Kāngxī 康熙帝 1654 – 1722 CE
from Emperor of China, Self-Portrait of K'ang-hsi

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

31. Victory Funeral

“Do you think that men have always massacred each other as they do today? Have they always been liars, cheats, traitors, brigands, weak, flighty, cowardly, envious, gluttonous, drunken, grasping and vicious, bloody, backbiting, debauched, fanatical, hypocritical and stupid?”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE
from Candide

“Those who are to be unhappy, think & speak only of the contraries... the Disposition to criticize & be disgusted... it is chiefly an Act of Imagination yet has serious Consequences in Life, as it brings on real Griefs and Misfortunes.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE
from The Handsome and Deformed Leg

“The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had someone cried out and been believed saying, 'Do not listen to this imposter.'”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE via GDH Cole, Shan Dao

“All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”

Adam Smith 1723 – 1790 CE
''The Father of Economic Capitalism"
from Wealth of Nations

“Christ has brought the kingdom of God nearer to earth; but, he has been misunderstood; and in place of God's kingdom the kingdom of the priest has been established”

Immanuel Kant 1724 – 1804 CE
from H. S. Chamberlain

“I am more and more convinced that man is a dangerous creature and that power, whether vested in many or a few, is ever grasping, and like the grave, cries, 'Give, give.'”

Abigail Adams 1744 – 1818 CE
One of the most exceptional women in American history

“We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

18. The Sick Society

“The heaviest charge we can bring against the general texture of society is that it is commonplace.”

William Hazlitt 1778 – 1830 CE
One of the English languages best art and literature critics of all time

from Selected Essays

“We have been ruled more by deceit than by force, and we have been degraded more by vice than by superstition. Ambition and intrigue abuses the credulity and experience of men lacking all political, economic, and civic knowledge”

Simon Bolivar Simón Bolívar 1783 – 1830 CE
El Libertador
from Speech, 1819

“Because people have no thoughts to deal in, they deal cards, and try to win on another's money... card playing is so demoralizing, since the whole opject of it is to employ every kind of trick and machination in order to win what belongs to another.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE
from Wisdom of Life

“The great affliction of all philistines is that they have no interest in ideas and that, to escape being bored, they are in constant need of realities But realities are higher unsatisfactory or dangerous; when they lose their interest they become fatiguing.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE
from Essays

“Upon that path where flowers never grew
Others as with steps towards the tomb
And others mournfully within the gloom
Of their own shadow walked, and called it death
Half fainting in the affliction of vain breath.

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822 CE via Shan Dao
from The Triumph of Life

“conservatism goes for comfort, reform for truth... Conservatism makes no poetry, breathes no prayer, has no invention; it is all memory. Reform has no gratitude, no prudence, no husbandry... Conservatism tends to universal seeming and treachery, believes in a negative fate; believes the men's temper governs them;”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism
from The Conservative (1841)

“But one also finds in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to want to bring the strong down to their level, and which reduces men to preferring equality in servitude to inequality in freedom”

Alexis de Tocqueville 1805 – 1859 CE
Pioneering researcher into the conflicts between freedom and equality

“Let others complain that the age is wicked; my complaint is that it is paltry; for it lacks passion. Men’s thoughts are thin and flimsy like lace, they are themselves pitiable like the lace-makers. The thoughts of their hearts are too paltry to be sinful... Their lusts are dull and sluggish, their passions sleepy.”

Søren Kierkegaard 1813 – 1855 CE via Swenson
"The first existentialist philosopher"
from Either/Or (1843)

“I hate this fast growing tendency to chain men to machines in big factories and deprive them of all joy in their efforts — the plan will lead to cheap men and cheap products.”

Wilhelm Richard Wagner 1813 – 1883 CE

“Both [Church and State] have the same principle as their point of departure: that of the natural wickedness of man... Both strive to transform men, the one into a saint, the other into a citizen. But the natural man must die.”

Mikhail Bakunin 1814 – 1876 CE
Romantic rebel, revolutionary anarchist, founding father of modern socialism
from Le Progrés (1869)

“Nobody blamed the credulity and avarice of the people, – the degrading lust of gain, which had swallowed up every nobler quality in the national character… These things were never mentioned.”

Charles Mackay 1814 – 1889 CE
from Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

18. The Sick Society

“many of these misdeeds were like the subtle muscular movements which are not taken account of in the consciousness, though they bring about the end that we fix our mind on and desire And it is only what we are vividly conscious of that we can vividly imagine to be seen by omniscience.”

George Eliot 1819 – 1880 CE
(Mary Anne Evans)
Pioneering literary outsider

from Middlemarch

“there is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men”

Herman Melville 1819 – 1891 CE
from Moby Dick or The Whale

“With a cruel analysis that focused on the parts but overlooked the whole, science and intellectuals have left nothing of all that was sacred of old.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE via Constance Garnett, Shan Dao
from Brothers Karamatzov

“men love the downfall and disgrace of the righteous”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE via Constance Garnett
from Brothers Karamatzov

“There will be contemporary monarchs, reigning over the earth—kings of churlish spirit, violent temper, and ever addicted to falsehood and wickedness... Wealth and piety will decrease until the world will be wholly depraved. Property alone will confer rank; wealth will be the only source of devotion; passion will be the sole bond of union between the sexes; falsehood will be the only means of success in litigation; and women will be objects merely of sensual gratification.”

Blavatsky, Helena Еле́на Петро́вна Блава́тская 1831 – 1891 CE
Co-founder of Theosophy
from The Key to Theosophy (1889)

“There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which the negation of Catholicism and negation of Liberalism meet, keep high festival, and the end learns to justify the means.”

Lord Acton 1834 – 1902 CE
(John Dalberg-Acton)
Prolific historian and politician
from Life and Letters of Mandell Creighton, 1904

“The development of journalism made it essential that by far the greater part of what is said or done in the world should be so ephemeral as to take itself away quickly; it could keep for 24 hours but not for a week. If that long, it would prevent people from going on to something else.”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE via Shan Dao
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Erewhon

“Greek history is a panorama of war for war's sake... the utter ruin of a civilization which in intellectual respects was perhaps the highest the earth has ever seen. The wars were purely piratical. Pride, gold, women, slaves, excitement, were their only motives.”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”

“A pessimist is somebody who complains about the noise when opportunity knocks.”

Oscar Wilde 1854 – 1900 CE

“Men measure by false standards: everyone seeks power, success, riches for himself and admires others who attain them, while under-valuing the truly precious things in life.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE
from Civilization and its Discontents, 1930​

“Sacredness of human life! The world has never believed it! It has been with life that we settled our quarrels, won wives, gold and land, defended ideas, imposed religions. We have held that a death toll was a necessary part of every human achievement, whether sport, war or industry. A moment's rage over the horror of it, and we sink into indifference.”

Ida Tarbell 1857 – 1944 CE

“With all the wealth of the world at hand, there are human beings who hunger, whole nations who suffer cold. The judgment for this condition, for misusing Nature's gifts, is the judgment upon man's failure, man's unsteadiness.”

Henry Ford 1863 – 1847 CE

“A thousand reforms have left the world as corrupt as ever, for each successful reform has founded a new institution, and this institution has bred its new and congenial abuses”

Santayana, George 1863 – 1952 CE
(Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
Powerfully influential, true-to-himself philosopher/poet
from The Life of Reason

“If we look into the souls and thoughts of men, we shall find that this impressive display of material prosperity is merely the shining garment of a polity blind to things without and things within, and blind to the future.”

H. G. Wells 1866 – 1946 CE
A father of science fiction and One World Government apostle
from Outline of History

“The final reason for Rome's defeat was the failure of mind and spirit to rise to a new and great opportunity. They were split into the sharpest oppositions, extremes, a narrow selfishness that kept men blind when their own self-preservation demanded a world-wide outlook. Material development outstripped human development; the Dark Ages took possession of Europe, classical antiquity ended.”

Edith Hamilton 1867 – 1963 CE via Shan Dao
from Roman Way

“What do nations care about the cost of war, if by spending a few hundred millions in steel and gunpowder they can gain a thousand millions in diamonds and cocoa?”

W. E. B. Du Bois 1868 – 1963 CE

“99 out of every 100 human beings are desperately at work grubbing, sweating, worrying, thinking, sorrowing, enjoying, without in the least knowing why.”

David Grayson 1870 – 1946 CE
(Ray Stannard Baker)
One of the most insightful journalists, historians, and biographers of his time

from Great Possessions

“Dogmatism is the greatest of mental obstacles to human happiness.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Winston Churchill 1874 – 1965 CE

23. Nothing and Not

“Our true religion is a monotheism of consciousness, a possession by it, with a fanatical denial of the existence of autonomous partial-systems… This leads to collective delusions, instigations to war and revolution, in a word, to destructive mass psychoses… this narrowness of consciousness is always the shortest way to the insane asylum.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

31. Victory Funeral

“It was an entry into the monastery of the world, a submission to the vow to believe only in what was probably, average, commonplace, barren of meaning, to renounce everything strange and significant, and reduce anything extraordinary to the banal... only surfaces that hid nothing, only beginnings without continuations, failures that claimed to be problems, oppressively narrow horizons, and the unending desert of routine.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

“The disastrous feature of our civilization is that it is far more developed materially than spiritually. Its balance is disturbed.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE

“Nothing can doom man but the belief in doom, for this prevents the movement of return.”

Martin Buber מרטין בובר‎‎ 1878 – 1965 CE

40. Returning

“Impovernment of the bobble by the bauble for the bubble.”

James Joyce 1882 – 1941 CE
from Finnegan's Wake

“And all the greedy gushes out through their small souls. And all the lazy leaks down over their brash bodies. How small it's all!”

James Joyce 1882 – 1941 CE
from Finnegan's Wake

“There is hardly an absurdity of the past that cannot be found flourishing somewhere in the present.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Our Oriental Heritage

“Barbarism is always around civilization, amidst it and beneath it, ready to engulf it by arms, or mass migrations, or unchecked fertility. Barbarism is like the jungle; it never admits its defeat”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Our Oriental Heritage

“Religious sectarianism... turned Western Asia from world leadership to destitution... into the poverty, disease, and stagnation of modern times.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Age of Faith

“Caught in the interval between one moral code and the next, an unmoored generation surrenders itself to luxury, corruption, and a restless disorder of family and morals."”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
from Lessons of History

“The majority of mankind is lazy-minded, incurious, absorbed in vanities, and tepid in emotion, and is therefore incapable of either much doubt or much faith.”

T. S. Eliot 1888 – 1965 CE
from Introduction, Pascal's Pensées (1931)

“Why is this century worse than those others?
Maybe, because, in sadness and alarm,
It only touched the blackest of the ulcers,
But couldn't heal it in its span of time.”

Anna Akhmatova Анна Ахматова 1889 – 1966 CE via Yevgeny Bonver
(Andreyevna Gorenko)
Russia's most loved female poet

“[We are] victims of the same twentieth-century plague. Not the Black Death, this time; the Gray Life.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Island

“[Recipe for a setting-sun world]: Take one sexually inept wage-slave, one dissatisfied female, two or (if preferred) three small television-addicts; marinate in a mixture of Freudism and dilute Christianity; then bottle up tightly in a four-room flat and stew for fifteen years in their own juice.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Island

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)

18. The Sick Society

“When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE

“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

Ariel Durant 1898 – 1981 CE
(Chaya Kaufman)

31. Victory Funeral

“Dictatorships breed oppression, dictatorships breed servility, dictatorships breed cruelty; more loathsome still is the fact that they breed idiocy... mere discipline usurping the place of clear thinking ... Fighting these sad monotonies is one of the duties of a writer.”

Jorge Luis Borges 1899 – 1986 CE
Literary Explorer of Labyrinthian Dreams, Mirrors, and Mythologies

“Alienation as we find it in modern society is almost total… Man has created a world of man-made things as it never existed before. He has constructed a complicated social machine to administer the technical machine he built. The more powerful and gigantic the forces are which he unleashes, the more powerless he feels himself as a human being. He is owned by his creations, and has lost ownership of himself.”

Eric Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE

80. A Golden Age

“Look at the world today… What madness there is! What blindness! A scurrying mass of bewildered humanity crashing headlong against each other. The time must come, my friend, when brutality and the lust for power must perish by its own sword. For when that day comes, the world must begin to look for a new life. And it is our hope that they may find it here.”

James Hilton 1900 – 1954 CE
from Lost Horizon

18. The Sick Society

“Theologians and philosophers have been saying for a century that God is dead, but what we confront is the possibility that man is dead, transformed into a thing, a producer, a consumer, an idolator”

Eric Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars,
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

Langston Hughes 1901 – 1967 CE
Pioneering elevator of Black culture

“Man will survive as a species for one reason: He can adapt to the destructive effects of our power-intoxicated technology and of our ungoverned population growth, to the dirt, pollution and noise of a New York or Tokyo. And that is the tragedy. It is not man the ecological crisis threatens to destroy but the quality of human life.”

René Dubos 1901 – 1982 CE
Influential scientific environmentalist

“All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence

“In the biblical tradition we have inherited, life is corrupt, and every natural impulse is sinful unless it has been circumcised… The idea of the Fall is that nature is corrupt, sex in itself is corrupt, and the female as the epitome of sex is a corrupter.”

Joseph Campbell 1904 – 1987 CE
Great translator of ancient myth into modern symbols
from Power of Myth

“See the world as it is: an arena of power politics moved primarily by perceived immediate self-interests, where morality is rhetorical rationale for expedient action and self-interest.”

Saul Alinsky 1909 – 1972 CE
from Rules for Radicals

“The cultivation and expansion of needs is the antithesis of wisdom. It is also the antithesis of freedom and peace. Every increase in needs tends to increase one's dependence on outside forces over which one cannot have control, and therefore increases existential fear. Only by a reduction of needs can one promote a genuine reduction in those tensions which are the ultimate causes of strife and war.”

E. F. Schumacher 1911 – 1977 CE
The “People's Economist”

44. Fame and Fortune

“…the present consumer society is like a drug addict who, no matter how miserable he may feel, finds it extremely difficult to get off the hook.”

E. F. Schumacher 1911 – 1977 CE
The “People's Economist”
from Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered

80. A Golden Age

“The cloning of humans is on most of the lists of things to worry about from Science, along with behaviour control, genetic engineering, transplanted heads, computer poetry and the unrestrained growth of plastic flowers.”

Lewis Thomas 1913 – 1993 CE
Gestaltist of science and art
from Medusa and the Snail (1974)

“Because they use modern machinery, pesticides, and airplanes; what they practice may appear to be modern agriculture, but it is in fact extremely crude, primitive agriculture. On top of it all, they rely almost entirely on monoculture.”

Masanobu Fukuoka 福岡 正信 1913 – 2008 CE
from Road Back to Nature

“There was never a moralist at any time who was not certain that things were going from bad to worse.”

Alan Watts 1915 – 1973 CE
from Psychotherapy East and West

“The normal state of consciousness in our culture is both the context and the breeding ground of mental disease.”

Alan Watts 1915 – 1973 CE
from Psychotherapy East and West

“A social norm may come to impose an oppressive obligation on everyone, although few people feel it as their own... Everyone will be carrying out orders—always from elsewhere... This human scene is a scene of mirages, demonic psuedo-realities, because everyone believes everyone else believes them. How can we find our way back to ourselves again?”

R. D. Laing 1927 – 1989 CE
from Politics of Experience

“Instead of citizens, it produces consumers. Instead of communities, it produces shopping malls. The net result is an atomized society of disengaged individuals who feel demoralized and socially powerless.”

Noam Chomsky 1928 CE –
from Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

18. The Sick Society

“that cold but somehow enthusiastic look, as if he believed in nothing and yet somehow had absolute faith. They’re not idealists; they’re cynics with utter faith. It’s a sort of brain defect, like a lobotomy—that maiming those German psychiatrists do as a poor substitute for psychotherapy.”

Philip K. Dick 1928 – 1982 CE
Legendary consciousness provocateur
from Man in the High Castle,

“In the absence of the sacred, nothing is sacred - everything is for sale.”

Oren Lyons 1930 CE –

53. Shameless Thieves

“Our world is now marred by many prison-cultures with the machinery of thought control… distracted by trivia, a perpetual round of entertainments… Big Brother does not watch us by his choice. We watch him by ours.”

Neil Postman 1931 – 2003 CE
from Amusing Ourselves to Death

“Our priests and presidents, our surgeons and lawyers, our educators and newscasters worry less about the demands of their discipline than the demands of good showmanship. What is and what is not show business becomes harder and harder to see… ‘There’s No Business But Show Business.’”

Neil Postman 1931 – 2003 CE via Shan Dao
from Amusing Ourselves to Death

“What she called the nastiness of life was the shock she received upon learning that nobody stopped playing checkers just because the pieces included her children.”

Toni Morrison 1931 – 2019 CE
(Chloe Ardelia Wofford)
Story-telling voice of American wisdom
from Beloved (1987)

“Money changes all the iron rules into rubber bands.”

Ryszard Kapuściński 1932 – 2007 CE
“One of the most credible journalists the world has ever seen"

“We worry about robots and AI becoming human while the real concern is people becoming robotic.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

80. A Golden Age

“The illusion of comfort - belief that kicking back, relaxing without challenge will somehow make us happy. Actually, the very opposite is true for both individuals and countries.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

“this destruction is taking place because we have allowed ourselves to believe, and to live, a mated pair of economic lies: that nothing has a value that is not assigned to it by the market; and that the economic life of our communities can safely be handed over to the great corporations.”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –

57. Wu Wei

“They have no religious center, they have no philosophical center, and so they act, they do what's expedient at the moment. They have no long view of society. They only have the view of quick money, and kill the pain of the moment, and so instead of dealing with the real problems that exist, that are complicated, they sweep them under the rug by turning on the television set, or taking cocaine, or doing many things that enable them to escape confrontation with the unpleasant realities of the world.”

Woody Allen 1935 CE –

“The great setting sun of the West has provided us with beautiful, comfortable conditions for living our life, like central heating, air-conditioning, taxicabs, and numerous other conveniences. But that setting-sun approach has provided us purely with a comfortable way to die.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Judith Lief
from Tantric Path of Indestructible Wakefulness

35. The Power of Goodness

“Fundamentally we have no idea what we are doing or what we are experiencing, and we are completely missing the point all the time.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Journey Without Goal

53. Shameless Thieves

“The great setting sun of the West has provided us with beautiful, comfortable conditions for living our life, like central heating, air-conditioning, taxicabs, and numerous other conveniences. But that setting-sun approach has provided us purely with a comfortable way to die.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE

35. The Power of Goodness

“People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening, people writing songs that voices never share and no one dare, disturb the sound of silence”

Paul Simon 1941 CE –
Prolific planter of musical, cultural wisdom seeds
from Sounds of Silence

“Chinese leaders used 5 strategies to win over ‘barbarians’ into the ‘true civilization:’ luxurious clothes to corrupt their eyes, delicious food to corrupt their mouths, beautiful women and music to corrupt their ears; massive buildings, slaves, and granaries to corrupt their appetites; and finally, wine and feasts to corrupt the minds of their leaders.”

Jack Weatherford 1945 CE –
from Secret History of the Mongol Queens

“The highways of American cities are an enduring testimony to our acceptance of ugliness”

J. Rufus Fears 1945 – 2012 CE

“In the people who run such businesses we find only hypocrisy, profiteering, and disinformation… a perfect example of institutionalized selfishness.”

Matthieu Ricard माथ्यु रिका 1946 CE –
"The happiest person in the world”

“In Western secular societies such a craving for fame and the approval of posterity has largely replaced the afterlife as the way to fill up our lack.”

David Loy 1947 CE –
from A Buddhist History of the West

“Most people in the world don't really use their brains to think. And people who don't think are the ones who don't listen to others.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel
from 1Q84

“Pessimists are usually right and optimists are usually wrong but all the great changes have been accomplished by optimists.”

Thomas L. Friedman 1953 CE –

“I consider tribalism the biggest problem of our time… it could undo millennia of movement toward global integration… just when technology has brought the prospect of a cohesive planetary community within reach.”

Robert Wright 1957 CE –
from Why Buddhism is True

“What people do isn't determined by where they live. It happens to be their own damned fault. They decided to watch TV instead of thinking when they were in high school. They decided to blow-off courses and drink beer instead of reading and trying to learn something. They decided to chicken out and be intolerant bastards instead of being open-minded and, finally, they decided to go along with their buddies and do things that were terribly wrong when there was no reason they had to.”

Neal Stephenson 1959 CE –
(Stephen Bury)
Speculative futurist and cultural social commentator

from The Big U (1984)​

“The typical American child now spends about twenty-one hours a week watching television—roughly one and a half months of TV every year....Outside of school, the typical American child spends more time watching television than doing any other activity except sleeping. During the course of a year, he or she watches more than thirty thousand TV commercials.”

Eric Schlosser 1959 CE –
Investigative journalist and author.
from Fast Food Nation (2001)

“Mall-hopping corporate concubine... debt-hounded wage slave... Bible-slinging porch monkey... depression-haunted can stacker... mid-American knickknack queen... Winnebago jockey... economic roadkill... 400-pound Tab-drinkers”

Neal Stephenson 1959 CE –
(Stephen Bury)
Speculative futurist and cultural social commentator

from Interface (1994)

“The most emotionally corrosive form of regret occurs when we fail to take action on something that matters deeply to us.”

Roman Krznaric 1
Practical, popular, modern philosopher

“Those who choose not to empathize enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.”

J.K. Rowling 1965 CE –
from Harvard Commencement address, 2008

“What matters is abuse, and how it is anchored in a religion that denies women their rights as humans. What matters is that atrocities against women and children are carried out in Europe. What matters is that governments and societies must stop hiding behind a hollow pretense of tolerance so that they can recognize and deal with the problem.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali 1969 CE –
Powerful voice for Islamic reform
from Infidel

“… from such an array of vultures, from feudal lords to slave traders to oligarchs to neocons to predators like you. All of you strangle your consciences, and ethically you strike yourselves dumb.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Bone Clocks

53. Shameless Thieves

“In an individual, selfishness uglifies the world; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Bone Clocks

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“However, only too frequently, suffering fails to alchemize into ideas, and instead of affording us a better sense of reality pushes us into a baneful direction... by engaging a variety of defense mechanisms which entail arrogance and delusion, cruelty and callousness, spite and rage.”

Alain de Botton 1969 CE –
Philosophic link between ancient wisdom and modern challenge
from How Proust Can Change Your Life

“The new ethic promises paradise on condition that the rich remain greedy and spend their time making more money, and that the masses give free rein to their cravings and passions—and buy more and more. This is the first religion in history whose followers actually do what they are asked to do.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from Sapiens

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