There have always been people to argue that the truth is sometimes inexpedient, counterproductive—a luxury. (This is known as thinking practically, or politically.) And on the other side, the well-intentioned are understandably reluctant to jettison commitments, views, and institutions in which much idealism has been invested. Situations do arise in which truth and justice may seem incompatible. And there may be even more resistance to perceiving the truth than there is to acknowledging the claims of justice. It seems all too easy for people not to recognize the truth, especially when it may mean having to break with, or be rejected by, a community that supplies a valued part of their identity.

– Susan Sontag, At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches (2007)

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When that notorious beauty-lover Oscar Wilde announced in The Decay of Lying, “Nobody of any real culture … ever talks nowadays about the beauty of a sunset. Sunsets are quite old fashioned,” sunsets reeled under the blow, then recovered. Les beaux arts, when summoned to a similar call to be up to date, did not. The subtraction of beauty as a standard for art hardly signals a decline of the authority of beauty. Rather, it testifies to a decline in the belief that there is something called art.

– Susan Sontag, At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches (2007)

We must remind ourselves again that history as usually written (peccavimus) is quite different from history as usually lived: the historian records the exceptional because it is interesting–because it is exceptional. If all those individuals who had no Boswell had found their numerically proportionate place in the pages of historians we should have a duller but juster view of the past and of man. Behind the red facade of war and politics, misfortune and poverty, adultery and divorce, murder and suicide, were millions of orderly homes, devoted marriages, men and women kindly and affectionate, troubled and happy with children. Even in recorded history we find so many instances of goodness, even of nobility, that we can forgive, though not forget, the sins. The gifts of charity have almost equaled the cruelties of battlefields and jails. How many times, even in our sketchy narratives, we have seen men helping one another–Farinelli providing for the children of Domenico Scarlatti, divers people succoring young Haydn, Conte Litta paying for Johann Christian Bach’s studies at Bologna, Joseph Black advancing money repeatedly to James Watt, Puchberg patiently lending and lending to Mozart. Who will dare to write a history of human goodness?

– Will Durant and Ariel Durant, The Lessons of History (1968)

The conservative who resists change is as valuable as the radical who proposes it-perhaps as much more valuable as roots are more vital than grafts. It is good that new ideas should be heard, for the sake of the few that can be used; but it is also good that new ideas should be compelled to go through the mill of objection, opposition, and contumely; this is the trial heat which innovations must survive before being allowed to enter the human race.

– Will Durant and Ariel Durant, The Lessons of History (1968)

As his studies come to a close the historian faces the challenge: Of what use have your studies been? Have you found in your work only the amusement of recounting the rise and fall of nations and ideas, and retelling “sad stories of the death of kings”? Have you learned more about human nature than the man in the street can learn without so much as opening a book? Have you derived from history any illumination of our present condition, any guidance for our judgments and policies, any guard against the rebuffs of surprise or the vicissitudes of change? Have you found such regularities in the sequence of past events that you can predict the future actions of mankind or the fate of states? Is it possible that, after all, “history has no sense,”  that it teaches us nothing, and that the immense past was only the weary rehearsal of the mistakes that the future is destined to make on a larger stage and scale?

– Will Durant and Ariel Durant, The Lessons of History (1968)

The first thing you want to do, after catching a wild rabbit, is to calm the rabbit down. A panicked rabbit does not make for a pleasurable dining experience.

– Jack Handey, “How to Prepare a Wild-Caught Rabbit for a Meal,” What I’d Say to the Martians and Other Veiled Threats (2008)