Liberal Arts Blog — Robert Green Ingersoll (1833–1899): Eureka! Hallelujah!
Liberal Arts Blog — Tuesday is the Joy of Literature, Language, Religion, and Culture Day
Today’s Topic: Robert Green Ingersoll (1833–1899): Eureka! Hallelujah!
I am always on the prowl for a great sentence! Sentences are the building blocks of thought. And sophisticated thought is what distinguishes us from our wonderful cousins: for example, dogs, cats, and horses, So for me it is a truly wonderful day when a friend introduces me to an awesome sentence — one that cuts through the jargon, the mumbo jumbo, and, as they say nowadays, nails it. Today was a bonanza of a day because my brother, through my sister, introduced me to a quote from Robert Green Ingersoll, whom I had never heard of before. And then, I did the usual move to the Brainy Quote and Goodreads websites to see if the author had written anything else worth sharing with you folks. The phrase “an embarrassment of riches” has new meaning for me. Its name forever more will be Robert Green Ingersoll. Who the hell was this guy? First, I will introduce the first nine quotes that blew me away. In the footnotes, I will give you some biographical information as well a technical addition to the BrainyQuotes website that is another absolute delight. But trust me you should go to each of these websites yourself. Because I don’t have room here to include more than a fraction of the gems awaiting you if you do. Walt Whitman, America’s greatest poet, said of Ingersoll “he is ‘Leaves of Grass’ … He lives, embodies, the individuality, I preach. I see in Bob [Ingersoll] the noblest specimen — American-flavored — pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light.” Ingersoll would deliver the eulogy at Walt Whitman’s funeral. How could I have missed this guy? Better late than never. Hallelujah! Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
THE TIME TO BE HAPPY, A GREAT MAN, COMMON SENSE
1. “The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here, the way to be happy is to make others so.” (Did Tolstoy steal this from Ingersoll? Who cares? Whom did Ingersoll steal it from? Who cares?)
2. “A great man doers not seek applause or place; he seeks truth; he seeks the road to happiness, and what he ascertains, he gives to others.”
3. “It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education than to have education without common sense.”
ADVERSITY, HEROISM, COURAGE
1. “Most people can bear adversity; but if you wish to know what a man really is, give him power.”
2. “When the will defies fear, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor spurns to compromise with death — that is heroism.”
3. “Courage without a conscience is a wild beast.”
TOLERANCE, HOPE, SCIENCE
1. “Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.”
2. “Hope is the only bee that makes honey without flowers.”
3. “Reason, observation, and experience: the Holy Trinity of Science.”
FOOTNOTES — Biographical Tidbits plus a BrainyQuotes new feature, photo of Walt Whitman (Ingersoll delivered the eulogy at his funeral, Whitman said Ingersoll incarnated his spirit)
1. Ingersoll was the son of an abolitionist-sympathizing Congregationalist preacher who was the back-up for one of the greatest revivalists of 19th century America — Charles Finney.
2. Ingersoll himself was a lawyer, writer, and orator, known as “The Great Agnostic.” During the Civil War he commanded a regiment which he had raised himself. He was captured at the Battle of Shiloh. After the Civil War he served as Illinois’s Attorney General.
3. “He was a prominent member of the Republican Party, and, though he never had an elected job, he was nonetheless an active participant in politics. His speech nominating James G. Blaine for the 1876 presidential election was unsuccessful, as Rutherford B. Hayes received the Republican nomination, but the speech itself, known as the “Plumed Knight” speech, was considered a model of political oratory. His opinions on slavery, woman’s suffrage, and other issues of the time would sometimes become part of the mainstream, but his atheism/agnosticism effectively prevented him from ever pursuing or holding political offices higher than that of state attorney general. Illinois Republicans tried to persuade him to campaign for governor on the condition that Ingersoll conceal his agnosticism during the campaign, which he refused to do.”
NB: BrainyQuotes new feature: if you click on a quote, say the Ingersoll quote on courage you will be taken to related quotes on the same theme. Here is a sampler of quotes that I found there: “Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.” (Helen Keller, who was blind) “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” (TS Eliot). “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers that fear.” (Nelson Mandela)
A LINK TO THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED BY THEME:
Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to words, language, literature, religion, culture. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to Words, Language, Literature (eg. quotes, poetry, vocabulary) that you have not yet shared.
This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.