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Saturday morning quotes 3.6: Quotes old and new

June 22, 2013

Today’s quotes are excerpted from historical sources, as usual, but we mix in a few more current quotes to illustrate parallels of historical problems and current events.

Of course, this blog is all about music.  But the understanding of music as the melding of art and science, of understanding proportion and creative discipline, seems to be distinctly absent from our leadership today.  More’s the pity.

Is music really that important? Read on.

“…Music indeed is the knowledge of proper measurement.  If we live virtuously, we are constantly proved to be under its discipline, but when we commit injustice we are without music.  The heavens and the earth, indeed all things in them which are directed by a higher power, share the discipline of music, for Pythagoras shows that this universe was founded by and can be governed by music.”

Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus, “Of Music”, Fundamentals of Sacred and Secular Learning, circa 520 AD

Leaders were trained in the discipline of music, the science that for centuries has proven to foster an understanding of logic, order and proportion, tempered with an appreciation for aesthetic beauty and resulting in a sense of  humanity.

…[H]e shall commend the perfect understanding of music, declaring how necessary it is for the better attaining the knowledge of a public weal, which as I before said, is made of an order of estates and degrees, and by reason thereof containeth in it a perfect harmony: which he shall afterward more perfectly understand, when he shall happen to read the books of Plato and Aristotle of public weals: wherein be written diverse examples of music and geometry.  In this form may a wise and circumspect tutor adapt the pleasant science of music to a necessary and laudable purpose.

Sir Thomas Elyot (c. 1490 – 1546) from The Boke named the Governour (1531)

Persons lacking a sense of the importance of music were not to be trusted.

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.

Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (Act V: Scene i.91-7)

Awareness of the actions of our public leaders is vital to maintaining a functioning society.

For a man to vacillate and stand aside, to keep his affections unmoved and impartial, while his country is racked and torn, is neither handsome nor honest.  It is a kind of treason; for, in our domestic affairs, everyone must necessarily take sides.

Those who carry their hatred and wrath beyond the limits of the dispute, as most men do, show they are not concerned in the cause for the common good, but for their own private advantage.

If a part of our government becomes rotten, it is well to repair it.  But to try to change the foundations is to reform particular defects by a universal confusion, to open the way to injustice and tyranny, and to cure the disease by killing the patient.

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533 – 1592), Essais de Michel Seigneur de Montaigne

Leaders lacking a sense of responsibility were meant to be held accountable.

“What I wanted to see is if you could give me a yes or no answer to the question: does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

– Oregon Senator Ron Wyden

“No, sir…not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.”

“…I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying no.”

– James Clapper, Director of NSA

Persons who possess the integrity and courage to identify abuse of power should be honored.

“Seeing someone in the position of James Clapper – the Director of National Intelligence – baldly lying to the public without repercussion is the evidence of a subverted democracy. The consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed.”

– Edward Snowden

Our leaders are obviously without music.

How sour sweet music is,
When time is broke and no proportion kept!
So is it in the music of men’s lives,
And here have I the daintiness of ear
To check time broke in a disordered string;
But for the concord of my state and time
Had not an ear to hear my true time broke.
I wasted time, and now doth time waste me;
For now hath Time made me his numbering clock.
My thoughts are minutes, and with sighs they jar
Their watches on unto mine eyes, the outward watch,
Whereto my finger, like a dial’s point,
Is pointing still, in cleansing them from tears.
Now sir, the sound that tells what hour it is
Are clamorous groans which strike upon my heart,
Which is the bell.

– Shakespeare, The life and death of King Richard the Second (Act V: Scene v, 42-9)

One Comment
  1. Erika permalink

    de Montaigne’s quote immediately made me think of Bush’s (lack of) reaction to Katrina.

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