ParadoxesIn our very first issue --- published in the Winter of 1994 - 1995 --- we offered "The Official RALPH Paradox-of-the-Month."
It was a quote from André Malraux,We are in the cosmic realm, a realm older than religion. The idea of the creation of the world has probably not yet been conceived. They kill in the eternal. The gods have not yet been born.
It was accompanied by an equally paradoxical photograph
[see above].Since then, in each issue we have offered the "Paradox of the Month," a statement, question, bon mot or quip designed to perplex if not enlighten our readers, much less ourselves.
Here are a dozen or so that continue to elicit our interest or our wonder. We list them here in declining order of mystery.The Trouble with
Our TimeThe trouble with our time is that
the future is not what it used to be.--- Paul Valéry
ProcrastinationIf once a man indulges himself in murder,
very soon he comes to think little of robbing;
and from robbing he comes next to drinking and sabbath breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination.--- Thomas De Quincey
Seger's WishI wish I didn't know now
what I didn't know then.--- Bob Seger
MeI had been born in order to fill
the great need I had of myself.
--- Jean-Paul SartreThe Big QuestionWhy is there something
instead of nothing?--- Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz
The Correct Way To DieThe worst thing that can happen to your career is to be shot out in an open field. You've got to be in the right position to die dramatically, against a wall, near something to hang onto. Never close your eyes. Glaze them. You can't go wrong bringing something down with you when you fall. A tablecloth is excellent. Preferably with a meal on it.--- George Plimpton
26 September 2003
To Never Be BornMrs. Rooney: I remember once attending a lecture by one of these new mind doctors, I forget what you call them. He spoke ...
Mr. Rooney: A lunatic specialist?
Mrs. Rooney: No no, just the troubled mind, I was hoping he might shed a little light on my lifelong preoccupation with horses' buttocks.
Mr. Rooney: A Neurologist?
Mrs. Rooney: No no, just mental distress, the name will come back to me in the night. I remember his telling us the story of a little girl, very strange and unhappy in her ways, and how he treated her unsuccessfully over a period of years and was finally obliged to give up the case. He could find nothing wrong with her, he said. The only thing wrong with her as far as he could see was that she was dying. And she did in fact die, shortly after he washed his hands of her.
Mr. Rooney: Well? What is there so wonderful about that?
Mrs. Rooney: No, it was just something he said, and the way he said it, that has haunted me ever since. When he had done with the little girl he stood there motionless for some time, quite two minutes I should say, looking down at his table. Then he suddenly raised his head and exclaimed, as if he had had a revelation, "The trouble with her was she had never really been born!" [Pause] He spoke throughout without notes. [Pause] I left before the end ... [Sobs] There's nothing to be done for those people!
Mr. Rooney: For which is there?---From All That Fall
As quoted in The Lourdes of ArizonaWellington's Paradox"What a glorious thing must be a victory, Sir."
"The greatest tragedy in the world, Madam, except a defeat."--- Suggested by J. Joyce
The Bomb TodayAt the end of the neolithic age, we have the Bomb as environment. The Bomb is not a gimmick or a gadget. It is not something that has been inserted in the military establishment more than automation is something that is now being inserted into the industrial establishment. The Bomb, like automation, is a new environment consisting of a network of information and feedback loops.
The Bomb, as pure information, consists of higher learning. It is, as it were, the extension division of the modern university in its highest research areas, creating a very tight environment indeed.--- From Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews
©2005 MIT Press
How To Become A SaintTo: email@example.com
I've asked my spiritual director to show me how to become a saint. He suggested I write to you for such a book providing it's simple, and easy to understand written either in English or in French. Thank you in advance.--- Deacon Joseph Jolin
§ § §Dear Deacon Joseph Jolin:You don't need a book. The how-to-do-its on becoming a saint are out there, floating around like stars. All you have to do is to observe them without trying to catch them. This requires that you:
 Recall who you were before you were.
 Remember why they sent you here.
 Follow the advice of the Master: Love many, Trust few, Paddle your own canoe.
 And, finally, don't forget the Four Great Truths as they were originally written:
- There is suffering in this world, one has to understand it, but actually there is nothing to understand.
- There are causes of this suffering, and one has to eliminate them, but actually there is nothing to eliminate.
- There is cessation of suffering, and one has to attain it, but actually there is nothing to attain.
- There are ways to reach the cessation of suffering, and one has to work upon them, but actually there is nothing to work upon.--- Signed,
Picnics & LobstersThe four most overrated things in life are
champagne, lobsters, anal sex and picnics.--- From a Profile of
The New Yorker
16 October 2006
The CatOnce the monks of the Eastern Hall and the Western Hall were disputing about a cat. Nansen, holding up the cat, said, "Monks, if you can say a word of Zen, I will spare the cat. If you cannot, I will kill it!" No monk could answer. Nansen finally killed the cat.
In the evening, when Joshu came back, Nansen told him of the incident. Joshu took off his sandal, put it on his head, and walked off. Nansen said, "If you had been there, I could have saved the cat!"--- From The Gateless Barrier:
Zen Comments on the Mumonkan
©2000 ShambhalaDante, Joyce,
Milton, et alThere's something a little irritating in the determination of the very greatest artists, like Dante, Joyce, Milton, to create masterpieces and to think themselves important.To be able to devote one's life to art without forgetting that art is frivolous is a tremendous achievement of personal character.--- Lectures on Shakespeare
W. H. Auden
The RabbitGod came to a rabbit in the form of a Brahmin. When the hare saw him --- he cried joyously, "Thou dost well, O Brahmin, to come to ask me for food. I will give thee such a gift as has never been given. Collect wood and light a great fire; I will roast myself so that thou canst eat."Soon a great fire was blazing, and the Brahmin seated himself by it. Then the wise rabbit, with one bound, leapt into the middle of the flames. Hair and hide, flesh and nerves, bones and heart, he gave his whole body. But the flames were cool to the saintly rabbit, the fire did not even touch one hair of its body. The Brahmin-god placed it on fresh grass, and to perpetuate the memory of the charitable rabbit, he squeezed a mountain, and using its juice as paint, he painted the figure of a rabbit on the moon.--- Buddhism
©1977 Bodley Head