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Brook’s Book

Copyright © 2017 Dan Brook

Published by Dan Brook at Smashwords

Smashwords Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please download or purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not download or purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Smashwords.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Dedicated with gratitude to my friend Leonard Frank, author of the Quotationary and other publications, who helped inspire and encourage this project, though he’ll never see its completed form.

In this book are some of the nuggets of my accumulated “wisdom”, some attributable while others not. As with most people and their ideas, I am more a curator than an inventor, despite whatever innovations I may make to the vast and varied material that comes my way from a wide array of nourishing sources, enriching and enlivening me. Like Thomas Jefferson wrote, my work, too, is “Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing.” Indeed, as Isaac Newton wisely and humbly recognized 300 years ago, we are all “standing on the shoulders of giants”, even when we take that universal and eternal truth for granted by asserting our seemingly-individual accomplishments. I recognize that I am much more we than me.

I sincerely hope you find these bite-sized nuggets useful, as I certainly do, despite the playful narcissism of these apothegms. In the words of fellow aphorist Michel de Montaigne, “I am myself the matter of my book”. In this sense, this is my autobiography and I hope it becomes part of yours, as well.

Some of my aphoristic writings aren’t actually proper aphorisms per se, as they can’t necessarily be contained or conveyed properly in that tight genre. Whether they are aphorisms, apothegms, adages, maxims, quotes, sayings, advice, remarks, rules, common sense, quips, spiritual guidance, realizations, or whatever else, they may still, hopefully, be interesting, insightful, inspiring, enspiriting, enlightening, enheartening, entertaining, useful, or otherwise worthwhile, so I hope you forgive my sometimes sententious nature.

I know that not all the wisdom here is wise, and certainly not for all people in all situations, as it was compiled and constructed over years for myself, so some of it is more personal than others. In the spirit of disclosure, I feel I should warn you: I’m sympathetic to Karl Kraus when he says that “An aphorism can never be the whole truth; it is either a half-truth or a truth-and-a-half.” Like Pablo Picasso opined, “art is a lie that makes us realize truth” and perhaps that is true here, as well. In that way, these aphorisms are gnomic in more than one way. But it is more for you to decide than me, as writing is ultimately more for the reader than the writer. These aphorisms are now yours!

Feel free to use the ones that resonate with you and to make them your own; similarly, feel free to discard whatever is unwelcome, ineffective, offensive, or unnecessary. I echo sagely Bruce Lee in declaring that we should “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.” These nuggets should be nourishing and liberating, in one way or another, but certainly not burdensome or debilitating. In any event, enjoy your journeys!

Brook’s A:

Everything has to start somewhere.

Brook’s Abraham:

Sometimes we need to go forth (lech lecha) to get back to ourselves (teshuvah).

Brook’s Absence:

There is no darkness, silence, cold, and stupidity, only the absence of light, sound, heat, and intelligence. Bring them in, when desired or necessary.

Brook’s Absurdity:

It is absurd not to think the world is absurd.

Brook’s Accomplishments:

Our accomplishments and achievements are great and should be congratulated and celebrated, yet they should be steps not endpoints. If we don’t do anything meaningful with our accomplishments and achievements, we have not done nearly enough. Process is the ultimate product.

Brook’s Action:

We tend to feel better about the world when we constructively engage with it, when we actively try to make it a better place for ourselves and others. Success is in the attempt, not simply some potential result.

Brook’s Active:

It’s better to be proactive than reactive, but better to be reactive if we haven’t been proactive. Although it’s imperative to be reactive when threats arise, it’s also critical to be proactive to prevent future threats.

Brook’s Actuality:

The only dreams that can never be realized are the ones we don’t have.

Brook’s Adaptation:

Everything is relative, based on time, place, culture, situation, ideology, perspective, people, and personalities. People and their cultures can be extraordinarily flexible and adaptable.

Brook’s Advantage:

While I don’t like people who take advantage of others, I don’t respect people who let themselves be taken advantage of.

Brook’s Advice:

People like to give advice, though way too few like to take it, whether their own or others’.

Brook’s Afterlife:

The only heavens or hells are the many metaphorical ones we create for ourselves and others.

Brook’s Air:

We typically notice the air only when it is unavailable to us, either through partial (e.g., when it’s stinky) or total (e.g., when we’re under water) deprivation, despite how essential it is.

Brook’s Alchemy:

Turning evil into good is the most golden of processes.

Brook’s Alienation:

Alienation may be the root of many crimes and other anti-social behavior; community may be the antidote to alienation.

Brook’s Allergies:

Many mental illnesses — depression, anxiety, phobias, compulsions, anorexia/bulimia, etc. — are like allergies, huge involuntary over-reactions to small and (mostly) innocuous stimuli.

Brook’s Allusion:

That’s what I’m saying, if you know what I mean.

Brook’s Alternative:

Choosing a good alternative is not simply a shallow way of getting out of something, but a deeper way of getting into something better.

Brook’s Alternatives:

People sometimes declare that “there is no alternative”, or TINA, as Margaret Thatcher once did about economic globalization. When they do so, however, it almost always implies that there must be an alternative or perhaps even many alternatives, suggesting TAMA, there are many alternatives; perhaps TAAMA, there are always many alternatives, even if we won’t like some of them or can’t even conceive of some of them. Note that no one ever has to say, for example, that there is no alternative to breathing.

Brook’s Altruism:

The lines between giving and receiving are often blurred. Indeed, giving is a form of receiving.

Brook’s Always:

If a question contains the world always, the answer should always contain the word no.

Brook’s Ambiguity:

It’s hard to be certain about ambiguity, especially as it can be defined in different ways, so I don’t always know what to believe about it.

Brook’s Analysis:

Politics, economics, and culture can only be separated for analytical purposes. They are, however, inextricably linked in practice, if not always in theory.

Brook’s Animal Farm:

All metaphors are metaphorical, but some metaphors are more metaphorical than others.

Brook’s Animals:

Humans seem to be considerably more deaf than animals are mute. Animals speak in all sorts of ways, vocally and otherwise, whether we listen or not.

Brook’s Animus:

Animals are often more humane than humans, while humans are often more animalistic than animals.

Brook’s Annexation:

Every experience is a form of consumption, a little bit of imperialism, a type of annexation.

Brook’s Anniversaries:

People may know and therefore celebrate the anniversary date of their birth (and wedding, if married), but they never know and don’t ever celebrate the anniversary date of their death, though it also comes around each year.

Brook’s Answer:

For most requests, a yes would be best, a no would be disappointing though OK, but not getting an answer is the worst response.

Brook’s Anthropomorphism:

Humans may over anthropomorphize animals at times, yet we also under anthropomorphize animals, too-often denying the intelligence and emotions they so clearly have. Indeed, that may be true of how humans view other humans, as well.

Brook’s Anti:

In a world of divisions, discrimination, hate, and violence, it is good to be non-racist, non-sexist, and non-homophobic, non-antisemitic and non-islamophobic, and non-nationalistic, but it is better to be anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-homophobic, anti-antisemitic and anti-islamophobic, and anti-nationalistic. All of these discriminatory divisions hurt the perpetrators and bystanders as well as the victims, though of course not equally, as people are unable to live out their full and authentic humanity. We need to be actively — in our words and deeds — pro-social justice, supporting the positives, not simply opposing the negatives.

Brook’s Anthropology:

We can better understand our culture by visiting and better understanding others.

Brook’s Anxiety:

Anxiety is meditating on one’s fear.

Brook’s Appreciation:

Appreciate what you have more than you mourn for what’s lost and pine for what you don’t have.

Brook’s Arc:

The arc of the universe only bends toward justice when we bend it in that direction.

Brook’s Architecture:

The physical world we create structures the social world that we inhabit.

Brook’s Aristotelian Anger:

Typical anger is common, yet typically ineffective and destructive. Channeling one’s anger in the right way, at the right time, in the right place, at the right intensity, at the right target, with the right accuracy, with the right intentions, for the right purpose, and for the right amount of time is rare albeit essential.

Brook’s Art:

Anything and everything can be art, if it is seen as such.

Brook’s Asymmetry:

We are all interdependent — dependent on others — even if not equally so.

Brook’s Atheism:

I have the same existential and spiritual needs that led to the invention of gods and God, without personally needing gods or God that I’m confident doesn’t exist. There are a lot of things that can be asserted to exist without any basis or evidence — like flat Earths, ghosts, souls, or flying spaghetti monsters — but that doesn’t make them any more real, even if they may seem real to their believers. God is a concept, metaphor, fiction, invention, social construction, imposition, mistranslation, reified verb, business plan, motivational tool, pacifier, snake oil, alternative fact, simplistic description of the complex and sometimes otherwise indescribable, a means of social control, and also an inhibitor of full spiritual progress. Like a crutch, what may once have seemed useful can later become detrimental. A just God wouldn’t need worship and praise; an unjust God doesn’t deserve worship and praise. In any event, most people are atheist about most gods.

Brook’s Attitude:

With pessimism, there’s less chance of success; with optimism, anything is possible.

Brook’s Authority:

Authority is authoritarianism, wanting to make its way the only way.

Brook’s Autobiography:

All the work we do — and don’t do — is autobiographical.

Brook’s Avocation:

Teachers, clergy, writers, artists, musicians, inventors, activists, explorers, and others never truly finish their jobs.

Brook’s Awakening:

If people really knew what they already know, we’d be intellectual geniuses and spiritual giants.

Brook’s Aware:

Be aware. The more aware we are, the more we can be knowledgeable, safe, useful, creative, and happy.

Brook’s Awareness:

People can’t really know others unless they really know themselves and they can better know themselves by really knowing others.

Brook’s Away:

Even when we go away or throw something away, there is no away. We live in the same universe and it’s a closed system.

Brook’s Babatunde:

Even more important than loving others is allowing them to love you.

Brook’s Backpack:

As much as possible when you travel, bring less stuff, more money, an open mind, a flexible approach, and a good attitude. If you do, you’ll have everything you need.

Brook’s Bad:

To be successful, bad people need good people to ignore their bad deeds; to be good, good people need bad people to exist.

Brook’s Bads:

In the production of goods, we also produce bads. As with goods, bads are unfairly and unequally distributed and consumed.

Brook’s Bacteria:

Even though humans cannot live without microscopic bacteria, bacteria has, does, and will live quite well without us. We may ignore, forget, despise, fear, attack, misunderstand, or take bacteria for granted, but that doesn’t change our dependence on them and their lack of dependence on us. Indeed, what we anthropocentrically call human is about 90% bacteria and other micro-organisms.

Brook’s Balance:

It’s at least as important to increase the positives as it is to decrease the negatives. Be at least as excited about good things as you are disappointed by bad things.

Brook’s Balancing:

Maintaining one’s balance is not about staying still, but rather about quickly, constantly, and relatively effortlessly shifting one’s position to appear still.

Brook’s Beauty:

Beauty may be subjective, but the admiration of beauty is universal.

Brook’s Beginning:

The beginning doesn’t always have to come at the beginning, just as the end doesn’t always have to come at the end.

Brook’s Beggar:

Even when we don’t ignore beggars and give them money, food, or supplies, we too often avoid eye contact, meaningful conversation, and basic respect, thereby contributing to the painful depersonalization of the poor. Poor people aren’t only poor in terms of money, but typically have a poverty of everything, including being treated like a person.

Brook’s Behavior:

If well-behaved people never make history, those who never behave rarely do, either. One must know, and have the courage, to behave and misbehave, as the case may be, when it most matters.

Brook’s Being:

It’s good to be able to be solitary without feeling lonely, to be quiet when there is no need to speak, to be doing nothing without being bored. These are important parts of being.

Brook’s Belief:

One’s beliefs shape one’s reality as much as one’s reality shapes one’s beliefs.

Brook’s Bernie Kaplan:

Homework is absolutely required, but there is never a due date.

Brook’s Better:

The best way to feel better is to make other people feel better.

Brook’s Bias:

Whatever existed yesterday is more likely to exist today and whatever exists today is more likely to exist tomorrow.

Brook’s Biases:

The better we understand cognitive, implicit, and other biases — our own as well as others’ — the better we'll be able to recognize and transcend them.

Brook’s Bibliomancy:

If you choose any book at random, you can find something in there that would be relevant and useful to whatever you’re interested in.

Brook’s Biography:

Everyone — and everything — has an infinite number of biographies.

Brook’s Biome:

Most of the human body is emptiness; of that which is material, most is water; of that which is material but not water, overwhelmingly most is made up of thousands of species of bacteria, viruses, fungi, archaea, and other tiny organisms of flora, fauna, and otherwise. What we think of as the human is in reality the human microbiome and this vast complex ecosystem is precious little human.

Brook’s Bird:

Everyone can fly, even if it’s easier for some than others.

Brook’s Birdcage:

One sings best when one is free.

Brook’s Blah:

Things will not always be exciting, but excitement can always be found.

Brook’s Blasphemy:

Blasphemy laws are themselves blasphemous. People should believe or not believe whatever they believe or not believe without prohibiting others from believing what they believe or not believing what they don’t believe.

Brook’s Blessing:

For all those we know as well as for all those we don’t, may all their good thoughts and good deeds accomplish their goals, while inspiring others, and may all their bad thoughts, deeds, and goals transform into good ones.

Brook’s Blindness:

Blindness is a physical lack of sight, not a metaphorical state of being stupid or arrogant. Not being able to see doesn’t negate the use of other senses; not being mindful is senseless. Blindness isn’t the problem; mindlessness is.

Brook’s Body:

A mind has more strength than a body ever could.

Brook’s Books:

There are few things better than a really good book. All books are books of lives, even if some are clearly better and livelier than others. Immerse yourself in as many as you can!

Brook’s Boomerang:

Whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves.

Brook’s Boredom:

If you find something boring, you’re probably not looking closely enough. With all the excitement of the world, both internally and externally, those who are bored often are often boring themselves.

Brook’s Borges:

All realities contain unrealities, and all unrealities contain realities, even if many remain undiscovered or, when discovered, are misinterpreted or otherwise misunderstood.

Brook’s Bottom Line:

What is often called the bottom line isn’t, acting more like a false bottom concealing much else.

Brook’s Box:

It’s good to think outside the box if you’re stuck in one, but better to realize that there’s no box at all and that you are as free as you imagine yourself to be.

Brook’s Bradbury:

If you have the burning desire, no one or no thing can stop you from reading or writing; no one or no thing can stop caterpillars from becoming butterflies.

Brook’s Brain:

Everything that we’re ever exposed to — saw, heard, felt, read, thought, imagined, experienced — is somewhere in our brain. Whether we can remember, access, connect, explicate, or understand any of it is another matter. The capacity of the human brain is effectively infinite.

Brook's Break Up:

A break up is like a death, not of the people, but of the relationship between them, which is now irrevocably transformed or completely destroyed. A relationship is that invisible and intangible thing that is created between people, which takes on a life of its own and is much greater than merely the sum of its two or more parts. The loss of this relationship is a social death that has to be mourned before one can properly heal from it.

Brook’s Breath:

Although absolutely dependent on our air, we’re rarely conscious of it, unless it’s stinky, polluted, or absent. Breathe — and appreciate the breath.

Brook’s Bridge:

We must build bridges between what is and what could be, encouraging and joining with others to march across them.

Brook’s Bubble:

Bubbles always burst and booms always bust, so best not to rely on them, even if you’re enjoying them.

Brook’s Buddha:

Compassionate awareness without attachments to all things.

Brook’s Buffett:

The best way to beat a chess grandmaster is to play a different game, especially one in which you have an edge.

Brook’s Bully:

Although bullies are acting out their insecurities and to that extent should be pitied, they must be stopped, and hopefully rehabilitated, so as to spare others from becoming their victims.

Brook’s Business:

Business specifically, and the economy more generally, are our means or tools to create a good society not just a society of goods, to “promote the general welfare”; they are not ends in themselves and, therefore, like any other tools should not be given special privileges, rights, or status, but should instead be carefully controlled for our collective purposes. What business does should be the business of the people.

Brook’s Butterfly:

Whether Chuang Tzu dreamt a butterfly or a butterfly dreamt Chuang Tzu, we can either see ourselves as a part of dreams or apart from dreams, a part of nature or apart from nature, a part of each other or apart from others.

Brook’s By-Products:

When a single goal is being sought — a corporation seeking profits, for example — everything else that happens, whether positive (e.g., jobs, good and services, camaraderie) or negative (e.g., abuse of resources, pollution, layoffs), are merely by-products.

Brook’s Cactus:

Most prickly things are misunderstood and mistrusted.

Brook’s Cain:

We are all each other’s keepers; it’s a matter of how carefully we keep.

Brook’s Cage:

The fewer cages — mental as well as physical, for humans as well as animals — the better.

Brook’s Calories:

There are no empty calories, only those that are a damaging form of fuel if they aren’t healthy.

Brook’s Canary:

Early indicators are too often ignored, mocked, or minimized, yet can inform, inspire, improve, and even save lives.

Brook’s Candle:

One candle can light many others without diminishing itself — as with teaching and creativity, smiling and laughing, blessing and building — and if it goes out, it can then more easily be relit by those others. Be the candle!

Brook’s Capital:

As a form of any valuable resource, capital comes in various forms — of course economic (e.g., money, wealth, property), but there is also social (e.g., networks, contacts, strong and weak ties), cultural (e.g., knowledge, education, information), symbolic (e.g., status, prestige, honor), charismatic (e.g., appeal, influence, magnetism), spiritual (e.g., feeling, meaning, awe), and body capital (e.g., beauty, looks, appearance) — and each can intersect, enhance the other, and act synergistically.

Brook’s Capitalism:

Capitalism is a system that institutionalizes greed and sacrifices everything else — communities, people, animals, nature, health, happiness, security, sustainability, education, truth, life — for the sake of profit. Capitalism without constraints creates a relatively few winners with wealth at the expense of the many who lose out with poverty, suffering, and diminished life chances. Either this vast inequality is intentional and capitalism is therefore a fascist success, which I don’t believe, or this is unintentional and capitalism is therefore a massive failure, which I do believe.

Brook’s Care:

If you don’t care for something, no one will care for you.

Brook’s Cat:

It always seems both too early and too late to talk about gun and ammunition control in America.

Brook’s Catalyst:

It often seems like things are changing very slowly, always too slowly, until they change very quickly. When conditions are ripe, it only takes a very small thing to create very big changes. A tiny spark can set a giant prairie fire and a single person can launch a massive social movement.

Brook’s Causal Convergence:

Even when it may appear that one thing causes another, that would be an oversimplification, as it is always many phenomena that converge.

Brook’s Cave:

We all live lives of illusions, though some illusions are more durable, widespread, and valued than others.

Brook’s Caveat Emptor:

Although we as consumers should indeed be as aware as possible, we should have good enough policy that makes it less necessary to beware.

Brook’s Cemetery:

Many dead people — especially thinkers and doers — are more alive than many people who are still living.

Brook’s Certainty:

The more certain we are, the less we can learn.

Brook’s Ceteris Paribus:

If all other things were equal, it would be a much simpler (yet much duller) world.

Brook’s Challenge:

It is not failure that is essential for success, but overcoming challenges.

Brook’s Change:

Change is constant and ubiquitous, as nothing is static. Uncertainty is the only certainty. People, languages, societies, governments, economies, religions, and cultures are always changing, most often very slowly, but occasionally very rapidly. People generally both fear and embrace change.

Brook’s Changes:

Because everything changes, including change itself, even nouns are verbs, actions more than things that signal movement, evolution, growth, decay, transition, transaction, processes, being only permanently temporary yet temporarily permanent.

Brook’s Chemistry:

In social relationships, chemistry is much more important than commonalities.

Brook’s Chess:

Chess is at least as much about manipulating thoughts as moving pieces.

Brook’s Chiasmus:

When thinking this and that, you should also think that and this.

Brook’s Child:

A child creates and raises a parent as much as a parent creates and raises a child.

Brook’s Children:

Children have the best ability for chronic, infinite, radical amazement. If you’ve ever been a child, you still do, too.

Brook’s Choice:

There is no such thing as “no choice”. Choices may be constrained, even highly so, though there is still always an element of choice. Even when it may appear that there is no choice, there is still the choice of how one feels about what one “has” to do. When you create a false choice, you choose unwisely.

Brook’s Choices:

All personal choices are also social choices. Whether something is or isn’t legally and culturally sanctioned helps determine its availability and adoption. When more people do something, others are more likely to also do it. When organizations offer something as an option, people are more likely to choose that option. The more people hear, see, and learn about something, they are also more likely to choose it and engage in it.

Brook’s Chomskyian Universalism:

Whatever standards one applies to others should be applied to oneself.

Brook’s Circumstances:

People in both good and bad circumstances experience suffering, while people in both good and bad circumstances experience joy; therefore, choice is the key that unlocks the door of either or both.

Brook’s Citizenship:

I do the work of a citizen when I vote, when I petition, when I speak up and out, when I organize, when I rally, when I protest, when I organize, and when I try to get my government and society to be the best it could be.

Brook’s City:

Some people need to escape to the country to get away and find themselves, but I prefer to stay in the city and find everything. Everything can be found in the city, if the city is worth being called that, including the country — even wilderness and solitude, if necessary — but you can never find the city in the country.

Brook’s Classroom:

Teachers usually learn more than students and good teachers bring more out of their students than they put in.

Brook’s Clean Water:

There’s an alternative to nearly everything, except clean water.

Brook’s Cleaver:

Cleave means to separate and to attach; we must cleave.

Brook’s Cliche:

Just because something is cliche doesn’t mean we shouldn’t embrace the wisdom within it.

Brook’s Climate Crisis:

We need to reverse, and will mitigate, adapt, and suffer, climate change. The more we choose to do the former of these, the less we will be forced do the latter.

Brook’s Clinical Sociology:

Although people’s personal issues can sometimes be traced to their individual personalities, it’s at least as true that macro social forces are responsible for the social problems that manifest in myriad personal ways on the micro level. We are largely conditioned by a variety of social, cultural, and environmental forces that interact with, and might even construct, our individual personalities.

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