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Listening To Voices

By       Message Todd Huffman, M.D.     Permalink
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Sometimes I find it comforting to step outside of our own immediate historical experience into the past, to learn about problems that never change, remember what wiser men and women before us have said, and bring back some of that inheritance.

While our time is indeed especially unique, our age especially dire, I nonetheless often find nourishment and humor in the voices of the distant and not-so-distant past, who remind me that our troubles are not entirely unique, and that every age somehow survives its most dire moments.

My hope here today is to bring to you some measure of comfort, nourishment, or, at the very least, humor. Uninterested? Back-arrow now, for I do not wish to waste your time. Interested? Then stay awhile, and please feel free to add your own voices from the past before you leave.

The lunatics are in the hall. The lunatics are in the hall. The paper holds their folded faces to the floor, and everyday the paperboy brings more. –Pink Floyd, “Brain Damage” 

If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers. –Thomas Pynchon, “Gravity’s Rainbow” 

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire 

All civilization ever does is hide the blood and cover up the hate with pretty words-Ursula K. Le Guin 

If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none…cram them so full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy. –Ray Bradbury, “Farenheit 451” 

We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. –Solzhenitsyn 

Lies written in ink cannot obscure a truth written in blood. –Lu Xan 

Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind. –George Orwell 

Children unfamiliar with the world in time become easy marks for the dealers in fascist politics and quack religions. –Lewis Lapham

"Many is the time I've been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I've often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I'm all right, I'm all right
I'm just weary to my bones
Still, you don't expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home.

And I don't know a soul who's not been battered
I don't have a friend who feels at ease
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
But it's all right, it's all right
We've lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road we're traveling on
I wonder what's gone wrong
I can't help it, I wonder what's gone wrong.

And I dreamed I was dying.
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
Looking back down at me
Smiling assuringly.
And I dreamed I was flying.
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of
Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying.

We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age's most uncertain hours
And sing an American Tune.
But it's all right, it's all right
You can't be forever blessed.
Still, tomorrow's going to be another working day
And I'm trying to get some rest.
That's all I'm trying, to get some rest."

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Todd Huffman is a pediatrician and writer living in Eugene, Oregon. He is a regular contributor to many newspapers and publications throughout the Pacific Northwest.

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