Tag Archives: philosophy/religion

Guaranteed Death—Avoid 14

Fourteen is a number to avoid in any context in China and most of the Far East, for its tones sound like ‘guaranteed death.’ Do do not bother looking for a 14th floor in an apartment block, number 14 in a row of houses, or the use or ‘14’ in a number plate or telephone number. Other Chinese numbers to avoid, to a lesser extent, include 4 (which sounds like ‘death’), 5 (which sounds like ‘not’), and 6 (which sounds like ‘decline’). And, as if to bear this out, in our world lives and teaches the fourteenth Dalai Lama, a spiritual hero fated to witness the slow death of his Tibetan homeland.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Epictetus on Education

“Only the educated are free.”

Epictetus, Discourses (101 A.D.)

Excerpted from: Howe, Randy, ed. The Quotable Teacher. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2003.

The Devil’s Dictionary: Rational

“Rational, adj. Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience and reflection.”

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. David E. Schultz and S.J. Joshi, eds. The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2000. 

Rotten Reviews: The Benefactor

Mrs. Sontag is an intelligent writer who has, on her first flight, jettisoned the historical baggage of the novel. However, she has not replaced it with material or insights that carry equal or superior weight…. Instead she has chosen the fashionable imports of neo-existentialist philosophy and tricky contemporary techniques.”

New York Times Book Review

Excerpted from: Barnard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.    


“Absurd: A philosophical term for a fundamental lack of reasonableness and coherence in human existence. The philosophical and theological roots of the term can be traced to Tertullian (160?-?230), an early Father of the church who argued that the surest sign of the truth of Christianity is its absurdity. He posited that the idea of an infinite deity incarnating himself and undergoing suffering for human beings is so irrational that no one would invent such a story; therefore it must be true. Tertullian’s summary statement was Creo quia absurdum est (I believe because it is absurd). Centuries later, Soren Kierkegaard reemphasized the absurdity of Christianity. He suggested that rational ‘proofs,’ however convincing, are blocks, not aids, to faith. A faith that requires proofs is no faith at all. One can only choose Christianity, with its manifest absurdities, or choose an alternative way of life, with its latent absurdities. The choice of Christianity is a ‘leap of faith’ for which there are no strictly rational criteria.

With Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, and Jean-Paul Sartre, the concept of absurdity became almost completely secularized as the basis for existentialism. According to the existentialist concept, man is thrown into an alien, irrational world in which he must create his own identity through a series of choices for which there are no guides or criteria. Because man cannot avoid making choices—to refrain from choosing is a choice—man is condemned to be free. This absurdity is an inescapable part of the human situation. In his novel Nausea, Sartre regards it as the irresoluble paradox of human existence.

The concept of the absurd in modern literature originated with the early surrealists, in works such as Alfred Jarry’s play Ubu Roi. The concept is used by Albert Camus in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus and in his novel The Stranger, where he emphasizes the psychological implications of the absurd.

Writers have also attempted to convey the concept of the absurd through deliberate distortions and violations of conventional forms, to undermine ordinary expectations of continuity and rationality. Among the most notable writers in the literature and Theater of the Absurd are Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, and Jean Genet.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827): A Swiss education reformer whose theories deeply influenced the development of elementary education in Europe and the United States. The schools established by Pestalozzi in Switzerland attracted wide attention. Opposed to the customary reliance on strict discipline and rote memorization, he favored an approach based on kindness and understanding of the child’s world. He believed that education should be based on concrete experiences, so he introduced the use of tactile objects to teach natural science to children. He emphasized both the moral and the intellectual aspects of education, as well as the importance of well-educated teachers. A lifelong social reformer, Pestalozzi believed that good education could change society for the better.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.

Term of Art: Scripted Program

“scripted program: Any educational program the describes in close detail how to teach the material. Scripted programs may raise the level of teaching if they are akin to a good recipe; however, they are unlikely to succed if the attempt to impose routines and methods that teachers find patronizing and disrespectful.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.

Book of Answers: Upton Sinclair’s EPIC

“What did Upton Sinclair’s campaign slogan—EPIC—stand for? End Poverty in California.” It was the umbrella term for his democratic platform for his 1934 campaign as governor. This platform contained such programs as a graduated income tax and retirement pensions. Sinclair won the Democratic nomination, but after a bitter campaign lost to Republican candidate Frank Merriam.”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.


“Hinduism: Oldest of the world’s major religions. It evolved from the Vedic religion of ancient India. Though the various Hindu sects rely on their own set of scriptures, they all revere the ancient Vedas, which were brought to India by Aryan invaders after 1200 B.C. The philosophical Vedic texts called the Upanishads explored the search for knowledge that would allow mankind to escape the cycle of reincarnation. Fundamental to Hinduism is the belief in a cosmic principle of ultimate reality called Brahman, and its identity with the individual soul, or Atman. All creatures go through a cycle of rebirth, or samsara, which can only be broken by spiritual self-realization, after which liberation, or moksha, is attained. The principle of karma determines a being’s status within the cycle of rebirth, The greatest Hindu deities are Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The numerous other Hindu gods are mostly viewed as incarnations or epiphanies of the main deities, though some are survivors of the pre-Aryan era. The major source ofs of classical mythology are the Mahabharata (which included the Bhagavad Gita, the most important religious text of Hinduism), the Ramayana and the Puranas. The hierarchical social structure of the caste system is important to Hinduism; it is supported by the principle of dharma. The major branches of Hinduism are Vaishnavism and Shaivism, each of which includes many different sects. In the 20th century, Hinduism has blended with Indian nationalism to become a potent political force.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Rabindranath Tagore on Bigotry

“Bigotry tries to keep truth safe in its hand

With a grip that kills it.”

Rabindranath Tagore, Fireflies (1928)

Excerpted from: Schapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.