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We Are What We Think: A Journey Through the…

We Are What We Think: A Journey Through the Wisest and Wittiest Sayings in…

by James Geary

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I’m fond of quotations and aphorisms. In this book Geary gives a history of this art of capturing a powerful truth in a handful of words, and along the way shares some of his favourites.

He outlines the distinction between scientific knowledge in which every age ought to surpass its predecessors, and ‘the wisdom of ages’ the collective term for what we’ve learned about human nature through the experience of thousands of years of history. This second type of knowledge in which we know about as much, or as little as the Taoist sage Lao Tzu, who lived in China about 600 years before Christ, is the wisdom naturally embodied in aphorisms.

He begins by outlining what he calls the Five Laws defining that an aphorism must be:-
•Be brief
•Be definitive
•Be personal
•Have a twist
•Be philosophical

The book then provides an overview of the best exponents of the form, beginning with the ancient sages, preachers and prophets, right through to the writers of today, from Buddha to Jenny Holzer and alludes to the aphoristic tendency we all have for the short message, whether by text or email.

This is an interesting overview of the history and the power of the aphorism. ( )
  Steve55 | Sep 4, 2011 |
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'We Are What We Think' are the words with which the Buddha begins the Dhammapada, one of the world's earliest collections of sayings. In this single, short, sharp lesson he reveals that our lives are what we make them and it is up to us to master our own minds.What sets these wise words apart from the cliches and soundbites we encounter every day? When a saying has the power to reach out and change your life it is no longer a platitude or proverb but an aphorism. Self-confessed aphorism addict James Geary takes a whimsical, humorous tour through the history of this remarkable art form and its extraordinary practitioners. He routes his journey through the varied, often idiosyncratic backgrounds of the world's key thinkers and shows, as eighteenth-century aphorist Vauvenargues puts it, just how much 'the maxims of men reveal their hearts'.With a scope that reaches from the ancient Eastern prophets to the rise of the American one-liner, the book's focus is life, the universe and everything. Inspirational and challenging, WE ARE WHAT WE THINK and the aphorisms in it sparkle, as Thomas Jefferson quipped, 'like diamonds in a dunghill.'… (more)

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