On Sundays when I speak, I hopefully give somebody something that they can use the next day at work or at home.
Imagine that the keeper of a huge, strong beast notices what makes it angry, what it desires, how it has to be approached and handled, the circumstances and the conditions under which it becomes particularly fierce or calm, what provokes its typical cries, and what tones of voice make it gentle or wild. Once he's spent enough time in the creature's company to acquire all this information, he calls it knowledge, forms it into a systematic branch of expertise, and starts to teach it, despite total ignorance, in fact, about which of the creature's attitudes and desires is commendable or deplorable, good or bad, moral or immoral. His usage of all these terms simply conforms to the great beast's attitudes, and he describes things as good or bad according to its likes and dislikes, and can't justify his usage of the terms any further, but describes as right and good the things which are merely indispensable, since he hasn't realised and can't explain to anyone else how vast a gulf there is between necessity and goodness.
What is opportunity, and when does it knock? It never knocks. You can wait a whole lifetime, listening, hoping, and you will hear no knocking. None at all. You are opportunity, and you must knock on the door leading to your destiny. You prepare yourself to recognize opportunity, to pursue and seize opportunity as you develop the strength of your personality, and build a self-image with which you are able to live -- with your self-respect alive and growing.
But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!'
Everything goes, everything comes back; eternally rolls the wheel of being. Everything dies, everything blossoms again; eternally runs the year of being. Everything breaks, everything is joined anew; eternally the same House of Being is built. Everything parts, everything greets every other thing again; eternally the ring of being remains faithful to itself. In every Now, being begins; round every Here rolls the sphere There. The center is everywhere. Bent is the path of eternity.
Live in the present. The past is gone; the future is unknown -- but the present is real, and your opportunities are now. You must see these opportunities; they must be real for you. The catch is that they can't seem real if your mind is buried in past failures, if you keep reliving old mistakes, old guilts, old tragedies. Fight your way above the many inevitable Traumatizations of your ego, escape damnation by the past, and look to the opportunities of the present. I don't mean some vague moment in the present -- next week or next month, perhaps. I mean today, this minute.
Turn around, and the people you thought you knew might change. Your little boy might now live half a world away. Your beautiful daughter might be sneaking out at night. Your ex-husband might by dying by degrees. This is the reason that dancers learn, early on, how to spot while doing pirouettes: we all want to be able to find the place where we started.
Civil war... What did the words mean? Was there any such thing as 'foreign war'? Was not all warfare between men warfare between brothers? Wars could only be defined by their aims. There were no 'foreign' or 'civil' wars, only wars that were just or unjust. Until the great universal concord could be arrived at, warfare, at least when it was the battle between the urgent future and the dragging past, might be unavoidable. How could such a war be condemned? War is not shameful, nor the sword-thrust a stab in the back, except when it serves to kill right and progress, reason, civilization, and truth. When this is war's purpose it maeks no difference whether it is civil or foreign war - it is a crime. Outside the sacred cause for justice, what grounds has one kind of war for denigrating another? By what right does the sword of Washington despise the pike of Camille Desmoulins? Which is the greater - Leonidas fighting the foreign enemy or Timoleon slaying the tyrant who was his brother? One was a defender, the other a liberator. Are we to condemn every resort to arms that takes place within the citadel, without concerning ourselves with its aim?