Here’s something to think about. The current population of Earth is about 7.5 billion people. That puts us behind the number of chickens in the world, which at any one time is around 19 billion, but ahead of pigs, who weigh in at a little less than 1 billion.
Most of the 7.5 billion people on Earth can talk. Some of them (and I won’t mention any names) can talk a lot. That’s a lot of words being said every day.
Yet most of us don’t say much that’s worth remembering.
I think it would be interesting if for one day everyone on Earth agreed not to say anything. One full day of blessed silence. Of course, the day after probably would be a real problem.
I have a little collection of interesting things that people have said. This is not a collection of essential truths or philosophical theories or even everyday common sense. It’s just a group of random thoughts that I find interesting. I’m going to share a few of them with you today. If you don’t find them stimulating, well, you can talk about something else. Or just shut up for a day.
Here we go:
• James Garfield, my favorite president, who was assassinated soon after taking office: “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”
• Robert Todd Lincoln was the son of Abraham Lincoln. He was at his father’s bedside when he died, was in the Washington train station where Garfield was killed and was at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo when William McKinley was assassinated. Sometime after McKinley’s assassination, he was asked about being invited to a presidential event. “No, I’m not going, and they’d better not ask me, because there is a certain fatality about presidential functions when I am present.”
• Dominique Bouhours was a French grammarian and a man after my own heart. On his deathbed, Bouhours looked around at those waiting to hear what he had to say, and went out in a blaze of grammatical glory: “I am about to — or I am going to — die: either expression is correct.” Then he did.
• I suppose you could apply this next thought to a lot of places. James Petigru was a South Carolina judge and avowed unionist who did all he could to stop his state from leaving the union. Finally, in a fit of frustration, he said: “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.”
• I have to include the words of two famous American philosophers. The first is Groucho Marx: “The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” The second comes from legendary baseball player Yogi Berra: “The future ain’t what it used to be.” I can’t figure out if those two sayings are just plain funny or if they’re a kind of sad but truthful commentary on our society.
• You can’t have a collection of sayings without one from Theodore Roosevelt. Forget the big stick and all that other grandiose stuff. Here’s one we can all relate to: “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”
• I’m sure we can all agree with Isaac Asimov, scientist and science fiction writer: “People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”
• H.G. Wells was famous for his books on just about every subject, especially science fiction. But I like him because he said this: “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”
• And, for those of you who will feel cheated if there isn’t some universal, expansive thought included in this story, here is the nature of creation explained by none other than Albert Einstein: “When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”
Maybe it’s all relative. Of all those billions upon billions of words spoken each day, maybe only a few of them are important. Or maybe they all are. I guess we could put it into perspective by remembering there are a lot more chickens around than there are of us, and they really don’t care what we say.
Or, as tennis great Martina Navratilova once said: “The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.”
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.