WINSTON CHURCHILL

14 October 2009

I love those calendars that have daily quotes from Oscar Levant, Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain.

I have always admired the Winston Churchill ones, so I thought I would collect here my favourite ones.

Starting with the obvious:

  • It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.

I like that he advocates an approach — to work, to life.

  • Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.

Winston recommends a positive outlook.

  • A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

He recognises that failure can chip away enthusiasm or positive energy.

  • If you’re going through hell, keep going.

— that’s just brilliantly put; who wants to dwell in a bad place? He suggests not-giving-up as the key:

  • Continuous effort — not strength or intelligence — is the key to unlocking our potential.

Tied in with this is the idea of change — a lot of people are afraid of change, and experience fear of the unknown.

  • To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.

Then there is the past.  People worry about their personal past.  Churchill sends a dagger through all that nonsense:

  • You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.

Adding the absolutely wonderful:

  • For my part, I consider that it will be found much better by all parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history myself.

— that is so true, and for everyone; we each of us have our own truth, we each of us write our own history — it’s perfectly natural and normal.

However, he warns about blaming your present situation too much on what has been done and dusted:

  • If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.

This is a cautionary word from a man who really respected history:

  • Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.

This ties in nicely with:

  • We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.

That was always one that I remembered, although I like to chat, I keep it at that level.  Anything deeper or more personal has to be carefully let out, word by word.

Another rich quote that I have found significant is:

  • We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

I have found the truth in:

  • We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.

A quote that also applies to music and other shaped things. The next one uses “fanatic”, but I have substituted “bore” quite successfully:

  • A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.

Also useful for me at work is the following (often misquoted and misused) advice:

  • Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room.

— That is something I see too much of, a basic mistake.

Now, I am not a democrat, and so I liked his:

  • The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

I do not like tax, and can hardly get my head around the modern idea of a fair tax!

  • There is no such thing as a good tax.

I also hate restrictions, regulations, too much government, Nanny State, Big brother and so forth, so I liked:

  • If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.

I am not very socialist either, and agree with Mr Churchill that,

  • Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.

And

  • The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

I have also enjoyed that he couldn’t understand the Russians, and understood the Americans too well:

  • Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
  • You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.

Churchill had a way of looking at things from a different angle:

  • A prisoner of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him.

He was famous for that twisted wit, for example:

  • He has all of the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.
  • Nancy Astor: “Sir, if you were my husband, I would give you poison.”
    Churchill: “If I were your husband I would take it.”
  • A sheep in sheep’s clothing. (On Clement Atlee)
  • A modest man, who has much to be modest about. (On Clement Atlee)

Each one is a wee gem. I hope you have enjoyed these quotes as much as I have done over the years!

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