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I was just offered a contract on your life, for enough money to make it worth my while." It was my turn to be quiet. Did you take it?" Would I be calling you if I had?" Maybe," I said. He laughed. True, but I'm not going to take it." Why not?" Friendship." Try again," I said. I figure I'll get to kill more people guarding you. If I take the contract, I only get to kill you." Comforting...
The early thirties brought what liberal economists called the Great Depression and Marxist economists described as the great crisis of capitalism. It dawned on me that the economic world order was unreliable, unstable, and, most of all, iniquitous. I sought intellectual contacts and friendship with a group of socialist students and also with a small handful of communist-oriented students and unemployed workers.
An ideological movement is a collection of people many of whom could hardly bake a cake, fix a car, sustain a friendship or a marriage, or even do a quadratic equation, yet they believe they know how to rule the world. The university, in which it is possible to combine theoretical pretension with comprehensive ineptitude, has become the natural habitat of the ideological enthusiast. A kind of adventure playground, carefully insulated from reality in order to prevent absent-minded professors from bumping into things as they explore transcendental realms, has become the institutional base for civilizational self-hatred.
This week, a young Spanish Prince with an international education will become King. To Felipe VI Spain, Gibraltar offers a hand of friendship and respect as neighbours and supporters of democracy. This new Head of State must know that we seek only peace, understanding and co-operation.
The lack of individual prayer and communion with God has divorced modern Christians and Christian sects from Jesus' teaching of the real perception of God, as is true also of all religious paths inaugurated by God-sent prophets whose followers drift into byways of dogma and ritual rather than actual God-communion. Those paths that have no esoteric soul-lifting training busy themselves with dogma and building walls to exclude people with different ideas. Divine persons who really perceive God include everybody within the path of their love, not in the concept of an eclectic congregation but in respectful divine friendship toward all true lovers of God and the saints of all religions.
It was the same with friendship. Disagreement between friends and spouses, too had to be carefully handled. If the time you spent with friends was consumed by disagreement, then there was no room for the essence of friendship, which was a sharing of the world. And that sharing involved seeing things the same way, or at least seeing things through the eyes of the friend.
Those final weeks, spanning end of summer and the beginning of another autumn, are blurred in memory, perhaps because our understanding of each other had reached that sweet depth where two people communicate more often in silence than in words: an affectionate quietness replaces the tensions, the unrelaxed chatter and chasing about that produce a friendship's more showy, more, in the surface sense, dramatic moments.
Your notions of friendship are new to me; I believe every man is born with his quantum, and he cannot give to one without robbing another. I very well know to whom I would give the first place in my friendship, but they are not in the way, I am condemned to another scene, and therefore I distribute it in pennyworths to those about me, and who displease me least, and should do the same to my fellow prisoners if I were condemned to a jail.
I got back in my car, starting the engine, then drove off. It wasn't until I pulled onto the highway that it all really sunk it, how temporary our friendship had been. We'd been on our breaks, after all, but it wasn't our relationships that were on pause: it was us. Now we were both in motion again, moving ahead. So what if there were questions left unanswered. Life went on. We knew that better than anyone.
Though our own hearts break, we cannot flinch; these are new times, sir. There is a misty plot afoot so subtle we should be criminal to cling to old respect and ancient friendships. I have seen too many frightful proofs in court — the Devil is alive in Salem, and we dare not quail to follow wherever the accusing finger points!