March 7, 2013

Things that concentrate the mind wonderfully…


“Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”
       Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
       British author, critic and lexicographer 
       Quoted by James Boswell in his Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
       Johnson made the remark in regard to William Dodd, an
the Anglican clergyman Johnson had tried to save from being hanged in 1777. [Read the backstory about this quotation on This Day in Quotes.]


“Some wiseacre once said that the prospect of death concentrates the mind wonderfully, but I’m here to tell you that the chance to work for a reprieve concentrates it a whole heap more.” 
       George MacDonald Fraser (1925-2008) 
       English novelist
       One of many witty observations made by Fraser's epic cowardly hero, Harry Flashman. This quip comes from Flashman and the Angel of the Lord (1994), the tenth book in Fraser’s popular Flashman series.


“Death not only concentrates the mind, it concentrates us on our minds. It was the notion of the immortal soul that allowed us to focus on our own minds as transcendent objects, even if it no longer seems obvious that they will, indeed, survive death.”
       Alan F. Segal (1945-2011)
       American professor of religion   
       In his book Life After Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion (2004)


“Sex also concentrates the mind wonderfully and that is why civilized man is so obsessed by it.”
       Howard F. Dossor
       UK writer and critic
       In his book Colin Wilson: The Man and His Mind (1990)


“A deadline has a wonderful way of concentrating the mind.”
       The character Professor Moriarity (actor Daniel Davis)
       In the “Ship in a Bottle” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Season 6, Ep. 12, first aired in 1993). Moriarity says this after telling Captain Picard he would destroy the Enterprise unless he is changed
from being a computer-generated character in the ship’s Holodeck system into a real living being.


“About 8.00 get up, do a half hour of voice exercises, soak in the bath and read a little Pirsig, which concentrates the mind wonderfully.”
       Michael Palin
       English comedian, actor, writer, television presenter and Monty Python member 
       Referring to Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), in his book Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years (2008)

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