July 7, 2011

“I dream things that never were and say, why not?”


THE ORIGINAL LINES FROM A LITTLE KNOWN PLAY:

“You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’”
       George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
       Familiar
lines from Part I of Shaw’s otherwise forgotten play Back to Methuselah (1921)
       These lines are said by The Serpent to Eve in the Garden of Eden in the play, which is an amazingly odd science fiction fantasy that spans the ages from Adam and Eve to 31,000 A.D. and took three nights to perform in its entirety. Back to Methuselah was published in 1921 and first performed in 1922 at the Garrick Theatre in New York City.


AN INSPIRING POLITICAN’S MORE FAMOUS VERSION:

“Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?”
      
Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968)
       American lawyer, civil rights activist and politician
       Lines frequently used by Kennedy at the close of his speeches
       Bobby Kennedy recited this version of what Shaw wrote in Back to Methuselah so often that
many sources credit the words to him with no mention of Shaw, as if Kennedy coined the saying. Kennedy himself usually noted that he was quoting Shaw in his speeches, although his version was actually a paraphrase of Shaw, rather than an exact quote.


THE CROOKED POLITICIAN PRINCIPLE:

“Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others see things that might be and ask: How much?” 
       Carl Hiaasen
       American journalist and novelist
       From his
April 13, 1990 column in the Miami Herald, included in the book Kick Ass: Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen (2001). This was Hiaasen’s commentary on revelations that the Mayor of Miami Beach had received payments from a corporation that wanted approval for a local beachfront construction project.


A TV LAWYER’S COUNTERQUOTE:

“Some people see things as they are and ask why? Others see things as they never were and claim mad cow.”
      
James Spader, as the character Alan Shore on the TV series Boston Legal
       A comment about our litigious society said to William Shatner (playing Shore’s law partner Denny Crane), in the
“Stick It” episode of Boston Legal (Season 2, Ep. 19; first aired on March 14, 2006)


GEORGE CARLIN’S COUNTERQUOTE:

“Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that shit.”
      
George Carlin (1937-2008)
       American comic genius
       Carlin used these lines in performances in the 1990s and included it in his book
Brain Droppings (1998). Contrary to what George would have wanted, it’s often quoted in censored form, without the word “shit.”


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