A Blissful, Timeless Exploration Of Human 'Ignorance'

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'If Ignorance Is Bliss' book cover

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The 18th century poet Thomas Gray is responsible for the often quoted phrase, "Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise." President Thomas Jefferson embellished that quotation with one of his own when he said, "If ignorance is bliss, why aren't more people happy?" — a line that British comedy writers John Lloyd and John Mitchinson co-opted for the title of their new anthology of quotations.

Lloyd and Mitchinson talk with Liane Hansen about their third book together, titled If Ignorance Is Bliss ... Why Aren't There More Happy People?. It follows The Book of General Ignorance and The Book of Animal Ignorance.

Excerpt: 'If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren't There More Happy People?'

If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren't There More Happy People?
By John Lloyd and John Mitchinson
Hardcover, 416 pages
Random House, Inc.
List Price: $21.99

Politicians

It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged.
— G. K. Chesterton

A fool and his money are soon elected.
— Will Rogers

We offer the party as a big tent. How we do that [recognize the big tent philosophy] within the platform, the preamble to the platform or whatnot, that remains to be seen. But that message will have to be articulated with great clarity.
— Dan Quayle (This remark won him a special mention at the 1991 Plain English Foot in Mouth Awards.)

Ninety percent of the politicians give the other 10 percent a bad reputation.
— Henry Kissinger

There are two problems in my life. The po liti cal ones are insoluble and the economic ones are incomprehensible.
— Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Successful politicians are insecure and intimidated men. They advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle, or otherwise manage to manipulate the demanding and threatening elements in their constituencies.
— Walter Lippmann

A politician is a statesman who approaches every question with an open mouth.
— Adlai Stevenson

Politics

Politics is the entertainment branch of industry.
— Frank Zappa

Sex and politics are a lot alike. You don't have to be good at them to enjoy them.
— Senator Barry Goldwater

The American political system is like fast food — mushy, insipid, made out of disgusting parts of things and everybody wants some.
— P. J. O'Rourke

Politics is the art of preventing people from becoming involved in affairs which concern them.
— Paul Valery

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.
— Plato

Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by promising to protect each from the other.
— Oscar Ameringer

It makes no difference who you vote for — the two parties are really one party representing 4 percent of the people.
— Gore Vidal

A liberal is a man who leaves the room when the fight starts.
— Heywood C. Broun

Campaigner and champion of the underdog, member of the Algonquin Round Table, and friend to the Marx brothers. His It Seems to Me column was so popular that three thousand mourners attended his funeral in New York in 1939. Liberals feel unworthy of their possessions. Conservatives feel they deserve everything they have stolen.
— Mort Sahl

I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress.
— Ronald Reagan

Finishing second in the Olympics gets you silver. Finishing second in politics gets you oblivion.
— Richard M. Nixon

Not every problem that someone has with his girlfriend is necessarily due to the capitalist mode of production.
— Herbert Marcuse

Too bad that all the people who know how to run this country are busy driving taxis and cutting hair.
— George Burns

Popes

I admire the Pope. I have a lot of respect for anyone who can tour without an album.
— Rita Rudner

I would have made a good pope.
— Richard M. Nixon

It often happens that I wake at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the Pope about it. Then I wake up completely and remember that I am the Pope.
— Pope John XXIII

Why should we take advice on sex from the Pope? If he knows anything about it, he shouldn't.
— George Bernard Shaw

My feelings of smallness and nothingness always kept me good company.
— Pope John XXIII (Known as Il Papa Buono ("the good pope"), he convened the Second Vatican Council in 1962, which did much to liberalize the Catholic Church. Beatified in 2000, his body was put on display (he died in 1963) and seemed remarkably well preserved, although the Church officially denied this the status of miracle.)

Possessions

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can let alone.
— Henry David Thoreau

Among my most prized possessions are the words that I have never spoken.
— Orson Rega Card

Asceticism is not that you should own nothing, but that nothing should own you.
— Ali Ibn Abu Talib

Known more simply as Ali, he was Muhammad's right- hand man, and married his daughter. He was the last of the four caliphs who succeeded the Prophet, but the first infallible imam for the Shia sect, who defied the authority of the others in the great Sunni/Shia split that continues to divide Islam. You possess only what ever will not be lost in a shipwreck.
— El-Ghazali

In this life, all that I have is my word and my balls and I do not break them for nobody.
— Al Capone

Potatoes

The man who has nothing to boast of but his ancestors is like a potato — the only good belonging to him is under ground.
— Sir Thomas Overbury

Slowly poisoned while incarcerated in the Tower of London. The devious adulteress Frances Howard had decided to remove him, to clear her way to marrying Robert Carr, a match Overbury had advised his friend against in a poem, The Wife. Once the plot was uncovered in 1614, the poem became a bestseller. What I say is that, if a fellow really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.
— A. A. Milne

None for me. I appreciate the potato only as a protection against famine; except for that, I know of nothing more eminently tasteless.
— Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Found a little patched-up inn in the village of Bulson. Proprietor had nothing but potatoes; but what a feast he laid before me. Served them in five different courses — potato soup, potato fricassee, potatoes creamed, potato salad, and finished with potato pie. It may be because I had not eaten for thirty-six hours, but that meal seems about the best I ever had.
— General Douglas Macarthur (During his progress across northeast France in 1944.)

Reprinted from If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren't There More Happy People? by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson. Copyright 2009 John Lloyd and John Mitchinson. Published by Harmony/ Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.

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