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Let us grant, by all means, that there are quite sufficient unsolved riddles in nature and life without raising up artificial mysteries. Let us even admit that when evidence is available (which, by the way, is not the same thing as existent) it is better to settle a question straight away than to leave it open to further argument. At the same time, let us not be too hasty in accepting speculations, however shrewd, as proved facts. Antiquarian books should naturally be as free as possible from actual misstatements, but they have lost all their charm when they become collections of bald dogmatic statements or mere descriptive catalogues.
W. H. Matthews, Mazes and Labyrinths: A General Account of their History and Developments (1922)
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History is not a great river, but moves in a multitude of channels at different speeds, and sometimes in different directions.
The zone is reverting to one big, untamed forest, and it all sounds like a fantastic success story for nature: remove the humans and the wilderness bounces right back. Lured by tales of mammals unknown in Europe since the Dark Ages, we’re setting out on an atomic safari.
Henry Shukman, ‘Chernobyl, My Primeval, Irradiated Eden’, in Outside magazine.
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“NeighbourNet” of European folktale populations, from Ross, Greenhill and Atkinson (2013) ‘Population structure and cultural geography of a folktale in Europe’, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, vol. 280, no. 1756.
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Image from the Gundestrup cauldron, found in a peat bog in Denmark in 1891 and thought to be about two millennia old.
The antlered, human-like figure is Cernunnos, horned god and master of beasts. His name derives from the Proto-Indo-European root *ker- “head, horn”, which also gave rise to horn, unicorn, rhinoceros, cerebrum, and cranium (see American Heritage Dictionary, 5th ed.).
Several French towns are named after Cernunnos, such as Cernay-la-Ville and Cernay in the Haut-Rhin region.
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The central symbol of Christian art is not the mandala, but the cross or crucifix. Up to Carolingian times, the equilateral or Greek cross was the usual form, and therefore the mandala was indirectly implied. But in the course of time the center moved upward until the cross took on the Latin form, with the stake and the crossbeam, that is customary today. This development is important because it corresponds to the inward development of Christianity up to the high Middle Ages. In simple terms, it symbolized the tendency to remove the center of man and his faith from the earth and to “elevate” it into the spiritual sphere. This tendency sprang from the desire to put into action Christ’s saying: “My kingdom is not of this world.” Earthly life, the world, and the body were therefore forces that had to be overcome.
Aniela Jaffé, ‘Symbolism in the Visual Arts’, in Man and his Symbols, ed. Carl Jung
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It took some 400 years — roughly 1400 to 1800 — for a clear notion of a unified, national, standard English to emerge. Ironically, as soon as it arrived, it began to fragment. American English introduced a partly different set of norms in spelling, punctuation, vocabulary and grammar that would become highly influential. Today world English presents us with a number of different standards reflecting the identities of the countries that have adopted the language as a lingua franca. The differences should not be exaggerated: a solid common core of usage still unifies the various dialects and styles. But increased regional, social and ethnic diversity has introduced a huge amount of stylistic variation.
David Crystal, Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices (British Library, 2010)
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Giorgio de Chirico, The Song of Love (oil on canvas, 1914). This painting inspired René Magritte to become a surrealist.
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After winning the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics, Richard Feynman received a letter from Dr. George Beadle at the University of Chicago offering him an honorary degree.
This was his reply:
Yours is the first honorary degree that I have been offered, and I thank you for considering me for such an honor.
However, I remember the work I did to get a real degree at Princeton and the guys on the same platform receiving honorary degrees without work—and felt an “honorary degree” was a debasement of the idea of a “degree which confirms certain work has been accomplished.” It is like giving an “honorary electricians license.” I swore then that if by chance I was ever offered one I would not accept it.
Now at last (twenty-five years later) you have given me a chance to carry out my vow.
So thank you, but I do not wish to accept the honorary degree you offered.
Richard P. Feynman
From: Don’t You Have Time to Think? (Penguin Books, 2005)
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