Classic

September 21, 2001

Lately I’ve been very busy at work with a collection of books called "Ancient World Classics". In between doing all the important library stuff to these books, I’ve been trying to figure out what it is that makes them classics. Mark Twain defined a classic as any book that people praise but don’t read, but "Theory of Proportion" by Eudoxus of Cnidos is a book that people neither praise nor read anymore. In fact, I’d be surprised if five people have even heard of Eudoxus, unless of course you happen to visit Cnidos where you’ll find signs up all over the place saying, "Eudoxus slept here" and you can get a bite to eat in the Proportional Pub.

Of course living in ancient times did have its advantages. For instance, Archimedes was rewarded for discovering a way to test the purity of metals, whereas today he’d be arrested for indecent exposure. For another thing, despite the fact that all these people were sitting around writing books, there was still a lot that wasn’t known. Nowadays it seems like everything to be known is known. In fact, it seems almost scary now how much we know. It’s scary because we can never be certain that we know everything there is to know. In fact, for all that we know, the only thing we really know is that there’s a lot that’s still unknown. As the comedian Craig Ferguson once put it, "If it is the unknown, how do we know about it? We don’t know." That’s just the point. The unknown could be very small. There could only be one thing left to find out that will fill in the Grand Unified Theory, such as why you can return a video you’ve rented up until midnight and not be charged for it even though the store closes at ten.

The only thing scarier than the unknown, though, is knowing everything because we’ve lived so long with the unknown we’ve gotten comfortable with it. And I doubt we’ll ever know everything because there are unknowns even in knowing. For instance, why does the word "know" sound exactly like "no", even though the words have two completely different meanings? And if you take "no" which sounds like "know" and add a "w", you get "now", but you can turn "now" back into something that sounds like "no" by putting a "k" in front of it. Why is this? No one knows. And where the heck is Cnidos anyway? Maybe we’re better off not knowing.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


New Twists on Old Sayings

He who laughs last, thinks slowest.

Everyone has a photographic memory. Some don’t have film.

A day without sunshine is like, well, night.

On the other hand, you have different fingers.

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

I just got lost in thought. It was unfamiliar territory.

When the chips are down, the buffalo is empty.

Seen it all, done it all, can’t remember most of it.

Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don’t.

I feel like I’m diagonally parked in a parallel universe

He’s not dead, he’s electroencephalographically challenged.

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted, then used against you.

I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be without sponges.

Honk if you love peace and quiet.

Despite the cost of living, have you noticed how it remains so popular?

Nothing is fool-proof to a sufficiently talented fool.

It is hard to understand how a cemetery raised its burial cost and blamed it on the cost of living.

Just remember…if the world didn’t suck, we’d all fall off.

The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there’s a 90% probability you’ll get it wrong.

It is said that if you line up all the cars in the world end to end, someone would be stupid enough to try and pass them.

You can’t have everything, where would you put it?

Latest survey shows that 3 out of 4 people make up 75% of the world’s population.

The things that come to those that wait may be the things left by those who got there first.

A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.

It has been recently discovered that scientific research causes cancer in rats.

I wished the buck stopped here, as I could use a few.

I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.

Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

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