Aside from special occasions like Independence Day, I don’t plan my reading. I tend to follow whatever ensnares my interest, though this tends to result in my gorging on a particular topic, sometimes to the point that I get sick of it. Thus, my tentative plans to do some science reading have been temporarily sidetracked by a continuing obsession with John Adams, who began to fascinate me in Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis, and who has remained in my mind ever since. So for the past week I’ve been reading John Adams by David McCullough, which was most impressive. Between First Family and John Adams, though, I started watching a documentary series on DVD called From the Earth to the Moon, and now space exploration is the thing. It’s not a new interest of mine – my bed still has the NASA sticker I slapped on it back in middle school — but I’ve never actually delved into the history of the space program. The series was absolutely astonishing, and since space exploration complements science reading rather nicely, don’t be surprised if it becomes a recurring theme this autumn. In addition to memoirs like A Man on the Moon and Deke!, there’s Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Space Chronicles to consider, which examines both the history and future of the United States’ space program.
All of these are from John Adams, by David McCullough, and from Adams’ own pen.
“The preservation of liberty depends upon the intellectual and moral character of the people. As long as knowledge and virtue are diffused generally among the body of a nation, it is impossible they should be enslaved.”
“Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictums of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
“We may please ourselves with the prospect of free and popular government. But there is great danger that those governments will not make us happy. […] I fear that in any assembly, members will obtain an influence by noise, not sense. By meanness, not greatness. By ignorance, not learning. By contracted hearts, not large souls. There is one thing, my dear sir, that must be attempted and most sacredly observed or we are all done. There must be decency and respect.”
“Government is nothing more than the combined of society, or the united power of the multitude, for the peace, order, safety, good, and happiness of the people. …There is no king or queen bee distinguished from all others, by size or beauty and variety of colors, in the human hive. No man yet produced any revelation from heaven in his favor, any divine communication to govern his fellow men. Nature throws us into the world equal and alike.”
“Ambition is one of the more ungovernable passions of the human heart. The love of power is insatiable and uncontrollable…”