The recursive point of view

At the bottom of reality lies a paradox: self-created creation, either the universe or God. This conundrum of self-causation afflicts all life and consciousness and great art. Occasionally the recursive nature of our existence is captured by a simple witty loop. Here is a fine collection of hundreds of highly evolved self-cancelling/self-generating circuits, called oxymoronics. This handsome and intelligent book is classic cybernetics. I use these witticisms as meditative koans.

— KK

Oxymoronica: Paradoxical Wit & Wisdom From History’s Greatest Wordsmiths
Marty Grothe

Sample excerpts:

The superfluous is the most necessary.

Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.
Margaret Mead

I shut my eyes in order to see.
Paul Gauguin

We learn from history that we do not learn from history.
Georg Hegel

We are never prepared for what we expect.
James Michener

To be believed, make the truth unbelievable.
Napoleon Bonaparte

The final delusion is the belief that one has lost all delusions.
Maurice Chapelain

What we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.
Sydney J. Harris

When a dog runs at you, whistle for him.
Henry David Thoreau

Always be sincere, even if you don’t mean it.
Harry S. Truman

Man can believe the impossible, but can never believe the improbable.
Oscar Wilde

War is a series of catastrophes which result in a victory.
Georges Clemenceau

First I dream my painting, then I paint my dream.
Vincent van Gogh

We are confronted by insurmountable opportunities.
Walt Kelly, From Pogo

A man chases a woman until she catches him.

I want peace and I’m willing to fight for it.
Harry S. Truman

Study the past, if you would divine the future.
Confucius, in Analects

Love is a kind of warfare.

All works of art should begin…at the end.
Edgar Allan Poe

An oxymoron has been wisely described as “a compressed paradox.” Looking at it the other way around, I think of a paradox as “an extended oxymoron.” To me, they’re close cousins because they both link up contradictory or incongruous elements. And they both play around in the most fascinating way with the difference between literal truth and figurative truth. For this reason, I include both oxymoronic and paradoxical observations (and a few others, as you shall soon see) under the rubric of oxymoronica.


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