Memorial Day 2014

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

On Memorial Day we commemorate those who have died in the service of our country. It’s a day of remembrance more than of celebration. I offer some quotes on death, heroism, and the stories we tell for you to meditate on.

“Son. Everyone dies alone. That’s what it is. It’s a door. It’s one person wide. When you go through it, you do it alone. But it doesn’t  mean you’ve got to be alone before you go through the door. And believe me, you aren’t alone on the other side.”
Jim Butcher, in “Dead Beat

“The hero is known for achievements, the celebrity for well-knownness. The hero reveals the possibilities of human nature. The celebrity reveals the possibilities of the press and the media. Celebrities are people who make news, but heroes are people who make history. Time makes heroes but dissolves celebrities.”
Daniel Boorstin in “Who Are Our Heroes?

“So I am content to tell my simple story, without trying to make things seem better than they were; dreading nothing, indeed, but falsity, which, in spite of one’s best efforts, there is reason to dread. Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult. The pencil is conscious of a delightful facility in drawing a griffin — the longer the claws, and the larger the wings, the better; but that marvelous facility which we mistook for genius is apt to forsake us when we want to draw a real unexaggerated lion. Examine your words well, and you will find that even when you have no motive to be false, it is a very hard thing to say the exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings — much harder than to say something fine about them which is not the exact truth.”
George Eliot in Adam Bede

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Postscript: I was reading “The Paths of Long Ago” a 1925 book of poems by Wilbur D. Nesbit and came across this one that is apropos Memorial Day.

A Drum Song of To-Day

I hear it roll in the valley, I hear it surge down from the hill;
With rhythmical rally the drum-song is thralling me still.
It comes with a throbbing and thrumming, a mellow insistent refrain
As low as the langorous humming of bees in the clover-edged lane:

“Remember! Remember! Remember! They sleep on the hilldsides afar;
Their camp fires have left not an ember and yet you know well where they are.
I called them one morn with my beating, they leaped at my vibrant behest–
With dull, muffled measures repeating, I bade them lie down in their rest.

“You heap up mounds where they slumber with roses and lilies and rue;
Their battles and marches you number, and tributes of love you renew.
Aye, this for the ones that are sleeping is all that a nation may give–
And what of the faith you are keeping with such of the soldiers as live?

The dead–you have hallowed their ashes; each tomb you have named as a shrine,
Above which the old banner flashes its hues through the shade and the shine.
God bless them, and keep them, and rest them, and hold them in memory yet!
The living one–Ah, do you test them by seeming at times to forget?

I hear it roll out through the morning, I hear it surge on through the day,
Sonorous as though ’twere a warning to us in our work and our play:
“Aye, tears for the ones that are sleeping are all that a nation may give–
And what of the faith you are keeping with such of the soldiers as live?”

Wilber D. Nesbit

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