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Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations (1776)

There are some very agreeable and beautiful talents, of which the possession commands a certain sort of admiration, but of which the exercise, for the sake of gain, is considered, whether from reason or prejudice, as a sort of public prostitution. … The exorbitant rewards of players, opera-singers, opera-dancers, etc. are founded upon those two principles; the rarity and beauty of the talents, and the discredit of employing them in this manner.

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Neil Gaiman – The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013)

“You have a gateway inside you to lands beyond the world you know. They will call you, as you grow. There can never be a time when you forget them, when you are not, in your heart, questing after something you cannot have, something you cannot even properly imagine,…”

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Neil Gaiman – Anansi Boys (2005)

“Now, Anansi stories, they have wit and trickery and wisdom. Now, all over the world, all of the people they aren’t just thinking of hunting and being hunted anymore. Now they’re starting to think their way out of problems–sometimes thinking their way into worse problems.

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Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner – Freakonomics (2005)

In a typical election period that includes campaigns for the presidency, the Senate, and the House of Representatives, about $1 billion is spent per year – which sounds like a lot of money, unless you care to measure it against something seemingly less important than democratic elections.

It is the same amount, for instance, that Americans spend every year on chewing gum.

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Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan – Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992)

An early Algerian myth held that long ago apes could talk, but were rendered mute for their transgressions by the gods. There are many similar stories in Africa and elsewhere. In another widespread African story, apes can talk, but prudently refuse to do so–because talking apes, their intelligence in this way made manifest, will be put to work by humans. Their silence is proof of their intelligence.

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Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles (1950)

“You sound as if you believe in spirits.”

“I believe in the things that were done, and there are evidences of many things done on Mars. … Everywhere I look I see things that were used. They were touched and handled for centuries.

“Ask me, then, if I believe in the spirit of the things as they were used, and I’ll say yes. They’re all here. All the things which had uses. All the mountains which had names. And we’ll never be able to use them without feeling uncomfortable. And somehow the mountains will never sound right to us; we’ll give them new names, but the old names are there, somewhere in time, and the mountains were shaped and seen under those names. The names we’ll give to the canals and mountains and cities will fall like so much water on the back of a mallard. No matter how we touch Mars, we’ll never touch it. And then we’ll get mad at it, and you know what we’ll do? We’ll rip it up, rip the skin off, and change it to fit ourselves.”

“We won’t ruin Mars,” said the captain. “It’s too big and too good.”

“You think not? We Earth Men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things.”

Captain Wilder & Spender

Charlotte Brontë – Jane Eyre (1847)

“I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad–as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation; they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?”

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Carl Sagan – The Dragons of Eden (1977)

While ritual, emotion, and reasoning are all significant aspects of human nature, the most nearly unique human characteristic is the ability to associate abstractly and to reason. Curiosity and the urge to solve problems are the emotional hallmarks of our species; and the most characteristically human activities are mathematics, science, technology, music and the arts — a somewhat broader range of subjects than is usually included under the ‘humanities.’ Indeed, in its common usage this very word seems to reflect a peculiar narrowness of vision about what is human. Mathematics is as much a ‘humanity’ as poetry. Whales and elephants may be as ‘humane’ as humans.