The difference between a politician and a statesman.

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Most people are the slaves of habit – followers of custom – believers in the wisdom of the past – and were it not for a few brave and splendid souls, “the dust of antique time would lie unswept, and mountainous error be too highly heaped for truth to overpeer.”

Custom is a prison, locked and barred by those who long ago were dust, the keys of which are in the keeping of the dead. Nothing is grander than when a strong, intrepid man breaks chains, levels walls and stares down the many-headed mob like some great cliff that meets and mocks the innumerable billows of the sea.

And there is where the politician and statesman differ. The politician hastens to agree with the majority – insists that their prejudice is patriotism, that their ignorance is wisdom – not because he loves them, but because he loves himself. The statesman, the real reformer, points out the mistakes of the multitude, attacks the prejudices of his countrymen, laughs at their follies, denounces their cruelties, enlightens and enlarges their minds and educates the conscience – not because he loves himself, but because he loves and serves the right and wishes to make his country great and free. With him defeat is but a spur to further effort.

RGI

Isolation is the soil of ignorance, and ignorance is the soil of egotism.

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Nations, like individuals who live apart, mistake provincialism for perfection, and hatred of all other nations for patriotism. With most people, strangers are not only enemies, but inferiors. They imagine that they are progressive because they know little of others, and compare their present, not with the present of other nations, but with their own past.

Few people have imagination enough to sympathize with those of a different complexion, with those professing another religion or speaking another language, or even wearing garments unlike their own. Most people regard every difference between themselves and others as an evidence of the inferiority of the others. They have not intelligence enough to put themselves in the place of another if that other happens to be outwardly unlike themselves.

– RGI

An Essay On Christmas

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My family and I regard Christmas as a holiday – that is to say, a day of rest and pleasure – a day to get acquainted with each other, a day to recall old memories, and for the cultivation of social amenities. The festival now called Christmas is far older than Christianity. It was known and celebrated for thousands of years before the establishment of what is known as our religion. It is a relic of sun-worship. It is the day on which the sun triumphs over the hosts of darkness, and thousands of years before the New Testament was written, thousands of years before the republic of Rome existed, before one stone of Athens was laid, before the Pharaohs ruled in Egypt, before the religion of Brahma, before Sanskrit was spoken, men and women crawled out of their caves, pushed the matted hair from their eyes, and greeted the triumph of the sun over the powers of the night.

There are many relics of this worship – among which is the shaving of the priest’s head, leaving the spot shaven surrounded by hair, in imitation of the rays of the sun. There is still another relic – the ministers of our day close their eyes in prayer. When men worshiped the sun – when they looked at that luminary and implored its assistance – they shut their eyes as a matter of necessity. Afterward the priests looking at their idols glittering with gems, shut their eyes in flattery, pretending that they could not bear the effulgence of the presence; and today, thousands of years after the old ideas have passed away, the modern parson, without knowing the origin of the custom, closes his eyes when he prays. There are many other relics and souvenirs of the dead worship of the sun, and this festival was adopted by Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and by Christians. As a matter of fact, Christianity furnished new steam for an old engine, infused a new spirit into an old religion, and, as a matter of course, the old festival remained.

For all of our festivals you will find corresponding pagan festivals. For instance, take the Eucharist, the communion, where persons partake of the body and blood of the Deity. This is an exceedingly old custom. Among the ancients they ate cakes made of corn, in honor of Ceres and they called these cakes the flesh of the goddess, and they drank wine in honor of Bacchus, and called this the blood of their god. And so I could go on giving the pagan origin of every Christian ceremony and custom.

The probability is that the worship of the sun was once substantially universal, and consequently the festival of Christ was equally wide spread. As other religions have been produced, the old customs have been adopted and continued, so that the result is, this festival of Christmas is almost world-wide. It is popular because it is a holiday. Overworked people are glad of days that bring rest and recreation and allow them to meet their families and their friends. They are glad of days when they give and receive gifts – evidences of friendship, of remembrance and love. It is popular because it is really human, and because it is interwoven with our customs, habits, literature, and thought. For my part I am willing to have two or three a year – the more holidays the better. Of course, I am in favor of everybody keeping holidays to suit himself, provided he does not interfere with others, and I am perfectly willing that everybody should go to church on that day, provided he is willing that I should go somewhere else.

– RGI

I believe in the festival called Christmas – not in the celebration of the birth of any man.

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I believe in giving gifts on that day, and a real gift should be given to those who cannot return it; gifts from the rich to the poor, from the prosperous to the unfortunate, from parents to children. There is no need of giving water to the sea or light to the sun. Let us give to those who need, neither asking nor expecting return, not even asking gratitude, only asking that the gift shall make the receiver happy – and he who gives in that way increases his own joy.

– RGI