Michael Novak


American Catholic Philosopher, Journalist, Novelist, Author and Diplomat, U.S. Chief Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights

Author Quotes

Not enough young men and women who come to a university have ever had a punch in the nose, not enough have ever had a black eye, not enough have ever been involved in contact sports or personal physical combat? I think it would be good for us if we had some of those participant activities where everybody gains a sense of his own physical feelings?what it feels like to hurt a little, what it feels like to get bumped, what it feels like to be able to run faster, or to get caught, or to lose.

The ear, not the eye is the organ of human fact. And also of thought. The ear is personal (it carries tone and voice), holistic, stimulative. The eye distances, makes flat, kills, tames. To hear a great mind lecture is to have access to his though?and to his heart and seat of judgment?that reading his books does not supply. The liturgy of the churches, is, wisely, centered on the spoken Word. So ought the liturgies of sport to be?The eye is the most superficial sense. Television, the medium of the eye, cheapens us.

We are equal in the eyes of the Creator. But not to each other,

I have never met a person who disliked sports? who did not at the same time seem to me deficient in humanity. I don?t mean only that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, or Jill a dull ms. I mean that a quality of sensitivity, an organ of perception, an access to certain significant truths appear to be missing. Such persons seem to me a danger to civilization. I do not, on the whole, like to work with them. In their presence, I find myself on guard, often unconsciously. I expect from them a certain softness of mind, from their not having known a sufficient number of defeats. Unless they have compensated for it elsewhere, I anticipate that they will underestimate the practice and discipline required for execution, or the role of chance and Fate in human outcomes. I expect them to have a view of the world far too rational and mechanical.

Not that football satisfies everything. It doesn?t offer much guidance in how to understand a woman.

The great [athletes] attempt what the good ones let go by.

We are expected to sympathize with Larry Csonka when he abandons the Miami Dolphins for the World Football League and $3 million. I have to think of my family, he says. His family was not starving. If ballplayers cannot say no to money, if they will take the highest offer they can get and move away accordingly, they invite contempt. What they do is understandable enough, but wrong. It flies in the face of the rootedness and the fan?s identification with them which gives their professional inner power. If they think so little of their profession, why shouldn?t fans? p. 306

I need not to be afraid of the void. The void is part of my person. I need to enter consciously into it. To try to escape from it is to try to live a lie. It is also to cease to be. My acceptance of despair and emptiness constitutes my being; to have the courage to accept despair is to be.

Our Founders always wondered about how long it would last. The price of liberty is everlasting vigilance. You've got to be on your guard every minute or you will lose it.

The heart of human reality is courage, honesty, freedom, community, excellence: the heart is sports.

We can talk about human dignity, but where is it?

I relate this memory [of succeeding in sports at some level] indulge these dreams, only to indicate the pleasure that recognition of limits brings.

Our political institutions work remarkably well. They are designed to clang against each other. The noise is democracy at work.

The human spirit needs roots, because the pretense of infinity?The human body cannot bear infinity.

Yet I would be astonished if [my childhood sports friends] and all the millions of others like us didn?t still watch? Namath, Unitas, and all the Sunday heroes with exquisite pleasure, admiration, and beauty-scorched memory. What we wished to do, strove for?what do I mean? still strive for, still emulate?they do as gracefully as gods. We were for a season gods, or at least boys with dreams; we still are. We went to our limits, as they go to theirs; and if theirs exceed ours, we regard them not with envy but in brotherly participation.

If I had to give one single reason for my love of sports it would be this: I love the test of the human spirit.

Play belongs to the Kingdom of Ends, work to the Kingdom of Means. Barbarians play in order to work; the civilized work in order to play.

The Lord God, the creator of Judaism and the God of Judaism and Christianity, empowered our minds and gave us the ability to question.

If you've ever been in a position in your life where you just can't take any more, you just have to get through the next second, and the next second after that.

Practically every movie that shows the pope or even a bishop as a character, and in much of western literature of the last 300 or 400 years, these are portrayed as awful figures.

The most satisfying element in sports is spirit. Other elements being equal, the more spirited team will win.

In sports, dynasties rise and fall. No one dares to be too arrogant too long. Hubris and nemesis?

Religions are built upon ascesis, a word that derives from the disciplines Greek athletes imposed upon themselves to give their wills an instincts command of their bodies; the word was borrowed by Christian monks and hermits.

The politicization of almost everything is a form of totalitarianism. The preservation of parts of life not drawn up into politics and work is essential for the human spirit.

In the United States? the essence of the symbolic form of football is liberation: breaking away, running for daylight, escaping containment.

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American Catholic Philosopher, Journalist, Novelist, Author and Diplomat, U.S. Chief Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights