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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Mares: A Keg Half Full

Chris Hadsel
Bill Mares at the 20 keg brewery he co-owns in Burlington.

When Matt Damon recently satirized Brett Kavanaugh on Saturday Night Live as a "keg half-full kind of guy" I realized our new Supreme Court Justice’s many references to beer during his confirmation hearings had won him instant and maybe even eternal notoriety. So now that line is recorded with many other random quotes in a vest-pocket-sized notebook where I collect them.

I love a good quote! Few of us are smart enough to encapsulate life's encounters with a phrase. A good quote lays waste to clichés, jargon and poor grammar. It distills an idea and expands knowledge, making you seem wiser than you are. It’s an intellectual snack that lasts and lasts – like this one from writer Eudora Welty, who said that photographs "stop a moment from running away."

I used quotes when I taught school. Author E.M. Forster summed up all of education in just two words when he wrote, "Only Connect." James Thurber advised all students that "It's better to know some of the questions, than ALL of the answers. And the daily reminder to my foreign policy class was from a former Israeli intelligence chief, who observed that "Policy is not a choice between good and bad, but between bad and worse."

As for today’s politics, I find a kindred spirit in the always quotable Winston Churchill, who once said "It would be a great reform in politics if wisdom could be spread as easily as folly." And I’ve been pondering two more from theologian Reinhold Niebuhr: "The roar of the people may be just the echoes of vanity in your own head" and “Let us fight their lies with our truth, but remember the lies in our own truth."

Relative to the re-emergence of autocracy in so many countries, Joseph Fouche, a Catholic priest who became Napoleon's secret police chief was once described as having “such a low opinion of mankind, because he had made such a close study of himself."

And here’s one I find relevant to our struggle with climate change: Technology says what can be done, economics says what should be done and politics says what will be done.

I’ll admit it’s pretty enigmatic.

But then, as the co-owner of a brewery, I'm sort of a keg half-full kind of guy, myself.

Writer Bill Mares of Burlington is also a former teacher and state legislator. His most recent book is a collection of his VPR commentaries, titled "3:14 And Out."
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