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Jan-04-2014 15:47printcomments

Brilliant Thoughts by Great Thinkers

My choice of quotable thinkers hasn't been to those best known but to writers and speakers that many miss. Their ideas are all worth thinking about.

Gulf Daily News press

(MANAMA, Bahrain) - A favourite pastime of mine involves reading brilliant thoughts of wise men and women. I see their words, think about them, and save their messages when I believe they're worth keeping, rereading and sharing.

Sometimes these thoughts provide healthy advice for personal development, like this observation by Mohandas Gandhi: "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."

That's not an ordinary piece of advice. It's powerful and unexpected and almost forces the reader to ponder it.

This remarkable leader of the nonviolent struggle for Indian independence had much to say about service to others based on his own reading of Plato, Ruskin, Thoreau and Tolstoi. Notably, Gandhi influenced both Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

Wise thoughts, like one by Nobel Laureate Peter Medawar, can depict the difficulties we have when trying to change others' minds: "The human mind treats a new idea the way the body treats a strange protein: it rejects it."

Contributions to the knowledge of growth, aging, and especially the biology of tissue leading to successful organ and tissue transplantation earned British Zoologist Medawar, along with Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet, the 1960 Nobel Award in Science.

Medawar was remarkable for his ability to connect his work in zoological science and the immune system with human behaviour.

Another scientist who could think outside the box of the scientific was Albert Einstein, who said, "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Then there are those bits of wisdom, like that of scientist Stephen Hawking, that seem to come out of brilliance often too adept to follow: "I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image."

If that doesn't provide several hours worth of provocative thinking, try social and moral philosopher Eric Hoffer, author of ten books, the most famous of which is The True Believer.

Hoffer had a prescription for dealing with enemies: "You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you."

Marshall McLuhan was the thinker who best understood media and coined the expression "The media is the message." Canadian McLuhan had a flair for connecting the times to our ability to understand our behaviour: "Our Age of Anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do today's jobs with yesterday's tools."

Psychologist Carl Roger was an exceptional practitioner and a brilliant educator. He had so much to share that I featured him in several chapters of my book on Human Communication. Rogers said "The very essence of the creative is its novelty, and hence we have no standard by which to judge it."

At times, a wise thought can characterize a social problem, as photographer Ansel Adams often does in the pictures he takes: "It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment."

Austrian zoologist Konrad Lorenz wrote "Every man gets a narrower and narrower field of knowledge in which he must be an expert in order to compete with other people." The result? According to Lorenz, "The specialist knows more and more about less and less and finally knows everything about nothing. “

My choice of quotable thinkers hasn't been to those best known but to writers and speakers that many miss. Their ideas are all worth thinking about.

Special thanks to Gulf Daily News press



Throughout his life as an educator, Dr. Paul J. Balles, a retired American university professor and freelance writer, has lived and worked in the Middle East for 40 years - first as an English professor (Universities of Kuwait and Bahrain), and for the past ten years as a writer, editor and editorial consultant.

He’s a weekly Op-Ed columnist for the GULF DAILY NEWS . Dr. Balles is also Editorial Consultant for Red House Marketing and a regular contributor to Bahrain This Month. He writes a weekly op-ed column for Akbar Al Khaleej (Arabic). He has also edited seven websites, including,

Paul has had more than 350 articles published, focusing on companies, personality profiles, entrpreneurs, women achievers, journalists and the media, the Middle East, American politics, the Internet and the Web, consumer reports, Arabs, diplomats, dining out and travel. Paul's articles on are frank and enlightening. We are very appreciative of the incredible writings Dr. Balles has generated for our readers over the years, and we are very pleased to list him among our most valued contributors.

Indulging the hard subjects that keep the world divided is our specialty at, and with writers like Dr. Paul Balles on our team, we amplify our ability to meet challenges and someday, will see the effects of this exist in context with a more peaceful and generally successful world.


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