Frederick William was deeply disappointed by his son, the future Frederick the Great, who in his youth seemed more interested in French culture, music, and literature than in the military virtues. The father's disaffection turned to actual hatred, and his treatment became so harsh that the young prince decided to run away, with the aid of two accomplices, Lieutenants Katte and Keith. The plan was discovered; Keith escaped, but the prince and Katte were captured and court-martialed. Katte was sentenced to life imprisonment, Frederick to solitary confinement. Frederick William, deciding that Katte's sentence was too lenient, had him beheaded in the presence of Prince Frederick. This drastic measure had the desired effect; Frederick asked the king's pardon and began to apply himself to acquiring the Prussian military philosophy.
We normally think of history as one catastrophe after another, war followed by war, outrage by outrage — almost as if history were nothing more than all the narratives of human pain, assembled in sequence. And surely this is, often enough, an adequate description. But history is also the narratives of grace, the recountings of those blessed and inexplicable moments when someone did something for someone else, saved a life, bestowed a gift, gave something beyond what was required by circumstance.
When Charles II had a fit while shaving in 1685, he was lucky to be treated with the finest medical advice of the day. He was attended by fourteen physicians who . . . shaved his head, applied blistering agents to his scalp, put special plasters made from pigeon droppings onto the soles of his feet, fed him bezoar stones (much-prized gallstones from the bladder of a goat), and made him drink forty drops of extract from a dead man's skull. He died two days later.
By today's standards, Hippocrates was a profoundly abnormal physician. Medicine's founding father routinely tasted his patients' urine, sampled their pus and earwax, and smelled and scrutinized their stool. He assessed the stickiness of their sweat and examined their blood, their phlegm, their tears, and their vomit. He became closely acquainted with their general disposition, family, and home, and he studied their facial expressions. In deciding upon a final diagnosis and treatment, Hippocrates . . . considered dietary habits, the season, the local prevailing winds, the water supply at the patient's residence, and the direction the home faced. . . .
Modern-day physicians often cringe or shake their heads when they hear descriptions of Hippocrates' diagnostic methods; laypeople, however, . . . wonder aloud at how nice it might be to have Hippocrates as their doctor.
You find lots of little things going on in every community in the country. If there is a world here in a hundred years, it will not be due to any big organization of any sort, no big political group, no big church, no big government. It is going to be saved by millions upon millions of little organizations. It might just be that what Jesus and Jeremiah and Mohammed and Buddha talked about will come true.
After the Easter Rebellion of 1916 in Ireland, Eamon De Valera was sentenced to penal servitude. En route to his prison, he took out his pipe and was about to light it when he stopped suddenly and said, "I will not let them deprive me of this pleasure in jail!" He immediately threw away the pipe and from that day never smoked again.
Throughout recorded time . . . there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle, and the Low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitude towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered. Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium, however far it is pushed one way or the other. The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable.