Quotations


 

Below is a dynamic list of some of the most thought-provoking quotations I have come across over the years. These are the thoughts and sentiments of some of the greatest leaders, heroes, intellectuals and polymaths to stamp their mark on humankind.

 

 

“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”

—  Socrates (470-399BC)

 

 

“It is characteristic of the proud man not to aim at the things commonly held in honour, or the things in which others excel; to be sluggish and to hold back except where honour or a great work is at stake, and to be a man of few deeds, but of great and notable ones…He must be unable to make his life revolve round another…Nor is he given to admiration; for nothing to him is great…He is one who will possess beautiful and profitless things rather than profitable and useful ones; for this is more proper to a character that suffices to itself.”

 —  Aristotle (384-322BC)

 

“For those that are equal to have an unequal share and those that are alike an unlike share is contrary to nature, and nothing contrary to nature is noble.”

—  Aristotle (384-322BC)

 

 

“The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity.”

—  Epicurus (341-270BC)

 

“Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more…So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed towards attaining it.”

—  Epicurus (341-270BC)

 

 

“Man, naturally the gentlest class of being, is not ashamed to revel in the blood of others, to wage war, and to entrust the waging of war to his sons, when even dumb beasts and wild beasts keep the peace with one another.”

 —  Seneca (4BC-65AD)

 

“When a man does not know which harbour he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”

 —  Seneca (4BC-65AD)

 

“The same prison surrounds all of us…honors bind one man, wealth another; nobility oppresses some, humility others…All life is slavery. Therefore each one must accustom himself to his own condition and complain about it as little as possible, and lay hold of whatever good is to be found near him.”

—  Seneca (4BC-65AD)

 

“How can one be happy who is still able, or rather who is still bound, to crave something else? I will tell you what is the source of this error: men do not understand that the happy life is a unit; for it is its essence, and not its extent, that establishes such a life on the noblest plane. Hence there is complete equality between the life that is long and the life that is short, between that which is spread out and that which is confined, between that whose influence is felt in many places and in many directions, and that which is restricted to one interest. Those who reckon life by number, or by measure, or by parts, rob it of its distinctive quality. Now, in the happy life, what is the distinctive quality? It is its fullness.”

—  Seneca (4BC-65AD)

 

“We do not put to the test those things which cause our fear; we do not examine into them; we blench and retreat…and somehow or other it is the idle report that disturbs us most. For truth has its own definite boundaries, but that which arises from uncertainty is delivered over to guesswork and the irresponsible license of a frightened mind.”

—  Seneca (4BC-65AD)

 

“If you have nothing to stir you up and rouse you to action, nothing which will test your resolution by its threats and hostilities; if you recline in unshaken comfort, it is not tranquility; it is merely a flat calm.” 

—  Seneca (4BC-65AD)

 

“It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it’s been given to us in generous measure for accomplishing the greatest things, if the whole of it is well invested. But when life is squandered through soft and careless living, and when it’s spent on no worthwhile pursuit, death finally presses and we realize that the life which we didn’t notice passing has passed away.”

 —  Seneca (4BC-65AD)

 

“Every day, therefore, should be regulated as if it were the one that brings up the rear, the one that rounds out and completes our lives.”

 —  Seneca (4BC-65AD)

 

 

“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason?…If you are careless and lazy now and keep putting things off and always deferring the day after which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress, but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary…remember that the contest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer, and that your progress is wrecked or preserved by a single day and a single event.”

 —  Epictetus (50-135AD)

 

 

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”

 —  Marcus Aurelius (121-180AD)

 

 

“The way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live that anyone who abandons what is for what should be pursues his downfall rather than his preservation.”

 —  Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)

 

“Men never do good unless necessity drives them to it; but when they are free to choose and can do just as they please, confusion and disorder can become everywhere rampant. Hence it is said hunger and poverty make men industrious, and that laws make them good.”

 —  Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)

 

 

“My actions are regular, and conformable to what I am and to my condition; I can do no better; and repentance does not properly touch things that are not in our power; sorrow does…I imagine an infinite number of natures more elevated and regular than mine; and yet I do not for all that improve my faculties, no more than my arm or will grow more strong and vigorous for conceiving those of another to be so.”

—  Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

 

“Virtue refuses facility for her companion…the easy, gentle, and sloping path that guides the footsteps of a good natural disposition is not the path of true virtue. It demands a rough and thorny road.”

—  Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

 

“How many we know who have fled the sweetness of a tranquil life in their homes, among the friends, to seek the horror of uninhabitable deserts; who have flung themselves into humiliation, degradation, and the contempt of the world, and have enjoyed these and even sought them out.”

—  Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

 

 

“It is intolerable when an office engrosses a man with fixed hours and a settled routine. Those are better that leave a man free to follow his own devices, combining variety with importance, for the change refreshes the mind.”

—  Baltasar Gracián (1601-1658)

 

“Keep the imagination under control…for it makes us either contented or discontented with ourselves. Before some it continually holds up the penalties of action, and becomes the mortifying lash of these fools. To others it promises happiness and adventure with blissful delusion. It can do all this unless the most prudent self-control keeps it in subjection.”

—  Baltasar Gracián (1601-1658)

 

“Leave something to wish for, so as not to be miserable from very happiness. The body must respire and the soul aspire. If one possessed all, all would be disillusion and discontent. Even in knowledge there should always be something left to know in order to arouse curiosity and excite hope. Surfeits of happiness are fatal.”

 —  Baltasar Gracián (1601-1658)

 

 

“All wars are civil wars because all men are brothers…Each one owes infinitely more to the human race than to the particular country in which he was born.”

—  François Fénelon (1651-1715)

 

 

“The history of the errors of mankind…is more valuable and interesting than that of their discoveries. Truth is uniform and narrow, but error is endlessly diversified…In this field, the soul has room enough to expand herself to display all her boundless faculties and all of her beautiful and interesting extravagancies and absurdities.”

 —  Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

 

“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing.”

—  Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

 

 

“Nothing confers so much ability to resist the temptations that perpetually surround us, as an habitual consideration of the shortness of life, and the uncertainty of those pleasures that solicit our pursuit; and this consideration can be inculcated only by affliction.”

—  Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

 

 

“The fruits of the Earth belong equally to us all, and the Earth itself to nobody!”

 —  Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)

 

“What must be thought of that barbarous education which sacrifices the present to an uncertain future, which burdens a child by making him miserable in order to prepare him for I know not what happiness he may enjoy?…Why do you want to fill with bitterness and pain those few years which go by so rapidly and can return no more for them than they can for you?”

 —  Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)

 

 

“What a large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life, by him who interests his heart in everything, and who, having eyes to see what time and chance are perpetually holding on to him as he journeys on his way, misses nothing he can fairly lay his hands on.”

 —  Laurence Sterne (1713-1768)

 

 

“The human being must be so occupied that he is filled with the purpose that he has before his eyes, in such a way that he is not conscious of himself at all, and the best rest for him is the one that comes after work.”

 —  Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

 

 

“The human race is a monotonous affair. Most people spend the greatest part of their time working in order to live, and what little freedom remains so fills them with fear that they seek out any and every means to be rid of it.”

—  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

 

 

“If the people only understood the rank injustice of our money and banking system, there would be a revolution by morning.”

—  Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)

 

 

“In our time no one has the conception of what is great. It is up to me to show them.”

 —  Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

 

 

“Not choice, but habit rules the unreflecting herd.”

—  William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

 

 

“And this the world calls frenzy; but the wise
Have a far deeper madness, and the glance
Of melancholy is a fearful gift;
What is it but the telescope of truth?
Which strips the distance of its fantasies,
And brings life near in utter nakedness,
Making the cold reality too real!”

—  Lord Byron (1788-1824)

 

 

It is really incredible how meaningless and insignificant when seen from without, and how dull and senseless when felt from within, is the course of life of the great majority of men. It is weary longing and worrying, a dreamlike staggering through the four ages from life to death, accompanied by a series of trivial thoughts…Every individual, every human apparition and its course of life, is only one more short dream of the endless spirit of nature.”

 —  Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

 

“Vanity finds expression in the whole way in which things exist; in the infinite nature of time and space, as opposed to the finite nature of the individual in both; in the ever-passing present moment as the only mode of actual existence; in the interdependence and relativity of all things; in continual becoming without ever being; in constant wishing and never being satisfied; in the long battle which forms the history of life, where every effort is checked by difficulties, and stopped until they are overcome.”

 —  Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

 

“The lower a man is in an intellectual respect, the less puzzling and mysterious existence itself is to him.”

 —  Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

 

“Vacuity is the real source of boredom and always craves for external excitement in order to set the mind and spirits in motion through something…the craze for society, diversion, amusement, and luxury of every kind which lead many to extravagance and so to misery. Nothing protects us so surely from this wrong turning as inner wealth, the wealth of the mind, for the more eminent it becomes, the less room does it leave for boredom. The inexhaustible activity of ideas, their constantly renewed play with the manifold phenomena of the inner and outer worlds, the power and urge always to make different combinations of them, all these put the eminent mind, apart from moments of relaxation, quite beyond the reach of boredom.”

—  Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

 

“Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.”

—  Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

 

“Talent works for money and fame; the motive which moves genius to productivity is, on the other hand, less easy to determine…It is rather an instinct of a unique sort by virtue of which the individual possessed of genius is impelled to express what he has seen and felt in enduring works without being conscious of any further motivation. It takes place, by and large, with the same sort of necessity as a tree brings forth fruit, and demands of the world no more than a soil on which the individual can flourish.”

—  Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

 

“A thought only really lives until it has reached the boundary line of words; it then becomes petrified and dies immediately; yet it is as everlasting as the fossilised animals and plants of former ages. Its existence, which is really momentary, may be compared to a crystal the instant it becomes crystallised.”

—  Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

 

“The artificial method is to hear what other people say, to learn and to read, and so to get your head crammed full of general ideas before you have any sort of extended acquaintance with the world as it is, and as you may see it for yourself…You apply your general ideas wrongly, you judge men and things from a wrong standpoint, you see them in a wrong light, and treat them in a wrong way. So it is that education perverts the mind…Instead of developing the child’s own faculties of discernment, and teaching it to judge and think for itself, the teacher uses all his energies to stuff its head full of the ready made thoughts of other people.”

—  Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

 

 

“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.”

—  Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

 

 

“What creates men of genius, or rather, what they create, is not new ideas, it is that idea inside them that what has been said has still not been said enough.”

 — Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863)

 

 

“If the whole of history is in one man, it is all to be explained from individual experience. There is a relation between the hours of our life and the centuries of time…so the hours should be instructed by the ages, and the ages explained by the hours. Of the universal mind each individual man is one more incarnation. All its properties consist in him. Each new fact in his private experience flashes a light on what great bodies of men have done, and the crises of his life refer to national crises. Every revolution was at first a thought in one man’s mind, and when the same thought occurs to another man, it is the key to that era. Every reform was once a private opinion, and when it shall be a private opinion again, it will solve the problem of the age.”

—  Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

 

“The difficulty is that we do not make a world of our own but fall into institutions already made and have to accommodate ourselves to them to be useful at all and this accommodation is, I say, a loss of so much integrity and of course so much power.” 

—  Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

 

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common…To the wise, therefore, a fact is true poetry, and the most beautiful of fables.”

—  Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

 

“Genius is a delicate sensibility to the laws of the world, adding the power to express them again in some new form. The highest measure of poetic power is such insight and faculty to fuse the circumstances of today as shall make transparent the whole web of circumstance and opinion in which the man finds himself, so that he releases himself from the traditions in which he grew.”

—  Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

 

“Self-trust is the first secret of success, the belief that if you are here the authorities of the universe put you here, and for cause, or with some task strictly appointed you in your constitution, and so long as you work at that you are well and successful.”

—  Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

 

“Every man I meet is my superior in some way, in that, I learn of him.”

 —  Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

 

 

“The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest – his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind; as for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them, but he sees them not – he touches them, but he feels them not; he exists but in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.”

—  Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)

 

 

“The main constituents of a satisfied life appear to be two, either of which by itself is often found sufficient for the purpose: tranquility, and excitement. With much tranquility, many find that they can be content with very little pleasure: with much excitement, many can reconcile themselves to a considerable quantity of pain. There is assuredly no inherent impossibility in enabling even the mass of mankind to unite both; since the two are so far from being incompatible that they are in natural alliance, the prolongation of either being a preparation for, and exciting a wish for, the other.”

—  John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

 

“A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

—  John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

 

“There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized, until personal experience has brought it home.”

—  John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

 

 

“Liberty is often a heavy burden on a man. It involves that necessity for perpetual choice which is the kind of labor men have always dreaded. In common life we shirk it by forming habits, which take the place of self-determination.”

 —  Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809-1894)

 

“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the World, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it come off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away timid adventurers.”

 —  Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809-1894)

 

 

“Surely working for a living can’t be the meaning of life. Surely it is self-contradictory to say that this — the constant effort to provide the conditions of living — should be an answer to the question of the purpose of life, since living itself is what creates those selfsame conditions…To maintain that the purpose of life is to die seems like another contradiction.”

—  Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

 

“What I really need is to be clear about what I am to do, not what I must know, except in the way knowledge must precede all action. It is a question of understanding my destiny…to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.”

—  Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

 

“During the first period of a man’s life the greatest danger is: not to take the risk.”

—  Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

 

“It is not uncommon to hear a man who has become confused about what he should do in a particular situation complain about the unique nature of the situation, thinking that he could easily act if the situation were a great event with only one either/or. This is a mistake and a hallucination of the understanding…Anyone who has made the fraudulent trade of getting abnormally good sense by losing the capacity to will and the passion to act is very inclined to stiffen his spinelessness with various and sundry predeliberations that feel their way ahead and various and sundry postmortem reinterpretations of what happened. Compared to this, an action is a brief something and apparently a poor something, yet it is in fact a definite something. The other is more splendid, but for all that it is a splendid shabbiness.”

—  Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

 

“If possibility outruns necessity, the self runs away from itself, so that it has no necessity whereto it is bound to return — then this is the despair of possibility. The self becomes an abstract possibility which tries itself out with floundering in the possible, but does not budge from the spot…Possibility then appears to the self ever greater and greater, more and more things become possible, because nothing becomes actual. At last it is as if everything were possible — but this is precisely when the abyss has swallowed up the self. Every little possibility even would require some time to become actuality. But finally the time which should be available for actuality becomes shorter and shorter, everything becomes more and more instantaneous…at last this phantasmagoria moves so rapidly that it is as if everything were possible — and this is precisely the last moment, when the individual becomes for himself a mirage.”

—  Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

 

“The condition for a person’s salvation is the faith that there is, everywhere and at every moment, an absolute beginning. When someone who has egoistically indulged himself in the service of illusions is to start upon a purer striving, the crucial point is that he believes absolutely in the new beginning, because otherwise he muddies the passage into the old…The criterion of the truth of this faith will be the confidence which, in the opposite direction, has the courage profoundly to comprehend one’s earlier wretchedness…A beginning always has a double momentum: towards the past and towards the new; it pushes off in the direction of the old as much as it begins the new.”

—  Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

 

“Do not permit the fact that you have been set apart from life in a way, been prevented from participating actively in it, and that you are superflous in the obtruse eyes of a busy world, above all, do not permit this to deprive you of your idea of yourself, as if your life, if lived in inwardness, did not have just as much meaning and worth as that of any human being in the eyes of all-wise Governance, and considerably more than the busy, busiest haste of busyness — busy with wasting life and losing itself.”

—  Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

 

 

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

 —  Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

 

“If I should sell both my forenoons and afternoons to society, as most appear to do, I am sure that for me there would be nothing left worth living for. I trust that I shall never thus sell my birthright for a mess of pottage. I wish to suggest that a man may be very industrious, and yet not spend his time well. There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living.”

—  Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

 

“What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?…Grade the ground first. If a man believes and expects great things of himself, it makes no odds where you put him, or what you show him…he will be surrounded by grandeur.”

 —  Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

 

“I have learned, that if one advances in confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

 —  Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

 

“I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilized.

—  Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

 

 

“Man is a mystery. One must solve it. If you spend your entire life trying to puzzle it out, then do not say that you have wasted your time. I occupy myself with this mystery because I want to be a man.”

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)

 

“How miserable your life becomes when a man, conscious of vast forces within himself, sees that they are being spent in activity that is false and essentially contrary to your nature.”

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)

 

“The whole work of man really seems to consist in nothing but proving to himself every minute that he is a man and not a piano-key!”

—  Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)

 

 

“Little inconveniences, exertions, pains — these are the only things in which we rightly feel our life at all. If these be not there, existence becomes worthless, or worse; success in putting them all away is fatal. So it is men engage in athletic sports, spend their holidays in climbing up mountains, find nothing so enjoyable as that which taxes their endurance and their energy. This is the way we are made, I say…That our pains are, as they are, unendurable, awful, overwhelming, crushing, not to be borne save in misery and dumb impatience, which utter exhaustion alone makes patient — that our pains are thus unendurable, means not that they are too great, but that we are sick. We have not got our proper life. So you perceive pain is no more necessarily an evil, but an essential element of the highest good.”

—  James Hinton (1822-1875)

 

 

“In nearly all the important transactions of life, indeed in all transactions whatever which have relation to the future, we have to take a leap in the dark…Each must act as he thinks best, and if he is wrong so much the worse for him. We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist, through which we get glimpses now and then of paths which may be deceptive. If we stand still, we shall be frozen to death. If we take the wrong road, we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is any right one. What must we do? ‘Be strong and of a good courage.’ Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes.”

—  James Fitzjames Stephen (1829-1894)

 

 

“Shall we count offences or coin excuses,
Or weigh with scales the soul of a man,
Whom a strong hand binds and a sure hand looses,
Whose light is a spark and his life a span?
The seed he sowed or the soil he cumbered,
The time he served or the space he slumbered,
Will it profit a man when his days are numbered,
Or his deeds since the days of his life began?

 

A little season of love and laughter,
Of light and life, and pleasure and pain,
And a horror of outer darkness after,
And dust returns to dust again;
Then the lesser life shall be as the greater,
And the lover of light shall join the hater,
And the one thing comes sooner or later,
And no one knows the loss or gain.”

—  Adam Lindsay Gordan (1833-1870)

 

 

“This fact — the great fact that poverty and all its concomitants show themselves in communities just as they develop into the conditions towards which material progress tends — proves that the social difficulties existing wherever a certain stage of progress has been reached do not arise from local circumstance, but are, in some way or another, engendered by progress itself…Amid the greatest accumulations of wealth men die of starvation, and puny infants suckle dry breasts; while everywhere the greed of gain, the worship of wealth, shows the force of the fear of want.”

—  Henry George (1839-1897)

 

“So long as all the increased wealth which modern progress brings goes but to build up great fortunes, to increase luxury, and make sharper the contrast between the House of Have and the House of Want, progress is not real, and cannot be permanent…To base on a state of most glaring social inequality political institutions under which men are theoretically equal is to stand a pyramid on its apex.”

—  Henry George (1839-1897)

 

“Let no man imagine that he has no influence. Whoever he may be, and wherever he may be placed, the man who thinks becomes a light and a power…Whoever becomes imbued with a noble idea kindles a flame from which other torches are lit, and influences those with whom he comes in contact, be they few or many.”

—  Henry George (1839-1897)

 

“As man is so constituted that it is utterly impossible for him to attain happiness save by seeking the happiness of others, so does it seem to be of the nature of things that individuals and classes can obtain their own just rights only by struggling for the rights of others.”

—  Henry George (1839-1897)

 

 

“The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”

—  William James (1842-1910)

 

“Visible nature is all plasticity and indifference — a moral multiverse, as one might call it, and not a moral universe. To such a harlot we owe no allegiance; with her as a whole we can establish no moral communion; and we are free in our dealings with her several parts to obey or destroy, and to follow no law but that of prudence in coming to terms with such other particular features as will help us to our private ends. If there be a divine spirit of the universe, nature, such as we know her, cannot possibly be its ultimate word to man.”

—  William James (1842-1910)

 

“Let a subjectivism begin in never so severe and intellectual a way, it is forced by the law of its nature to develop another side of itself and end with the corruptest curiosity. Once dismiss the notion that certain duties are good in themselves, and that we are here to do them, no matter how we feel about them; once consecrate the opposite notion that our performances and our violations of duty are for a common purpose, the attainment of subjective knowledge and feeling, and that the deepening of these is the chief end of our lives — and at what point on the downward slope are we to stop?…In practical life it is either a nerveless sentimentality or a sensualism without bounds. Everywhere it fosters the fatalistic mood of mind. It makes those who are already too inert more passive still; it renders wholly reckless those whose energy is already in excess. All through history we find how subjectivism, as soon as it has a free career, exhausts itself in every sort of spiritual, moral, and practical license. Its optimism turns to an ethical indifference, which infallibly brings dissolution in its train.”

—  William James (1842-1910)

 

“Even though in certain limited series there may be a great appearance of seriousness, he who in the main treats things with a degree of good-natured scepticism and radical levity will find that the practical fruits of his epicurean hypothesis verify it more and more, and not only save him from pain but do honor to his sagacity. While, on the other hand, he who contrary to reality stiffens himself in the notion that certain things absolutely should be, and rejects the truth that at bottom it makes no difference what is, will find himself evermore thwarted and perplexed and bemuddled by the facts of the world, and his tragic disappointment will, as experience accumulates, seem to drift farther and farther away from that final atonement or reconciliation which certain partial tragedies often get.”

—  William James (1842-1910)

 

“The whole function of philosophy ought to be to find out what definite difference it will make to you and me, at definite instants of our life, if this world-formula or that world-formula be the true one.”

—  William James (1842-1910)

 

“The hell to be endured hereafter, of which theology tells, is no worse than the hell we make for ourselves in this world by habitually fashioning our characters in the wrong way. Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state.”

—  William James (1842-1910)

 

“It is one of the tritest of truisms that human intelligences of a simple order are very literal. They are slaves of habit, doing what they have been taught without variation…taking the world for granted; and possessing in their faithfulness and honesty the single gift by which they are sometimes able to warm us into admiration. But even this faithfulness seems to have a sort of inorganic ring, and to remind us more of the immutable properties of a piece of inanimate matter than of the steadfastness of a human will capable of alternative choice. But turn to the highest order of minds, and what a change! Instead of thoughts of concrete things patiently following one another in a beaten track of habitual suggestion, we have the most abrupt cross-cuts and transitions from one idea to another, the most rarefied abstractions and discriminations…where partnerships can be joined or loosened in an instant, treadmill routine is unknown, and the unexpected seems the only law.”

 —  William James (1842-1910)

 

“We have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise anyone who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life. If he does not join the general scramble and pant with the money-making street, we deem him spiritless and lacking in ambition.”

 —  William James (1842-1910)

 

 

“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”

 —  Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

 

“At bottom, every human being knows very well that he is in this world just once, as something unique, and that no accident, however strange, will throw together a second time into a unity such a curious and diffuse plurality: he knows it, but hides it like a bad conscience.”

—  Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

 

“I know of no better life purpose than to perish in attempting the great and the impossible.”

—  Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

 

“Today as always, men fall into two groups: slaves and free men. Whoever does not have two thirds of his day for himself, is a slave, whatever he may be: a statesman, a businessman, an official, or a scholar.”

 —  Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

 

“It may be conjectured that the decisive event for a spirit in whom…is one day to ripen to sweet perfection has been a great separation, and that before it he was probably all the more a bound spirit, and seemed to be chained forever to his corner…For such bound people the great separation comes suddenly…an urge, a pressure governs it, mastering the soul like a command: the will and wish awaken to go away, anywhere, at any cost: a violent, dangerous curiosity for an undiscovered world flames up and flickers in all the senses…a rebellious, despotic, volcanically jolting desire to roam abroad…He wanders about savagely with an unsatisfied lust…There is some arbitrariness and pleasure in arbitrariness to it…Behind his ranging activity stands the question mark of an ever more dangerous curiosity…always further onward, always further away.”

 —  Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

 

“Not one of these nobly equipped young men has escaped the restless, exhausting, confusing, debilitating crisis of education…He feels that he cannot guide himself, cannot help himself — and then he dives hopelessly into the world of everyday life and daily routine, he is immersed in the most trivial activity possible, and his limbs grow weak and weary.”

 —  Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

 

“Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions — they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins.”

 —  Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

 

“There are many kinds of eyes. Even the sphinx has eyes — and consequently there are many kinds of ‘truths,’ and consequently there is no truth.”

 —  Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

 

 

“It is not necessary for a man to be actively bad in order to make a failure in life; simple inaction will accomplish it. Nature has everywhere written her protest against idleness; everything which ceases to struggle, which remains inactive, rapidly deteriorates. It is the struggle toward an ideal, the constant effort to get higher and further, which develops manhood and character.”

 —  James Terry White (1845-1920)

 

 

“Philosophic research is possible only to those who are convinced that the norm of the universal imperative is supreme above individual activities, and that such a norm is discoverable.”

 —  Wilhelm Windelband (1848-1915)

 

 

“Genius is often only the power of making continuous efforts…There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose.”

 —  Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915)

 

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”

 —  Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915)

 

 

“A failure makes one inventive, creates a free flow of associations, brings idea after idea, whereas once success is there a certain narrow-mindedness or thick-headedness sets in so that one always keeps coming back to what has already been established but can make no new combinations.”

 —  Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

 

“No other technique for the conduct of life attaches the individual so firmly to reality as laying emphasis on work; for his work at least gives him a secure place in a portion of reality, in the human community…Professional activity is a source of special satisfaction if it is a freely chosen one…yet, as a path to happiness, work is not highly prized by men. They do not strive after it as they do after other possibilities of satisfaction. The great majority of people only work under the stress of necessity, and this natural human aversion to work raises most difficult social problems.”

—  Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

 

“He does not believe that does not live according to his belief.”

—  Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

 

 

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

 —  George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

 

“What is all human conduct but the daily and hourly sale of our souls for trifles?”

 —  George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

 

 

“A soft, easy life is not worth living, if it impairs the fibre of brain and heart and muscle. We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage…We are face to face with our destiny and we must meet it with a high and resolute courage. For us is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out.”

 —  Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)

 

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

 —  Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)

 

“To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.”

 —  Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)

 

 

“Wherever a process of life communicates an eagerness to him who lives it, there the life becomes genuinely significant…Wherever it is found, there is the zest, the tingle, the excitement, of reality; and there is an ‘importance’ in the only real and positive sense in which importance ever anywhere can be.”

 —  Henri Bergson (1859-1941)

 

 

“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain, is floating in mid-air, until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.”

—  Jane Addams (1860-1935)

 

“These young people accomplish little toward the solution of this social problem, and bear the brunt of being cultivated into unnourished, oversensitive lives. They have been shut off from the common labor by which they live which is a great source of moral and physical health. They feel a fatal want of harmony between their theory and their lives, a lack of coordination between thought and action.”

—  Jane Addams (1860-1935)

 

 

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labour and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

 —  L.P. Jacks (1860-1955)

 

 

“Many people are busy trying to find better ways of doing things that should not have to be done at all. There is no progress in merely finding a better way to do a useless thing.”

—  Henry Ford (1863-1947)

 

“Youth should not be slandered. Boy nature and girl nature are less repressed and therefore more wholesome today than before. If they at times seem unimpressed by their elders, it is probably because we make a matter of authority what should be a matter of conference. These young people are new people sent to this scene by destiny to take our places. They come with new visions to fulfill, new powers to exploit.”

—  Henry Ford (1863-1947)

 

 

“He who, from sheer lack of purpose, drifts through life, letting the golden years of his highest hopes glide empty back into the perspective of his past while he fills his ears with the lorelei song of procrastination is working overtime in accumulating remorse to darken his future. He is idly permitting the crown of his individuality to remain an irritating symbol of what might be rather than a joyous emblem of what is.”

—  William George Jordan (1864-1928)

 

“Man, today, heart-weary with the sorrow, sin and failure of his past life, feels that he could live a better life if he could only have another chance, if he could only live life over again, if he could only start afresh with his present knowledge and experience…Helpless, he stands between the two ends of life, yet thirsting for the chance to live a new life, according to his bettered condition for living it. In his blindness and unknowing, he does not realize, like the storm driven sailors, that the new life is all around him; he has but to reach out and take it. Every day is a new life, every sunrise but a new birth for himself and the world, every morning the beginning of a new existence for him, a new, great chance to put to new and higher uses the results of his past living.”

—  William George Jordan (1864-1928)

 

“At each moment of man’s life he is either a King or a slave. As he surrenders to a wrong appetite, to any human weakness; as he falls prostrate in hopeless subjection to any condition, to any environment, to any failure, he is a slave. As he day by day crushes out human weakness, masters opposing elements within him, and day by day re-creates a new self from the sin and folly of his past — then he is a King. He is a King ruling with wisdom over himself.”

—  William George Jordan (1864-1928)

 

“Every realized ideal gives birth to new ideals, every step in advance reveals large domains of the unattained; every feeding stimulates new appetites — then the desires and possessions are no longer identical, no longer equal; new cravings call forth new activities, the equipoise is destroyed, and dissatisfaction reenters…Content makes the world more comfortable for the individual, but it is the death-knell of progress. Man should be content with each step of progress merely as a station, discontented with it as a destination; contented with it as a step; discontented with it as a finality. There are times when a man should be content with what he has, but never with what he is.”

—  William George Jordan (1864-1928)

 

“The way of the reformer is hard, very hard. The world knows little of it, for it is rare that the reformer reveals the scars of conflict, the pangs of hope deferred, the mighty waves of despair that wash over a great purpose…Men of great purpose and noble ideals must know that the path of the reformer is loneliness. They must live from within rather than in dependence on sources of help from without. Their mission, their exalted aim, their supreme object in living, which focuses all their energy, must be their source of strength and inspiration. The reformer must ever light the torch of his own inspiration. His own hand must ever guard the sacred flame as he moves steadily forward on his lonely way.”

—  William George Jordan (1864-1928)

 

“We do not need to judge nearly so much as we think we do…We know nothing of the trials, sorrows and temptations of those around us, of pillows wet with sobs, of the life tragedy that may be hidden behind a smile, of the secret cares, struggles and worries that shorten life and leave their mark in hair prematurely whitened, and in character changed and almost re-created in a few days.”

—  William George Jordan (1864-1928)

 

“There is none so obscure that he cannot make the lives of those around him marvelously changed, brightened and inspired if he would merely progressively live up to his expanding possibilities in the way of kindness, thoughtfulness, cheer, goodwill, influence and optimism.”

—  William George Jordan (1864-1928)

 

“The educational system of today is a monumental institution dedicated to hurry. The children are forced to go through a series of studies that sweep the circle of all human wisdom. They are given everything that the ambitious ignorance of the age can force into their minds; they are taught everything but the essentials — how to use their senses and how to think. Their minds become congested by a great mass of undigested facts, and still the cruel, barbarous forcing goes on…they hurry the children into a hundred textbooks, then into ill health, then into the colleges, then into a diploma, then into life with a dazed mind, untrained and unfitted for the real duties of living.”

—  William George Jordan (1864-1928)

 

 

“Men respond only faintly to the horrors that take place around them, except at moments, when the savage, crying incongruity and ghastliness of our condition suddenly reveals itself vivid before our eyes, and we are forced to know what we are.”

—  Lev Shestov (1866-1938)

 

“Everything is being unriddled and explained. If we compare our knowledge with that of the ancients, we appear very wise. But we are no nearer to solving the riddle of eternal justice than Cain was. Progress, civilisation, all the conquests of the human mind have brought us nothing new here. Like our ancestors, we stand still with fright and perplexity before ugliness, disease, misery, senility, death…The modern educated man, with the wisdom of all the centuries of mankind at his command, knows no more about it than the old singer who solved universal problems at his own risk. We, the children of a moribund civilisation, we, old men from our birth, in this respect are as young as the first man.”

—  Lev Shestov (1866-1938)

 

“Unfortunately for us the illusion has been established in us that plan and purpose are the best guarantee of success. What a delusion it is! The opposite is true. The best of all that genius has revealed to us has been revealed as the result of fantastic, erratic, apparently ridiculous and useless, but relentlessly stubborn seeking.”

—  Lev Shestov (1866-1938)

 

“The more alluring an end we have in view, the more risks and horrors we must undertake to get there. May we not also make a contrary suggestion: that behind every danger something good is hidden, and that therefore danger serves as an indication, a mark to guide us onwards, not as a warning, as we are taught to believe. To decide this would be to decide that behind death, the greatest of dangers must lie the most promising things.”

—  Lev Shestov (1866-1938)

 

 

“We bring up our children in a mist of vague intimations, in a confusion of warring voices, perplexed as to what they must do, uncertain as to what they may do, doomed to lives of compromise and fluctuating and inoperative opinion.”

 —  H.G. Wells (1866-1946)

 

 

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

 —  André Gide (1869-1951)

 

 

“The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of eternal youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is.”

 —  Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

 

 

“Aware, nor of good nor ill, what aim has act?
Without its climax, death, what savour has
Life? an impeccable machine, exact
He paces an inane and pointless path
To glut brute appetites, his sole content
How tedious were he fit to comprehend
Himself! More, this our noble element
Of fire in nature, love in spirit, unkenned
Life has no spring, no axle, and no end.”

 —  Aleister Crowley (1875-1947)

 

 

“The modern man does not want to know in what way he can imitate Christ, but in what way he can live his own individual life, however meager and uninteresting it may be. It is because every form of imitation seems to him deadening and sterile that he rebels against the form of tradition that would hold him in well trodden ways. All such roads, for him, lead in the wrong direction…However wretched this state may be, it also stands him in good stead, for in this way alone can he get to know himself and learn what an invaluable treasure is the love of his fellow beings. It is, moreover, only in the state of complete abandonment and loneliness that we experience the helpful powers of our own nature.”

 —  Carl Jung (1875-1961)

 

“Only the man who is modern in our meaning of the term really lives in the present…He has estranged himself from the mass of men who live entirely within the bounds of tradition. Indeed, he is completely modern only when he has come to the very edge of the world, leaving behind him all that has been discarded and outgrown, and acknowledging that he stands before a void out of which all things may grow.”

 —  Carl Jung (1875-1961)

 

“What will he do when he sees only too clearly why his patient is ill; when he sees that it arises from his having no love, but only sexuality; no faith, because he is afraid to grope in the dark; no hope, because he is disillusioned by the world and by life; and no understanding, because he has failed to read the meaning of his own existence?…How is the patient, before he has come to experience, to obtain that which only experience can give him?”

—  Carl Jung (1875-1961)

 

“Perhaps it is just this that is so unendurable, that there are irrational things in our own psyche which upset the conscious mind in its illusory certainties by confronting it with the riddle of its existence.”

—  Carl Jung (1875-1961)

 

“The serious problems in life, however, are never fully solved. If ever they should appear to be so it is a sure sign that something has been lost. The meaning and purpose of a problem seem to lie not in its solution but in our working at it incessantly. This alone preserves us from stultification and petrifaction.”

—  Carl Jung (1875-1961)

 

“Knowledge…should not be dead material that has been memorized; it must possess a living quality, and be infused with the experience of the person who uses it. Of what use is philosophical knowledge in the head, if one is not also a philosopher at heart?”

—  Carl Jung (1875-1961)

 

“Is there anything approaching a reliable criterion for the correctness of an interpretation? The question, happily, can be answered in the affirmative…Just as the reward for a correct interpretation is an uprush of life, so an incorrect one dooms them to deadlock, resistance, doubt, and mutual desiccation.”

—  Carl Jung (1875-1961)

 

 

“We exist for our fellow men — in the first place for those on whose smiles and welfare all our happiness depends, and next for all those unknown to us personally with whose destinies we are bound up by the tie of sympathy…I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.”

—  Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

 

“The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle.”

—  Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

 

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day.”

—  Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

 

 

“We have come to believe, or at least it costs us great pains not to believe, that the name is a particular reality, which to confuse with another name is a crime. Whereas in truth the energies of the human soul are not divided from each other by any such impassable barriers: they flow into each other indistinguishably, modify, control, support, and decide each other. In their large unity they are real; isolated, they seem to be poised uneasily between the real and the unreal, and become deceptive, barren half truths.”

—  John Middleton Murry (1889-1957)

 

 

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far…some day the piercing together of disassociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

  —  H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)

 

 

“Of course, our failures are a consequence of many factors, but possibly one of the most important is the fact that society operates on the theory that specialization is the key to success, not realizing that specialization precludes comprehensive thinking.”

—  Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)

 

“The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

 —  Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)

 

“Corporations are neither physical nor metaphysical phenomena. They are socioeconomic ploys — legally enacted game-playing — agreed upon only between overwhelmingly powerful socioeconomic individuals and by them imposed upon human society and its all unwitting members.”

—  Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)

 

“It is now highly feasible to take care of everybody on Earth at a ‘higher standard of living than any have ever known’. It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary and henceforth unrationalizable as mandated by survival.”

—  Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)

 

 

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”

 —  Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)

 

 

“Man is a creature of dream who has created an invisible world of ideas, beliefs, habits and customs which buttress him about and replace for him the precise instincts of lower creatures.”

 —  Loren Eiseley (1907-1977)

 

 

“In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.”

 —  Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988)

 

 

“Is one to die voluntarily or to hope in spite of everything?”

 —  Albert Camus (1913-1960)

 

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”

 —  Albert Camus (1913-1960)

 

“It happens that the stage-sets collapse. Rising, streetcar, four hours in the office or the factory, meal, streetcar, four hours of work, meal, sleep, and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday according to the same rhythm — this path is easily followed most of the time. But one day the ‘why’ arises and everything begins in that weariness tinged with amazement.”

 —  Albert Camus (1913-1960)

 

“The workman of today works every day in his life at the same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious.”

 —  Albert Camus (1913-1960)

 

“There always comes a time when one must choose between contemplation and action. This is called becoming a man…One must live with time and die with it or else elude it for a greater life.”

 —  Albert Camus (1913-1960)

 

“Practically I know men and recognize them by their behavior, by the totality of their deeds, by the consequences caused in life by their presence.”

—  Albert Camus (1913-1960)

 

“For the mistake is thinking that the quantity of experiences depends on the circumstances of our life when it depends solely on us…Being aware of one’s life, one’s revolt, one’s freedom, and to the maximum, is living, and to the maximum.”

—  Albert Camus (1913-1960)

 

 

“A philosopher, which is what I am supposed to be, is a sort of intellectual yokel who gapes and stares at what sensible people take for granted, a person who cannot get rid of the feeling that the barest facts of life are unbelievably odd. As Aristotle put it, the beginning of philosophy is wonder. I am simply amazed to find myself living on a ball of rock that swings around an immense spherical fire.”

 —  Alan Watts (1915-1973)

 

“The outward appearance does not seem to make sense. If living is to end in pain, incompleteness, and nothingness, it seems a cruel and futile experience for beings who are born to reason, hope, create, and love. Man, as a being of sense, wants his life to make sense, and he has found it hard to believe that it does so unless there is more to it than what he sees — unless there is an eternal order and an eternal life behind the uncertain and momentary experience of life and death.”

 —  Alan Watts (1915-1973)

 

“Most of us are willing to put up with lives that consist largely in doing jobs that are a bore, earning the means to seek relief from the tedium by intervals of hectic and expensive pleasure…This is no caricature. It is the simple reality of millions of lives, so commonplace that we need hardly dwell upon the details, save to note the anxiety and frustration of those who put up with it, not knowing what else to do.”

 —  Alan Watts (1915-1973)

 

“There is…no possibility of making up our minds as long as they are split in two, so long as ‘I’ am one thing and ‘experience’ another. If the mind is the directive force behind action, the mind and its vision of life must be healed before action can be anything but conflict.”

 —  Alan Watts (1915-1973)

 

“Beneath such outward appearances, there is a clear change of values: rich experiences are more to be desired than property and bank accounts, and plans for the future are of use only to those who can fully live in the present.”

—  Alan Watts (1915-1973)

 

 

“Anything that is theoretically possible will be achieved in practice, no matter what the theoretical difficulties are, if it is desired greatly enough.”

 —  Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)

 

“Mere extension of the life span, and even improved health and efficiency, are not important in themselves. We all know people who have done more in forty years than others have done in eighty. What is really significant is richness and diversity of experience, and the use to which that is put by men and the societies they constitute.”

—  Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)

 

 

“Do not pursue what is illusory — property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night. Live with a steady superiority over life — don’t be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness; it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn’t last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing.”

—  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)

 

“If Humanism were right in declaring that man is born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it.”

—  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)

 

“Divergent scales of values scream in discordance, they dazzle and daze us, and in order that it might not be painful we steer clear of all other values, as though from insanity, as though from illusion, and we confidently judge the whole world according to our own home values. Which is why we take for the greater, more painful and less bearable disaster not that which is in fact greater, more painful and less bearable, but that which lies closest to us…But who will co-ordinate these value scales, and how? Who will create for mankind one system of interpretation, valid for good and evil deeds, for the unbearable and the bearable, as they are differentiated today?…Who might succeed in transferring such an understanding beyond the limits of his own human experience? Who might succeed in impressing upon a bigoted, stubborn human creature the distant joy and grief of others, an understanding of dimensions and deceptions which he himself has never experienced?”

—  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)

 

“There is nothing that so aids and assists the awakening of omniscience within us as insistent thoughts about one’s own transgressions, errors, mistakes.”

—  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)

 

 

“If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”

—  Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

 

“An individual has not started living fully until they can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity. Every person must decide at some point, whether they will walk in light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment: Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”

—  Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

 

“One of the ways to rise above this self-centeredness is to move away from self and objectify yourself in something outside of yourself. Find some great cause and some great purpose, some loyalty to which you can give yourself and become so absorbed in that something that you give your life to it.”

—  Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

 

“There is the danger that you will misuse your Capitalism. I still contend that money can be the root of all evil. It can cause one to live a life of gross materialism. I am afraid that many among you are more concerned about making a living than making a life. You are prone to judge the success of your profession by the index of your salary and the size of the wheel base on your automobile, rather than the quality of your service to humanity.”

—  Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

 

 

“When a well packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.”

—  Donald James (1931-2008)

 

 

“Now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.”

—  Umberto Eco (1932-2016)

 

 

“Most people are not really free. They are confined by the niche in the world that they carve out for themselves. They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision.”

 —  Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul (1932)

 

 

“The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.”

 —  Steven Weinberg (1933)

 

 

“Go without a coat when it’s cold; find out what cold is. Go hungry; keep your existence lean. Wear away the fat, get down to the lean tissue and see what it’s all about. The only time you define your character is when you go without.”

 —  Henry Rollins (1961)

 

 

“Eventually, I sickened of people, myself included, who didn’t think enough of themselves to make something of themselves – people who did only what they had to and never what they could have done. I learned from them the infected loneliness that comes from the end of each misspent day. I knew I could do better.”

 —  Mark Twight (1961)

 

 

“Money is a poor compensation for all the time we lose making it.”

—  James Geary (1962)

 

 

“There is no more effective way of operating in the world than to conceptualize the highest good that you can and then strive to attain it.”

—  Jordan Peterson (1962)

 

 


Feel free to leave your favourite quotations in the comments below and they’ll be added to the list

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