The following is a collection of thought-provoking quotes.
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In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.
Eric Hoffer (1902-83), U.S. philosopher. Reflections on the Human Condition, aph. 32 (1973).
There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things and because it takes a man’s life to know them, the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), U.S. author. Death in the Afternoon, ch. 16 (1932). This passage was used as the epigraph in A. E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway (1955).
Ends and Means
Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem— in my opinion— to characterize our age.
Albert Einstein (1879–1955), German-born U.S. theoretical physicist. Out of My Later Years, ch. 14 (1950).
The human mind is inspired enough when it comes to inventing horrors; it is when it tries to invent a Heaven that it shows itself cloddish.
Evelyn Waugh (1903-66), British novelist. Ambrose, in Put Out More Flags, ch. 1, sct. 7 (1942).
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
When the body sinks into death, the essence of man is revealed. Man is a knot, a web, a mesh into which relationships are tied. Only those relationships matter. The body is an old crock that nobody will miss. I have never known a man to think of himself when dying. Never.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944), French aviator, author. Flight to Arras, ch. 19 (1942).
There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.
Arnold Bennett (1867-1931), British novelist. The Journals of Arnold Bennett (1932), entry for 18 March 1897.
For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
Hebrew Bible. Ecclesiastes 1:18.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Burden of Consciousness
His was a great sin who first invented consciousness. Let us lose it for a few hours.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940), U.S. author. John, in The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, ch. 11 (1922), uttered before falling asleep.
George Bernard Shaw
Death and Humor
Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.
George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), Anglo-Irish playwright, critic. Ridgeon, in The Doctor’s Dilemma, act 5.
A faith is something you die for, a doctrine is something you kill for. There is all the difference in the world.
Tony Benn (b. 1925), British Labour politician. Television broadcast, 11 April 1989, BBC-TV.
I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect.
Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986), Indian mystic. Speech, 3 Aug. 1929, Holland. Quoted in: Lilly Heber, Krishnamurti, ch. 2 (1931).
As I get older I seem to believe less and less and yet to believe what I do believe more and more.
David Jenkins (b. 1925), British ecclesiastic, Bishop of Durham. Quoted in: Daily Telegraph (London, 2 Nov. 1988).
Pearl S. Buck
Euthanasia is a long, smooth-sounding word, and it conceals its danger as long, smooth words do, but the danger is there, nevertheless.
Pearl S. Buck (1892–1973), U.S. author. The Child Who Never Grew, ch. 2 (1950).
Sir William Osler
The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism.
Sir William Osler (1849–1919), Canadian physician. Montreal Medical Journal (Sept. 1902).
François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld
We pardon to the extent that we love.
François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613–80), French writer, moralist. Sentences et Maximes Morales, no. 330 (1678).
Forgive! How many will say, "forgive," and
Lord Tennyson (1809–92), English poet. Sea Dreams.
C. S. Lewis
Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable
C. S. Lewis (1898–1963), British author. A Grief Observed, pt. 4 (1961).
Miguel de Unamuno
The only way to give finality to the world is to give it consciousness.
Miguel de Unamuno (1864–1936), Spanish philosophical writer. The Tragic Sense of Life, ch. 7 (1670).
Death and Life
In the attempt to defeat death man has been inevitably obliged to defeat life, for the two are inextricably related. Life moves on to death, and to deny one is to deny the other.
Henry Miller (1891-1980), U.S. author. The Wisdom of the Heart, "Creative Death" (1947).
Humane & Scientific Death
Ignore death up to the last moment; then, when it can’t be ignored any longer, have yourself squirted full of morphia and shuffle off in a coma. Thoroughly sensible, humane and scientific, eh?
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), British author. Bruno Rontini, in Time Must Have a Stop, ch. 26 (1944). But in his 1936 novel Eyeless in Gaza, ch. 31, Huxley wrote, "Death . . . the only thing we haven’t succeeded in completely vulgarizing."
Rumors Of Mortality
A belief in hell and the knowledge that every ambition is doomed to frustration at the hands of a skeleton have never prevented the majority of human beings from behaving as though death were no more than an unfounded rumour.
Aldous Huxley (1894–1963), British author. Themes and Variations, "Variations on a Baroque Tomb" (1950).
Sylvia Plath (1932-63), U.S. poet. Lady Lazarus.
Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it. . . . It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.
Erica Jong (b. 1942), U.S. author. Hans, in How to Save Your Own Life, "Intuition, extuition . . ." (1977).
C. S. Lewis
The Reality Of Illusion
It is hard to have patience with people who say "There is no death" or "Death doesn’t matter." There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn’t matter.
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), British author. A Grief Observed, pt. 1 (1961).
George Bernard Shaw
Nothing is worth doing unless the consequences may be serious.
George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), Anglo-Irish playwright, critic. Hypatia, in Misalliance.
Our Perceptions Of "Spirituality"
We praise Him, we bless Him, we adore Him, we glorify Him, and we wonder who is that baritone across the aisle and that pretty woman on our right who smells of apple blossoms. Our bowels stir and our cod itches and we amend our prayers for the spiritual life with the hope that it will not be too spiritual.
John Cheever (1912–82), U.S. author. John Cheever: The Journals, "The Late Forties and the Fifties" (ed. by Robert Gottlieb, 1991), entry for 1956.
All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.
Henry Miller (1891–1980), U.S. author. The Wisdom of the Heart, "The Absolute Collective" (1947).
Martin Luther King
There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–68), U.S. clergyman, civil rights leader. "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (published in Why We Can’t Wait, 1963).
Life and Death
Let us beware of saying that death is the opposite of life. The living being is only a species of the dead, and a very rare species.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), German philosopher. The Gay Science, aph. 109 (rev. ed., 1887).
We have all had the experience of finding that our reactions and perhaps even our deeds have denied beliefs we thought were ours.
James Baldwin (1924–87), U.S. author. “The Crusade of Indignation,” in Nation (New York, 7 July 1956; repr. in The Price of the Ticket, 1985).
Closest to the truth are those who deal lightly with it because they know it is inexhaustible.
Golo Mann (b. 1909), German historian, son of Thomas Mann. Quoted in: Marcel Reich-Ranicki, Thomas Mann and His Family, “Golo Mann: The Liberation of an Unloved One” (1987; tr. 1989), of satirist Heinrich Heine.
I’m plotting revolution against this lie that the majority has a monopoly of the truth. What are these truths that always bring the majority rallying round? Truths so elderly they are practically senile. And when a truth is as old as that, gentlemen, you can hardly tell it from a lie.
Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906), Norwegian dramatist. Dr. Stockmann, in An Enemy of the People, act 4.
There are truths which one can only say after having won the right to say them.
Jean Cocteau (1889–1963), French author, filmmaker. Le Rappel à l’Ordre, “Le Coq et l’Arlequin” (1926; repr. in Collected Works, vol. 9, 1950).
A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Alexander Pope (1688–1744), English satirical poet. An Essay on Criticism. Pieria was the fabled birthplace of the muses.
Life and Living
Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.
Samuel Butler (1835–1902), English author. Notebooks, ch. 1 (1912).
Charles Horton Cooley
Each man must have his “I”; it is more necessary to him than bread; and if he does not find scope for it within the existing institutions he will be likely to make trouble.
Charles Horton Cooley (1864–1929), U.S. sociologist. Human Nature and the Social Order, ch. 6 (1902).
The greatest enemy of individual freedom is the individual himself.
Saul Alinsky (1909–72), U.S. radical activist. Rules for Radicals, Prologue (1971).
A large part of the popularity and persuasiveness of psychology comes from its being a sublimated spiritualism: a secular, ostensibly scientific way of affirming the primacy of “spirit” over matter.
Susan Sontag (b. 1933), U.S. essayist. Illness As Metaphor, ch. 7 (1978).
Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
It is not God that is worshipped but the group or authority that claims to speak in His name. Sin becomes disobedience to authority not violation of integrity.
Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888–1975), Indian philosopher, statesman. Quoted in: J. A. C. Brown, Techniques of Persuasion, ch. 11 (1965), speaking of organized religion.
Michel de Montaigne
Oh senseless man, who cannot possibly make a worm, and yet will make Gods by dozens.
Michel de Montaigne (1533–92), French essayist. Essays, bk. 2, ch. 12, “An Apology of Raimond Sebond” (tr. by John Florio, 1580).
Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.
Václav Havel (b. 1936), Czech playwright, president. Disturbing the Peace, ch. 5 (1986; tr. 1990).
O God, O God,
William Shakespeare (1564–1616), English dramatist, poet. Hamlet, in Hamlet, act 1, sc. 2 in his first soliloquy of the play, voicing his unhappiness at his mother’s marrying Claudius so soon after his father’s death.
Our lives teach us who we are.
Salman Rushdie (b. 1947), Indian-born British author. Independent on Sunday (London, 4 Feb. 1990).
Logan Pearsall Smith
I can’t forgive my friends for dying; I don’t find these vanishing acts of theirs at all amusing.
Logan Pearsall Smith (1865–1946), U.S. essayist, aphorist. Afterthoughts, “Age and Death” (1931).
Yet nightly pitch my moving tent,
James Montgomery (1771–1854), English poet. At Home in Heaven.
We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.
Computer science sage Robert Wilensky
There is no wider gulf in the
Rebecca West (1892-1983),
Experience is not a matter of
The power to guess the unseen
Henry James (1843-1916), U.S.
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), British author. Grey Eminence, ch. 10 (1941).
Annihilation has no terrors for me, because I have already tried it before I was born— a hundred million years— and I have suffered more in an hour, in this life, than I remember to have suffered in the whole hundred million years put together. There was a peace, a serenity, an absence of all sense of responsibility, an absence of worry, an absence of care, grief, perplexity; and the presence of a deep content and unbroken satisfaction in that hundred million years of holiday which I look back upon with a tender longing and with a grateful desire to resume, when the opportunity comes.
Mark Twain (1835–1910), U.S. author. Autobiography, ch. 49 (ed. by Charles Neider, 1959). Twain dictated his memoirs in the last years of his life, after
Most of these quotes were obtained from: Microsoft Bookshelf 98- Book of Quotes, most of which were taken from the Columbia Dictionary of Quotations. Copyright © 1993, 1995 by Columbia University Press.
# 46 I must have gotten off the internet somewhere.
Attributed last words of a few famous people.
It is very beautiful over there.
God will pardon me, that's his line of work.
Let us cross over the river and sit in the shade of the
Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.
Go away. I'm all right.
These attributed Last Words were obtained from:
Beam Me Up