WIST is my personal and ever-growing collection of quotations. Please feel free to browse and borrow. More info and contact information is available under "About WIST."
Quotes13021 quotes and counting ...
Life without literature is a life reduced to penury. It expands you in every way. It illuminates what you’re doing. It shows you possibilities you haven’t thought of. It enables you to live the lives of other people than yourself. It broadens you, it makes you more human. It makes life enjoyable.
“Built to Last,” interview with Stephen Greenblatt, The New York Times: Sunday Book Review (23 Aug 2012)
Lower your voice and strengthen your argument.
The thorough skeptic is a dogmatist. He enjoys the delusion of complete futility.
All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told.
The misery of man proceeds not from any single crush of overwhelming evil, but from small vexations continually repeated.
Lives of the English Poets, “Pope” (1781)
The three of them were walking, with extreme care, along the bank of an underground river. The bank was slippery, a narrow path along dark rock and sharp masonry. Richard watched with respect as the gray water rushed and tumbled, within arm’s reach. This was not the kind of river you fell into and got out of again; it was the other kind.
Providence requires three things of us afore it will help us — a stout heart, a strong arm, and a stiff upper lip.
Sam Slick’s Wise Saws and Modern Instances, Vol. 1 ch. 13 “The House without Hope” (1853)
A sense of humor keen enough to show a man his own absurdities will keep him from the commission of all sins, or nearly all, save those that are worth committing.
The true crime, the collective, general crime of almost all Germans of that time was that of lacking the courage to speak.
There is no occasion to trample upon the meanest reptile, nor to sneak to the greatest prince. Insolence and baseness are equally unmanly.
The Dignity of Human Nature, Sec. 5 “Miscellaneous Thoughts on Prudence in Conversation” (1754)
Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 6, ch. 3, Antitheses #31 “Loquacity” (1605)
It is dangerous to be sincere unless you are also stupid.
In statesmanship get the formalities right, never mind about the moralities.
While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.
Evangelii Gaudium, sec. 56 (24 Nov 2013)
If your flirting strategy is indistinguishable from harassment, it’s not everyone else that’s the problem.
“Convention Harassment Policy Follow-Up,” blog entry (5 Jul 2013)
The life, the fortune, and the happiness of every one of us, and, more or less, of those who are connected with us, do depend upon our knowing something of the rules of a game infinitely more difficult and complicated than chess. It is a game which has been played for untold ages, every man and woman of us being one of the two players in a game of his or her own. The chessboard is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance. To the man who plays well, the highest stakes are paid, with that sort of overflowing generosity with which the strong shows delight in strength. And one who plays ill is checkmated — without haste, but without remorse.
“A Liberal Education and Where to Find It” (1868)
And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.
Have you ever been approached by a grim-looking man, carrying a naked sword with a blade about ten miles long in his hand, in the middle of the night, beneath the stars on the shores of Lake Michigan? If you have, seek professional help. If you have not, then believe you me, it can scare the bejeezus out of you.
You can’t do the biggest things in this world unless you handle men; and you can’t handle men if you’re not in sympathy with them; and sympathy begins in humility.
The drops of rain make a hole in the stone, not by violence, but by oft falling.
[Gutta cavat lapidem, non vi, sed saepe cadendo.]
- "The rain dints the hard stone, not by violence, but by oft-falling drops."
- "The drop of rain maketh a hole in the stone, not by violence, but by oft falling."
- "The drop hollows out the stone not by strength, but by constant falling."
- "The drop hollows the stone, not with force but by falling often."
- "Dripping water hollows out the stone not by force, but by continually falling."
Some famous usages include Lucretius, De rerum natura, Book 6, l. 312: "The ring on the finger is tapered by being worn, the dripping water hollows out the stone, the plow is subtly worn by the impact of the fields." [anulus in digito subter tenuatur habendo, stilicidi casus lapidem cavat, uncus aratri, ferreus occulte decrescit vomer in arvis]
Similarly Ovid, Ex Ponte, 4.10.5: "The drop hollows out the stone, the ring is worn by use, and the curved ploughshare is rubbed away by the pressure of the earth." [Gutta cavat lapidem, consumitur annulus usu, et teritur pressa vomer aduncus humo.]
Made famous in English by Hugh Latimer, "Seventh Sermon before Edward VI" (1549). Similarly, John Lyly, Euphues (1580): "The soft droppes of rain perce the hard marble; many strokes overthrow the tallest oaks."
The greatest achievement in my life in terms of morality is that I can apologize to someone I have wronged. I can bow my head and ask for forgiveness. I think everyone should learn to do this, everyone should realize that, far from humiliating, it elevates the soul.
Do what thy manhood bids thee do, from none but self expect applause;
He noblest lives and noblest dies who makes and keeps his self-made laws.
Conformity is the jailer of freedom, and the enemy of growth.
Speech, United Nations General Assembly (25 Sep 1961)
Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.
MORELLA: Greatness is never appreciated in youth, called pride in middle age, dismissed in old age, and reconsidered in death. Because we cannot tolerate greatness in our midst we do all we can to destroy it.
Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!
We must be skeptical even of our skepticism.
No one shows himself as he is, but wears his mask and plays his part. Indeed, the whole of our social arrangements may be likened to a perpetual comedy; and this is why a man who is worth anything finds society so insipid, while a blockhead is quite at home in it.
Men know that women are an over-match for them, and therefore they choose the weakest or most ignorant. If they did not think so, they never could be afraid of women knowing as much as themselves.
Being honest may not get you many friends, but it’ll always get you the right ones.
ABSURDITY, n.: A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one’s own opinion.
The day we see the truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die.
Value truth, however you come by it. Who would not pick up a jewel that lay on a dunghill?
The Dignity of Human Nature, Sec. 5 “Miscellaneous Thoughts on Prudence in Conversation” (1754)
“What,” asked Mr. Croup, “do you want?”
“What,” asked the marquis de Carabas, a little more rhetorically, “does anyone want?”
“Dead things,” suggested Mr. Vandemar. “Extra teeth.”
BEATRICE: He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man.
Honest statesmanship is the wise employment of individual meannesses for the public good.
Attributed in John G. Nicolay and John Hay, Abraham Lincoln: A History, vol. 10, ch. 18 "Lincoln's Fame" (1886).
Sincerity is the foundation of the spiritual life.
One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
Evangelii Gaudium, sec. 55 (24 Nov 2013)
Security is not a license for people in authority to hide tactics they would never openly admit to using.
What goals would you be setting for yourself if you knew you could not fail?
You Can Become the Person You Want To Be, ch. 2 (1973)
Earliest version of this aphorism. Often attributed (without citation) to Eleanor Roosevelt. See here for more information. Variants:
- "What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?"
- "If you knew you cold not fail, what would you try?"
- "What great things would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?"
It is when we all play safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity.
Speech, 180th Anniversary of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Williamsburg (15 May 1956)
“Holy shit,” I breathed. “Hellhounds.”
“Harry,” Michael said sternly. “You know I hate it when you swear.”
“You’re right. Sorry. Holy shit,” I breathed, “heckhounds.”
It’s been my experience that when an office begins to look like a family tree, you’ll find worms tucked away snug and cheerful in most of the apples.
Of the seven dwarves only Dopey had a shaven face. This should tell us something about the custom of shaving.
Added on 21-Jul-14 | Last updated 22-Jul-14
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A very desperate habit; one that is rarely cured. Apology is only egotism wrong side out. Nine times out of ten, the first thing a man’s companion knows of his short-comings is from his apology.
There are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else. I don’t care how great, how famous, or successful a man or woman may be, each hungers for applause.
Syndicated Column (1932)
That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe — a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.
Speech, Greater Houston Ministerial Association (12 Sep 1960)
“Be yourself!” is the worst advice you can give to some people.
Nothing gives one person so great advantage over another, as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.
Value of the Skeptic is the resistance to premature conclusions.
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean-favored and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good Morning!” and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich, yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine — we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet in his head.
Sorrow is a kind of rust of the soul, which every new idea contributes in its passage to scour away. It is the putrefaction of stagnant life, and is remedied by exercise and motion.