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."
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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.
Investment must be rational. If you can’t understand it, don’t do it.
Be without fear. This is impossible, but let the small fears drive your rewriting and set aside the large ones until they behave — then use them, maybe even write them. Too much fear and all you’ll get is silence.
In “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction,” The Guardian (20 Feb 2010)
I may be arrested, I may be tried and thrown into jail, but I never will be silent.
Never fish for praise; it is not worth the bait.
The Dignity of Human Nature, Sec. 5 “Miscellaneous Thoughts on Prudence in Conversation” (1754)
Then he smiled, like a cat who had just been entrusted with the keys to a home for wayward but plump canaries.
An American Government cannot permit Americans to starve.
Speech, San Diego Exposition (2 Oct 1935)
Saints can be pure but statesmen must be responsible. As trustees for others, they must defend interests and compromise principles. In politics, practical and prudential judgment must have priority over moral verdicts.
Bolsheviks are sincere. Fascists are sincere. Lunatics are sincere. People who believe the Earth is flat are sincere. They can’t all be right. Better make certain first you’ve got something to be sincere about, and with.
Daily Express (1937)
Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics — a non-ideological ethics — would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs.”
Evangelii Gaudium, sec. 57 (24 Nov 2013)
Quoting St. John Chrysostom, De Lazaro Concio, II, 6
“Fast and stupid is still stupid. It just gets to stupid a lot quicker than humans could on their own. Which, I admit, is an accomplishment,” she added, “because we’re pretty damn good at stupid.”
We seem to have forgotten that the expression “a liberal education” originally meant among the Romans one worthy of free men; while the learning of trades and professions by which to get your livelihood merely, was considered worthy of slaves only.
“The Last Days of John Brown” (1860)
Also known as "A Plea for Captain John Brown".
Those who will not reason
Perish in the act:
Those who will not act
Perish for that reason.
There’s more magic in a baby’s first giggle than in any firestorm a wizard can conjure up, and don’t let anyone tell you any different.
Always appoint an hour at which you’ll see a man, and if he’s late a minute don’t bother with him. A fellow who can be late when his own interests are at stake is pretty sure to be when yours are.
In giving advice, seek to help, not please, your friend.
There is no calamity that right words will not begin to redress.
A miser grows rich by seeming poor; an extravagant man grows poor by seeming rich.
“Of Men and Manners,” sec. 86, Men and Manners (1804)
That is the question of the New Frontier. That is the choice our nation must make — a choice that lies not merely between two men or two parties, but between the public interest and private comfort — between national greatness and national decline — between the fresh air of progress and the stale, dank atmosphere of “normalcy” — between determined dedication and creeping mediocrity. All mankind waits upon our decision. A whole world looks to see what we will do. We cannot fail their trust, we cannot fail to try.
The human frame being what it is, heart, body and brain all mixed together, and not contained in separate compartments as they will be no doubt in another million years, a good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
Nothing is worse than active ignorance.
[Es ist nichts schrecklicher als eine tätige Unwissenheit.]
In stating prudential rules for our government in society, I must not omit the important one of never entering into dispute or argument with another. I never saw an instance of one or two disputants convincing the other by argument. I have seen many, on their getting warm, becoming rude, and shooting one another. Conviction is the effect of our own dispassionate reasoning, either in solitude, or weighing within ourselves, dispassionately, what we hear from others, standing uncommitted in argument ourselves.
I am driven to express my faith by a series of skepticisms.
The weirder you are going to behave, the more normal you should look. It works in reverse, too. When I see a kid with three or four rings in his nose, I know there is absolutely nothing extraordinary about that person.
Such is the state of life, that none are happy but by the anticipation of change: the change itself is nothing; when we have made it, the next wish is to change again. The world is not yet exhausted; let me see something tomorrow which I never saw before.