WIST is my personal collection of quotations. Please feel free to browse and borrow.
- 14382 quotes and counting ...
Topic Cloudaction age America argument author beauty belief change creation death deeds democracy destiny education ego evil faith fear freedom future God government history honesty humanity integrity law leadership liberty life love morality perspective politics power religion science silence success truth virtue war wealth wisdom writing
- I've only been adding topics/tags since 2014, so not all quotes have been given one. Full topic list.
SYDNEY: Even though a number of people have tried, no one has yet found a way to drink for a living.
The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! “Father, the atheists?” Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class. We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all. And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. “But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!” But do good: We will meet one another there.
Homily (22 May 2013)
Leaders I feel should guide as far as they can — and then vanish. Their ashes should not choke the fire they have lit.
Experiment in Autobiography, ch. 9, sec. 2 “The Samurai — In Utopia and in the Fabian Society (1905-1909)” (1934)
Variant: "Leaders should lead as far as they can and then vanish. Their ashes should not choke the fire they have lit."
Between grief and nothing I will take grief.
Human nature is at once sublime and horrible, holy and satanic. Apart from the accumulation of knowledge and experience, which are external and precarious acquisitions, there is no proof that we have changed much since the first stone age.
Let us not be afraid to help each other — let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and Senators and Congressmen and Government officials but the voters of this country.
Speech, Marietta, Ohio (8 Jul 1938)
It was involuntary. They sank my boat.
Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.
What you fear to believe, your children will believe.
Today’s so-called “conservatives” don’t even know what the word means. They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right. It’s not a conservative issue at all.
We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.”
Letter from Birmingham Jail (16 Apr 1963)
No man was ever more than about nine meals away from crime or suicide.
POLLY PEACHUM: The law is simply and solely made for the exploitation of those who do not understand it or of those who, for naked need, cannot obey it.
I have one word to say upon the subject of profound writers, who are grown very numerous of late; and I know very well the judicious world is resolved to list me in that number. I conceive therefore, as to the business of being profound, that it is with writers as with wells — a person with good eyes may see to the bottom of the deepest, provided any water be there: and often when there is nothing in the world at the bottom besides dryness and dirt, though it be but a yard and a-half under-ground, it shall pass, however, for wondrous deep upon no wiser reason than because it is wondrous dark.
Thou canst not prevent the birds from flying above they head, but thou canst prevent their building their nests in thy hair.
Letter to Hieronymous Weller (1530)
On temptation, attributed to "a wise oracle."
All rising to great place is by a winding stair.
Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem.
Sometimes I wonder whether if I’d been the one that went for coffee and not Leslie May my life would have been much less interesting and certainly much less dangerous. Could it have been anyone, or was it destiny? When I’m considering this I find it helpful to quote the wisdom of my father, who once told me, “Who knows why the fuck anything happens?”
Don’t wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel, stride down there … and light the bloody thing yourself.
There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.
In proportion to the development of his individuality, each person becomes more valuable to himself, and is, therefore, capable of being more valuable to others.
Why do men with little souls have to have big weapons?
The doctor asserted, “Sure religion is a fine influence — got to have it to keep the lower classes in order — fact, it’s the only thing that appeals to a lot of these fellows and makes ’em respect the rights of property. And I guess this theology is O.K.; lot of wise old coots figured it out, and they knew more about it than we do.” He believed in the Christian religion, and never thought about it; he believed in the church, and seldom went near it; he was shocked by Carol’s lack of faith, and wasn’t quite sure what was the nature of the faith that she lacked.
The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. “But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.” Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this “closing off” that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.
Homily (22 May 2013)
Things said or done long years ago,
Or things I did not do or say
But thought that I might say or do,
Weigh me down, and not a day
But something is recalled,
My conscience or my vanity appalled.
You learn to know a pilot in a storm.
Beneath the dingy uniformity of international fashions in dress, man remains what he has always been — a splendid fighting animal, a self-sacrificing hero, and a bloodthirsty savage.
Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.
The hero saves us. Praise the hero! Now, who will save us from the hero?
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Even at the movies, we laugh together, we weep alone.
If I want to stop a research program I can always do it by getting a few experts to sit in on the subject, because they know right away that it was a fool thing to try in the first place.
Life is a very bad novelist. It is chaotic and ludicrous.
You must remember that some things that are legally right are not morally right.
There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success. The fertile earth, the straight tree rows, the sturdy trunks, and the ripe fruit. And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange. And coroners must fill in the certificate — died of malnutrition — because the food must rot, must be forced to rot.
In the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.
The essence of leadership is to get others to do something because they think you want it done and because they know it is worth while doing — that is what we are talking about.
Pride, ill nature, and want of sense, are the three great sources of ill manners.
Ya got trouble, folks!
Right here in River City.
Trouble with a capital “T”
And that rhymes with “P”
And that stands for pool!
Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.
There isn’t a way things should be. There’s just what happens, and what we do.
No matter how unpredictable the future may be, we don’t win freedom through security systems, cryptography, interrogations and spot searches. We win freedom by having the courage and the conviction to live every day freely and to act as a free society, no matter how great the threats are on the horizon.
If crisis management requires cold and even brutal measures to show determination, it also imposes the need to show the opponent a way out. Grandstanding is good for the ego but bad for foreign policy. […] Many wars have started because no line of retreat was left open.
Years of Upheaval, ch. 12 (1982)
Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called and whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men.
Unless you intend to kill him immediately thereafter, never kick a man in the balls. Not even symbolically. Or perhaps especially not symbolically.
In the manner of one who has just beheld a two-headed calf they repeated that they had “never heard such funny ideas!” They were staggered to learn that a real tangible person, living in Minnesota, and married to their own flesh-and-blood relation, could apparently believe that divorce may not always be immoral; that illegitimate children do not bear any special and guaranteed form of curse; that there are ethical authorities outside of the Hebrew Bible; that men have drunk wine yet not died in the gutter; that the capitalistic system of distribution and the Baptist wedding-ceremony were not known in the Garden of Eden; that mushrooms are as edible as corn-beef hash; that the word “dude” is no longer frequently used; that there are Ministers of the Gospel who accept evolution; that some persons of apparent intelligence and business ability do not always vote the Republican ticket straight; that it is not a universal custom to wear scratchy flannels next the skin in winter; that a violin is not inherently more immoral than a chapel organ; that some poets do not have long hair; and that Jews are not always pedlers or pants-makers.
“Where does she get all them the’ries?” marveled Uncle Whittier Small; while Aunt Bessie inquired, “Do you suppose there’s many folks got notions like hers? My! If there are,” and her tone settled the fact that there were not, “I just don’t know what the world’s coming to!”
Main Street, ch. 20 (1920)
SPOCK: Physical reality is consistent with universal laws. Where the laws do not operate, there is no reality.
You never can tell when you do an act
Just what the result will be;
But with every deed you are sowing a seed,
Though the harvest you may not see.
“You Never Can Tell,” Custer And Other Poems (1896)
Be the chief but never the lord.
Public services have, to use the economist’s word, a strong redistributional effect. And this effect is strongly in favor of those with lower incomes. Those who clamor the loudest for public economy are those for whom public services do the least. Tax reduction that curtails or limits public services has a double effect in comforting the comfortable and afflicting the poor.
“Wealth and Poverty,” Speech, National Policy Committee on Pockets of Poverty (13 Dec 1963)
See sourcing notes here.
The most important thing about me is that I am a Catholic. It’s a superstructure within which you can work, like a sonnet.