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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No man is lonely while eating spaghetti — it requires too much attention.
If I try to be like him, who will be like me?
There is no great invention, from fire to flying, which has not been hailed as an insult to some god.
“Daedalus, or Science and the Future,” speech, Cambridge (24 Feb 1923)
I began my talk by saying that I had not written my plays for purposes of discussion. At once, I felt a ripple of panic run through the hall. I suddenly realised why. To everyone present, discussion was the whole point of drama. That was why the faculty had been endowed — that was why all those buildings had been put up! I had undermined the entire reason for their existence.
There once was a time in history when the limitation of governmental power meant increasing liberty for the people. In the present day the limitation of governmental power, of governmental action, means the enslavement of the people by the great corporations who can only be held in check through the extension of governmental power.
Stupidity … is nature’s favorite resource for preserving steadiness of conduct and consistency of opinion.
Studies … give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded by experience.
Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people.
Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.
I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not mean to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all men were equal in color, size, intellect, moral development, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness in what they did consider all men created equal — equal in “certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This they said, and this they meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were then actually enjoying that equality, or yet that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be familiar to all, constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere.
The snow covers many a dunghill, so doth prosperity many a rotten heart.
An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex.
It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!”
If Afflictions refine some, they consume others.
Success in war, like charity in religion, covers a multitude of sins.
History of the War in the Peninsula, Vol. 5, Book 25, ch. 2 (1837)
Evil isn’t the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it’s a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference.
Often cited to the short story "Vignette" (also known as "Publicity and Advertising"), but not found there.
The prevalence of the corporation in America has led men of this generation to act, at times, as if the privilege of doing business in corporate form were inherent in the citizen; and has led them to accept the evils attendant upon the free and unrestricted use of the corporate mechanism as if these evils were the inescapable price of civilized life, and, hence to be borne with resignation.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Things cannot always go your way. Learn to accept in silence the minor aggravations, cultivate the gift of taciturnity and consume your own smoke with an extra draught of hard work, so that those about you may not be annoyed with the dust and soot of your complaints.
Only he who has seen better days and lives to see better days again knows their full value.
All do not develop in the same manner, or at the same pace. Nations, like men, often march to the beat of different drummers, and the precise solutions of the United States can neither be dictated nor transplanted to others. What is important is that all nations must march toward increasing freedom; toward justice for all; toward a society strong and flexible enough to meet the demands of all its own people, and a world of immense and dizzying change.
“Day of Affirmation,” address, University of Capetown, South Africa (6 Jun 1966)
Poor and free rather than rich and enslaved. Of course, men want to be both rich and free, and this is what leads them at times to be poor and enslaved.
[Pauvre et libre plutôt que riche et asservi. Bien entendu les hommes veulent être et riches et libres et c’est ce qui les conduit quelquefois à être pauvres et esclaves.]
The only way in which our people can increase their power over the big corporation that does wrong, the only way in which they can protect the working man in his conditions of work and life, the only way in which the people can prevent children working in industry or secure women an eight-hour day in industry, or secure compensation for men killed or crippled in industry, is by extending, instead of limiting, the powers of government.
Added on 13-Nov-14 | Last updated 13-Nov-14
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Beer makes you feel the way you ought to feel without beer.
God gave us teeth to hold back our tongue.
But, such is the perverse disposition of man, the most unruly of all animals, that this most useful institution has been generally debauched into an engine of oppression and tyranny over those, whom it was expressly and solely established to defend. And to such a degree has this evil prevailed, that in almost every age and country, the government has been the principal grievance of the people, as appears too dreadfully manifest, from the bloody and deformed pages of history. For what is general history, but a view of the abuses of power committed by those, who have got it into their hands, to the subjugation, and destruction of the human species, to the ruin of the general peace and happiness, and turning the Almighty’s fair and good world into a butchery of its inhabitants, for the gratification of the unbounded ambition of a few, who, in overthrowing the felicity of their fellow-creatures, have confounded their own?
Political Disquisitions, Book 1 “Of Government, briefly,” ch. 1 (1774)
Gentleness is everywhere in daily life, a sign that faith rules through ordinary things: through cooking and small talk, through storytelling, making love, fishing, tending animals and sweet corn and flowers, through sports, music and books, raising kids — all the places where the gravy soaks in and grace shines through.
One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
‘Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.
Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
‘Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.
If our nation had done nothing more in its whole history than to create just two documents, its contribution to civilization would be imperishable. The first of these documents is the Declaration of Independence and the other is that which we are here to honor tonight, the Emancipation Proclamation. All tyrants, past, present and future, are powerless to bury the truths in these declarations, no matter how extensive their legions, how vast their power and how malignant their evil.
Emancipation Proclamation Centennial Address, New York City (12 Sep 1962)
Ah! how many Judases have we in these days, that kiss Christ, and yet betray Christ; that in their words profess him, but in their works deny him; that bow their knee to him, and yet in their hearts despise him; that call him Jesus, and yet will not obey him for their Lord.
Never give children a chance of imagining that anything exists in isolation. Make it plain from the very beginning that all living is relationship. Show them relationships in the woods, in the fields, in the ponds and streams, in the village and in the country around it. Rub it in.
Five foot two, eyes of blue,
But oh! what those five feet could do,
Has anybody seen my girl?
The weak have one weapon: the errors of those who think they are strong.
The successful people are the ones who can think up things for the rest of the world to keep busy at.
“Variety,” Collier’s (12 May 1933)
I let out a battle cry. Sure, a lot of people might have mistaken it for a sudden yelp of unmanly fear, but trust me. It was a battle cry.
Stare decisis is usually the wise policy, because in most matters it is more important that the applicable rule of law be settled than that it be settled right. … This is commonly true even where the error is a matter of serious concern, provided correction can be had by legislation. But in cases involving the Federal Constitution, where correction through legislative action is practically impossible, this court has often overruled its earlier decisions. The court bows to the lessons of experience and the force of better reasoning, recognizing that the process of trial and error, so fruitful in the physical sciences, is appropriate also in the judicial function.
So long as governmental power existed exclusively for the king and not at all for the people, then the history of liberty was a history of the limitation of governmental power. But now the governmental power rests in the people, and the kings who enjoy privilege are the kings of the financial and industrial world; and what they clamor for is the limitation of governmental power, and what the people sorely need is the extension of governmental power.
Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate, or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.
Whenever you commend, add your reasons for doing so; it is this which distinguishes the approbation of a man of sense from the flattery of sycophants and admiration of fools.
We must recognize the full human equality of all of our people before God, before the law, and in the councils of government. We must do this, not because it is economically advantageous, although it is; not because the laws of God command it, although they do; not because people in other lands wish it so. We must do it for the single and fundamental reason that it is the right thing to do.
“Day of Affirmation,” address, University of Capetown, South Africa (6 Jun 1966)
The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.
“The Myth of Sisyphus”, The Myth of Sisyphus (1942)
Bach almost persuades me to be a Christian.
Added on 7-Nov-14 | Last updated 7-Nov-14
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Eighty percent of success is showing up.
Originally attributed to Allen by collaborator Marshall Brickman in Susan Brady, "He's Woody Allen's Not-So-Silent Partner," New York Times (21 Aug 1977) as "Showing up is 80 percent of life." On inquiry, Allen confirmed that he'd said the quotation above in a letter to William Safire (1989). More information here.
To be one’s self, and unafraid whether right or wrong, is more admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to conformity.
Square Pegs: Some Americans Who Dared to Be Different, ch. 1 (1958)
My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel, or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.
BAKUNIN: Left to themselves people are noble, generous, uncorrupted. They’d create a completely new kind of society if only people weren’t so blind, stupid and selfish.
HERZEN: Is that the same people or different people?
BAKUNIN: The same people.
There are a number of mechanical devices which increase sexual arousal, particularly in women. Chief among these is the Porsche 911 Cabriolet.
I wish to see this beverage become common instead of the whisky which kills one-third of our citizens and ruins their families.
There should be a reason for speech but not for silence.
The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk.
“We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore,” In These Times (26 Aug 2004)