- WIST is my personal collection of quotations, curated for thought, amusement, turn of phrase, historical significance, or sometimes just (often-unintentional) irony.Please feel free to browse and borrow.
- 16,735 quotes and counting ...
Topic Cloudaction age America belief books change character Christianity creation death democracy education ego evil faith fear freedom future God government happiness history honesty humanity integrity justice leadership liberty life love morality perspective politics poverty power religion science society success truth virtue war wealth wisdom writing
- I've been adding topics/tags since 2014, so not all quotes have been given one. Full topic list.
- * Visual quotes (graphics, memes) only
- “The Lesson for Today,” A Witness Tree (1942) (5,581)
- “Wealth and Poverty,” speech, National… (5,532)
- Agamemnon, ll. 175-183 [tr. Johnston (2007)] (5,394)
- Nobel prize acceptance speech (10 Dec 1962) (4,808)
- “The Triumph of Stupidity” (10 May 1933) (4,329)
- “In Search of a Majority,” Speech,… (3,642)
- “Get a Knife, Get a Dog, but Get Rid of… (3,470)
- “On The Conduct of Life” (1822) (3,134)
- “Hallowed Ground” (1825) (2,935)
- “The Historian as Participant,” Daedalus… (2,726)
Most Quoted Authors
Author CloudAdams, John • Bacon, Francis • Bible • Bierce, Ambrose • Billings, Josh • Butcher, Jim • Chesterton, Gilbert Keith • Churchill, Winston • Einstein, Albert • Eisenhower, Dwight David • Emerson, Ralph Waldo • Franklin, Benjamin • Fuller, Thomas (1654) • Gaiman, Neil • Galbraith, John Kenneth • Gandhi, Mohandas • Goethe, Johann von • Hazlitt, William • Heinlein, Robert A. • Hoffer, Eric • Huxley, Aldous • Ingersoll, Robert Green • James, William • Jefferson, Thomas • Johnson, Lyndon • Johnson, Samuel • Kennedy, John F. • King, Martin Luther • La Rochefoucauld, Francois • Lewis, C.S. • Lincoln, Abraham • Mencken, H.L. • Orwell, George • Pratchett, Terry • Roosevelt, Eleanor • Roosevelt, Theodore • Russell, Bertrand • Seneca the Younger • Shakespeare, William • Shaw, George Bernard • Stevenson, Adlai • Stevenson, Robert Louis • Twain, Mark • Watterson, Bill • Wilde, Oscar
- Only the 45 most quoted authors are shown above. Full author list.
- 5-Sep-19 - Erewhon, ch. 20 (1872) | WIST on 1 Timothy 6:10 (KJV).
- 4-Sep-19 - "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution," sermon, National Cathedral, Washington, DC (31 Mar 1968) | WIST on Letter from Birmingham Jail (16 Apr 1963).
- 16-Aug-19 - Dave on About WIST.
- 13-Aug-19 - Mike Hardy on About WIST.
- 17-Jul-19 - Samuel Missal on Armistice Day address, Boston (11 Nov 1948).
- 24-May-19 - Dave on Inaugural Address (20 Jan 1989).
There is always some peace in having submitted to the right. Don’t spoil it by worrying about the results, if you can help it. It is not your business to succeed (no one can be sure of that) but to do right: when you have done so, the rest lies with God ….
Letter to Arthur Greeves, Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. 2: 1931-1949 (2004)
Never push loyal people to the point where they don’t give a damn.
No one can be as calculatedly rude as the British, which amazes Americans, who do not understand studied insult and can only offer abuse as a substitute.
In the New York Times (14 Jan 1962)
The people I respect most behave as if they were immortal and as if society was eternal. Both assumptions are false: both of them must be accepted as true if we are to go on eating and working and loving, and are to keep open a few breathing-holes for the human spirit. No millennium seems likely to descend upon humanity; no better and stronger League of Nations will be instituted; no form of Christianity and no alternative to Christianity will bring peace to the world or integrity to the individual; no “change of heart” will occur. And yet we need not despair, indeed, we cannot despair; the evidence of history shows us that men have always insisted on behaving creatively under the shadow of the sword; that they have done their artistic and scientific and domestic stuff for the sake of doing it, and that we had better follow their example under the shadow of the aeroplanes.
“What I Believe,” The Nation (16 Jul 1938)
We always require an outside point to stand on, in order to apply the lever of criticism. […] Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, ch. 9 “Travels,” ii. “The Pueblo Indians” (1963)
Added on 18-Sep-19 | Last updated 20-Sep-19
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I believe you are your work. Don’t trade the stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars. That’s a rotten bargain.
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 10:17-19 (NIV)
- KJV: "For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt."
- GNT: "The Lord your God is supreme over all gods and over all powers. He is great and mighty, and he is to be obeyed. He does not show partiality, and he does not accept bribes. He makes sure that orphans and widows are treated fairly; he loves the foreigners who live with our people, and gives them food and clothes. So then, show love for those foreigners, because you were once foreigners in Egypt."
Maturity means understanding, as much as possible, the different characters and modules that are active inside your own head. The mature person is like a river guide who goes over rapids and says, “Yes, I have been over these spots before.”
The Social Animal, ch. 18 “Morality” (2011)
Often paraphrased: "Maturity means understanding the different characters inside our own heads."
Man is a reasoning animal. Therefore, man’s highest good is attained if he has fulfilled the good for which nature designed him at birth. And what is it which this reason demands of him? The easiest thing in the world — to live in accordance with his nature. But this has turned into a hard task by the general madness of mankind; we push one
another into vice.
Letters to Lucilius, Letter 41 (c. 65 AD)
Come heed me, my brothers, come heed, one and all
Don’t brag about standing or you’ll surely fall
You’re shining your light and shine it you should
But you’re so heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good
If you’re holding heaven, then spread it around
There’s hungry hands reaching up here from the ground
Move over and share the high ground where you stood
So heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good
“So Heavenly Minded, You’re No Earthly Good”
Arguments are like fire-arms which a man may keep at home but should not carry about with him.
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 10 (1912)
To Herbert Westbrook, without whose never-failing advice, help, and encouragement, this book would have been finished in half the time.
A Gentleman of Leisure, Dedication (1910)
I’ve learned to write in the first-person singular while remembering always that my writing must speak to the first-person plural.
“The Art of Fiction,” Paris Review, #116, Interview with George Plimpton (1990)
In meditation we should not look for a “method” or “system,” but cultivate an “attitude,” and “outlook”: faith, openness, attention, reverence, expectation, supplication, trust, and joy.
But reassurance can be the cruellest antidote to anxiety. Our rosy predictions both leave the anxious unprepared for the worst, and unwittingly imply that it would be disastrous if the worst came to pass. Seneca more wisely asks us to consider that bad things probably will occur, but adds that they are unlikely ever to be as bad as we fear.
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 3 “Consolation for Frustration” (2000)
what matters most is
how well you
walk through the
“How Is Your Heart?” (1986)
Some people idealize force and pull it into the foreground and worship it, instead of keeping it in the background as long as possible. I think they make a mistake, and I think that their opposites, the mystics, err even more when they declare that force does not exist. I believe that it exists, and that one of our jobs is to prevent it from getting out of its box. It gets out sooner or later, and then it destroys us and all the lovely things which we have made. But it is not out all the time, for the fortunate reason that the strong are so stupid.
BOB: You know I’m retired from hero work.
EDNA: As am I, Robert, yet here we are!
The Incredibles (2004)
Every marriage is a battle between two families struggling to reproduce themselves.
Quoted in his obituary.
I believe there’s an intrinsic irreverence in the American psyche, and when something comes along that offers even an echo of that irreverence, people respond to it.
But your spiritual teachers caution you against enquiry — tell you not to read certain books; not to listen to certain people; to beware of profane learning; to submit your reason, and to receive their doctrines for truths. Such advice renders them suspicious counsellors. By their own creed, you hold your reason from their God. Go! ask them why he gave it.
A Course of Popular Lectures, Lecture 3 “Of the more Important Divisions and Essential Parts of Knowledge” (1829)
As long as you’re dancing, you can break the rules.
Sometimes breaking the rules is just extending the rules.
Sometimes there are no rules.
“Three Things to Remember”
AGATHA: … But after that, I’d better see some cake.
TARVEK: You know, there’s more to being an evil despot than getting cake whenever you want it.
AGATHA: If that’s what you think, then you’re doing it wrong!
Girl Genius, Vol. 13, p. 38, “The Heterodyne Requires Cake” (10 Apr 2013)
An apology is the superglue of life! It can repair just about anything.
Is there anything in life so disenchanting as attainment?
“The Adventure of the Hansom Cabs” (1878)
ASA: Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal — you sockdologizing old man-trap.
Tom Taylor, Our American Cousin, Act 3, sc. 2 (1858)
The biggest laugh line in the play, so chosen by John Wilkes Booth to use as a cover for his shooting Abraham Lincoln on 14 Apr 1865.
Abuse is a proof that you are felt. If they praise you, you will work no revolution.
When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.
[Lorsque la Spoliation est devenue le moyen d’existence d’une agglomération d’hommes unis entre eux par le lien social, ils se font bientôt une loi qui la sanctionne, une morale qui la glorifie.]
Economic Sophisms [Sophismes économiques], 2nd Series, ch. 1 “Physiology of plunder Physiologie de la spoliation” (1848)
Alt. trans. "When Spoliation has become the means of existence of an agglomeration of men united by social bonds, they soon make themselves a law which sanctions it, a morality which glorifies it."
A man can’t eat anger for breakfast and sleep with it at night and not suffer damage to his soul.
“Could I Have Been Any More Inept?” Salon.com (26 Oct 1999)
For the Bolsheviki the end to be achieved was the Communist State, or the so-called Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Everything which advanced that end was justifiable and revolutionary. The Lenins, Radeks, and Zorins were therefore quite consistent. Obsessed by the infallibility of their creed, giving of themselves to the fullest, they could be both heroic and despicable at the same time. They could work twenty hours a day, live on herring and tea, and order the slaughter of innocent men and women. Occasionally they sought to mask their killings by pretending a “misunderstanding,” for doesn’t the end justify all means? They could employ torture and deny the inquisition, they could lie and defame, and call themselves idealists. In short, they could make themselves and others believe that everything was legitimate and right from the revolutionary viewpoint; any other policy was weak, sentimental, or a betrayal of the Revolution.
My Disillusionment in Russia, ch. 12 (1920)
Animals are a compromise between being alone and being with people.
It is a trite yet urgently true observation that if America is to remain a first-class nation, it cannot have second-class citizens.
“The Rising Tide of Racial Consciousness,” Speech, National Urban League, New York (6 Sep 1960)
LORD, WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?
Right actions for the future are the best apologies for wrong ones in the past — the best evidence of regret for them that we can offer, or the world receive.
A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908)
Often wrongly quoted, "... best apologies for bad actions in the past."
While we are poor, the necessarys ov life are the luxurys; after we git ritch, the luxurys are the necessarys.
[While we are poor, the necessaries of life are the luxuries; after we get rich, the luxuries are the necessaries.]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Mollassis Kandy” (1874)
Every man is in some sort a failure to himself. No one ever reaches the heights to which he aspires.
The Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Vol. 3, ch. 22 “Table-Talk” (1886) [ed. Samuel Longfellow]
… believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world.
“Invitation,” Red Bird: Poems (2008)
On goldfinches singing.
The salvation of America and of the human race depends on the next election, if we believe the newspapers. But so it was last year, and so it was the year before, and our fathers believed the same thing forty years ago.
Journal (Oct 1848)
Always struck by the “comical” aspect of everything in Algeria connected with death. I find nothing more justified. Impossible to exaggerate the ridiculous quality of an event that is normally accompanied by sweat and gurgling. Similarly, it could not be too far demoted from the sacred status normally attributed to it. Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear. And from this point of view, death is no more worthy of respect than Nero or the inspector at my local police station.
Notebooks, Vol. 1 (1935-1942)
Anger blows out the lamp of the mind. In the examination of a great and important question, every one should be serene, slow-pulsed and calm.
“The Christian Religion,” Article 3, The North American Review (1881)
Negroes are not the only poor in the nation. There are nearly twice as many white poor as Negro, and therefore the struggle against poverty is not involved solely with color or racial discrimination but with elementary economic justice.
Speech to Shop Stewards, Local 815, Teamsters and the Allied Trades Council, New York City (2 May 1967)
It is our conviction that if souls were visible to the eyes, we should be able to see distinctly that strange thing, that each one individual of the human race corresponds to some one of the species of the animal creation; and we could easily recognize this truth, hardly perceived by the thinker, that from the oyster to the eagle, from the pig to the tiger, all animals exist in man, and that in each one of them is in a man. Sometimes even several of them at a time.
Animals are nothing else than the figures of our virtues and our vices, straying before our eyes, the visible phantoms of our souls. God shows them to us in order to induce us to reflect.
Les Misérables, Part 1, “Fantine,” Book 5, ch. 5 (1862) [tr. Wilbour]
Alt. trans. [Fahnestock/MacAfee]: "It is our belief that if the soul were visible to the eye, every member of the human species would be seen to correspond to some species of the animal world, and a truth scarcely perceived by thinkers would be readily confirmed, namely, that from the oyster to the eagle, from the swine to the tiger, all animals are to be found in men and each of them exists in some man, sometimes several at a time. Animals are nothing but the portrayal of our virtues and vices made manifest to our eyes, the visible reflections of our souls. God displays them to us to give us food for thought."
Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.
The security of society lies in custom and unconscious instinct, and the basis of the stability of society, as a healthy organism, is the complete absence of any intelligence amongst its members. The great majority of people being aware of this, rank themselves naturally on the side of that splendid system that elevates them to the dignity of machines, and rage so wildly against the intrusion of the intellectual faculty into any question that concerns life, that one is tempted to define man as a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.
“The Critic as Artist,” Intentions (1891)
Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that, if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe, say, or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.
“Rick Warren on Muslims, Evangelism & Missions,” interview with Brandon A. Cox, Christian Post (2 Mar 2012)
Youth finds no value in the views it disagrees with, but maturity includes discovering that even an opinion contrary to ours may contain a vein of truth we could profitably assimilate to our own views.
Pieces of Eight (1982)
Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.
Starting from Scratch: A Different Kind of Writers’ Manual, Part 3, ch. 1 “Words as Separate Units of Consciousness” (1988)
Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place.
Jeremiah 22:3 [NRSV]
Alt. trans.: "Thus saith the Lord; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place." [KJV]
Alt. trans.: "I, the Lord, command you to do what is just and right. Protect the person who is being cheated from the one who is cheating him. Do not mistreat or oppress aliens, orphans, or widows; and do not kill innocent people in this holy place." [GNT]
Grab the broom of anger and drive off the beast of fear.
Dust Tracks on a Road, ch. 4 (1942)
Success don’t konsist in never making blunders, but in never making the same one the seckond time.
[Success doesn’t consist in never making blunders, but in never making the same one the second time.]
Animals often strike us as passionate machines.