Quotations about:
    activity


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He who without necessity embarks
In many matters, is a fool for slighting
The obvious blessings of a tranquil life.

[ὅστις δὲ πράσσει πολλὰ µὴ πράσσειν παρόν,
µῶρος, παρὸν ζῆν ἡδέως ἀπράγµονα.]

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Antiope [Αντιοπη], frag. 193 (TGF, Kannicht) [Amphion] (c. 410 BC) [tr. Wodhall (1809)]
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Barnes fragment 104, Musgrave 25. (Source (Greek)). Alternate translation:

Whoever is very active when he may be inactive, is a moron,
when he may live pleasantly keeping clear from politics.
[tr. Will (2015)]

Whoever is overactive when he could relax
is foolish, for he misses out on a pleasant life.
[Source]

 
Added on 11-Oct-22 | Last updated 11-Oct-22
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There is an enormous variety of things we’ve discovered that we never dreamed of, like, for example, black holes, pulsars, quasars, all these unbelievably active goings-on in the universe. Which in Aristotle’s time the universe, the sky, was supposed to be quiescent, it was supposed to be perfect and peaceful, and nothing ever happened in the celestial sphere; and that remained true, actually, throughout all of the revolutions. It remained the general view of astronomers right through Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and everybody else, still, the universe looked very quiescent — until just the last thirty years, and now we know it’s not like that at all. In fact the universe is full of violent events, and fantastic, strong gravitational fields, and collapsed objects, and huge outpourings of energy. All these things were discovered in the last thirty years.

Freeman Dyson
Freeman Dyson (1923-2020) English-American theoretical physicist, mathematician, futurist
“Freeman Dyson: In Praise of Diversity,” Interview on A Glorious Accident, VPRO (Netherlands) (30 Aug 2016)
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Added on 15-Aug-22 | Last updated 15-Aug-22
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There is always something pleasurable in the struggle and the victory. And if a man has no opportunity to excite himself, he will do what he can to create one, and according to his individual bent, he will hunt or play Cup and Ball: or led on by this unsuspected element in his nature, he will pick a quarrel with someone, or hatch a plot or intrigue, or take to swindling and rascally courses generally — all to put an end to a state of repose which is intolerable.

[Der Kampf mit ihnen und der Sieg beglückt. Fehlt ihm die Gelegenheit dazu, so macht er sie sich, wie er kann: je nachdem seine Individualität es mit sich bringt, wird er jagen, oder Bilboquet spielen, oder, vom unbewußten Zuge seiner Natur geleitet, Händel suchen, oder Intriguen anspinnen, oder sich auf Betrügereien und allerlei Schlechtigkeiten einlassen, um nur dem ihm unerträglichen Zustande der Ruhe ein Ende zu machen.]

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. 1, “Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life [Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit],” “Counsels and Maxims [Paränesen und Maximen],” ch. B, § 17 (1851) [tr. Saunders (1890), 2.17]
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(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

The struggle with [obstacles] and the triumph make him happy. If he lacks the opportunity for this, he creates it as best he can; according to the nature of his individuality, he will hunt or play cup and ball; or, guided by the unconscious urge of his nature, he will pick a quarrel, hatch a plot, or be involved in fraud and all kinds of wickedness, merely in order to put an end to an intolerable state of repose.
[tr. Payne (1974)]

 
Added on 29-Jun-22 | Last updated 29-Jun-22
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There are really only two ways to approach life — as victim or as gallant fighter — and you must decide if you want to act or react, deal your own cards or play with a stacked deck. And if you don’t decide which way to play with life, it always plays with you.

Merle Shain (1935-1989) Canadian journalist and author
(Attributed)
 
Added on 25-Feb-22 | Last updated 25-Feb-22
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In a word, our moral dispositions are formed as a result of the corresponding activities. Hence it is incumbent on us to control the character of our activities, since on the quality of these depends the quality of our dispositions. It is therefore not of small moment whether we are trained from childhood in one set of habits or another; on the contrary it is of very great, or rather of supreme, importance.

[καὶ ἑνὶ δὴ λόγῳ ἐκ τῶν ὁμοίων ἐνεργειῶν αἱ ἕξεις γίνονται. διὸ δεῖ τὰς ἐνεργείας ποιὰς ἀποδιδόναι: κατὰ γὰρ τὰς τούτων διαφορὰς ἀκολουθοῦσιν αἱ ἕξεις. οὐ μικρὸν οὖν διαφέρει τὸ οὕτως ἢ οὕτως εὐθὺς ἐκ νέων ἐθίζεσθαι, ἀλλὰ πάμπολυ, μᾶλλον δὲ τὸ πᾶν.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 2, ch. 1 (2.1, 1103b.20ff) (c. 325 BC) [tr. Rackham (1934), sec. 7-8]
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(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Or, in one word, the habits are produced from the acts of working like to them: and so what we have to do is to give a certain character to these particular acts, because the habits formed correspond to the differences of these. So then, whether we are accustomed this way or that straight from childhood, makes not a small but an important difference, or rather I would say it makes all the difference.
[tr. Chase (1847)]

And indeed, in a word, all habits are formed by acts of like nature to themselves. And hence it becomes our duty to see that our acts are of a right character. For, as our acts vary, our habits will follow in their course. It makes no little difference, then, to what kind of habituation we are subjected from our youth up; but it is, on the contrary, a matter that is important to us, or rather all-important.
[tr. Williams (1869), sec. 24]

In a word moral states are the results of activities corresponding to the moral states themselves. It is our duty therefore to give a certain character to the activities, as the moral states depend upon the differences of the activities. Accordingly, the difference between one training of the habits and another from early days is not a light matter, but is serious or rather all-important.
[tr. Welldon (1892)]

In a word, acts of any kind produce habits or characters of the same kind. Hence we ought to make sure that our acts be of a certain kind; for the resulting character varies as they vary. It makes no small difference, therefore, whether a man be trained from his youth up in this way or in that, but a great difference, or rather all the difference.
[tr. Peters (1893)]

Thus, in one word, states of character arise out of like activities. This is why the activities we exhibit must be of a certain kind; it is because the states of character correspond to the differences between these. It makes no small difference, then, whether we form habits of one kind or of another from our very youth; it makes a very great difference, or rather all the difference.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

In a word, then, states come about from activities that are similar to them. That is why the activities must exhibit a certain quality, since the states follow along in accord with the differences between these. So it makes no small difference whether people are habituated in one way or in another way straight from childhood; on the contrary, it makes a huge one -- or rather, all the difference.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

In short, it is by similar activities that habits are developed in men; and in view of this, the activities in which men are engaged should be of [the right] quality, for the kinds of habits which develop follow the corresponding differences in these activities. So in acquiring habit it makes no small difference whether we are acting in one way or on the contrary way right from our early youth; it makes a great difference, or rather all the difference.
[tr. Apostle (1975)]

In a word, then, like activities produce like dispositions. Hence we must give our activities a certain quality, because it is their characteristics that determine the resulting dispositions. So it is a matter of no little importance what sort of habits we form from the earliest age -- it makes a vast difference, or rather all the difference in the world.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

In a word, then, like states arise from like activities. This is why we must give a certain character to our activities, since it is on the differences between them that the resulting states depend. So it is not unimportant how we are habituated from our early days; indeed it makes a huge difference -- or rather all the difference.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

And so, in a word, the characteristics come into being as a result of the activities akin to them. Hence we must make our activities be of a certain quality, for the characteristics correspond to the differences among the activities. It makes no small difference, then, whether one is habituated to this or that way straight from childhood but a very great difference -- or rather the whole difference.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

 
Added on 16-Nov-21 | Last updated 14-Dec-21
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I was waiting for
something extraordinary to
happen

but as the years wasted on
nothing ever did unless I
caused it

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
“two kinds of hell” (c. 1990)
    (Source)

While this sounds motivational, in the context of the poem, the "extraordinary" things (bar fights, dalliances) always end up poorly.

First published in Third Lung Review, #8 (1992); collected in an edited version in The People Look Like Flowers at Last (2007).
 
Added on 13-Oct-21 | Last updated 13-Oct-21
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There’s some devil in us that drives us to and fro on everlasting idiocies. There’s time for everything except the things worth doing. Think of something you really care about. Then add hour to hour and calculate the fraction of your life that you’ve actually spent in doing it. And then calculate the time you’ve spent on things like shaving, riding to and fro on buses, waiting in railway, junctions, swapping dirty stories, and reading the newspapers.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Coming up for Air, ch. 5 (1939)
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Added on 26-May-20 | Last updated 26-May-20
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Solitude is not lack.

Laurie Helgoe (b. 1960) American psychologist and author
Introvert Power, ch. 2 (2008)
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Sometimes misquoted "Solitude is not a lack."
 
Added on 8-May-20 | Last updated 8-May-20
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Life is not made up of dramatic incidents — even the life of a nation. It is made up of slowly evolving events and processes, which newspapers, by a score of different forms of emphasis, can reasonably attempt to explore from day to day. But television news jerks from incident to incident. For the real world of patient and familiar arrangements, it substitutes an unreal world of constant activity, and the effect is already apparent in the way which the world behaves. It is almost impossible, these days, to consider any problem or any event except as a crisis; and, by this very way of looking at it, it in fact becomes a crisis.

Henry Fairlie (1924-1990) British journalist and social critic
“Can You Believe Your Eyes?” Horizon (Spring 1967)
 
Added on 31-Mar-17 | Last updated 31-Mar-17
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The busy have no time for tears.

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
The Two Foscari, Act 4, sc. 1 (1821)
 
Added on 10-Dec-15 | Last updated 10-Dec-15
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Indolence is a delightful but distressing state; we must be doing something to be happy. Action is no less necessary than thought to the instinctive tendencies of the human frame.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830) English writer
Table Talk, “On the Pleasure of Painting” (1821-22)
 
Added on 29-Jun-15 | Last updated 24-Jun-15
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The firefly only shines when on the wing.
So is it with the mind — when once we rest
We darken.

Philip James Bailey (1816-1902) English poet
Festus (1839)
 
Added on 30-Mar-15 | Last updated 30-Mar-15
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The difference between the Japanese and the American is summed up in their opposite reactions to the proverb (popular in both nations), “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” Epidemiologist S. Leonard Syme observes that to the Japanese, moss is exquisite and valued; a stone is enhanced by moss; hence a person who keeps moving and changing never acquires the beauty and benefits of stability. To Americans, the proverb is an admonition to keep rolling, to keep from being covered with clinging attachments.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Carol Tavris, Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion, ch. 4 (1982)
 
Added on 19-May-14 | Last updated 19-May-14
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Some find activity only in repose, and others repose only in movement.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
 
Added on 18-Mar-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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Up, Sluggard, and waste not life;
in the grave will be sleeping enough.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Alamanack (Sep 1741)

Repeated as "There will be enough sleeping in the Grave" in "The Way of Wealth" (7 Jul 1756).
 
Added on 17-May-11 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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What with your exercises, some reading, and a great deal of company, your day is, I confess, extremely taken up; but the day, if well employed, is long enough for everything; and I am sure you will not slattern away one moment of it in inaction.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #238 (8 Jan 1751)
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Added on 7-Jul-09 | Last updated 18-Oct-22
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Some are very busy, and yet do nothing.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #4211 (1732)
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Added on 21-May-08 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you ran a very long time as we’ve been doing.”
“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) English writer and mathematician [pseud. of Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson]
Through the Looking-Glass, ch. 2 (1871)
 
Added on 23-Jan-08 | Last updated 1-May-14
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Pleasure and action make the hours seem short.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Othello, Act 2, sc. 3, l. 400 [Iago] (1603)
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Added on 12-May-04 | Last updated 29-Jun-22
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Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.

Dave Barry (b. 1947) American humorist
“25 Things I Have Learned In 50 Years,” #25 (1997)
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Oct-14
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Let everyone, then, do something, according to the measure of his capacities. To have no regular work, no set sphere of activity — what a miserable thing it is! How often long travels undertaken for pleasure make a man downright unhappy; because the absence of anything that can be called occupation forces him, as it were, out of his right element. Effort, struggles with difficulties! that is as natural to a man as grubbing in the ground is to a mole. To have all his wants satisfied is something intolerable — the feeling of stagnation which comes from pleasures that last too long. To overcome difficulties is to experience the full delight of existence.

[Inzwischen treibe jeder etwas, nach Maßgabe seiner Fähigkeiten. Denn wie nachteilig der Mangel an planmäßiger Tätigkeit, an irgend einer Arbeit, auf uns wirke, merkt man auf langen Vergnügungsreisen, als wo man, dann und wann, sich recht unglücklich fühlt; weil man, ohne eigentliche Beschäftigung, gleichsam aus seinem natürlichen Elemente gerissen ist. Sich zu mühen und mit dem Widerstande zu kämpfen ist dem Menschen Bedürfnis, wie dem Maulwurf das Graben. Der Stillstand, den die Allgenugsamkeit eines bleibenden Genusses herbeiführte, wäre ihm unerträglich. Hindernisse überwinden ist der Vollgenuß seines Daseins.]

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. 1, “Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life [Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit],” “Counsels and Maxims [Paränesen und Maximen],” ch. B, § 17 (1851) [tr. Saunders (1890), 2.17]
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(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

Nevertheless, everyone should do something according to the measure of his abilities. For on long pleasure-trips we see how pernicious is the effect on us of not having any systematic activity or work. On such trips we feel positively unhappy because we are without any proper occupation and are, so to speak, torn from our natural element. Effort, trouble, and struggle with opposition are as necessary to man as grubbing in the ground is to a mole. The stagnation that results from being wholly contented with a lasting pleasure would be for him intolerable. The full pleasure of his existence is in overcoming obstacles.
[tr. Payne (1974)]

 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 22-Jun-22
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It is better to wear out than to rust out.

Richard Cumberland (1632-1718) English philosopher and cleric (Bishop of Peterborough)
(Attributed)
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Quoted in G. Horne, "Sermon on the Duty of Contending for the Truth" (1786).
 
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… these most brisk and giddy-pacèd times …

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Twelfth Night, Act 2, sc. 4, l. 7 [Orsino] (1601)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 30-Jun-22
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It is neither wealth nor splendor, but tranquility and occupation, which give happiness.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Anna Jefferson Marks (12 Jul 1788)
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The salutation is "My dear Sister," and is a congratulations for her marrying Hastings Marks. Some copies, and filings of the letter, make it out to "Anna Scott Marks," her birth name was Anna Scott Jefferson.
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 17-Jul-22
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Happiness is someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Chinese proverb

Also attributed to T. Bodett, S. Freud, A. Chalmers.
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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To condemn spontaneous and delightful occupations because they are useless for self-preservation shows an uncritical prizing of life regardless of its contents.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Sense of Beauty, Part 1 “The Nature of Beauty,” sec. 4 “Work and Play” (1896)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Mar-20
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