Quotations about:
    adaptability


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Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?

Julia Child
Julia Child (1912-2004) American chef and writer
“What I’ve Learned: Julia Child,” interview by Mike Sager, Esquire (2000-06-01)
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Reprinted in Brendan Vaughan, Esquire: The Meaning of Life (2004).

This quotation, and variations on it, are (in)famous regarding Child. The earliest version can be found in her public TV show, The French Chef, 1x22 "The Potato Show" (1963-06-29). In that filmed-live episode, a potato pancake flip ends poorly, spilling onto other parts of the range. Child scoops up the spilled bits and puts them back into the pan:

Well, that didn't go very well. See, when I flipped it I didn't have the courage to do it the way I should have. But you can always pick it up, and if you are alone in the kitchen, who is going to see?

In an era before online video, and on such an initially obscure show, variations appeared almost immediately, e.g., in Blake Hunter, "A Tasty Dish," "Educational TV" column, Film News (1964-10), which gave the quote as happening when a potato pancake spilled on a sideboard:

If this happens, just scoop it back into the pan. Remember, you are alone in the kitchen, and nobody can see you.

The story grew in the telling, and eventually was told as her dropping a chicken. Many folk incorrectly recall this as being one of the gags in the (hilarious) 1978 Saturday Night Live skit starring Dan Aykroyd as Child.

Child often pointed to the incident as involving a potato pancake, not a chicken, though as noted, her lamb comment still stands as another hypothetical.

 
Added on 30-Mar-23 | Last updated 30-Mar-23
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Civilization is to groups what intelligence is to individuals. It is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation.

Octavia Butler (1947-2006) American writer
Parable of the Sower, ch. 10 (1993)
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Added on 24-Jun-21 | Last updated 24-Jun-21
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If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.

Eric Shinseki (b. 1942) American military leader, bureaucrat
Quoted in Mackubin Thomas Owens, “Marines Turned Soldiers,” National Review Online (10 Dec 2001)
 
Added on 17-Aug-18 | Last updated 17-Aug-18
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Despair says, I cannot lift that weight. Happiness says, I do not have to.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays, # 4 (2001)
 
Added on 28-Aug-15 | Last updated 28-Aug-15
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People are very open-minded about new things — as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
 
Added on 28-Aug-15 | Last updated 28-Aug-15
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It is loyalty to great ends, even though forced to combine the small and opposing motives of selfish men to accomplish them; it is the anchored cling to solid principles of duty and action, which knows how to swing with the tide, but is never carried away by it — that we demand in public men, and not sameness of policy, or a conscientious persistency in what is impracticable.

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) American diplomat, essayist, poet
“Abraham Lincoln” (1864), My Study Windows (1871)
 
Added on 24-Aug-15 | Last updated 24-Aug-15
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If Afflictions refine some, they consume others.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #2666 (1732)
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Added on 18-Nov-14 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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Richard was not dead. He was sitting in the dark, on a ledge, on the side of a storm drain, wondering what to do, wondering how much further out of his league he could possibly get. His life so far, he decided, had prepared him perfectly for a job in Securities, for shopping at the supermarket, for watching soccer on the television on the weekends, for turning up the thermostat if he got cold. It had magnificently failed to prepare him for a life as an un-person on the roofs and in the sewers of London, for a life in the cold and the wet and the dark.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
Neverwhere (1996)
 
Added on 10-Jul-14 | Last updated 10-Jul-14
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There must be either a predestined Necessity and inviolable plan, or a gracious Providence, or a chaos without design or director. If then there be an inevitable Necessity, why kick against the pricks? If a Providence that is ready to be gracious, render thyself worthy of divine succour. But if a chaos without guide, congratulate thyself that amid such a surging sea thou hast a guiding Reason.

[Ἤτοι ἀνάγκη εἱμαρμένης καὶ ἀπαράβατος τάξις ἢ πρόνοια ἱλάσιμος ἢ φυρμὸς εἰκαιότητος ἀπροστάτητος. εἰ μὲν οὖν ἀπαράβατος ἀνάγκη, τί ἀντιτείνεις; εἰ δὲ πρόνοια ἐπιδεχομένη τὸ ἱλάσκεσθαι, ἄξιον σαυτὸν ποίησον τῆς ἐκ τοῦ θείου βοηθείας. εἰ δὲ φυρμὸς ἀνηγεμόνευτος, ἀσμένιζε ὅτι ἐν τοιούτῳ κλύδωνι αὐτὸς ἔχεις ἐν σαυτῷ τινα νοῦν ἡγεμονικόν.]

Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) Roman emperor (161-180), Stoic philosopher
Meditations, Book 12, #14 [tr. Haines (1916)]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Either fate, (and that either an absolute necessity, and unavoidable decree; or a placable and flexible Providence) or all is a mere casual confusion, void of all order and government. If an absolute and unavoidable necessity, why doest thou resist? If a placable and exorable Providence, make thyself worthy of the divine help and assistance. If all be a mere confusion without any moderator, or governor, then hast thou reason to congratulate thyself; that in such a general flood of confusion thou thyself hast obtained a reasonable faculty, whereby thou mayest govern thine own life and actions.
[tr. Casaubon (1634), #11]

Either the Order of Things are fixed by irrevocable Fate, or Providence may be worked into Compassion, or else the World Floats at Raondom without any Steerage. Now if nature lies under immovable Necessity, to what purpose should you struggle against it? If the favor of Providence is to be gained, qualify your self for the Divine Assistance: But if Chance, and Confusion carry it, and no body sits at the Helm; be you contented and Ride out the Storm patiently, for you have a Governor within you , though the World has none.
[tr. Collier (1701)]

Either there is a fatal necessity and invincible order, or a kind providence, or a confusion without a purpose and without a director. If then there is an invincible necessity, why dost thou resist? But if there is a providence which allows itself to be propitiated, make thyself worthy of the help of the divinity. But if there is a confusion without a governor, be content that in such a tempest thou hast in thyself a certain ruling intelligence.
[tr. Long (1862)]

Either the order of things is fixed by irrevocable fate, or providence may be worked into compassion, or else the world floats at random without any steerage. Now if nature lies under an immovable necessity, to what purpose should you struggle against it? If the favor of providence is to be gained, qualify yourself for divine assistance; but if chance and confusion prevail, be you contented that in such a storm you have a governing intelligence within you.
[tr. Zimmern (1887)]

Either the Necessity of destiny and an order none may transgress, or Providence that hears intercession, or an ungoverned welter without a purpose. If then a Necessity which none may transgress, why do you resist? If a Providence admitting intercession, make yourself worthy of assistance from the Godhead. If an undirected welter, be glad that in so great a flood of waves you have yourself within you a directing mind.
[tr. Farquharson (1944)]

Fatal necessity, and inescapable order. Or benevolent Providence. Or confusion -- random and undirected. If it's an inescapable necessity, why resist it? If it's Providence, admits of being worshipped, then try to be worthy of God's aid. If it's confusion and anarchy, then be grateful that on this raging sea you have a mind to guide you.
[tr. Hays (2003)]

Either predetermined necessity and unalterable cosmic order, or a gracious providence, or a chaotic ungoverned mixture. If a predetermined necessity, why do you resist? If it is a gracious Providence that can hear our prayers, then make yourself worthy of divine assistance. If a chaotic ungoverned mixture, be satisfied that in the midst of this storm, you have within yourself a mind whose nature it is to govern and command.
[tr. Needleman/Piazza (2008)]

 
Added on 26-Mar-13 | Last updated 30-Mar-21
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It is a good Blade that bends well.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #2853 (1732)
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Added on 9-Oct-12 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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Poetry demands a man with special gift for it, or else one with a touch of madness in him; the former can easily assume the required mood, and the latter may be actually beside himself with emotion.

[διὸ εὐφυοῦς ἡ ποιητική ἐστιν ἢ μανικοῦ: τούτων γὰρ οἱ μὲν εὔπλαστοι οἱ δὲ ἐκστατικοί εἰσιν.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Poetics [Περὶ ποιητικῆς, De Poetica], ch. 17 / 1455a.33 (c. 335 BC) [tr. Bywater (1909)]
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Original Greek. Fyfe (below) notes μανικός to mean "genius to madness near allied," and adds "Plato held that the only excuse for a poet was that he couldn't help it." A possible source of Seneca's "touch of madness" attribution to Aristotle. Alternate translations:

Poetry implies either a happy gift of nature or a strain of madness. In the one case a man can take the mould of any character; in the other, he is lifted out of his proper self.
[tr. Butcher (1895)]

Poetry is the work for the finely constituted or the hysterical; for the hysterical are impressionable, whereas the finely constituted are liable to outbursts.
[tr. Margoliouth (1911); whiles this seems backward, Margoliouth further explains in his footnote.]

Poetry needs either a sympathetic nature or a madman, the former being impressionable and the latter inspired.
[tr. Fyfe (1932)]

Hence the poetic art belongs either to a naturally gifted person or an insane one, since those of the former sort are easily adaptable and the latter are out of their senses.
[tr. Sachs (2006)]

In order to write tragic poetry, you must be either a genius who can adapt himself to anything, or a madman who lets himself get carried away.
[tr. Kenny (2013)]

 
Added on 14-Feb-11 | Last updated 10-May-21
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I tell this story to illustrate the truth of the statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, National Defense Executive Reserve Conference (14 Nov 1957)

Quoted in R. Nixon, Six Crises, "Krushchev" (1962) as "In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." Sometimes paraphrased as "Plans are nothing; planning is everything."

 
Added on 3-Aug-10 | Last updated 25-Jun-15
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This imputation of inconsistency is one to which every sound politician and every honest thinker must sooner or later subject himself. The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinions.

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) American diplomat, essayist, poet
“Abraham Lincoln” (1864), My Study Windows (1871)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 24-Mar-23
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To be interested in the changing seasons is, in this middling zone, a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, Vol. 4 “Reason in Art,” ch. 9 “Justification of Art” (1905-06)

Full text.
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Mar-20
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