Quotations about   confusion

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It is characteristic of all deep human problems that they are not to be approached without some humor and some bewilderment.

Freeman Dyson
Freeman Dyson (1923-2020) English-American theoretical physicist, mathematician, futurist
Disturbing the Universe, ch. 1 (1979)
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Added on 19-Sep-22 | Last updated 19-Sep-22
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Where shall wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding? If I knew, I’d walk over and stand there. As it was, I felt as if I stood in the midst of a large map, surrounded by vague areas wherein were penned the visages of particularly nasty-looking random variables. A perfect place for a soliloquy, if one had anything to say.

Roger Zelazny (1937-1995) American writer
The Blood of Amber, ch. 5 (1986)
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Quoting Job 28:12.
Added on 6-Apr-22 | Last updated 6-Apr-22
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For things false lie so close to things true, and things that cannot be perceived to things that can, […] that it is the duty of the wise man not to trust himself to such a steep slope.

[Ita enim finitima sunt falsa veris, eaque, quae percipi non possunt, iis quae possunt […] ut tam in praecipitem locum non debeat se sapiens committere.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Academica, Book 2, ch. 21 / sec. 68 (2.68) (45 BC) [tr. Rackham (1933)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translation:

For falsehoods lie so close to truths, and "appearances" which cannot be perceived to those which can, [...] that the man of wisdom ought not to trust himself on such hazardous ground.
[tr. Reid (1874)]

False and true, and innapprehensible and apprehensible are so close to each other, [...] that the wise person shouldn't commit himself to such a precarious position.
[tr. Brittain (2005)]

So near is falsehood to truth that a wise man would do well not to trust himself on the narrow edge.
[Source]

Added on 10-Feb-22 | Last updated 10-Feb-22
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Life can be confusing. Good God, and how. Sometimes it seems like the older I get, the more confused I become. That seems ass-backwards. I thought I was supposed to be getting wiser. Instead, I just keep getting hit over the head with my relative insignificance in the greater scheme of the universe. Confusing, life.

But it beats the hell out of the alternative.

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
Proven Guilty, ch. 47 (2006)
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Added on 6-Jan-22 | Last updated 6-Jan-22
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The secret language of statistics, so appealing in a fact-minded culture, is employed to sensationalize, inflate, confuse, and oversimplify. Statistical methods and statistical terms are necessary in reporting the mass data of social and economic trends, business conditions, “opinion” polls, the census. But without writers who use the words with honesty and understanding and readers who know what they mean, the result can only be semantic nonsense.

Darrell Huff
Darrell Huff (1913-2001) American writer
How to Lie with Statistics, Introduction (1954)
Added on 22-Jul-21 | Last updated 22-Jul-21
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The Universe has as many different centers as there are living beings in it. Each of us is a center of the Universe, and that Universe is shattered when they hiss at you “You are under arrest.” If you are arrested, can anything else remain unshattered by this cataclysm? But the darkened mind is incapable of embracing these displacements in our universe, and both the most sophisticated and the veriest simpleton among us, drawing on all life’s experience, can gasp out only: “Me? What for?”

Alexander Solzhenitsen (1918-2008) Russian novelist, emigre [Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn]
The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, Part 1, ch. 1 (1973) [tr. Whitney]
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Added on 10-Mar-21 | Last updated 10-Mar-21
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If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie — a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days — but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
Interview with Roger Errera (Oct 1973), The New York Review of Books (26 Oct 1978)
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Added on 21-Jan-21 | Last updated 21-Jan-21
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JACK BURTON: I don’t get this at all. I thought Lo Pan —
LO PAN: Shut up, Mr. Burton! You are not brought upon this world to “get it”!

W. D. Richter (b. 1945) American screenwriter, producer, director [Walter Duch Richter]
Big Trouble in Little China (1986) [with Gary Goldman, David Z Weinstein]
Added on 13-May-20 | Last updated 13-May-20
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I like handling newborn animals. Fallen into life from an unmappable world, they are the ultimate immigrants, full of wonder and confusion.

Diane Ackerman (b. 1948) American poet, author, naturalist
The Moon by Whale Light, ch. 4 “White Lanterns” (1991)
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Added on 14-Apr-20 | Last updated 14-Apr-20
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Was none who would be foremost
To lead such dire attack;
But those behind cried “Forward!”
And those before cried “Back!”

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
“Horatius,” st. 50, Lays of Ancient Rome (1842)
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Added on 12-Mar-20 | Last updated 12-Mar-20
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Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
A Room with a View, ch. 14 (1908)
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Added on 25-May-18 | Last updated 25-May-18
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I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.

Jack Kerouac (1922–1969) Canadian-American novelist and poet
On the Road, Part 2, ch. 4 (1957)
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Added on 1-Mar-11 | Last updated 4-Nov-20
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And I have again observed, my dear friend, in this trifling affair, that misunderstandings and neglect occasion more mischief in the world than even malice and wickedness. At all events, the two latter are of less frequent occurrence.

[Und ich habe, mein Lieber, wieder bei diesem kleinen Geschäft gefunden, dass Missverständnisse und Trägheit vielleicht mehr Irrungen in der Welt machen als List und Bosheit. Wenigstens sind die beiden letzteren gewiss seltener.] 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Die Leiden des jungen Werthers [The Sorrows of Young Werther], “Letter from May 4th” (1774)

Alt. trans.: "Misunderstandings and neglect create more confusion in this world than trickery and malice. At any rate, the last two are certainly much less frequent."
Added on 29-Jan-09 | Last updated 5-Feb-16
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The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has. Even when you make a tax form out on the level, you don’t know when it’s through if you are a crook or a martyr.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) American humorist
“Helping Girls With Their Income Tax,” syndicated column (7 Apr 1923)
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Collected by Rogers as "Helping the Girls with Their Income Taxes," The Illiterate Digest (1924).
Added on 15-Sep-08 | Last updated 12-Mar-20
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The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Moving Pictures (1990)
Added on 19-Mar-08 | Last updated 4-Sep-16
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On two occasions I have been asked, — “Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?” In one case a member of the Upper, and in the other a member of the Lower, House put this question. I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

Charles Babbage (1791-1871) English mathematician, computer pioneer, philosopher
Passages from the Life of a Philosopher, ch. 5 “Difference Engine No. 1” (1864)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Feb-21
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We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. Presumably the plans for our employment were being changed. I was to learn later in life that, perhaps because we are so good at organizing, we tend as a nation to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization.

Ogburn - reorganization - wist_info quote

Charlton Ogburn, Jr. (1911-1998) American journalist, author
“Merrill’s Marauders: The truth about an incredible adventure,” Harper’s Magazine (Jan 1957)

In his 1959 book, The Marauders, Ogburn rephrased this as: "As a result, I suppose, of high-level changes of mind about how we were to be used, we went through several reorganizations. Perhaps because Americans as a nation have a gift for organizing, we tend to meet any new situation by reorganization, and a wonderful method it is for creating the illusion of progress at a mere cost of confusion, inefficiency and demoralization."

Sometimes incorrectly cited to Gaius Petronius Arbiter. For more on this quotation, see here.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Mar-16
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Frank and explicit: That is the right line to take when you wish to conceal your mind and confuse the minds of others.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) English politician and author
Sybil, “The Gentleman in Downing Street,” bk 6, ch 1 (1845)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 28-Mar-16
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