Quotations about   desire

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I want
to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

Mary Oliver (1935-2019) American poet
“Starlings in Winter”
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Added on 16-Apr-19 | Last updated 16-Apr-19
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Other people’s appetites easily appear excessive when one doesn’t share them.

André Gide (1869-1951) French author, Nobel laureate
The Counterfeiters, “Edouard’s Journal: Oscar Molinier” (1925)
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Added on 2-Oct-18 | Last updated 2-Oct-18
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Yet there is still this difference between man and all other animals — he is the only animal whose desires increase as they are fed; the only animal that is never satisfied.

Henry George (1839-1897) American economist
Progress and Poverty, Book 2, ch. 3 (1879)
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Added on 7-May-18 | Last updated 7-May-18
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Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety; other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Antony and Cleopatra, Act 2, sc. 2, l. 271 [Enobarbus] (1607)
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Added on 10-Nov-17 | Last updated 10-Nov-17
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Though the terrain of frustration may be vast — from a stubbed toe to an untimely death — at the heart of every frustration lies a basic structure: the collision of a wish with an unyielding reality.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 3 “Consolation For Frustration” (2000)
Added on 2-Nov-17 | Last updated 2-Nov-17
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A just man is not one who does no ill,
But he, who with the power, has not the will.

Philemon (c. 362 BC – c. 262 BC) Athenian poet and playwright
Sententiæ, II

Attributed in John Booth, Epigrams, Ancient and Modern (1863)..
Added on 12-Sep-17 | Last updated 12-Sep-17
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Ah, Love! could you and I with Him conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits — and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!

Omar Khayyám (1048-1123) Persian poet, mathematician, philosopher, astronomer
Rubáiyát, 99 [tr. FitzGerald]
Added on 14-Aug-17 | Last updated 14-Aug-17
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I want
the world
and it will not fit
in my mouth.

Barbara Kingsolver (b. 1955) American novelist, essayist, poet
“Babyblues”
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Added on 14-Jul-17 | Last updated 14-Jul-17
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Ambition has its disappointments to sour us, but never the good fortune to satisfy us. Its appetite grows keener by indulgence and all we can gratify it with at present serves but the more to inflame its insatiable desires.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
“On True Happiness,” The Pennsylvania Gazette (20 Nov 1735)
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Added on 5-Jul-17 | Last updated 5-Jul-17
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Would that my ability was equal to my inclination.

Abigail Adams (1744-1818) American correspondent, First Lady (1797-1801)
Letter to John Quincy Adams (16 Feb 1786)
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Added on 3-Jul-17 | Last updated 3-Jul-17
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A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering cold iron.

Horace Mann (1796-1859) American educator
(Attributed)

Quoted in The Eclectic Magazine, Vol. 8 (Jan-Jun 1868), and in The Myrtle, Vol. 24, #40 (30 Jan 1875)
Added on 16-Jun-17 | Last updated 16-Jun-17
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The greatest evil which fortune can inflict on men is to endow them with small talents and great ambition.

Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues (1715-1747) French moralist, essayist, soldier
Reflections and Maxims [Réflexions et maximes], #562 [tr. Stevens] (1746)
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Added on 14-Jun-17 | Last updated 14-Jun-17
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I have a simple philosophy. Fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884-1980) American writer and socialite
(Attributed)

Quoted in Peter Passell & Leonard Ross, The Best (1974). When asked her opinion of the sexual revolution. Also attributed to Wallis Simpson.
Added on 29-Mar-17 | Last updated 29-Mar-17
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Dreadful will be the day when the world becomes contented, when one great universal satisfaction spreads itself over the world. Sad will be the day for every man when he becomes absolutely contented with the life that he is living, with the thoughts that he is thinking, with the deeds that he is doing, when there is not forever beating at the doors of his soul some great desire to do something larger which he knows that he was meant and made to do because he is a child of God.

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) American clergyman, hymnist
Daily Thoughts from Phillips Brooks (1893)
Added on 10-Aug-16 | Last updated 10-Aug-16
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It sometimes seems to me that we are all afflicted with an urge and possessed by a longing for the impossible. The reality around us, the three-dimensional world surrounding us, is too common, too dull, too ordinary for us. We hanker after the unnatural or supernatural, that which does not exist, a miracle. As if that everyday reality isn’t enigmatic enough!

M. C. Escher (1898-1972) Dutch artist [Maurits Cornelius Escher]
“The Impossible”
Added on 4-Mar-16 | Last updated 4-Mar-16
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The desire of knowledge, like the thirst of riches, increases ever with the acquisition of it.

Sterne - desire of knowledge - wist_info quote

Laurence Sterne (1713-1786) Anglo-Irish novelist, Anglican clergyman
Tristam Shandy, Book 1, ch. 3 (1760-1767)
Added on 3-Mar-16 | Last updated 3-Mar-16
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Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.

Oprah Winfrey (b. 1954) American TV personality, actress
(Attributed)
Added on 19-Nov-15 | Last updated 19-Nov-15
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As a hart longs for flowing streams,
So longs my soul for thee, O God.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Psalm 42:1

Alt. trans.:
  • As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. [NSRV]
  • As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. [KJV]
  • As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. [NIV]
  • As a deer longs for a stream of cool water, so I long for you, O God. [GNT]
Added on 26-May-15 | Last updated 26-May-15
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The starting point of all achievement is desire.

Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) American author, motivational writer
Think and Grow Rich (1937)
Added on 21-May-15 | Last updated 21-May-15
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To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.

Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) Lebanese-American poet, writer, painter [Gibran Khalil Gibran]
(Attributed)
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Added on 14-May-15 | Last updated 16-Aug-19
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Everyone believes very easily whatever they fear or desire.

Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695) French fabulist and poet
(Attributed)
Added on 8-May-15 | Last updated 8-May-15
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Ambition is like hunger; it obeys no law but its appetite.

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
(Attributed)
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Attributed in Frank Jenners Wilstach, A Dictionary of Similes (1916).
Added on 11-Mar-15 | Last updated 31-May-17
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“What,” asked Mr. Croup, “do you want?”
“What,” asked the marquis de Carabas, a little more rhetorically, “does anyone want?”
“Dead things,” suggested Mr. Vandemar. “Extra teeth.”

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
Neverwhere (1996)
Added on 24-Jul-14 | Last updated 24-Jul-14
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Want is a growing giant whom the coat of Have was never large enough to cover.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Wealth,” The Conduct of Life (1860)
Added on 12-May-14 | Last updated 25-Nov-15
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What greater evil could you wish a miser than a long life?

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 69 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
Added on 21-Nov-11 | Last updated 15-Feb-17
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Our life on earth is, and ought to be, material and carnal. But we have not yet learned to manage our materialism and carnality properly; they are still entangled with the desire for ownership.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
Abinger Harvest: A Miscellany, “My Wood” (1927)
Added on 23-Aug-11 | Last updated 9-May-14
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You can’t always get what you want.
But if you try sometimes,
You just might find
You get what you need.

Michael Philip "Mick" Jagger (b. 1943) English musician, songwriter, producer, actor
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” [with Keith Richards] (1969)
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Added on 9-Feb-10 | Last updated 18-Jun-15
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To live is like to love — all reason is against it, and all healthy instinct for it.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Life and Love” (1912)
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Added on 27-Nov-08 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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We desire nothing so much as what we ought not to have.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 559
Added on 10-Oct-08 | Last updated 20-Feb-17
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He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it — namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, ch. 2 (1876)
Added on 16-Apr-08 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known.

Garrison Keillor (b. 1942) American entertainer, author
Lake Wobegon Days (1985)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-May-14
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The miser is as much in want of that which he has, as of that which he has not.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 15-Feb-17
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Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of the facts and evidence.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
“Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials” (4 Dec 1770)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-Mar-17
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