Quotations about   destiny

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And, oh! whate’er Heaven destined to betide,
Let neither flattery soothe, nor pity hide.
Prepared I stand: he was but born to try
The lot of man; to suffer, and to die.

[πέρι γάρ μιν ὀιζυρὸν τέκε μήτηρ.
μηδέ τί μ᾽ αἰδόμενος μειλίσσεο μηδ᾽ ἐλεαίρων,
ἀλλ᾽ εὖ μοι κατάλεξον ὃπως ἤντησας ὀπωπῆς.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 3, l. 96ff (3.96) (c. 700 BC) [tr. Pope (1725), l. 114ff]
    (Source)

Telemachus seeking to learn from Nestor of the fate of his father, Odysseus. Telemachus later repeats these words in seeking news of his father from Menelaus (4.326). (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

[T]he unhappy wanderer,
To too much sorrow whom his mother bore.
You then by all your bounties I implore,
[...] that in nought applied
To my respect or pity you will glose,
But uncloth’d truth to my desires disclose
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

[B]orn to calamity.
Let no respect, or pity mitigate
Your story, howsoever sad it be.
Nothing but naked truth to me relate.
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 85ff]

For my father at his birth
Was, sure, predestin’d to no common woes.
Neither through pity, or o’erstrain’d respect
Flatter me, but explicit all relate
Which thou hast witness’d.
[tr. Cowper (1792), l. 120ff]

How hath his mother to exceeding teen
borne him! Let no kind thought thy tidings screen;
Paint not the tale through pity.
[tr. Worsley (1861), st. 12]

For sure a woeful wight his mother bore him!
Extenuate naught for shame or pity's sake,
But tell me all, as thou hast chanced to see!
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869), l. 95ff]

His mother bare him to exceeding sorrow. And speak me no soft words in ruth or pity, but tell me plainly what sight thou didst get of him.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

This man, his mother bore him to most exceeding woe --
But have no respect of my sorrow nor be soft and soothing now,
But tell all out unto me, in what wise the man thou hast seen.
[tr. Morris (1887), l. 95ff]

To exceeding grief his mother bore him. Use no mild word, no yield to pity, from regard for me, but tell me fully all you chanced to see.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

He was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things out of any pity for me, but tell me in all plainness exactly what you saw.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

For beyond all men did his mother bear him to sorrow. And do thou nowise out of ruth or pity for me speak soothing words, but tell me truly how thou didst come to behold him.
[tr. Murray (1919)]

Even from his mother's womb, calamity had marked him for her own. Do not in pity convey to me smooth things, things gentler than the truth: blurt out, rather, all that met your sight.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

For if ever a man was born for misery, it was he. Do not soften your account out of pity or concern for my feelings, but faithfully describe the scene that met your eyes.
[tr. Rieu (1946)]

The man was born for trouble. Spare me no part for kindness' sake; be harsh; but put the scene before me as you saw it.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]

His mother bore this man to be wretched. Do not soften it because you pity me and are sorry for me, but fairly tell me all that your eyes have witnessed.
[tr. Lattimore (1965)]

She who gave birth to him gave birth to grief. You need not sweeten anything for me. Forget discretion, set aside your pity: tell me completely -- all you chanced to see.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]

More than all other men, that man was born for pain.
Don't soften a thing, from pity, respect for me --
tell me, clearly, all your eyes have witnessed.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

He was born to sorrow.
More than any man on earth. And do not,
Out of pity, spare me the truth, but tell me
Whatever you have seen, whatever you know.
[tr. Lombardo (2000), l. 104ff]

For his mother indeed bore him to be woeful. Spare me nothing, extenuate nothing, nor show any pity; tell me all to the end, however it came to your notice.
[tr. Merrill (2002)]

For if ever a man was born to suffer it was he. Do not soften your account out of pity or concern for my feelings, but faithfully describe the scene that met your eyes.
[tr. D C H Rieu (2002)]

More than any other man his mother bore him for wretchedness. Do not let respect or pity for me soften your words, but tell me exactly how you chanced to see him.
[tr. Verity (2016)]

He was surely born to suffer in extraordinary ways. Please do not try to sweeten bitter news from pity; tell me truly if you saw him, and how he was.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

To unmatched sorrow his mother bore him! And don't, from concern or pity, speak false comfort to me, but tell me exactly what you may have witnessed!
[tr. Green (2018)]

For his mother bore him
to go through trouble more than other men.
Do not pity me or, from compassion,
just offer me kind words of consolation,
but tell me truly how you chanced to see him.
[tr. Johnston (2019), l. 119ff]

Added on 24-Nov-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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Only ambition is fired by the coincidences of success and easy accomplishment but nothing is quite as splendidly uplifting to the heart as the defeat of a human being who battles against the invincible superiority of fate. This is always the most grandiose of all tragedies, one sometimes created by a dramatist but created thousands of times by life.

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist, biographer
Stellar Moments in Human History [Sternstunden der Menschheit] (1953) [tr. Sonnenfeld]
Added on 5-Aug-21 | Last updated 5-Aug-21
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“Inevitability” is a magic word with which to mesmerize the unwary. Only death is inevitable. Short of that, nothing is inevitable until it happens, and everything is inevitable once it has happened. The historian deals with past events and therefore to him all history is inevitable. But these past events were once in the future, and then they were not inevitable.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
“War by Time-Table,” War by Time-Table: How the First World War Began (1969)
    (Source)

See also Taylor.
Added on 19-Jul-21 | Last updated 19-Jul-21
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Perhaps the hardest thing for humans to do is to imagine the world as it is imagined by others. We tend to confuse acting in accordance with the goals and values of the society in which we live with rationality; we tend to confuse intelligence with thinking in accordance with those goals and values. And, of course, we are always inclined to see events as predetermined — and we are almost always wrong.

Masha Gessen (b. 1967) Russian-American journalist, author, translator, activist
“The Fundamental Uncertainty of Mueller’s Russia Indictments,” The New Yorker (20 Feb 2018)
    (Source)
Added on 7-Jun-21 | Last updated 7-Jun-21
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If fate means you to lose, give him a good fight anyhow.

William McFee (1881-1966) English writer
Casuals of the Sea, Book 2, ch. 2 (1916)
    (Source)
Added on 28-May-21 | Last updated 28-May-21
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Then welcome fate!
‘Tis true I perish, yet I perish great:
Yet in a mighty deed I shall expire,
Let future ages hear it, and admire!

[νῦν αὖτέ με μοῖρα κιχάνει.
μὴ μὰν ἀσπουδί γε καὶ ἀκλειῶς ἀπολοίμην,
ἀλλὰ μέγα ῥέξας τι καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 22, l. 303ff (22.303) [Hector] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Pope (1715-20), l. 385ff]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

But Fate now conquers; I am hers; and yet not she shall share
In my renown; that life is left to every noble spirit,
And that some great deed shall beget that all lives shall inherit.
[tr. Chapman (1611), l. 266ff]

But I will not fall
Inglorious; I will act some great exploit
That shall be celebrated ages hence.
[tr. Cowper (1791), l. 347ff]

Fate overtakes me. Nevertheless I will not perish cowardly and ingloriously at least, but having done some great deed to be heard of even by posterity.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

My fate hath found me now.
Yet not without a struggle let me die,
Nor all inglorious; but let some great act,
Which future days may hear of, mark my fall.
[tr. Derby (1864)]

Now my fate hath found me. At least let me not die without a struggle or ingloriously, but in some great deed of arms whereof men yet to be born shall hear.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

My doom has come upon me; let me not then die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some great thing that shall be told among men hereafter.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Now again is my doom come upon me. Nay, but not without a struggle let me die, neither ingloriously, but in the working of some great deed for the hearing of men that are yet to be.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

But now my death is upon me. Let me at least not die without a struggle, inglorious, but do some big thing first, that men to come shall know of it.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

So now I meet my doom. Well let me die --
but not without struggle, not without glory, no,
in some great clash of arms that even men to come
will hear of down the years!
[tr. Fagles (1990), l. 359ff]

But now has my doom overcome me. But let me at least not die without making a fight, without glory, but a great deed having done for the men of the future to hear of.
[tr. Merrill (2007)]

May I not die without a fight and without glory
but after doing something big for men to come to learn about.
[tr. @Sentantiq (2011)]

Added on 24-Mar-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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“So, Jeeves!”

“Yes, sir.”

“What do you mean. Yes, sir?”

“I was endeavouring to convey my appreciation of the fact that your position is in many respects somewhat difficult, sir. But I wonder if I might call your attention to an observation of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. He said: ‘Does aught befall you? It is good. It is part of the destiny of the Universe ordained for you from the beginning. All that befalls you is part of the great web.'”

I breathed a bit stertorously.

“He said that, did he?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, you can tell him from me he’s an ass.”

P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) Anglo-American humorist, playwright and lyricist [Pelham Grenville Wodehouse]
The Mating Season, ch. 4 (1949)
    (Source)

Adapted from Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 4, #26 [tr. Rendall (1901)].

Wodehouse uses in "Ordeal by Golf" (1919) a similar sentiment from Meditations, Book 10, #5, to suggest Marcus Aurelius was a golfer.

Imitate the spirit of Marcus Aurelius. "Whatever may befall thee," says that great man in his "Meditations," "it was preordained for thee from everlasting. Nothing happens to anybody which he is not fitted by nature to bear." I like to think that this noble thought came to him after he had sliced a couple of new balls into the woods, and that he jotted it down on the back of his score-card.
Added on 11-Mar-21 | Last updated 19-Oct-21
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Both gods knotted the rope of strife and leveling war,
strangling both sides at once by stretching the mighty cable,
never broken, never slipped, that snapped the knees of thousands.

[Τοὶ δ’ ἔριδος κρατερῆς καὶ ὁμοιΐου πτολέμοιο
πεῖραρ ἐπαλλάξαντες ἐπ’ ἀμφοτέροισι τάνυσσαν
ἄῤῥηκτόν τ’ ἄλυτόν τε, τὸ πολλῶν γούνατ’ ἔλυσεν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 13, l. 358ff (13.358) (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), l. 417ff]

On Zeus and Poseidon driving on the Greeks and Trojans during the war. Alt. trans.:

So these Gods made men’s valours great, but equall’d them with war
As harmful as their hearts were good; and stretch’d those chains as far
On both sides as their limbs could bear, in which they were involv’d
Past breach, or loosing, that their knees might therefore be dissolv’d.
[tr. Chapman (1611), l. 336ff]

These powers infold the Greek and Trojan train
In War and Discord's adamantine chain;
Indissolubly strong; the fatal tie
Is stretched on both, and close-compelled they die.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Thus, these Immortal Two, straining the cord
Indissoluble of all-wasting war,
Alternate measured with it either host,
And loosed the joints of many a warrior bold.
[tr. Cowper (1791), l. 438ff]

This way and that they tugg’d of furious war
And balanc’d strife, where many a warrior fell,
The straining rope, which none might break or loose.
[tr. Derby (1864)]

These twain had strained the ends of the cords of strong strife and equal war, and had stretched them over both Trojans and Achaians, a knot that none might break nor undo, for the loosening of the knees of many.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

Thus, then, did these two devise a knot of war and battle, that none could unloose or break, and set both sides tugging at it, to the failing of men's knees beneath them.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

So these twain knotted the ends of the cords of mighty strife and evil war, and drew them taut over both armies, a knot none might break nor undo, that loosed the knees of many men.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

So these two had looped over both sides a crossing
cable of strong discord and the closing of the battle, not to be
slipped, not to be broken, which unstrung the knees of many.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

These gods had interlocked and drawn
an ultimate hard line of strife and war
between the armies; none
could loosen or break that line
that had undone the knees of many men.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

Added on 30-Dec-20 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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If you are what you ought to be, you will set fire to all Italy, and not only yonder.

[Se sarete quello che dovete essere, metterete fuoco in tutta Italia, non tanto costì.]

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) Italian Catholic mystic, activist, author
Letter 368 to Stefano Maconi
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:
  • "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire." [Quoted by Bishop Richard Chartres, sermon, Royal Wedding, Westminster Abbey (29 Apr 2011)]
  • "If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!" [Quoted by Pope John Paul II, Closing Homily at World Youth Day, Tor Vergata (20 Aug 2000)]
  • "If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire."
  • "Become who God intended you to be and you will set the world on fire."
  • "If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire!"
Original Italian.
Added on 7-Oct-20 | Last updated 7-Oct-20
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And fate? No one alive has ever escaped it,
neither brave man nor coward, I tell you —
it’s born with us the day that we are born.

[Μοῖραν δ’ οὔ τινά φημι πεφυγμένον ἔμμεναι ἀνδρῶν,
οὐ κακὸν οὐδὲ μὲν ἐσθλόν, ἐπὴν τὰ πρῶτα γένηται.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 6, l. 488ff (6.488-489) (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 582-84]

Hector bidding his wife farewell. Alt. trans.:

And fate, whose wings can fly?
Noble, ignoble, fate controls. Once born, the best must die.
[tr. Chapman (1611), ll. 528-29]

Fixed is the term to all the race of earth,
And such the hard condition of our birth.
No force can then resist, no flight can save;
All sink alike, the fearful and the brave.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Nor lives he who can overpass the date
By heaven assign’d him, be he base or brave
[tr. Cowper (1791), ll. 595-96]

But I think there is no one of men who has escaped fate, neither the coward nor the brave man, after he has once been born.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

If a man's hour is come, be he brave or be he coward, there is no escape for him when he has once been born.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Only his doom, methinks, no man hath ever escaped, be he coward or valiant, when once he hath been born.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

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Now and then it occurs to one to reflect upon what slender threads of accident depend the most important circumstances of his life; to look back and shudder, realizing how close to the edge of nothingness his being has come.

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
100%: the Story of a Patriot, Sec. 1 (1920)
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My person was hideous and my stature gigantic. What did this mean? Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination? These questions continually recurred, but I was unable to solve them.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) English novelist
Frankenstein, ch. 14 (1818)
    (Source)

Narrated by the Monster.
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Brave men earn the right to shape their own destiny.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“The Decline of Greatness,” Saturday Evening Post (1 Nov 1958)
    (Source)

Reprinted in The Politics of Hope, ch. 2 (1963)
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We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims.

Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) American architect, engineer
(Attributed)

Quoted in L. Steven Sieden, A Fuller View (2012).
Added on 12-Feb-18 | Last updated 12-Feb-18
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I believe that happiness consists in having a destiny in keeping with our abilities. Our desires are things of the moment, often harmful even to ourselves; but our abilities are permanent, and their demands never cease.

Germaine de Staël (1766-1817) Swiss-French writer, woman of letters, critic, salonist [Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, Madame de Staël, Madame Necker]
Reflections on Suicide (1813)
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“The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on” — and only then do you find out if it goosed you in passing.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Farnham’s Freehold, ch. 21 (1964)
    (Source)

See Omar Khayyám.
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A man’s character is his fate.

Heraclitus (c.540-c.480 BC) Greek philosopher [also Heracleitus]
“On the Universe,” fragment 121
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Destiny is for people who are too lazy to create alternate timelines.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Richard Stevens III, Diesel Sweeties (5 Oct 2011)
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Added on 4-Jan-17 | Last updated 4-Jan-17
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The conflict between the principle of liberty and the fact of slavery is coming gradually to an issue. Slavery has now the power, and falls into convulsions at the approach of freedom. That the fall of slavery is predetermined in the counsels of Omnipotence I cannot doubt; it is a part of the great moral improvement in the condition of man, attested by all the records of history. But the conflict will be terrible, and the progress of improvement perhaps retrograde before its final progress to consummation.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) US President (1825-29)
Journal (11 Dec 1838)
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Captain, the problem is not that I’m paranoid. The problem is that the universe keeps justifying my paranoia.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
The End of All Things (2015)
Added on 25-Oct-16 | Last updated 25-Oct-16
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Fate chooses our relatives, we choose our friends.

Jacques Delille (1738-1813) French poet, translator
“Malheur et Pitié,” Canto 1 (1803)
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MONGO: Mongo only pawn in game of life.

Mel Brooks (b. 1926) American comedic actor, writer, producer [b. Melvyn Kaminsky]
Blazing Saddles (1974)
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Small are the seeds fate does unheeded sow
Of slight beginnings to important ends.

William Davenant (1606-1668) English poet and playwright [a.k.a. William D'Avenant]
Gondibert, Canto 2 (1650)
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The human soul, the world, the universe are laboring on to their magnificent consummation. We are not fashioned thus marvelously for nought.

Emerson - fashioned thus marvelously - wist_info quote

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (Dec 1820)
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RESPONSIBILITY, n. A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one’s neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer and journalist
The Cynic’s Word Book (1906)
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WILL MUNNY: It’s a helluva thing killing a man. You take away all he’s got, and all he’s ever gonna have.

SCHOFIELD KID: Well, I guess they had it coming.

WILL MUNNY: We all have it coming, kid.

David Peoples (b. 1940) American screenwriter
Unforgiven (film) (1992)

Will Munny was played by Clint Eastwood.
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MALVOLIO: Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.

Shakespeare - greatness thrust - wist_info

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Twelfth Night, Act 2, Sc. 5, l. 156 (1599)
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Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior.
Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits.
Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
(Attributed)

Never specifically cited, and attributed with variations in the language. Also attributed as a Chinese or Buddhist proverb.
Added on 26-Oct-15 | Last updated 26-Oct-15
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The power of fortune is confessed only by the miserable; for the happy impute all their success to prudence or merit.
Jonathan Swift - fortune - wist_info

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)
    (Source)
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It is not written in the stars that I will always understand what is going on — a truism that I often find damnably annoying.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Friday [Friday Jones] (1982)
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Sometimes I wonder whether if I’d been the one that went for coffee and not Leslie May my life would have been much less interesting and certainly much less dangerous. Could it have been anyone, or was it destiny? When I’m considering this I find it helpful to quote the wisdom of my father, who once told me, “Who knows why the fuck anything happens?”

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) British author
Rivers of London [Midnight Riot] (2011)
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Don’t wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel, stride down there … and light the bloody thing yourself.

Sara Henderson (1936-2005) Australian pastoralist and author
The Strength in Us All (1994)
Added on 29-Sep-15 | Last updated 29-Sep-15
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Whatever happens, they say afterwards, it must have been fate. People are always a little confused about this, as they are in the case of miracles. When someone is saved from certain death by a strange concatenation of circumstances, they say that’s a miracle. But of course if someone is killed by a freak chain of events — the oil spilled just there, the safety fence broken just there — that must also be a miracle. Just because it’s not nice doesn’t mean it’s not miraculous.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Interesting Times (1994)
Added on 2-Sep-15 | Last updated 2-Sep-15
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Do your duty, and leave the outcome to the Gods.

Pierre Corneille (1606-1684) French tragedian
Horace, Act 2, sc. 8 (1640)
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There isn’t a way things should be. There’s just what happens, and what we do.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
A Hat Full of Sky (2004)
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Be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down.

Wilson Mizner (1876-1933) American screenwriter and wit
In Alva Johnston, The Legendary Mizners, ch. 4 (1953)

Also quoted in Evan Esar, The Dictionary of Humorous Quotations (1949).
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I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
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A man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005) American journalist, writer
Letter to Hume Logan (22 Apr 1958)
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One thing I believe profoundly: We make our own history. The course of history is directed by the choices we make and our choices grow out of the ideas, the beliefs, the values, the dreams of the people. It is not so much the powerful leaders that determine our destiny as the much more powerful influence of the combined voices of the people themselves.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
Tomorrow Is Now (1963)
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The great and glorious masterpiece of man is to know how to live to purpose; all other things, to reign, to lay up treasure, to build, are, at most, but little appendices and props.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“Of Experience,” Essays, Vol 3, ch. 13 [ed. Hazlitt, tr. Cotton]
    (Source)
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The art of life isn’t controlling what happens, which is impossible; it’s using what happens.

Gloria Steinem (b. 1934) American feminist, journalist, activist
Moving Beyond Words, “Doing Sixty” (1994)
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Come, clear the way, then, clear the way:
Blind creeds and kings have had their day.
Break the dead branches from the path;
Our hope is in the aftermath —
Our hope is in heroic men,
Star-led to build the world again.
To this Event the ages ran:
Make way for Brotherhood — make way for Man.

Edwin Markham (1852-1940) American poet
“Brotherhood,” The Man with the Hoe and Other Poems (1899)
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There is a destiny that makes us brothers:
None goes his way alone:
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back onto our own.

Edwin Markham (1852-1940) American poet
“A Creed To Mr. David Lubin”, st. 1, Lincoln & Other Poems (1901)
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Happy is he who learns to bear what he cannot change!

Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) German poet, playwright, critic [Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller]
“On the Sublime”
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One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
‘Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.

Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
‘Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) American author and poet.
“‘Tis the Set of the Sail” (1916)
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She was temptable — which, if you believe in an all-powerful God, means God intentionally put temptation into Eve. Which seems like a dirty trick, if you ask me.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
The Ghost Brigades, ch. 13 (2006)
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Voyage upon life’s sea,
To yourself be true,
And, whatever your lot may be,
Paddle your own Canoe.

Sarah T. Bolton (1814-1893) American poet, women's activist (née Sarah Tittle Barrett)
“Paddle Your Own Canoe,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (May 1854)
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Those people you saw — the realborn — are born without a plan. They’re born because biology tells humans to make more humans; but it doesn’t consider what to do with them after that. Realborn go for years without the slightest clue what they’re going to do with themselves. From what I understand, some of them never actually figure it out. They just walk through life in a daze and then fall into their graves at the end of it. Sad. And inefficient.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
The Ghost Brigades, ch. 5 (2006)
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Don’t believe the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

Robert Jones Burdette (1844-1914) American humorist, lecturer, clergyman
“Advice to Young Men,” lecture (1833)

Quoted in the Duluth Evening Observer (1 Feb 1883). Frequently misattributed to Mark Twain. See here for more information.
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How small man is on this little atom where he dies! But how great his intelligence! He knows when the face of the stars must be masked in darkness, when the comets will return after thousands of years, he who lasts only an instant! A microscopic insect lost in a fold of the heavenly robe, the orbs cannot hide from him a single one of their movements in the depth of space. What destinies will those stars, new to us, light? Is their revelation bound up with some new phase of humanity? You will know, race to be born; I know not, and I am departing.

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
Memoirs from Beyond the Grave [Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe], Book 42, ch. 18 (1848-1850) [tr. Kline]
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Oh, well. All good things seize their bearings eventually.

Chris Bunch (1943-2005) American novelist, television writer
Fleet of the Damned (1988) [with Allan Cole]
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Most people are like a falling leaf that drifts and turns in the air, flutters, and falls to the ground. But a few others are like stars which travel one defined path: no wind reaches them, they have within themselves their guide and path.

Herman Hesse (1877-1962) German-born Swiss poet, novelist, painter
Siddhartha, ch 2 “Amongst the People” (1922) [tr. Rosner (1951)]
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All theory is against the freedom of the will; all experience for it.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (15 Apr 1778)

In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
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The ideal world of our revolutionaries […] is a flaming sense of the immediacy of the idea, a feeling that there is something in all men better than their present fate, and a conviction that what is, not only ought not, but need not be.

Crane Brinton (1898-1968)
The Anatomy of Revolution, 2.3 (1952)
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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)]
    (Source)

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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