Quotations about   experience

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Anyone who wants to know the human psyche will learn next to nothing from experimental psychology. He would be better advised to [abandon exact science] put away his scholar’s gown, bid farewell to his study, and wander with human heart throughout the world. There in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-hells, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, Socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in his own body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than text-books a foot thick could give him and he will know how to doctor the sick with a real knowledge of the human soul.

Carl Jung (1875-1961) Swiss psychologist
“New Paths in Psychology,” ¶ 411 (1912)
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You choose, you live the consequences. Every yes, no, maybe, creates the school you call your personal experience.

Richard Bach (b. 1936) American writer
Running From Safety, ch. 15 (1994)
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Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, wit, dramatist
Lady Windermere’s Fan, Act 3 [Mr. Dumby] (1892)
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Also in Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, ch. 4 (1890):

Experience was of no ethical value. It was merely the name men gave to their mistakes.
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Experience is nearly always commonplace; the present is not romantic in the way the past is, and ideals and great visions have a way of becoming shoddy and squalid in practical life. Literature reverses this process.

Northrop Frye (1912-1991) Canadian literary critic and literary theorist
The Educated Imagination, Talk 3 “Giants in Time” (1963)
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Some free advice for you: Never fight an old man. They’ve been there, done that, written the book, made and starred in the movie, designed the T-shirt, and they’ve got no ego at all about how the fight gets won.

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
Peace Talks, ch. 32 (2020)
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Comrades, we’re well acquainted with evils, then and now.
Worse than this you have suffered. God will end all this too.

[O socii — neque enim ignari sumus ante malorum —
O passi graviora, dabit deus his quoque finem.]

Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 1, l. 198ff (1.198-199) [Aeneas] (29-19 BC) [tr. Day Lewis (1952)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Endure, and conquer! Jove will soon dispose
To future good our past and present woes.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

O companions, who have sustained severer ills than these, (for we are not strangers to former days of adversity,) to these, too, God will grant a termination.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

Comrades and friends! for ours is strength
⁠Has brooked the test of woes;
O worse-scarred hearts! these wounds at length
⁠The Gods will heal, like those.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

O friends, who greater sufferings still have borne,
(for not unknown to us are former griefs,)
And end also to these the deity
Will give.
[tr. Cranch (1872), l. 251ff]

O comrades, for not now nor aforetime are we ignorant of ill, O tried by heavier fortunes, unto this last likewise will God appoint an end.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

O fellows, we are used ere now by evil ways to wend;
O ye who erst bore heavier loads, this too the Gods shall end.
[tr. Morris (1900)]

Comrades! of ills not ignorant; far more
Than these ye suffered, and to these as well
Will Jove give ending, as he gave before.
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 27 / l. 235ff]

Companions mine, we have not failed to feel
calamity till now. O, ye have borne
far heavier sorrow: Jove will make an end
also of this.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

O comrades -- for ere this we have not been ignorant of evils -- O ye who have borne a heavier lot, to this, too, God will grant an end!
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

O comrades, we have been through evil
Together before this; we have been through worse
[...] This, too, the god will end.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

O comrades -- surely we're not ignorant
of earlier disasters, we who have suffered
things heaver than this -- our god will give
an end to this as well.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), l. 276ff]

Friends and companions,
Have we not known hard hours before this?
My men, who have endured still greater dangers,
God will grant us an end to these as well.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981), l. 270ff]

My friends, this is not the first trouble we have known. We have suffered worse before, and this too will pass. God will see to it.
[tr. West (1990)]

Trojans! This is not our first taste of trouble.v You have suffered worse than this, myfriends,
And God will grant an end to this also.
[tr. Lombardo (2005), l. 234ff]

My comrades, hardly strangers to pain before now,
we all have weathered worse. Some god will grant us
an end to this as well.
[tr. Fagles (2006)]

My friends: we're no strangers to misfortune. You've suffered worse; some god will end this too.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

Added on 22-Dec-21 | Last updated 22-Dec-21
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Monsieur, my son is twenty-two years old. If he had not become a Communist at twenty-two, I would have disowned him. If he is still a Communist at thirty, I will do it then.

Georges Clemenceau
Georges Clemenceau (1841–1929) French statesman, physician, journalist
(Attributed)

Response to someone who was alarmed about his son being a Communist, as attributed in Bennett Cerf, Try and Stop Me (1944).

This may be the source of the quote also attributed to Clemenceau, “Any man who is not a socialist at age twenty has no heart. Any man who is still a socialist at age forty has no head.” Later, George Seldes attributed to David Lloyd George: "A young man who isn’t a socialist hasn’t got a heart; an old man who is a socialist hasn’t got a head.” François Guizot in the mid-19th Century was said to have said, “Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.”

The earliest version of this comes from a public letter by Anselme Polycarpe Batbie (1828-1887), who attributed this to Edmund Burke: "Anyone who is not a republican at twenty casts doubt on the generosity of his soul; but he who, after thirty years, perseveres, casts doubt on the soundness of his mind. [Celui qui n’est pas républicain à vingt ans fait douter de la générosité de son âme; mais celui qui, après trente ans, persévère, fait douter de la rectitude de son esprit.]" This has not been found in Burke's writings.

Variants have also been attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Dean Inge, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Otto von Bismarck, and Bertrand Russell.

Further discussion of this quotation:
Added on 8-Dec-21 | Last updated 8-Dec-21
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“Darkness” is shorthand for anything that scares me — that I want no part of — either because I am sure that I do not have the resources to survive it or because I do not want to find out. The absence of God is in there, along with the fear of dementia and the loss of those nearest and dearest to me. So is the melting of polar ice caps, the suffering of children, and the nagging question of what it will feel like to die. If I had my way, I would eliminate everything from chronic back pain to the fear of the devil from my life and the lives of those I love — if I could just find the right night-lights to leave on.

At least I think I would. The problem is this: when, despite all my best efforts, the lights have gone off in my life (literally or figuratively, take your pick), plunging me into the kind of darkness that turns my knees to water, nonetheless I have not died. The monsters have not dragged me out of bed and taken me back to their lair. The witches have not turned me into a bat. Instead, I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.

Barbara Brown Taylor (b. 1951) American minister, academic, author
Learning to Walk in the Dark, Introduction (2014)
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Added on 12-Nov-21 | Last updated 12-Nov-21
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Men will learn eventually, and if they insist on rejecting the received wisdom of generations past, they do not thereby succeed at invalidating it; they merely condemn themselves to learning it, time and again, by ever grimmer experience.

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) Franco-British writer, historian [Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc]
(Misattributed)
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While usually attributed to Belloc, and even further to his essay "The Restoration of Property" (1936), it does not appear in that work, proper. Rather, it is found in the Introduction to the 2002 IHS Press edition the work, signed only by the Directors of the IHS Press.
Added on 25-Oct-21 | Last updated 25-Oct-21
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Art’s distillation. Experience is wine, and art is the brandy we distill from it.

Robertson Davies (1913-1995) Canadian author, editor, publisher
A Mixture of Frailties, ch. 1 (1958)
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Added on 4-Oct-21 | Last updated 4-Oct-21
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We are all captives of the picture in our head — our belief that the world we have experienced is the world that really exists.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
(Attributed)
Added on 20-Sep-21 | Last updated 20-Sep-21
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Like common law, the moral imagination works by precedent and example. We are all equipped with an inherited archive of historical events that serves as the background for everything that occurs. Especially when we are confronted with new events that test the limits of moral comprehension, we call upon what is most familiar in historical memory to regain our sense of moral orientation. We require this archive not only for political judgment, but as the necessary horizon for human experience.

Peter E Gordon
Peter E, Gordon (b. 1966) American intellectual historian
“Why Historical Analogy Matters,” New York Review of Books (7 Jan 2020)
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an optimist is a guy
that has never had
much experience

Don Marquis (1878-1937) American journalist and humorist
archy and mehitabel, “certain maxims of archy” (1927)
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These are times in which a Genious would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. Would Cicero have shone so distinguished an orater, if he had not been roused, kindled and enflamed by the Tyranny of Catiline, Millo, Verres and Mark Anthony. The Habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. All History will convince you of this, and that wisdom and penetration are the fruits of experience, not the Lessons of retirement and leisure. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the Heart, then those qualities which would otherways lay dormant, wake into Life, and form the Character of the Hero and the Statesman.

Abigail Adams (1744-1818) American correspondent, First Lady (1797-1801)
Letter to John Quincy Adams (19 Jan 1780)
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Written when John Quincy was twelve, in Paris with his father for the peace negotiations with Britain.
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Travel sharpens the senses. Abroad one feels, sees and hears things in an abnormal way.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
“On Travel and Travel Writing,” The Norton Book of Travel (1987)
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If you wish to succeed in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius.

Joseph Addison (1672-1719) English essayist, poet, statesman
(Attributed)

Broadly attributed to Addison, but possibly a 19th Century creation. The earliest found appearance is in 1854, and the earliest attribution to Addison in in 1862.
Added on 14-Jun-21 | Last updated 14-Jun-21
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Perhaps God made cats so that man might have the pleasure of fondling the tiger ….

Robertson Davies (1913-1995) Canadian author, editor, publisher
The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, ch. 20 (1947)
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If a man should ascend alone into heaven and behold clearly the structure of the universe and the beauty of the stars, there would be no pleasure for him in the awe-inspiring sight, which would have filled him with delight if he had had someone to whom he could describe what he had seen.

[Si quis in coelum ascendisset, naturamque mundi, et pulchritudinem siderum perspexisset, insuavem illam admirationem ei fore; quae jucudissima fuisset, si aliquem, cui narraret, habuisset.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
“Laelius De Amicitia [Laelius on Friendship],” ch. 23 / sec. 88 (44 BC) [tr. Falconer (1923)]
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Original Latin. Cicero attributes this as a paraphrase of Archytas of Tarentum (d. 394 BC), a Pythagorean philosopher and astronomer. Alternate translations:

If any one could have ascended to the sky, and surveyed the structure of the universe, and the beauty of the stars, that such admiration would be insipid to him; and yet it would be most delightful if he had someone to whom he might describe it.
[tr. Edmonds (1871)]

If one had ascended to heaven, and had obtained a full view of the nature of the universe and the beauty of the stars, yet his admiration would be without delight, if there were no one to whom he could tell what he had seen.
[tr. Peabody (1887)]

If a man could ascend to heaven and get a clear view of the natural order of the universe, and the beauty of the heavenly bodies, that wonderful spectacle would give him small pleasure, though nothing could be conceived more delightful if he had but had some one to whom to tell what he had seen.
[tr. Shuckburgh (1909)]

If a man could mount to heaven and survey the mighty universe with all the planetary orbs, his admiration of its beauties would be much diminished, unless he had someone to share in his pleasure.
[Source]

Added on 3-May-21 | Last updated 3-May-21
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Learning and living. But they are really the same thing, aren’t they? There is no experience from which you can’t learn something. … And the purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
You Learn By Living, Introduction (1960)
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Using maxims is appropriate for those who are older in age when uttered about things for which they have some experience. Using maxims before one is this age lacks propriety as does story-telling: to speak about what one has no experience in is foolish and uneducated. A sufficient sign of this is that bumpkins especially tend to make up maxims and they easily show them off.

[ἁρμόττει δὲ γνωμολογεῖν ἡλικίᾳ μὲν πρεσβυτέροις, περὶ δὲ τούτων ὧν ἔμπειρός τις ἐστί, ὡς τὸ μὲν μὴ τηλικοῦτον ὄντα γνωμολογεῖν ἀπρεπὲς ὥσπερ καὶ τὸ μυθολογεῖν, περὶ δ᾿ ὧν ἄπειρος, ἠλίθιον καὶ ἀπαίδευτον. σημεῖον δ᾿ ἱκανόν· οἱ γὰρ ἀγροῖκοι μάλιστα γνωμοτύποι εἰσὶ καὶ ῥᾳδίως ἀποφαίνονται.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Rhetoric [Ῥητορική; Ars Rhetorica], Book 2, ch. 21, sec. 9 (2.21.9) / 1395a.9 (350 BC) [tr. @sentantiq (2018)]
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(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

In point of age, the use of maxims befit the old, and should be on those matters of which they have particular experience; so that for one who has not arrived at that stage of life, to use maxims is unbecoming; just it is for him to use fables; and if it be on matters whereof he has no experience, it is absurd, and a mark of ignorance. And the following is a sufficient proof of it, for that the rustics most of all are proverb-mongers, and are ready at uttering them.
[Source (1847)]

The employment of maxims becomes him who is rather advanced in life; and particularly as respects subjects about which each happens to be well informed. Since for one not so advanced in age to sport maxims is bad taste, just as it is for him to have recourse to fables: and the ue of them on subjects about which one is ignorant is silly, and argues a want of education. There is a sufficient sign of the truth of this; for the boors of the country are of all other people most fond of hammering out maxims, and set them forth with great volubility.
[tr. Buckley (1850)]

The use of maxims is suitable to elderly men, and in regard to subjects with which one is conversant; for sententiousness, like story-telling, is unbecoming in a younger man; while, in regard to subjects with which one is not conversant, it is stupid and shows want of culture. It is token enough of this that rustics are the greatest coiners of maxims, and the readiest to set forth their views.
[tr. Jebb (1873)]

The use of maxims is suitable for one who is advanced in years, and in regard to things in which one has experience; since the use of maxims before such an age is unseemly, as also is story-telling; and to speak about things of which one has no experience shows foolishness and lack of education. A sufficient proof of this is that rustics especially are fond of coining maxims and ready to make display of them.
[tr. Freese (1924)]

The use of Maxims is appropriate only to elderly men, and in handling subjects in which the speaker is experienced. For a young man to use them is -- like telling stories -- unbecoming; to use them in handling things in which one has no experience is silly and ill-bred: a fact sufficiently proved by the special fondness of country fellows for striking out maxims, and their readiness to air them.
[tr. Roberts (1924)]

The use of maxims is suitable for one who is advanced in years, and in regard to things in which one has experience; since the use of maxims before such an age is unseemly, as also is story-telling; and to speak about things of which one has no experience shows foolishness and lack of education. A sufficient proof of this is that rustics especially are fond of coining maxims and ready to make display of them.
[tr. Freese (1926)]

It is fitting for someone more advanced in age to speak in maxims, and about things he has experience of, since it is inappropriate for someone not of that age to speak in maxims, just as it also to tell myths, and to do so about things he is inexperienced in, this being a mark of foolishness and lack of education. There is a sufficient sign of this: country bumpkins are the ones most given to uttering maxims ....
[tr. Bartlett (2019)]

Added on 16-Apr-21 | Last updated 1-Feb-22
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Life is too short to drink bad wine.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
(Misattributed)

Often attributed to him, but not found in Goethe's works. The attribution, though, may come from translators' commentary on Goethe's West–Eastern Diwan, "The Book of the Cup-Bearer" (1819/1827), that refers to a poetic passage as deriving from Diez's 1811 translation of the Book of Kabus (Qabus):

It comes to this, that it is a sin to drink wine. If though, then committest sin, commit it at least for the best wine, for otherwise wouldst though on one part commit sin, and on another drink bad wine. By God! that would be the most sorrowful among sorrowful things. [tr. Rogers (1890)]

It so happens that wine-drinking is a sin. Hence, if you do commit this sin, do it at least with the best wine; otherwise, you'll commit the sin, on the one hand, and on the other, you'll drink bad wine. By God! That would be the sorriest of all sorry things. [tr. Ormsby (2019)]


More information: The Big Apple: “Life is too short to drink cheap wine”
Added on 9-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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What can be more delightful than to have someone to whom you can say everything with the same absolute confidence as to yourself? Is not prosperity robbed of half its value if you have no one to share your joy?

[Quid dulcius quam habere quicum omnia audeas sic loqui ut tecum? Qui esset tantus fructus in prosperis rebus, nisi haberes, qui illis aeque ac tu ipse gauderet?]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
“Laelius De Amicitia [Laelius on Friendship],” ch. 6 / sec. 22 (44 BC) [tr. Shuckburgh (1909)]
    (Source)

Original Latin. Peabody (below) attributes the first sentence here to Ennius, whom Cicero quotes in the previous sentence, but nobody else does. Alternate translations:

What can be more delightful than to have one to whom you can speak on all subjects just as to yourself? Where would be the great enjoyment in prosperity if you had not one to rejoice in it equally with yourself?
[tr. Edmonds (1871)]

What sweeter joy than in the kindred soul, whose converse differs not from self-communion? How could you have full enjoyment of prosperity, unless with one whose pleasure in it was equal to your own?
[tr. Peabody (1887)]

What is sweeter than to have someone with whom you may dare discuss anything as if you were communing with yourself? How could your enjoyment in times of prosperity be so great if you did not have someone whose joy in them would be equal to your own?
[tr. Falconer (1923)]

What is sweeter than to have someone with whom you dare to discuss everything, as if with yourself? How could there be great joy in prosperous things, if you did not have someone who would enjoy them equally much as you yourself?
[Source]

Added on 5-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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Beauty is an ecstasy; it is as simple as hunger. There is really nothing to be said about it. It is like the perfume of a rose: you can smell it and that is all.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
Cakes and Ale, ch. 11 (1930)
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Like any of life’s refining fires, cancer is a potentially profound learning experience. So what did I learn? I learned that profound learning experiences are vastly overrated.

Joni Rodgers (b. 1962) American author
Bald in the Land of Big Hair (2001)
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When theology erodes and organization crumbles, when the institutional framework of religion begins to break up, the search for a direct experience which people can feel to be religious facilitates the rise of cults.

Daniel Bell (1919-2011) American sociologist, writer, editor, academic
“Religion in the Sixties,” Social Research (Fall 1971)
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Once a faith is shattered, it takes a long time to grow again — for its soil is experience — and to become effective again.

Daniel Bell (1919-2011) American sociologist, writer, editor, academic
The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, ch. 6 “The Public Household” (1976)
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I am seeking to rescue the poor stockinger, the Luddite cropper, the “obsolete” hand-loom weaver, the “utopian” artisan, and even the deluded follower of Joanna Southcott, from the enormous condescension of posterity. Their crafts and traditions may have been dying. Their hostility to the new industrialism may have been backward-looking. Their communitarian ideals may have been fantasies. Their insurrectionary conspiracies may have been foolhardy. But they lived through these times of acute social disturbance, and we did not. Their aspirations were valid in terms of their own experience; and, if they were casualties of history, they remain, condemned in their own lives, as casualties.

E. P. Thompson (1924-1993) British historian, writer, activist [Edward Palmer Thompson]
The Making of the English Working Class, Preface (1963)
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For in order to command well, we should know how to submit; and he who submits with a good grace will some time become worthy of commanding.

[Nam et qui bene imperat, paruerit aliquando necesse est, et qui modeste paret, videtur qui aliquando imperet dignus esse.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Legibus (On the Laws), Book 3, sec. 2 [tr. Barham]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "For he who commands well, must at some time or other have obeyed; and he who obeys with modesty appears worthy of some day or other being allowed to command." [tr. Yonge]
Added on 19-Oct-20 | Last updated 19-Oct-20
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The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004) Swiss-American psychiatrist, author
Death: The Final Stage of Growth (1975)
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Added on 14-Oct-20 | Last updated 14-Oct-20
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MARY: I’m an experienced woman; I’ve been around. Well, all right, I might not’ve been around, but I’ve been — nearby.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970)
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The lesson of History is rarely learned by the actors themselves.

James A. Garfield (1831-1881) US President (1881), lawyer, lay preacher, educator
Letter to Professor Demmon (16 Dec 1871)
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The writer, like a swimmer caught by an undertow, is borne in an unexpected direction. He is carried to a subject which has awaited him — a subject sometimes no part of his conscious plan. Reality, the reality of sensation, has accumulated where it was least sought. To write is to be captured — captured by some experience to which one may have given hardly a thought.

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) Irish author
The Last September, Preface (1929)
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Added on 17-Aug-20 | Last updated 17-Aug-20
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Any experience deeply felt makes some men better and some men worse. When it has ended, they share nothing but the recollection of a commitment in which each was tested and to some degree found wanting. They were not alike when they began, and they were not alike when they finished. […] The consequences of the journey change the voyager so much more than the embarking or the arrival.

Murray Kempton (1917-1997) American journalist.
Part of Our Time: Some Ruins & Monuments of the Thirties, “A Prelude” (1955)
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Added on 5-Jun-20 | Last updated 5-Jun-20
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Happiness isn’t something you experience; it’s something you remember.

Oscar Levant (1906-1972) American pianist, composer, actor, wit
(Attributed)
Added on 28-May-20 | Last updated 28-May-20
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The most that experience seems tew do for us, is tew sho us, what kussid phools every boddy but we, hav made of themselfs.

[The most that experience seems to do for us is to show us what cussed fools everybody but we have made of themselves.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Mollassis Kandy” (1874)
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There are years that ask questions and years that answer.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) American writer, folklorist, anthropologist
Their Eyes Were Watching God, ch. 3 (1937)
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Added on 1-May-20 | Last updated 1-May-20
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Experience makes more timid men than it duz wise ones.

[Experience makes more timid men than it does wise ones.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Lobstir Sallad” (1874)
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Added on 30-Apr-20 | Last updated 30-Apr-20
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A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing before.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Culture,” The Conduct of Life, ch. 4 (1860)
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We must learn to suffer whatever we cannot avoid. Our life is composed, like the harmony of the world, of discords as well as of different tones, sweet and harsh, sharp and flat, soft and loud. If a musician liked only some of them, what could he sing? He has got to know how to use all of them and blend them together. So too must we with good and ill, which are of one substance with our life. Without such blending our being cannot be: one category is no less necessary than the other.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays, Book 3, Essay 13 “On Experience” (1587-88) [tr. Screech (1987)]
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Alt. trans.
  • [Frame (1943)] "We must learn to endure what we cannot avoid. Our life is composed, like the harmony of the world, of contrary things, also of different tones, sweet and harsh, sharp and flat, soft and loud. If a musician liked only one kind, what would he have to say? He must know how to use them together and blend them. And so must we do with good and evil, which are consubstantial with our life. Our existence is impossible without this mixture, and one element is no less necessary for it than the other."
  • [Source] "We must learn to suffer what we cannot evade; our life, like the harmony of the world, is composed of contrary things -- of diverse tones, sweet and harsh, sharp and flat, sprightly and solemn: the musician who should only affect some of these, what would he be able to do? He must know how to make use of them all, and to mix them; and so we should mingle the goods and evils which are consubstantial with our life; our being cannot subsist without this mixture, and the one part is no less necessary to it than the other."
  • [Florio (1603)] A man must learne to endure that patiently which he cannot avoyde conveniently. Our life is composed, as is the harmony of the world, of contrary things: so of divers tunes, some pleasant, some harsh, some sharpe, some flat, some low, and some high. What would that musitian say that should love but some one of them? He ought to know how to use them severally and how to entermingle them. So should we both of goods and evils which art consubstnatiall to our life; our being cannot subsist without this commixture, whereto one side is no lesse necessary than the other."
Added on 13-Feb-20 | Last updated 13-Feb-20
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It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.

Paulo Coelho (b. 1947) Brazilian spiritual writer
The Alchemist, ch. 1 (1988)
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Success is like reaching an important birthday and finding you’re exactly the same.

Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) Belgian-English actress
Quoted in Yann-Brice Dherbier and Pierre-Henri Verlhac, Audrey Hepburn : A Life in Pictures (2007)
Added on 21-Jan-20 | Last updated 21-Jan-20
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Never let the facts alone obscure the truth of your narrative. The truth is what your life really felt like.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“The Art of Fiction,” Paris Review, #116, Interview with George Plimpton (1990)
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Added on 10-Oct-19 | Last updated 10-Oct-19
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Maturity means understanding, as much as possible, the different characters and modules that are active inside your own head. The mature person is like a river guide who goes over rapids and says, “Yes, I have been over these spots before.”

David Brooks (b. 1961) Canadian-American political and cultural commentator, writer
The Social Animal, ch. 18 “Morality” (2011)
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Often paraphrased: "Maturity means understanding the different characters inside our own heads."
Added on 18-Sep-19 | Last updated 18-Sep-19
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To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Experience,” Essays: Second Series (1844)
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Added on 2-Oct-18 | Last updated 2-Oct-18
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That which we call sin in others, is experiment for us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Experience,” Essays: Second Series (1844)
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Added on 4-Sep-18 | Last updated 4-Sep-18
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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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It is said that his time was easier than ours, but I doubt it — no time can be easy if one is living through it.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) American novelist, playwright, activist
“Why I Stopped Hating Shakespeare”
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Remember, too, that you have the right to make mistakes. Exercise it. Good judgment comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgment.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
Starting from Scratch, Part 4 (1988)
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Brown popularized the phrase, but it had been expressed before. More information: Good Judgment Depends Mostly on Experience and Experience Usually Comes from Poor Judgment – Quote Investigator.
Added on 9-Apr-18 | Last updated 5-May-22
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What do you suppose makes all men look back to the time of childhood with so much regret (if their childhood has been, in any moderate degree, healthy or peaceful)? That rich charm, which the least possession had for us, was in consequence of the poorness of our treasures. That miraculous aspect of the nature around us, was because we had seen little, and knew less. Each increased possession loads us with a new weariness; every piece of new knowledge diminishes the faculty of admiration; and Death is at last appointed to take us from a scene in which, if we were to stay longer, no gift could satisfy us, and no miracle surprise.

John Ruskin (1819-1900) English art critic, painter, writer, social thinker
The Eagle’s Nest, Lecture 5 “The Power of Contentment in Science and Art,” Sec. 82 (22 Feb 1872)
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Better to love amiss than nothing to have loved.

George Crabbe (1754-1832) English poet, writer, surgeon, clergyman
Tales in Verse, Tale 14 “The Struggles of Conscience” (1812)

See Tennyson (1849).
Added on 12-Sep-17 | Last updated 12-Sep-17
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The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

Omar Khayyám (1048-1123) Persian poet, mathematician, philosopher, astronomer
Rubáiyát, 71 [tr. FitzGerald]

A reference to Daniel 5 in the Bible.
Added on 31-Jul-17 | Last updated 31-Jul-17
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I don’t think the boy of lively mind is hurt much by going to college. If he encounters mainly jackasses, then he learns the useful lesson that this is a jackass world.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Editorial,” The American Mercury (April 1926)
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Reprinted in Prejudices: Sixth Series (1927).
Added on 12-Jul-17 | Last updated 18-Jul-17
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“The best moments in my life,” I said, “have come because I loved somebody.”

“Yeah,” he said.

“And the worst,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said.

Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) American writer
The Professional, ch. 8 (2009)
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“I truly don’t know her issues,” Weiss said. “But I’ve been in this line of work for a number of years, and my guesses are at least informed by experience.”

“Never a bad thing,” I said.

“Experience can inform,” he said. “It can also distort.”

“Sure,” I said. “But inexperience is rarely useful.”

Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) American writer
Rough Weather (2008)
Added on 21-Jun-17 | Last updated 21-Jun-17
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A wise man weaves a philosophy out of each acceptance life forces upon him.

Elizabeth Bibesco (1897-1945) Romanian-English writer
Haven (1951)
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Added on 25-May-17 | Last updated 25-May-17
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