Quotations about   growth

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For a conscious being, to exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.

Henri-Louis Bergson (1859-1941) French philosopher
Creative Evolution, ch. 1 (1907) [tr. Mitchell (1911)]
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Added on 26-Nov-18 | Last updated 26-Nov-18
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Sorrow is how we learn to love. Your heart isn’t breaking. It hurts because it’s getting larger. The larger it gets, the more love it holds.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
Riding Shotgun, ch. 17 (1996)
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Added on 26-Feb-18 | Last updated 26-Feb-18
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Schoolmasters and parents exist to be grown out of.

John Wolfenden (1906-1985) British educator, author
In Sunday Times (London) (13 Jul 1958)
Added on 26-Aug-17 | Last updated 5-Sep-17
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It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn’t.

Barbara Kingsolver (b. 1955) American novelist, essayist, poet
Animal Dreams (1990)
Added on 3-Jul-17 | Last updated 3-Jul-17
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In general, every evil to which we do not succumb is a benefactor. As the Sandwich Islander believes that the strength and valor of the enemy he kills passes into himself, so we gain the strength of the temptation we resist.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Compensation,” Essays: First Series (1841)
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Added on 22-May-17 | Last updated 22-May-17
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Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow, grow.”

The Talmud (AD 200-500) Collection of Jewish rabbinical writings
Midrash Rabba, Bereshit 10:6

Usually attributed to the Talmud, but actually from a Midrash. Alt. trans.:
  • "R. Shimon said: There is not a single herb but has a mazal [constellation] in the heavens which strikes it and says, 'Grow!'" [tr. Rabbi Ruth Adar]
  • "Said Rabbi Simon: 'Every single blade of grass has a corresponding 'mazal' in the sky which hits it and tells it to grow." [Source]
Added on 20-Apr-17 | Last updated 20-Apr-17
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It’s no good trying to keep up old friendships. It’s painful for both sides. The fact is, one grows out of people, and the only thing is to face it.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
Cakes and Ale (1930)
Added on 1-Dec-16 | Last updated 1-Dec-16
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Value of a Journal. A sentence now; a sentence last year; a sentence yesterday. Tomorrow a question comes that for the first time brings together these three and shows them to be the three fractions of Unit.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Notebook Delta” (1837-1862)
Added on 26-Sep-16 | Last updated 26-Sep-16
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The beginnings of all things are small.

[Omnium rerum principia parva sunt.]

Cicero - beginnings of all things - wist_info quote

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, Book 5, ch. 58

Alt. trans.: "Everything has a small beginning."
Added on 15-Aug-16 | Last updated 15-Aug-16
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Be very circumspect in the choice of thy company. In the society of thine equals thou shalt enjoy more pleasure; in the society of thy superiors thou shalt find more profit. To be the best in the company is the way to grow worse. The best means to grow better is to be the worst there.

Francis Quarles (1592-1644) English poet
Enchyridion, Book 2, ch. 24 (1641)
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Added on 13-Jun-16 | Last updated 13-Jun-16
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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)
Added on 8-Jun-16 | Last updated 8-Jun-16
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Times of general calamity and confusion have ever been productive of the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace, and the brightest thunderbolt is elicited from the darkest storm.

Colton - brightest thunderbolt - wist_info quote

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer
Lacon: or, Many Things in Few Words, # 28 (1821 ed.)
Added on 10-Mar-16 | Last updated 10-Mar-16
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Pain makes man think. Thought makes man wise. Wisdom makes life endurable.

Patrick - pain makes man think - wist_info quote

John Patrick (1905-1995) American playwright and screenwriter
The Teahouse of the August Moon, Act 1, sc. 1 (1957)
Added on 9-Mar-16 | Last updated 10-Mar-16
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Happiness is beneficial for the body but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) French author
Remembrance of Things Past (1913-27)
Added on 8-Feb-16 | Last updated 8-Feb-16
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“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Prince Caspian (1951)
Added on 25-Nov-15 | Last updated 25-Nov-15
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We are very near to greatness: one step and we are safe: can we not take the leap?
Emerson - greatness - wist_info

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (28 Oct 1841)
Added on 21-Oct-15 | Last updated 21-Oct-15
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Let us never be betrayed into saying we have finished our education; because that would mean we had stopped growing.

Julia H. Gulliver (1856-1940) American philosopher, educator, academician
(Attributed)
Added on 20-Jul-15 | Last updated 20-Jul-15
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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)
Added on 6-Mar-15 | Last updated 6-Mar-15
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If you realize you aren’t so wise today as you thought you were yesterday, you’re wiser today.

Olin Miller (fl. early 20th C) American humorist
(Attributed)
Added on 5-Mar-15 | Last updated 5-Mar-15
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The real sadness of fifty is not that you change so much but that you change so little.

Maxwell "Max" Lerner (1902-1992) American journalist, columnist, educator
“Fifty,” New York Post (18 Dec 1952)
Added on 17-Feb-15 | Last updated 17-Feb-15
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We acquire the strength we have overcome.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Considerations by the Way,” The Conduct of Life (1860)
Added on 7-Oct-14 | Last updated 7-Oct-14
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When you’re a kid, a rural, agriculturally-based colony town is a lot of fun to grow up in. It’s life on a farm, with goats and chickens and fields of wheat and sorghum, harvest celebrations and winter festivals. There’s not an eight- or nine-year-old kid who’s been invented who doesn’t find all of that unspeakably fun. But then you become a teenager and you start thinking about everything you might possibly want to do with your life, and you look at the options available to you. And then all farms, goats and chickens — and all the same people you’ve known all your life and will know all your life — begin to look a little less than optimal for a total life experience. It’s all the same, of course. That’s the point. It’s you who’s changed.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
Zoe’s Tale, ch. 1 (2008)
Added on 24-Sep-14 | Last updated 24-Sep-14
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Nothing, I am sure, calls forth the faculties so much as the being obliged to struggle with the world.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) English social philosopher, feminist, writer
Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, “Matrimony” (1787)
Added on 23-Sep-14 | Last updated 23-Sep-14
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Soon ripe, soon rotten.

John Clarke (d. 1658) British educator
Proverbs: English and Latine [Paroemiologia Anglo-Latina] (1639)
Added on 8-May-14 | Last updated 8-May-14
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One grows or dies. There is no third possibility.

Oswald Spengler (1880–1936), German author
Aphorisms, #147 [tr. O’Brien (1967)]
Added on 19-Feb-14 | Last updated 19-Feb-14
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He not busy being born
Is busy dying.

Bob Dylan (b. 1941) American singer, songwriter
“It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” (1965)
Added on 5-Feb-14 | Last updated 5-Feb-14
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He knows not his own strength that hath not met adversity.

Ben Jonson (1572-1637) English playwright and poet
Timber: Or, Discoveries, “Explorata” (1640)
Added on 22-Apr-13 | Last updated 21-Oct-14
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It contributes greatly towards a man’s moral and intellectual health, to be brought into habits of companionship with individuals unlike himself, who care little for his pursuits, and whose sphere and abilities he must go out of himself to appreciate.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
The Scarlet Letter, “Introduction: The Custom-House” (1850)
Added on 24-Apr-09 | Last updated 8-Dec-15
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Zeus, who guided mortals to be wise,
has established his fixed law —
wisdom comes through suffering.
Trouble, with its memories of pain,
drips in our hearts as we try to sleep,
so men against their will
learn to practice moderation.
Favours come to us from gods
seated on their solemn thrones —
such grace is harsh and violent.

τὸν φρονεῖν βροτοὺς ὁδώ-
σαντα, τὸν [πάθει μάθος]
θέντα κυρίως ἔχειν.
στάζει δ’ ἀνθ’ ὕπνου πρὸ καρδίας
μνησιπήμων πόνος· καὶ παρ’ ἄ-
κοντας ἦλθε σωφρονεῖν.
δαιμόνων δέ που χάρις βίαιος
σέλμα σεμνὸν ἡμένων.

Aeschylus - awful grace - wist_info quote

Aeschylus (525-456 BC) Greek dramatist (Æschylus)
Agamemnon, ll. 175-183 [tr. Johnston (2007)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:

  • [Hamilton (1930)]: "God, whose law it is that he who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despite, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God."
  • [Hamilton (1937)]: "Guide of mortal man to wisdom, he who has ordained a law, knowledge won through suffering. Drop, drop -- in our sleep, upon the heart sorrow falls, memory’s pain, and to us, though against our very will, even in our own despite, comes wisdom by the awful grace of God."

The first alternate was used, slightly modified, by Robert Kennedy in his speech on the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (4 Apr 1968). Kennedy's family used it as an epitaph on his grave Arlington National Cemetery: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom, through the awful grace of God."

See here for more discussion.

Added on 19-Aug-08 | Last updated 4-Dec-15
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But, on the other hand, Uncle Abner said that the person that had took a bull by the tail once had learnt sixty or seventy times as much as a person that hadn’t, and said a person that started in to carry a cat home by the tail was gitting knowledge that was always going to be useful to him, and warn’t ever going to grow dim or doubtful.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894)

Full text.

Variants sometimes seen:

  • The man who sets out to carry a cat by its tail learns something that will always be useful and which never will grow dim or doubtful.
  • A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Nothing determines who we will become so much as those things we choose to ignore.

Other Authors and Sources
Sandor McNab
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Apr-14
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There is no fruit which is not bitter before it is ripe.

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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