Quotations about   human condition

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The problem of drugs, of divorce, of race prejudice, of unmarried pregnancy, and so on — as if evil were a problem, something that an be solved, that has an answer, like a problem in fifth grade arithmetic. If you want the answer, you just look in the back of the book. That is escapism, that posing evil as a “problem,” instead of what it is: all the pain and suffering and waste and loss and injustice we will meet our loves long, and must face and cope with over and over and over, and admit, and live with, in order to live human lives at all.

Ursula K. Le Guin (b. 1929) American writer
“The Child and the Shadow,” Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress (Apr 1975)
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On the difficulty of "realistic fiction" for children to teach morality. First delivered as a speech; later reprinted in The Language of the Night (1979).
Added on 3-Jan-22 | Last updated 3-Jan-22
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Whoever increases the sum of human joy, is a worshipper.

He who adds to the sum of human misery, is a blasphemer.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Speech to the Jury, Trial of C. B. Reynolds for Blasphemy, Morristown, New Jersey (May 1887)
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Added on 20-Oct-21 | Last updated 20-Oct-21
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Among other things I think humor is a shield, a weapon, a survival kit. Not only has this brief span of ours been threatened by such perils not of our making such as fire and flood, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the black death, and hurricanes named after chorus girls, but we have been most ingenious in devising means for destroying each other, a habit we haven’t yet learned how to kick.

So here we are several billion of us, crowded into our global concentration camp for the duration. How are we to survive? Solemnity is not the answer, any more than witless and irresponsible frivolity is. I think our best chance lies in humor, which in this case means a wry acceptance of our predicament. We don’t have to like it but we can at least recognize its ridiculous aspects, one of which is ourselves.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
Commencement address at his daughter Linell’s boarding school
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Quoted in Douglas M. Parker, Dana Giaoia, Ogden Nash: The Life and Work of America's Laureate of Light (2005).
Added on 4-Sep-20 | Last updated 4-Sep-20
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There are three things which are real: God, human folly, and laughter. Since the first two pass our comprehension, we must do what we can with the third.

Aubrey Menen (1912-1989) English writer
Rama Retold (1954)
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Added on 2-Jul-20 | Last updated 2-Jul-20
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There is no such thing as inner peace. There is only nervousness or death.

Fran Lebowitz (b. 1950) American journalist
Metropolitan Life, “Manners” (1978)
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Added on 15-May-17 | Last updated 15-May-17
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Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them — if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.

J. D. Salinger (1919-2010) American writer [Jerome David Salinger]
Catcher in the Rye, ch. 24 [Mr. Antolini] (1951)
Added on 10-Mar-16 | Last updated 10-Mar-16
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The real problem of our existence lies in the fact that we ought to love one another, but do not.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) American theologian and clergyman
Christian Realism and Political Problems, ch. 8 (1953)
Added on 20-Apr-15 | Last updated 20-Apr-15
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For at least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice, and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism, and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
“Knowledge and Understanding,” Vedanta and the West (May-Jun 1956)
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Revision of a 1955 lecture given at the Vedanta Society of Southern California; this phrase, however, does not occur in it (the surrounding text is found around the 10:00 mark). Reprinted in Adonis and the Alphabet, and Other Essays (in the US Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, and Other Essays) (1956).
Added on 5-Nov-14 | Last updated 25-Jan-22
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Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) English philosopher
Leviathan, Part 1, ch. 13 (1651)
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Added on 22-Oct-07 | Last updated 6-Nov-20
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