Quotations about   identity

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Young people, who are still uncertain of their identity, often try on a succession of masks in the hope of finding the one which suits them — the one, in fact, which is not a mask.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) Anglo-American poet [Wystan Hugh Auden]
“One of the Family” (1965), Forewords and Afterwords (1973)
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Added on 25-Sep-20 | Last updated 25-Sep-20
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A man is what he does with his attention.

John Ciardi (1916-1986) American poet, writer, critic
(Attributed)

A personal maxim, it is mentioned in multiple contexts.
Added on 29-Jul-20 | Last updated 29-Jul-20
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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)
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Narrated by the Monster.
Added on 30-Jun-20 | Last updated 30-Jun-20
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The concentration camps, by making death itself anonymous (making it impossible to find out whether a prisoner is dead or alive), robbed death of its meaning as the end of a fulfilled life. In a sense they took away the individual’s own death, proving that henceforth nothing belonged to him and he belonged to no one. His death merely set a seal on the fact that he had never existed.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Part 3, ch. 12, sec. 3 (1951)
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Added on 23-Jun-20 | Last updated 23-Jun-20
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The disturbing factor in the success of totalitarianism is rather the true selflessness of its adherents: it may be understandable that a Nazi or Bolshevik will not be shaken in his conviction by crimes against people who do not belong to the movement or are even hostile to it; but the amazing fact is that neither is he likely to waver when the monster begins to devour its own children, and not even if he becomes a victim of persecution himself, if he is framed and condemned, if he is purged from the party and sent to a forced-labor or concentration camp. On the contrary, to the wonder of the whole civilized world, he may even be willing to help in his own prosecution and frame his own death sentence if only his status as a member of the movement is not touched.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Part 3, ch. 1, sec. 1 (1951)
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Added on 9-Jun-20 | Last updated 9-Jun-20
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You can never leave home. You take it with you no matter where you go. Home is between your teeth, under your fingernails, in the hair follicles, in your smile, in the ride of your hips, in the passage of your breasts.

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 27-Feb-20 | Last updated 27-Feb-20
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About all you can do in life is be who you are. Some people will love you for you. Most will love you for what you can do for them, and some won’t like you at all.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
(Attributed)
Added on 14-Oct-19 | Last updated 14-Oct-19
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Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind then that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; and while there is a criminal element, I am of it; and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926) American union leader, activist, socialist, politician
Statement to the Court (18 Sep 1918)
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On being convicted of Sedition. Often paraphrased: "As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
Added on 25-May-18 | Last updated 25-May-18
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Characters never change. Opinions alter — characters are only developed.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) English politician and author
(Attributed)

Quoted in Joseph Waldo Denny, Wearing The Blue in The Twenty-Fifth Mass. Volunteer Infantry (1879).
Added on 20-Dec-16 | Last updated 20-Dec-16
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     More to the point, nameless hideous monsters are freaking terrifying. You always fear what you don’t know, what you don’t understand, and the first step to having understanding of something is to know what to call it. It’s a habit of mine to give names to anything I wind up interacting with if it doesn’t have one readily available. Names have power — magically, sure, but far more important, they have psychological power. Something horrible with a name holds less power over you, less terror, than something horrible without one.
     “Octokongs,” I pronounced grimly. “Why did it have to be octokongs?”

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
Skin Game (2014)
Added on 16-Nov-15 | Last updated 16-Nov-15
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If I try to be like him, who will be like me?

Other Authors and Sources
Yiddish proverb
Added on 21-Nov-14 | Last updated 21-Nov-14
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Please not thyself the flattering crowd to hear;
‘Tis fulsome stuff, to please thy itching ear.
[…]
Survey thy soul, not what thou does appear,
But what thou art.

Persius (AD 34-62) Roman poet and satirist [Aulus Persius Flaccus]
Fourth Satire
Added on 17-Oct-14 | Last updated 17-Oct-14
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To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

e e cummings (1894-1962) American poet and painter [Edward Estlin Cummings]
A Miscellany (1958)
Added on 29-Aug-14 | Last updated 29-Aug-14
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Middle age is when you stop criticizing the older generation and start criticizing the younger one.

Lawrence J. Peter (1919-1990) American educator, management theorist
Peter’s Quotations (1977)
Added on 13-Oct-11 | Last updated 3-Apr-20
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Don’t say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Social Aims,” lecture, Boston (4 Dec 1864)

Also cited to his Journal (9 Aug 1840).
Added on 21-Jul-07 | Last updated 4-Jan-17
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Candy smiled at me a little. “Look,” she said. “You’re a good guy. I know you care about me, but you’re a white male, you can’t understand a minority situation. It’s not your fault.”

[…] When the beer came, I drank about a quarter of it and said to Candy, “Extend that logic, and we eventually have to decide that no one can understand anyone. Maybe the matter of understanding has been overrated. Maybe I don’t have to understand your situation to sympathize with it, to help you alter it, to be on your side. I’ve never experienced starvation either, but I’m opposed to it. When I encounter it, I try to alleviate it. I sympathize with its victims. The question of whether I understand it doesn’t arise.”

She shook her head. “That’s different,” she said.

“Maybe it isn’t. Maybe civilization is possible, if at all, only because people can care about conditions they haven’t experienced. Maybe you need understanding like a fish needs a bicycle.”

“You’re quite thoughtful,” she said, “for a man your size.”

“You’ve never been my size,” I said. “You wouldn’t understand.”

Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) American writer
A Savage Place, ch. 12 (1981)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 12-Nov-20
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Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than going to the garage makes you a car.

Lawrence J. Peter (1919-1990) American educator, management theorist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 3-Apr-20
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