Quotations about   illusion

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The people I respect most behave as if they were immortal and as if society was eternal. Both assumptions are false: both of them must be accepted as true if we are to go on eating and working and loving, and are to keep open a few breathing-holes for the human spirit. No millennium seems likely to descend upon humanity; no better and stronger League of Nations will be instituted; no form of Christianity and no alternative to Christianity will bring peace to the world or integrity to the individual; no “change of heart” will occur. And yet we need not despair, indeed, we cannot despair; the evidence of history shows us that men have always insisted on behaving creatively under the shadow of the sword; that they have done their artistic and scientific and domestic stuff for the sake of doing it, and that we had better follow their example under the shadow of the aeroplanes.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“What I Believe,” The Nation (16 Jul 1938)
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Added on 20-Sep-19 | Last updated 20-Sep-19
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It had snowed in the night, and the world looked very clean, which I knew it not to be. But illusion is nice sometimes.

Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) American writer
Painted Ladies, ch. 22 (2010)
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Added on 12-Jul-17 | Last updated 12-Jul-17
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All of God’s children are not beautiful. Most of God’s children are, in fact, barely presentable.

Fran Lebowitz (b. 1950) American journalist
Metropolitan Life, “Manners” (1978)
Added on 8-May-17 | Last updated 8-May-17
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Only the tiniest fraction of mankind want freedom. All the rest want someone to tell them they are free.

Irving Layton (1912-2006) Romanian-Canadian poet [b. Israel Pincu Lazarovitch]
The Whole Bloody Bird, “Obs II” (1969)
Added on 7-Feb-17 | Last updated 7-Feb-17
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An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted.

Miller - basic illusions are exhausted - wist_info quote

Arthur Miller (1915–2005) American playwright and essayist
“The Year It Came Apart,” New York Magazine (30 Dec 1974)
Added on 28-Jul-16 | Last updated 28-Jul-16
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He shrugged his shoulders. “I have known many gods. He who denies them is as blind as he who trusts them too deeply. I seek not beyond death. It may be the blackness averred by the Nemedian skeptics, or Crom’s realm of ice and cloud, or the snowy plains and vaulted halls of the Nordheimer’s Valhalla. I know not, nor do I care. Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.”

Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) American author
“Queen of the Black Coast” (1934)
Added on 9-May-16 | Last updated 9-May-16
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It was not the absence of intelligence which led us into trouble but our unwillingness to draw unpleasant conclusions from it.

H. A. de Weerd (1902-1979) American military historian, author [Harvey Arthur de Weerd]
“Strategic Surprise in the Korean War,” Orbis (1962)

On the US decision in 1950 to call China's bluff by advancing above the 38th parallel.
Added on 24-Feb-16 | Last updated 24-Feb-16
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SPOCK: Physical reality is consistent with universal laws. Where the laws do not operate, there is no reality.

Gene L. Coon (1924-1973) American screenwriter and television producer
Star Trek, 3×06 “Spectre of the Gun” (25 Oct 1968) [writing as Lee Cronin]
Added on 21-Sep-15 | Last updated 21-Sep-15
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Those who are destitute of philosophy may be compared to prisoners in a cave, who are only able to look in one direction because they are bound, and who have a fire behind them and a wall in front. Between them and the wall there is nothing; all that they see are shadows of themselves, and of objects behind them, cast on the wall by the light of the fire. Inevitably they regard these shadows as real, and have no notion of the objects to which they are due. At last, some man succeeds in escaping from the cave to the light of the sun; for the first time he sees real things, and becomes aware that he had hitherto been deceived by shadows. If he is the sort of philosopher who is fit to become a guardian, he will feel it is his duty to those who were formerly his fellow prisoners to go down again into the cave, instruct them as to the truth, and show them the way up. But he will have difficulty in persuading them, because, coming out of the sunlight, he will see shadows less clearly than they do, and will seem to them stupider than before his escape.

Plato (c.428-347 BC) Greek philosopher
The Republic, 7.514

Summ. Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, ch. 15 (1946)
Added on 11-Jun-15 | Last updated 11-Jun-15
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All descriptions of reality are limited expressions of the world of emptiness. Yet we attach to the descriptions and think they are reality. That is a mistake.

Shunryū Suzuki (1905-1971) Japanese Zen Buddhist master
Not Always So, “Letters from Emptiness” (2002)
Added on 2-Feb-15 | Last updated 2-Feb-15
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When capable, feign incapacity; when active, inactivity.

Sun-Tzu (fl. 6th C. AD) Chinese general and philosopher [a.k.a. Sun Wu]
The Art of War, “Estimates” (18) [tr. Griffith (1963)]
Added on 16-Oct-14 | Last updated 16-Oct-14
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I have laughed in bitterness and agony of heart, at the contrast between what I seem and what I am!

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
The Scarlet Letter, ch. 17 (1850)
Added on 13-Jun-14 | Last updated 13-Jun-14
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For the great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearance, as though they were realities, and are often more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are.

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) Italian politician, philosopher, political scientist
The Discourses, 1.25 (1517)
Added on 6-Jun-14 | Last updated 6-Jun-14
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Appearances often are deceiving.

Aesop (620?-560? BC) Legendary Greek storyteller
“The Wolf in Sheep Clothing”

Versified by Gaius Julius Phaedrus, Fables bk. 4, as "Things are not always what they seem.+
Added on 14-Mar-14 | Last updated 14-Mar-14
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The staircase that leads to God. What does it matter if it is make-believe, if we really climb it? What difference does it make who builds it, or if it is made of marble or word, of brick, stone, or mud? The essential thing is that it be solid and that in climbing it we feel the peace that is inaccessible to those who do not climb it.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
Added on 12-Aug-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
(Spurious)

Not found in Shaw's writings. Most likely originated by William Hollingsworth Whyte, "Is Anybody Listening?" Fortune (Sep 1950). More discussion here.
Added on 11-Feb-11 | Last updated 20-Oct-16
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Our experience is composed rather of illusions lost than of wisdom acquired.

Joseph Roux (1834-1886) French Catholic priest
Meditations of a Parish Priest: Thoughts, Part 4, #28 [tr. Hapgood (1886)]
Added on 29-Nov-10 | Last updated 28-Mar-16
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A timid man sees dangers that do not exist.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 688 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
Added on 20-Oct-09 | Last updated 20-Feb-17
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And do you know, it is a splendid thing to think that the woman you really love will never grow old to you. Through the wrinkles of time, through the mask of years, if you really love her, you will always see the face you loved and won. And a woman who really loves a man does not see that he grows old; he is not decrepit to her; he does not tremble; he is not old; she always sees the same gallant gentleman who won her hand and heart. I like to think of it in that way; I like to think that love is eternal. And to love in that way and then go down the hill of life together, and as you go down, hear, perhaps, the laughter of grandchildren, while the birds of joy and love sing once more in the leafless branches of the tree of age.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child” (1877)
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See also here.
Added on 4-Sep-08 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.

Saul Bellow (1915-2005) Canadian-American writer
To Jerusalem and Back (1976)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Jun-17
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The longing for certainty and repose is in every human mind. But certainty generally is an illusion, and repose is not the destiny of man.

Holmes - certainty and repose - wist_info quote

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935) American jurist, Supreme Court Justice
“The Path of Law,” 10 Harvard Law Review 457 (1897)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 18-Feb-16
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Death, like life, is an affair of being more frightened than hurt.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Erewhon (1872)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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