Quotations about:
    meaning of life


Note not all quotations have been tagged, so Search may find additional quotes on this topic.


We are so much accustomed to the humanitarian outlook that we forget how little it counted in earlier ages of civilisation. Ask any decent person in England or America what he thinks matters most in human conduct: five to one his answer will be “kindness.” It’s not a word that would have crossed the lips of any of the earlier heroes of this series. If you had asked St. Francis what mattered in life, he would, we know, have answered “chastity, obedience and poverty”; if you had asked Dante or Michelangelo, they might have answered “disdain of baseness and injustice”; if you had asked Goethe, he would have said “to live in the whole and the beautiful.” But kindness, never. Our ancestors didn’t use the word, and they did not greatly value the quality — except perhaps insofar as they valued compassion.

Kenneth Clark
Kenneth Clark (1903-1983) British art historian, museum director, broadcaster
Civilisation, A Personal View, ch. 13 “Heroic Materialism” (1969)
    (Source)
 
Added on 16-Nov-22 | Last updated 14-Nov-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Clark, Kenneth

I remind young people everywhere I go, one of the worst things the older generation did was to tell them for twenty-five years “Be successful, be successful, be successful” as opposed to “Be great, be great, be great”. There’s a qualitative difference.

Cornel West
Cornel West (b. 1953) American philosopher, political activist, social critic
“Democracy Matters,” speech, San Francisco (1 Oct 2004)
 
Added on 10-Nov-22 | Last updated 10-Nov-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by West, Cornel

Perhaps the meaning of all human activity lies in the artistic consciousness, in the pointless and selfless creative act? Perhaps our capacity to create is evidence that we ourselves were created in the image and likeness of God?

Andrei Tarkovsky
Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986) Russian film director, screenwriter, film theorist [Андрей Арсеньевич Тарковский]
Sculpting in Time (1986) [tr. Hunter-Blair]
    (Source)
 
Added on 3-Nov-22 | Last updated 3-Nov-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Tarkovsky, Andrei

The perpetual work of your life is but to lay the foundation of death.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“That to Study Philosophy Is to Learn to Die” Essays (1588) [tr. Hazlitt (1851)]
    (Source)

Alternate translation:

The constant work of your life is to build death.
[tr. Frame (1948)]

 
Added on 26-Sep-22 | Last updated 26-Sep-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , ,
More quotes by Montaigne, Michel de

Art is born and takes hold wherever there is a timeless and insatiable longing for the spiritual, for the ideal: that longing which draws people to art. Modern art has taken the wrong turn in abandoning the search for the meaning of existence in order to affirm the value of the individual for his own sake.

Andrei Tarkovsky
Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986) Russian film director, screenwriter, film theorist [Андрей Арсеньевич Тарковский]
Sculpting in Time (1986) [tr. Hunter-Blair]
    (Source)
 
Added on 19-Sep-22 | Last updated 19-Sep-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Tarkovsky, Andrei

He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Courage,” Society and Solitude (1870)
    (Source)
 
Added on 24-Aug-22 | Last updated 24-Aug-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Emerson, Ralph Waldo

The gifts and the lessons my father left me will last forever: Never take yourself too seriously, never miss a chance to laugh long and hard, speak out about political and social issues you believe in, use the written word as often as you can to make yourself and the world a better place, and love your children with all you’ve got.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Paraphrase of Rod Serling in Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling, Epilogue (2013)
    (Source)
 
Added on 16-Aug-22 | Last updated 16-Aug-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Serling, Rod

Into a dancer you have grown,
From a seed somebody else has thrown.
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own,
And somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go,
May lie a reason you were alive but you’ll never know.

Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne (b. 1948) American musician, songwriter, political activist
“For a Dancer” (1974)
    (Source)
 
Added on 15-Aug-22 | Last updated 15-Aug-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Browne, Jackson

I discovered that I don’t nearly have the fear of death that I once had. What I do have is the terrible awareness of how little time there is to accomplish so many of the things that you want to accomplish. The other thing that seems accentuated, almost to a point of distortion, is the need, the desperate need you have of family, of loved ones. When it appeared possible I might not make it, I didn’t feel so much the awful awareness of, Jesus Christ, it’s going to be me ending the earth. What seemed to me the most predominant in my fears was that it would be the relationships that would end.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Audio diary (May 1975)
    (Source)

Recorded comments in the hospital after his first heart attack. In Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling (2013).
 
Added on 26-Jul-22 | Last updated 26-Jul-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Serling, Rod

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring — What good amid these, O me, O life?

               Answer.
That you are here — that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
“O Me! O Life!” Leaves of Grass, Book 20 “By the Roadside” (1867 ed)
    (Source)
 
Added on 17-Jun-22 | Last updated 17-Jun-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Whitman, Walt

What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?

George Eliot (1819-1880) English novelist [pseud. of Mary Ann Evans]
Middlemarch, Book 8, ch. 72 [Dorothea] (1871)
    (Source)
 
Added on 19-May-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Eliot, George

There is no sin punished more implacably by nature than the sin of resistance to change. For change is the very essence of living matter. To resist change is to sin against life itself.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001) American writer, pilot
The Wave of the Future (1940)
    (Source)
 
Added on 27-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Lindbergh, Anne Morrow

If we are to lend credence to our mourning, there are acknowledgements that must be made now, albeit belatedly. We must act on the altogether proper assumption that Martin Luther King asked for nothing but that which was his due. He demanded no special concessions, no favored leg up the ladder for his people, despite our impatience with his lifelong prodding of our collective conscience. He asked only for equality, and it is that which we denied him.

We must look beyond riots in the streets to the essential righteousness of what he asked of us. To do less would make his dying as senseless as our own living would be inconsequential.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Letter to the Editor, Los Angeles Times (8 Apr 1968)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling (2013).
 
Added on 26-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Serling, Rod

It is easier to live through someone else than to become complete yourself.

Betty Friedan (1921-2006) American writer, feminist, activist
The Feminine Mystique, ch. 14 (1963)
    (Source)
 
Added on 17-Mar-22 | Last updated 17-Mar-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Friedan, Betty

I personally measure success in terms of the contributions an individual makes to her or his fellow human beings.

Margaret Mead (1901-1978) American anthropologist
Some Personal Views (1979)
    (Source)
 
Added on 25-Feb-22 | Last updated 25-Feb-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Mead, Margaret

Man lives, not directly or nakedly in nature like the animals, but within a mythological universe, a body of assumptions and beliefs developed from his existential concerns.

Northrop Frye (1912-1991) Canadian literary critic and literary theorist
The Great Code: The Bible and Literature, Introduction (1982)
    (Source)
 
Added on 11-Feb-22 | Last updated 11-Feb-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Frye, Northrop

Consequently, happiness is not found in amusement, for it would be also absurd to maintain that the end of man is amusement and that men work and suffer all their life for the sake of amusement. For, in short, we choose everything for the sake of something else, except happiness, since happiness is the end of a man. So to be serious and work hard for the sake of amusement appears foolish and very childish, but to amuse oneself for the sake of serious work seems, as Anacharsis put it, to be right; for amusement is like relaxation, and we need relaxation since we cannot keep on working hard continuously. Thus amusement is not the end, for it is chosen for the sake of serious activity.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 10, ch. 6, sec. 6 (10.6.6) / 1176b.28ff (c. 325 BC) [tr. Apostle (1975)]
    (Source)

(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Happiness then stands not in amusement; in fact the very notion is absurd of the End being amusement, and of one’s toiling and enduring hardness all one’s life long with a view to amusement: for everything in the world, so to speak, we choose with some further End in view, except Happiness, for that is the End comprehending all others. Now to take pains and to labour with a view to amusement is plainly foolish and very childish: but to amuse one’s self with a view to steady employment afterwards, as Anacharsis says, is thought to be right: for amusement is like rest, and men want rest because unable to labour continuously. Rest, therefore, is not an End, because it is adopted with a view to Working afterwards.
[tr. Chase (1847), ch. 5]

And, hence it follows, that happiness does not consist in mere amusement. For, it is inconceivable that amusement should be the end and consummation of everything, and that a man should endure a lifetime of labour and suffering, with nothing higher than amusement in view. And this would be the case, were happiness identical with mere amusement. For there is, indeed, nothing whatever upon earth which we do not choose for the sake of something else beyond itself, with the one exception of happiness -- happiness being the one end of all things els. Now, that all earnestness and toil should tend to no higher end than mere amusement, is a view of life which is worse than childish, and fit only for a fool. But the saying of Anacharsis, "play makes us fit for work," would seem to be well spoken; for it would seem that amusement is a species of rest, and that men stand in need of rest, inasmuch as continuous exertion is not possible. And, hence, rest cannot be an end in itself, inasmuch as it is only sought with view to subsequent action.
[tr. Williams (1869)]

Happiness then does not consist in amusement. It would be paradoxical to hold that the end of human life is amusement, and that we should toil and suffer all our life for the sake of amusing ourselves. For we may be said to desire all things as means to something else except indeed happiness, as happiness is the end or perfect state. It appears to be foolish and utterly childish to take serious trouble and pains for the sake of amusement. But to amuse oneself with a view to being serious seems to be right, as Anacharsis says; for amusement is a kind of relaxation, and it is because we cannot work for ever that we need relaxation. Relaxation then is not an end. We enjoy it as a means to activity.
[tr. Welldon (1892)]

Happiness, therefore, does not consist in amusement; and indeed it is absurd to suppose that the end is amusement, and that we toil and moil all our life long for the sake of amusing ourselves. We may say that we choose everything for the sake of something else, excepting only happiness; for it is the end. But to be serious and to labour for the sake of amusement seems silly and utterly childish; while to amuse ourselves in order that we may be serious, as Anacharsis says, seems to be right; for amusement is a sort of recreation, and we need recreation because we are unable to work continuously. Recreation, then, cannot be the end; for it is taken as a means to the exercise of our faculties.
[tr. Peters (1893), 10.6.6]

Happiness, therefore, does not lie in amusement; it would, indeed, be strange if the end were amusement, and one were to take trouble and suffer hardship all one's life in order to amuse oneself. For, in a word, everything that we choose we choose for the sake of something else -- except happiness, which is an end. Now to exert oneself and work for the sake of amusement seems silly and utterly childish. But to amuse oneself in order that one may exert oneself, as Anacharsis puts it, seems right; for amusement is a sort of relaxation, and we need relaxation because we cannot work continuously. Relaxation, then, is not an end; for it is taken for the sake of activity.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

It follows therefore that happiness is not to be found in amusements. Indeed it would be strange that amusement should be our End -- that we should toil and moil all our life long in order that we may amuse ourselves. For virtually every object we adopt is pursued as a means to something else, excepting happiness, which is an end in itself; to make amusement the object of our serious pursuits and our work seems foolish and childish to excess: Anacharsis' motto, Play in order that you may work, is felt to be the right rule. For amusement is a form of rest; but we need rest because we are not able to go on working without a break, and therefore it is not an end, since we take it as a means to further activity.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

Hence happiness does not lie in amusement, since it would indeed be strange if the end were amusement and we did all the work we do and suffered evil all our live for the sake of amusing ourselves. For, in a word, we choose everything -- except happiness, since end it is -- for the sake of something else. But to engage in serious matters and to labor for the sake of amusement would evidently be silly and utterly childish. On the contrary, "amusing ourselves so as to engage in serious matters," as Anacharsis puts it, seems to be correct. For amusement is like relaxation, and it is because people cannot labor continuously that they need relaxation. End, then, relaxation is not, since it occurs for the sake of activity.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

It follows that happiness does not consist in amusement. Indeed, it would be paradoxical if the end were amusement; if we toiled and suffered all our lives long to amuse ourselves. For we choose practically everything for the sake of something else, except happiness, because it is the end. To spend effort and toil for the sake of amusement seems silly and unduly childish; but on the other hand the maxim of Anacharsis, "Play to work harder," seems to be on the right lines, because amusement is a form of relaxation, and people need relaxation because they cannot exert themselves continuously. Therefore relaxation is not an end, because it is taken for the sake of activity.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

Happiness, then, is not found in amusement, for it would be absurd if the end were amusement, and our lifelong efforts and sufferings aimed at amusing ourselves. For we choose practically everything for some other end -- except for happiness, since it is the end; but serious work and toil amed only at amusement appears stupid and excessively childish. Rather, it seems correct to amuse ourselves so that we can do something serous, as Anacharsis says; for amusement would seem to be relaxation, and it is because we cannot toil continuously that we require relaxation. Relaxation, then, is not the end, since we pursue it to prepare for activity.
[tr. Irwin/Fine (1995)]

Happiness, then, does not consist in amusement, because it would be absurd if our end were amusement, and we laboured and suffered all of our lives for the sake of amusing ourselves. For we choose virtually everything for the sake of something else, except happiness, since it is the end; but serious work and exertion for the sake of amusement is manifestly foolish and extremely childish. Rather, as Anacharsis puts it, what seems correct is amusing ourselves so that we can engage in some serious work, since amusement is like relaxation, and we need relaxation because we cannot continuously exert ourselves. Relaxation, then, is not an end, since it occurs for the sake of activity.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

 
Added on 9-Feb-22 | Last updated 9-Feb-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Aristotle

And, oh! whate’er Heaven destined to betide,
Let neither flattery soothe, nor pity hide.
Prepared I stand: he was but born to try
The lot of man; to suffer, and to die.

[πέρι γάρ μιν ὀιζυρὸν τέκε μήτηρ.
μηδέ τί μ᾽ αἰδόμενος μειλίσσεο μηδ᾽ ἐλεαίρων,
ἀλλ᾽ εὖ μοι κατάλεξον ὃπως ἤντησας ὀπωπῆς.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 3, l. 96ff (3.96) (c. 700 BC) [tr. Pope (1725), l. 114ff]
    (Source)

Telemachus seeking to learn from Nestor of the fate of his father, Odysseus. Telemachus later repeats these words in seeking news of his father from Menelaus (4.326). (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

[T]he unhappy wanderer,
To too much sorrow whom his mother bore.
You then by all your bounties I implore,
[...] that in nought applied
To my respect or pity you will glose,
But uncloth’d truth to my desires disclose
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

[B]orn to calamity.
Let no respect, or pity mitigate
Your story, howsoever sad it be.
Nothing but naked truth to me relate.
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 85ff]

For my father at his birth
Was, sure, predestin’d to no common woes.
Neither through pity, or o’erstrain’d respect
Flatter me, but explicit all relate
Which thou hast witness’d.
[tr. Cowper (1792), l. 120ff]

How hath his mother to exceeding teen
borne him! Let no kind thought thy tidings screen;
Paint not the tale through pity.
[tr. Worsley (1861), st. 12]

For sure a woeful wight his mother bore him!
Extenuate naught for shame or pity's sake,
But tell me all, as thou hast chanced to see!
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869), l. 95ff]

His mother bare him to exceeding sorrow. And speak me no soft words in ruth or pity, but tell me plainly what sight thou didst get of him.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

This man, his mother bore him to most exceeding woe --
But have no respect of my sorrow nor be soft and soothing now,
But tell all out unto me, in what wise the man thou hast seen.
[tr. Morris (1887), l. 95ff]

To exceeding grief his mother bore him. Use no mild word, no yield to pity, from regard for me, but tell me fully all you chanced to see.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

He was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things out of any pity for me, but tell me in all plainness exactly what you saw.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

For beyond all men did his mother bear him to sorrow. And do thou nowise out of ruth or pity for me speak soothing words, but tell me truly how thou didst come to behold him.
[tr. Murray (1919)]

Even from his mother's womb, calamity had marked him for her own. Do not in pity convey to me smooth things, things gentler than the truth: blurt out, rather, all that met your sight.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

For if ever a man was born for misery, it was he. Do not soften your account out of pity or concern for my feelings, but faithfully describe the scene that met your eyes.
[tr. Rieu (1946)]

The man was born for trouble. Spare me no part for kindness' sake; be harsh; but put the scene before me as you saw it.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]

His mother bore this man to be wretched. Do not soften it because you pity me and are sorry for me, but fairly tell me all that your eyes have witnessed.
[tr. Lattimore (1965)]

She who gave birth to him gave birth to grief. You need not sweeten anything for me. Forget discretion, set aside your pity: tell me completely -- all you chanced to see.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]

More than all other men, that man was born for pain.
Don't soften a thing, from pity, respect for me --
tell me, clearly, all your eyes have witnessed.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

He was born to sorrow.
More than any man on earth. And do not,
Out of pity, spare me the truth, but tell me
Whatever you have seen, whatever you know.
[tr. Lombardo (2000), l. 104ff]

For his mother indeed bore him to be woeful. Spare me nothing, extenuate nothing, nor show any pity; tell me all to the end, however it came to your notice.
[tr. Merrill (2002)]

For if ever a man was born to suffer it was he. Do not soften your account out of pity or concern for my feelings, but faithfully describe the scene that met your eyes.
[tr. D C H Rieu (2002)]

More than any other man his mother bore him for wretchedness. Do not let respect or pity for me soften your words, but tell me exactly how you chanced to see him.
[tr. Verity (2016)]

He was surely born to suffer in extraordinary ways. Please do not try to sweeten bitter news from pity; tell me truly if you saw him, and how he was.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

To unmatched sorrow his mother bore him! And don't, from concern or pity, speak false comfort to me, but tell me exactly what you may have witnessed!
[tr. Green (2018)]

For his mother bore him
to go through trouble more than other men.
Do not pity me or, from compassion,
just offer me kind words of consolation,
but tell me truly how you chanced to see him.
[tr. Johnston (2019), l. 119ff]

 
Added on 24-Nov-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Homer

The great wisdom traditions of the world all recognize that the main impediment to living a life of meaning is being self-absorbed.

Barbara Brown Taylor (b. 1951) American minister, academic, author
An Altar in the World, ch. 6 (2009)
    (Source)
 
Added on 29-Oct-21 | Last updated 29-Oct-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Taylor, Barbara Brown

When I was writing a column for Family Circle, I had planned one in praise of shabbiness. A house that does not have one worn, comfy chair in it is soulless. It all comes back to the fact that we are not asked to be perfect, only human.

May Sarton
May Sarton (1912-1995) Belgian-American poet, novelist, memoirist [pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton]
Journal of a Solitude (1973)
    (Source)
 
Added on 21-Sep-21 | Last updated 21-Sep-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Sarton, May

It is never until one realizes that one means something to others that one feels there is any point or purpose in one’s own existence.

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist, biographer
Beware of Pity (1939)
 
Added on 16-Sep-21 | Last updated 16-Sep-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Zweig, Stefan

 
Added on 23-Aug-21 | Last updated 23-Aug-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Le Guin, Ursula K.

Perhaps it is not true to speak of God as a judge at all, or of his judgements. There does not seem to be really any evidence that His worlds are places of trial but rather schools, place of training, or that He is a judge but rather a Teacher, a Trainer, not in the imperfect sense in which men are teachers, but in the sense of His contriving and adapting His whole universe for one purpose of training every intelligent being to be perfect.

Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) English social reformer, statistician, founder of modern nursing
“Note on God and judgment”
    (Source)

In Lynn McDonald, Ed., Florence Nightingale's Theology: Essays, Letters, and Journal Notes (2002), noted as "ADD MSS 45783 ff65-67".
 
Added on 19-Aug-21 | Last updated 19-Aug-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Nightingale, Florence

For the world, I count it not an Inne, but an Hospitall, and a place, not to live, but to die in.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Religio Medici, Part 2, sec. 11 (1643)
    (Source)
 
Added on 3-Aug-21 | Last updated 3-Aug-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Browne, Thomas

When first we fall in love, we feel that we know all there is to know about life, and perhaps we are right.

Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983) American journalist and author
The Neurotic’s Notebook, ch. 1 (1963)
    (Source)
 
Added on 17-Jun-21 | Last updated 10-Mar-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by McLaughlin, Mignon

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
(Misattributed)

This is regularly attributed to Emerson, but has not been found in his work. The original appears to be a contest essay written by Bessie A. Stanley of Lincoln, Nebraska in 1905:

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.

In 1951, Albert E. Wiggam, a newspaper columnist, wrote this similar passage, claiming it was an abridged version of something Emerson wrote:

To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty. To find the best in others; to give one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exaltation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived -- this is to have succeeded.

Variations of both quotations exist, but Wiggam seems to be the source of the Emerson reference. This was later cemented by Ann Landers producing the variation at the top of this post, citing Emerson but not Wiggam. She also at other times attributed it to Harry Emerson Fosdick and Bessie A. Stanley.

More information here:
 
Added on 3-May-21 | Last updated 3-May-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Emerson, Ralph Waldo

 
Added on 21-Apr-21 | Last updated 5-May-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Kelly, Walt

But indeed we need no further argument in favor of taking pleasure as a standard when we consider the only alternative that faces us. If we do not live for pleasure we shall soon find ourselves living for pain. If we do not regard as sacred our own joys and the joys of others, we open the door and let into life the ugliest attribute of the human race, which is cruelty.

Rebecca West (1892-1983) British author, journalist, literary critic, travel writer [pseud. for Cicily Isabel Fairfield]
“Pleasure Be Your Guide,” The Nation, “Living Philosophies” series #10 (25 Feb 1939)
    (Source)

Adapted into Clifton Fadiman, I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Certain Eminent Men and Women of Our Time (1952).
 
Added on 12-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by West, Rebecca

But since, as Plato has admirably expressed it, we are not born for ourselves alone, but our country claims a share of our being, and our friends a share; and since, as the Stoics hold, everything that the earth produces is created for man’s use; and as men, too, are born for the sake of men, that they may be able mutually to help one another; in this direction we ought to follow Nature as our guide, to contribute to the general good by an interchange of acts of kindness, by giving and receiving, and thus by our skill, our industry, and our talents to cement human society more closely together, man to man.

[Sed quoniam, ut praeclare scriptum est a Platone, non nobis solum nati sumus ortusque nostri partem patria vindicat, partem amici, atque, ut placet Stoicis, quae in terris gignantur, ad usum hominum omnia creari, homines autem hominum causa esse generatos, ut ipsi inter se aliis alii prodesse possent, in hoc naturam debemus ducem sequi, communes utilitates in medium afferre mutatione officiorum, dando accipiendo, tum artibus, tum opera, tum facultatibus devincire hominum inter homines societatem.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 7 (1.7) / sec. 22 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
    (Source)

Original Latin. Referring to Plato, Epistle 9, to Archytas: "No one of us exists for himself alone, but one share of our existence belongs to our country, another to our parents, a third to the rest of our friends, while a great part is given over to those needs of the hour with which our life is beset." [tr. Bury (1966)]

Alternate translations:

"But seeing (as is excellently said by Plato) we are not born for ourselves alone; but that our native country, our friends and relations, have a just claim and title to some part of us;" and seeing whatsoever is created on earth was merely designed (as the Stoics will have it) for the service of men; and men themselves for the service, good, and assistance of one another; we certainly in this should be followers of Nature, and second her intentions; and by producing all that lies within the reach of our power for the general interest, by mutually giving and receiving good turns, by our knowledge, industry, riches, or other means, should endeavour to keep up that love and society, that should be amongst men.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

But, according to the excellent observation of Plato, "since we were not born for ourselves alone, our country and our friends have separate claims upon us." The produce of the earth, according to the Stoics, is intended wholly for the use of man; but men were designed for the service of men, by being made able to communicate reciprocal benefits to each other. In this view we ought to follow nature as our guide; and, by the exchange of services, by giving and receiving, to bring forward general advantages for the common good. We ought, by knowledge, industry, and wealth, to bind closer the society of men with men.
[tr. McCartney (1798)]

But (as has been strikingly said by Plato) we are not born for ourselves alone, and our country claims her share, and our friends their share of us; and, as the Stoics hold, all the earth produces is created for the used of man, so men are created for the sake of men, that they may mutually do good to one another; in this we ought to take nature for our guide, to throw into the public stock the offices of general utility by a reciprocation of duties; sometimes by receiving, sometimes by giving, and sometimes to cement human society by arts, by industry, and byh our resources.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

But since, as it has been well said by Plato, we are not born for ourselves alone; since our country claims a part in us, our parents a part, our friends a part; and since, according to the Stoics, whatever the earth bears is created for the use of men, while men were brought into being for the sake of men, that they might do good to one another, -- in this matter we ought to follow nature as a guide, to contribute our part to the common good, and by the interchange of kind offices, both in giving and receiving, alike by skill, by labor, and by the resources at our command, to strengthen the social union of men among men.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]

But since our life, to quote the noble words of Plato, has not been given to us for ourselves alone (for our country claims a share, our friends another), and since, as the Stoics hold, all the products of the earth are destined for our use and we are born to help one another, we should here take nature for our guide and contribute to the public good by the interchange of acts of kindness, now giving, now receiving, and ever eager to employ our talents, industry and resources in strengthening the bonds of human society.
[tr. Gardiner (1899)]

Plato wrote brilliantly on this point: "We have not been born for ourselves alon; our native land claims a portion of our origin, our friends claim a portion." The Stoics like to repeat that everything that comes into being in the world is created for the benefit of man, that even men themselves are born for mankind's sake, that people can be helpful among themselves, one to another. The Stoics say that we should follow nature's lead in this and that we should contribute to the public benefit by the mutual interchange of obligations, by both giving and receiving. By our skills, by our efforts, by our capacities we should thus link men together into a human society.
[tr. Edinger (1974)]

 
Added on 22-Feb-21 | Last updated 8-Sep-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Cicero, Marcus Tullius

We have to do the best we are capable of. This is our sacred human responsibility.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
Interview with Algernon Black (Fall 1940) [Einstein Archives 54-834]
    (Source)

Einstein forbade publication of the discussion.
 
Added on 19-Feb-21 | Last updated 19-Feb-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Einstein, Albert

For even the humblest person, a day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search for truth and perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life.

Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) American writer, philosopher, historian, architect
The Condition of Man (1944)
    (Source)
 
Added on 17-Feb-21 | Last updated 17-Feb-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Mumford, Lewis

Do the best you can where you are; and, when that is accomplished, God will open a door for you, and a voice will call, “Come up hither into a higher sphere.”

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
Life Thoughts [ed. E. Proctor] (1858)
    (Source)
 
Added on 12-Feb-21 | Last updated 12-Feb-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Beecher, Henry Ward

Your calling is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

Frederick Buechner (b. 1926) American minister, author
The Hungering Dark (1969)
 
Added on 3-Feb-21 | Last updated 3-Feb-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Buechner, Frederick

I’m filled with a desire for clarity and meaning within a world and condition that offers neither.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Myth of Sisyphus” (1942)
 
Added on 7-Jan-21 | Last updated 7-Jan-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Camus, Albert

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need … fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little –”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET — Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME … SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point –”

MY POINT EXACTLY.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Hogfather (1996)
 
Added on 22-Dec-20 | Last updated 22-Dec-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Pratchett, Terry

It is of the nature of desire not to be satisfied, and most men live only for the gratification of it.

[ἄπειρος γὰρ ἡ τῆς ἐπιθυμίας φύσις, ἧς πρὸς τὴν ἀναπλήρωσιν οἱ πολλοὶ]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Politics [Πολιτικά], Book 2, ch. 7, sec. 19 / 1267b.4 [tr. Jowett (1885)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alt. trans.:

  • "For it is the nature of our desires to be boundless, and many live only to gratify them." [tr. Ellis (1912)]

  • "For appetite is in its nature unlimited, and the majority of mankind live for the satisfaction of appetite." [tr. Rackham (1924)]

  • "For the nature of desire is without limit, and it is with a view to satisfying this that the many live. [tr. Lord (1984)]
 
Added on 18-Dec-20 | Last updated 12-Feb-21
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Aristotle

To care passionately for another human creature brings always more sorrow than joy; but all the same … one would not be without that experience. Anyone who has never really loved has never really lived.

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) English writer
Sad Cypress, ch. 2 (1940)
    (Source)
 
Added on 16-Dec-20 | Last updated 16-Dec-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Christie, Agatha

Man must accept the responsibility for himself and the fact that only by using his own powers can he give meaning to his life. But meaning does not imply certainty; indeed, the quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel a man to unfold his powers. If he faces the truth without panic, he will recognize that there is no meaning to life except the meaning man gives his life by the unfolding of his powers, by living productively.

Erich Fromm (1900-1980) American psychoanalyst and social philosopher
Man for Himself, ch. 3 (1947)
    (Source)
 
Added on 7-Dec-20 | Last updated 7-Dec-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Fromm, Erich

Ah, woe is me, through all my days
Wisdom and wealth I both have got,
And fame and name and great men’s praise;
But Love, ah, Love! I have it not.

H. C. Bunner (1855-1896) American novelist and poet [Henry Cuyler Bunner]
“The Way to Arcady” (1892)
    (Source)
 
Added on 18-Nov-20 | Last updated 18-Nov-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Bunner, H. C.

It would be a pretty good bet that the gods of a world like this probably do not play chess and indeed this is the case. In fact no gods anywhere play chess. They haven’t got the imagination. Gods prefer simple, vicious games, where you Do Not Achieve Transcendence but Go Straight To Oblivion; a key to the understanding of all religion is that a god’s idea of amusement is Snakes and Ladders with greased rungs.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Wyrd Sisters (1988)
    (Source)
 
Added on 17-Nov-20 | Last updated 17-Nov-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Pratchett, Terry

A lot of the arguments about religion going on at the moment spring from a rather inept understanding of religious truth. Our notion changed during the early modern period when we became convinced that the only path to any kind of truth was reason. That works beautifully for science but doesn’t work so well for the humanities. Religion is really an art form and a struggle to find value and meaning amid the ghastly tragedy of human life.

Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) British author, comparative religion scholar
“The Reason of Faith,” Interview with Michael Brunton, Ode (Sep-Oct 2009)
    (Source)
 
Added on 19-Oct-20 | Last updated 19-Oct-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Armstrong, Karen

CHARLIE ANDERSON: I wanna say somethin’. I’ve known since the train that we weren’t liable to find him. It was just a hair of a chance that we got Sam back. I knew that. Maybe I knew even before we left home, but somehow I just had to try! And if we don’t try, we don’t do. And if we don’t do, why are we here on this earth?

James Lee Barrett (1929-1989) American author, producer, screenwriter
Shenandoah (1965)
    (Source)
 
Added on 14-Oct-20 | Last updated 14-Oct-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Barrett, James Lee

I give it as my firmest conviction that service to a just cause rewards the worker with more real happiness and satisfaction than any other venture of life.

Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947) American women's suffrage activist
“The Making of A Pioneer Suffragette,” in The American Scrap Book (1928)
    (Source)
 
Added on 24-Sep-20 | Last updated 24-Sep-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Catt, Carrie Chapman

So it is not a matter of whether it is possible to attain Buddhahood, or if it is possible to make a tile a jewel. But just to work, just to live in this world with this understanding is the most important point, and that is our practice. That is true zazen.

Shunryū Suzuki (1905-1971) Japanese Zen Buddhist master
Lecture in Los Altos, California (1 Sep 1967)
    (Source)
 
Added on 2-Jul-20 | Last updated 2-Jul-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Suzuki, Shunryu

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)
    (Source)

Narrated by the Monster.
 
Added on 30-Jun-20 | Last updated 30-Jun-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Shelley, Mary Wallstonecraft

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 “Totalitarianism in Power,” sec. 3 (1951)
    (Source)
 
Added on 23-Jun-20 | Last updated 5-Jul-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Arendt, Hannah

JACK BURTON: I don’t get this at all. I thought Lo Pan —
LO PAN: Shut up, Mr. Burton! You are not brought upon this world to “get it”!

W. D. Richter (b. 1945) American screenwriter, producer, director [Walter Duch Richter]
Big Trouble in Little China (1986) [with Gary Goldman, David Z Weinstein]
 
Added on 13-May-20 | Last updated 13-May-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Richter, WD

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Mary Oliver (1935-2019) American poet
“When Death Comes” New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2 (2005)
 
Added on 7-Apr-20 | Last updated 7-Apr-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Oliver, Mary

The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
The Autobiography of G. K. Chesterton (1936)
    (Source)
 
Added on 25-Feb-20 | Last updated 25-Feb-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Chesterton, Gilbert Keith

For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command or faith a dictum. I am my own God. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
“The Meaning of Life: The Big Picture,” Life Magazine (Dec 1988)
    (Source)
 
Added on 17-Jan-20 | Last updated 17-Jan-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Bukowski, Charles

Man is a reasoning animal. Therefore, man’s highest good is attained if he has fulfilled the good for which nature designed him at birth. And what is it which this reason demands of him? The easiest thing in the world — to live in accordance with his nature. But this has turned into a hard task by the general madness of mankind; we push one
another into vice.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Letters to Lucilius, Letter 41 (c. 65 AD)
    (Source)
 
Added on 18-Sep-19 | Last updated 18-Sep-19
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Seneca the Younger

what matters most is
how well you
walk through the
fire.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
“How Is Your Heart?” (1986)
    (Source)
 
Added on 4-Sep-19 | Last updated 4-Sep-19
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Bukowski, Charles

The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, wit, dramatist
The Importance of Being Earnest, act 2 (Miss Prism) [1895]
    (Source)
 
Added on 28-Feb-19 | Last updated 28-Feb-19
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Wilde, Oscar

I really love language; it allows us to explain the pain and the glory, the nuances and the delicacies, of our existence. Most of all, it allows us to laugh. We need language.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“The Art of Fiction,” Paris Review, #116, Interview with George Plimpton (1990)
 
Added on 28-Feb-19 | Last updated 28-Feb-19
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Angelou, Maya

One of the things I like best about animals in the wild is that they’re always off on some errand. They have appointments to keep. It’s only we humans who wonder what we’re here for.

Diane Ackerman (b. 1948) American poet, author, naturalist
“In Praise of Bats,” The Moon by Whale Light (1991)
    (Source)
 
Added on 28-Dec-18 | Last updated 28-Dec-18
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Ackerman, Diane