Quotations about   nature

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… believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world.

Mary Oliver (1935-2019) American poet
“Invitation,” Red Bird: Poems (2008)
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On goldfinches singing.
Added on 9-Jun-19 | Last updated 9-Jun-19
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Nature, as we know her, is no saint.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Essays: Second Series, “Experience” (1844)
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Added on 17-Aug-18 | Last updated 17-Aug-18
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Man is the only animal who does not feel at home in nature, who can feel evicted from paradise, the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem that he has to solve and from which he cannot escape.

Erich Fromm (1900-1980) American psychoanalyst and social philosopher
The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, ch. 10 (1973)
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Sometimes elided, "Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem he has to solve."
Added on 2-Apr-18 | Last updated 2-Apr-18
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What do you suppose makes all men look back to the time of childhood with so much regret (if their childhood has been, in any moderate degree, healthy or peaceful)? That rich charm, which the least possession had for us, was in consequence of the poorness of our treasures. That miraculous aspect of the nature around us, was because we had seen little, and knew less. Each increased possession loads us with a new weariness; every piece of new knowledge diminishes the faculty of admiration; and Death is at last appointed to take us from a scene in which, if we were to stay longer, no gift could satisfy us, and no miracle surprise.

John Ruskin (1819-1900) English art critic, painter, writer, social thinker
The Eagle’s Nest, Lecture 5 “The Power of Contentment in Science and Art,” Sec. 82 (22 Feb 1872)
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Added on 15-Feb-18 | Last updated 15-Feb-18
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A man is a god in ruins.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Nature,” ch. 8 (1836)
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Added on 16-Oct-17 | Last updated 16-Oct-17
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This simply means that there is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. When we look beneath the surface, beneath the impulsive evil deed, we see within our enemy-neighbor a measure of goodness and know that the viciousness and evilness of his acts are not quite representative of all that he is. We see him in a new light. We recognize that his hate grows out of fear, pride, ignorance, prejudice, and misunderstanding, but in spite of this, we know God’s image is ineffably etched in being. Then we love our enemies by realizing that they are not totally bad and that they are not beyond the reach of God’s redemptive love.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Loving Your Enemies,” Sermon, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery (25 Dec 1957)
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Added on 11-Aug-17 | Last updated 11-Aug-17
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If you wish to be like a little child, study what a little child could understand — nature; and do what a little child could do — love.

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) English clergyman, historian, essayist, novelist (pseud. "Parson Lot")
Notes (Aug 1842) in Frances Eliza Grenfell Kingsley, Charles Kingsley: His Letters and Memories of His Life (1883)
Added on 9-May-17 | Last updated 9-May-17
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Man masters nature not by force but by understanding. This is why science has succeeded where magic failed: because it has looked for no spell to cast over nature.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
Lecture, MIT (26 Feb 1953)

Reprinted in "The Creative Mind," Sec. 4, Science and Human Values (1961).
Added on 30-Jan-17 | Last updated 30-Jan-17
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We are all boarders on one table — White man, black man, ox and eagle, bee, & worm.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (13-14 Jul 1840)
Added on 19-Dec-16 | Last updated 19-Dec-16
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In effect what Luther said in 1517 was that we may appeal to a demonstrable work of God, the Bible, to override any established authority. The Scientific Revolution begins when Nicolaus Copernicus implied the bolder proposition that there is another work of God to which we may appeal even beyond this: the great work of nature. No absolute statement is allowed to be out of reach of the test, that its consequence must conform to the facts of nature.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
Science and Human Values, Part 2 “The Habit of Truth”, §11 (1956)
Added on 5-Dec-16 | Last updated 5-Dec-16
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In nature nothing is done but in the cheapest way.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (7 Feb 1839)
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Added on 28-Nov-16 | Last updated 28-Nov-16
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In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period so ever of life, is always a child. In the woods is a perpetual youth. … In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life — no disgrace, no calamity, … which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Nature” (1836)
Added on 29-Aug-16 | Last updated 29-Aug-16
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It is a profound mistake to imagine that Christianity ever intended to dissipate the bewilderment and even the terror, the sense of our own nothingness, which come upon us when we think about the nature of things. It comes to intensify them. Without such sensations there is no religion. Many a man, brought up in the glib profession of some shallow form of Christianity, who comes through reading Astronomy to realise for the first time how majestically indifferent most reality is to man, and who perhaps abandons his religion on that account, may at that moment be having his first genuinely religious experience.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Miracles (1947)
Added on 20-Apr-16 | Last updated 20-Apr-16
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All things are artificial, for nature is the art of God.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Religio Medici, 1.16 (1642) [ed. Symonds (1886)]
Added on 18-Sep-15 | Last updated 18-Sep-15
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Nature is but a name for an effect,
Whose cause is God.

William Cowper (1731-1800) English poet
The Task, 6.123 (1785)
Added on 11-Sep-15 | Last updated 11-Sep-15
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I’ve never understood all this fuss people make about the dawn. I’ve seen a few and they’re never as good as the photographs, which have the additional advantage of being things you can look at when you’re in the right frame of mind, which is usually around lunchtime.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Last Chance to See, ch. 4 (1990)
Added on 10-Aug-15 | Last updated 10-Aug-15
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By no means is the natural order of things fashioned for us by a divine agency: so greatly do the imperfections with which it has been endowed stand out.

[Nequaquam nobis divinitus esse paratam
naturam rerum: tanta stat praedita culpa]

Lucretius (c. 100-c. 55 BC) Roman poet [Titus Luretius Carus]
De Rerum Natura [On the Nature of Things], Book 5, l. 198-9
Added on 6-Aug-15 | Last updated 18-Apr-16
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“So what do we do if we get bitten by something deadly, then?” I asked.

He blinked at me as if I were stupid.

“Well what do you think you do?” he said. “You die of course. That’s what deadly means.”

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Last Chance to See, ch. 2 (1990)
Added on 6-Jul-15 | Last updated 6-Jul-15
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[Wash is at his station on the bridge, playing with plastic dinosaurs.]

WASH [as Stegosaur]: Yes … yes, this is a fertile land, and we will thrive. We will rule over all this land, and we will call it … This Land.
WASH [as Allosaur]: I think we should call it … your grave!
WASH [as Stegosaur]: Ah! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!
WASH [as Allosaur]: Ha ha ha! Mine is an evil laugh! Now DIE!
WASH [as Stegosaur]: Oh no, God, oh dear God in Heaven …

Joss Whedon (b. 1964) American screenwriter, author, producer [Joseph Hill Whedon]
Firefly, 1×01 “Serenity” (pilot) (20 Dec 2002)
Added on 5-Feb-15 | Last updated 5-Feb-15
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God loved the birds and invented trees.
Man loved the birds and invented cages.

Jacques Deval (1895-1972) French playwright and director [pseud. of Jacques Boularan]
Afin de vivre bel et bien (1970)
Added on 2-Feb-15 | Last updated 2-Feb-15
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But, yes, people have asked why I don’t put people into my pictures of the natural scene. I respond, “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.” That usually doesn’t go over at all.

Ansel Adams (1902-1984) American photographer and environmentalist
Interview with David Sheff, Playboy (1 May 1983)
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Added on 19-Sep-14 | Last updated 19-Sep-14
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There is nothing that I tell you with more eager desire that you should believe — nothing with wider ground in my experience for requiring you to believe, than this, that you never will love art well, till you love what she mirrors better.

John Ruskin (1819-1900) English art critic, painter, writer, social thinker
Eagle’s Nest, Lecture 3, “Relation of Wise Art to Wise Science,” sec. 41 (15 Sep 1872)
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Added on 1-Sep-14 | Last updated 1-Sep-14
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The whole point of society is to be less unforgiving than nature.

Arthur D. Hlavaty (b. 1942) American writer, editor, publisher [a/k/a "Supergee"]
“Derogatory Reference” #100 (2002)
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Added on 25-Aug-14 | Last updated 25-Aug-14
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The life, the fortune, and the happiness of every one of us, and, more or less, of those who are connected with us, do depend upon our knowing something of the rules of a game infinitely more difficult and complicated than chess. It is a game which has been played for untold ages, every man and woman of us being one of the two players in a game of his or her own. The chessboard is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance. To the man who plays well, the highest stakes are paid, with that sort of overflowing generosity with which the strong shows delight in strength. And one who plays ill is checkmated — without haste, but without remorse.

T. H. Huxley (1825-1895) English biologist [Thomas Henry Huxley]
“A Liberal Education and Where to Find It” (1868)
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Added on 29-Jul-14 | Last updated 29-Jul-14
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All things pass in time. We are far less significant than we imagine ourselves to be. All that we are, all that we have wrought, is but a shadow, no matter how durable it may seem. One day, when the last man has breathed his last breath, the sun will shine, the mountains will stand, the rain will fall, the streams will whisper — and they will not miss him.

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
Princeps’ Fury (2008)
Added on 4-Mar-14 | Last updated 4-Mar-14
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Shed no tear! O shed no tear!
The flower will bloom another year.
Weep no more! O weep no more!
Young buds sleep in the root’s white core.

John Keats (1795-1821) English poet
“Faery Songs,” I (1818)
Added on 31-Dec-13 | Last updated 31-Dec-13
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All the works of Nature are Miracles, and nothing makes them appear otherwise but our Familiarity with them.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Prose Observations. “Nature” [ed. de Quehen (1979)]
Added on 20-Sep-11 | Last updated 13-Apr-15
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To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) American poet
“To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee”
Added on 26-Jan-11 | Last updated 1-Jul-16
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Nature is neutral. Man has wrested from nature the power to make the world a desert or to make the desert bloom. There is no evil in the atom; only in men’s souls.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Hartford, Connecticut (18 Sep 1952)
Added on 24-Aug-09 | Last updated 25-Nov-14
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There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments — there are consequences.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Christian Religion” (1881)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed. In everything man has accomplished, we have only manipulated nature into doing what it is.

[Natura enim non imperatur, nisi parendo.]

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 1, Aphorism 129 (1620)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-May-16
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