Quotations about   perspective

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To return to the matter of the persona, I repeat that one cannot wholly eliminate oneself for a second, and also sufficient, reason: any fiction (and surely poetry too?) is bound to be transposed autobiography. (True, it may be this at so many removes as to defeat recognition.) I can, and indeed if i would not I still must, relate any and every story I have written to something that happened to me in my own life. But here I am speaking of happenings in a broad sense — to behold and react, is where I am concerned a happening; speculations, unaccountable stirs of interest, longings, attractions, apprehensions without knowable cause — these are happenings, also.

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) Irish author
Stories by Elizabeth Bowen, Preface (1959)
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Added on 6-Jul-20 | Last updated 6-Jul-20
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She’s adorn’d
Amply that in her husband’s eye looks lovely —
The truest mirror that an honest wife
Can see her beauty in!

John Tobin (1770-1804) British playwright
The Honey Moon, Act 3, sc. 4 (1805)
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Added on 30-Jun-20 | Last updated 30-Jun-20
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Everything is funnier in retrospect, funnier and prettier and cooler. You can laugh at anything from far enough away.

Chuck Palahniuk (b. 1962) American novelist and freelance journalist
Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories, “Consolation Prizes” (2004)
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Added on 23-Jun-20 | Last updated 23-Jun-20
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Thare would be a grate supply ov wit and humor in this world, if we would only giv others the same credit for being witty that we claim for ourselfs.

[There would be a great supply of wit and humor in this world, if we would only give others the same credit for being witty that we claim for ourselves.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Mollassis Kandy” (1874)
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Added on 4-Jun-20 | Last updated 4-Jun-20
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Happiness isn’t something you experience; it’s something you remember.

Oscar Levant (1906-1972) American pianist, composer, actor, wit
(Attributed)
Added on 28-May-20 | Last updated 28-May-20
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The most that experience seems tew do for us, is tew sho us, what kussid phools every boddy but we, hav made of themselfs.

[The most that experience seems to do for us is to show us what cussed fools everybody but we have made of themselves.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Mollassis Kandy” (1874)
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Added on 28-May-20 | Last updated 28-May-20
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A rich man cannot enjoy a sound mind nor a sound body without exercise and abstinence; and yet these are truly the worst ingredients of poverty.

Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696-1782) Scottish jurist, agriculturalist, philosopher, writer
Introduction to the Art of Thinking, ch. 2 (1761)
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Added on 15-May-20 | Last updated 15-May-20
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Every great work of art has two faces: one toward its own time and one toward the future, toward eternity.

Daniel Barenboim (b. 1942) Argentine-Israeli pianist and conductor
Quoted in the International Herald Tribune (20 Jan 1989)

The above is sometimes cited to his collaborative dialog with Edward Said, Parallels and Paradoxes (2002), but the passage there is slightly different: "I think that every great work of art has two faces: one toward its own time and one toward eternity."
Added on 14-May-20 | Last updated 15-May-20
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So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) American poet and satirist
“The Blind Men and the Elephant,” Moral, The Poems of John Godfrey Saxe (1872)
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Added on 8-May-20 | Last updated 11-May-20
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If you said to a bunch of average people two hundred years ago “Would you be happy in a world where medical care is widely available, houses are clean, the world’s music and sights and foods can be brought into your home at small cost, travelling even 100 miles is easy, childbirth is generally not fatal to mother or child, you don’t have to die of dental abcesses and you don’t have to do what the squire tells you” they’d think you were talking about the New Jerusalem and say ‘yes’.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
(Attributed)

Usually cited to alt.fan.pratchett, but not found in the repository.
Added on 17-Apr-20 | Last updated 17-Apr-20
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Things are beautiful if you love them.

Jean Anouilh (1910-1987) French dramatist
Mademoiselle Colombe, Act 2, sc. 2 (1950) [tr. Kronenberger (1954)]
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Added on 13-Apr-20 | Last updated 13-Apr-20
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To make us feel small in the right way is a function of art; men can only make us feel small in the wrong way.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“A Book That Influenced Me,” Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
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Added on 1-Apr-20 | Last updated 3-Apr-20
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Just for the record, darling, not all positive change feels positive in the beginning.

Other Authors and Sources
S. C. Lourie
Added on 16-Mar-20 | Last updated 16-Mar-20
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There is no “True.” There are only ways of perceiving.

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter to Léon Hennique (3 Feb 1880) [tr. Steegmuller (1982)]
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Added on 12-Mar-20 | Last updated 12-Mar-20
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But I aint so sho that ere a man has the right to say what is crazy and what aint. It’s like there was a fellow in every man that’s done a-past the sanity or the insanity, that watches the sane and insane doings of that man with the same horror and the same astonishment.

William Faulkner (1897-1962) American novelist
As I Lay Dying (1930)
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Added on 3-Mar-20 | Last updated 10-Mar-20
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Keep cool: it will be all one a hundred years hence.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Montaigne; or, The Skeptic,” Representative Men, Lecture 4 (1850)
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Added on 25-Feb-20 | Last updated 25-Feb-20
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SIR HUMPHREY: A cynic is what an idealist calls a realist.

Jonathan Lynn (b. 1943) English actor, comedy writer, director
Yes Minister, S3E4 “The Moral Dimension” (1982) [with Antony Jay]
Added on 28-Jan-20 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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In the affluent society no sharp distinction can be made between luxuries and necessaries.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
The Affluent Society, ch. 21, sec. 4 (1998, 4th ed.)
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On sales taxes. Sometimes quoted (from other editions?) as "useful distinction."
Added on 14-Jan-20 | Last updated 14-Jan-20
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Comparison is the thief of joy.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
(Attributed)
Added on 9-Jan-20 | Last updated 9-Jan-20
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There are few of us who are not protected from the keenest pain by our inability to see what it is that we have done, what we are suffering, and what we truly are. Let us be grateful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearances only.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Erewhon, ch. 3 “Up the River” (1872)
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Added on 28-Oct-19 | Last updated 28-Oct-19
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Things seem to tend downward, to justify despondency, to promote rogues, to defeat the just; and by knaves as well as by martyrs the just cause is carried forward. Although knaves win in every political struggle, although society seems to be delivered over from the hands of one set of criminals into the hands of another set of criminals, as fast as the government is changed, and the march of civilization is a train of felonies, yet, general ends are somehow answered.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Representative Men, Lecture 4 “Montaigne; or, The Skeptic” (1850)
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Added on 28-Oct-19 | Last updated 28-Oct-19
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We always require an outside point to stand on, in order to apply the lever of criticism. […] Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.

Carl Jung (1875-1961) Swiss psychologist
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, ch. 9 “Travels,” ii. “The Pueblo Indians” (1963)
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Added on 18-Sep-19 | Last updated 20-Sep-19
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I’ve learned to write in the first-person singular while remembering always that my writing must speak to the first-person plural.

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 5-Sep-19 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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While we are poor, the necessarys ov life are the luxurys; after we git ritch, the luxurys are the necessarys.

[While we are poor, the necessaries of life are the luxuries; after we get rich, the luxuries are the necessaries.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Mollassis Kandy” (1874)
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Added on 9-Jun-19 | Last updated 9-Jun-19
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The salvation of America and of the human race depends on the next election, if we believe the newspapers. But so it was last year, and so it was the year before, and our fathers believed the same thing forty years ago.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (Oct 1848)
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Added on 9-Jun-19 | Last updated 9-Jun-19
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It is by means of my vices that I understand yours.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (Spring-Summer 1844)
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He recorded this phrase multiple times, including in his lecture, "The Anglo-American" (7 Dec 1852), and Notebook S Salvage.
Added on 16-Apr-19 | Last updated 16-Apr-19
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The intoxication of anger, like that of the grape, shows us to others, but hides us from ourselves; and we injure our own cause, in the opinion of the world, when we too passionately and eagerly defend it.

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer
Lacon, Vol. 1, #240 (1820)
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Added on 18-Jan-19 | Last updated 18-Jan-19
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We cannot do without it, and yet we disgrace and vilify the same. It may be compared to a cage, the birds without despair to get in, and those within despair to get out.

[Il en advient ce qui se veiod aux cages: les oyseaux qui en sont dehors, desperent d’y entrer: et d’un pareil soing en sortir, ceuix qui sont au dedans.]

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“Upon Some Verses of Virgil,” Essays (1580-88)

On marriage. For more discussion of others who have used this metaphor, see here.

Alt. trans.: "We cannot live without it, and yet we do nothing but decry it. It happens, as with cages, the birds without despair to get in, and those within despair of getting out." [tr. Cotton (1877)]

Alt. trans.: "Though we cannot live without it, yet we do nothing but decry it. We see the same with birdcages: the birds outside despair to get in, and those within despair to get out. [Autobiography, ch. 6 "This Discreet Business of Marriage," tr. Lowenthal (1935)]

Added on 14-Nov-18 | Last updated 14-Nov-18
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Other people’s appetites easily appear excessive when one doesn’t share them.

André Gide (1869-1951) French author, Nobel laureate
The Counterfeiters, “Edouard’s Journal: Oscar Molinier” (1925)
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Added on 2-Oct-18 | Last updated 2-Oct-18
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That which we call sin in others, is experiment for us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Experience,” Essays: Second Series (1844)
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Added on 4-Sep-18 | Last updated 4-Sep-18
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Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
A Room with a View, ch. 14 (1908)
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Added on 25-May-18 | Last updated 25-May-18
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It is said that his time was easier than ours, but I doubt it — no time can be easy if one is living through it.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) American novelist, playwright, activist
“Why I Stopped Hating Shakespeare”
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Added on 14-May-18 | Last updated 14-May-18
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I would give all my fame for a pot of ale, and safety.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 3, sc. 2 [Boy] (1599)
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Added on 2-Apr-18 | Last updated 2-Apr-18
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My son, a perfect little boy of five years and three months, had ended his earthly life. You can never sympathize with me; you can never know how much of me such a young child can take away. A few weeks ago I accounted myself a very rich man, and now the poorest of all.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Letter to Thomas Carlyle (28 Feb 1842)
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Added on 20-Mar-18 | Last updated 20-Mar-18
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It is striking how much more seriously we are likely to be taken after we have been dead a few centuries.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 4 “Consolation for Inadequacy” (2000)
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Added on 15-Feb-18 | Last updated 15-Feb-18
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One was never married, and that’s his hell; another is, and that’s his plague.

Robert Burton (1577-1640) English scholar
The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1.2.4.7 (1621-51)
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Added on 10-Jan-18 | Last updated 10-Jan-18
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We do not judge men by what they are in themselves, but by what they are relatively to us.

Anne Sophie Swetchine (1782-1857) Russian-French author and salonist [Madame Swetchine]
The Writings of Madame Swetchine, “Airelles”, #25 (1869) [ed. Count de Falloux, tr. Preston]
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Added on 22-Nov-17 | Last updated 22-Nov-17
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I also think living in the country gives you faith. All you have to do is get up and look at the mountains and look at the other animals to realize that your problems are mostly made up or exacerbated by humans. But human life isn’t necessarily life. There’s so much more out there.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
Interview in OutSmart (Jan 1998)
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Added on 30-Oct-17 | Last updated 30-Oct-17
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Better keep yourself clean and bright: you are the window through which you must see the world.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
The Revolutionist’s Handbook, “Honor” (1905)
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Added on 24-Oct-17 | Last updated 24-Oct-17
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Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Nightmare Stacks, ch. 18 (2016)
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A variant of Clarke's Third Law.
Added on 3-Oct-17 | Last updated 3-Oct-17
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Where Plenty smiles — alas! she smiles for few,
And those who taste not, yet behold her store,
Are as the slaves that dig the golden ore,
The wealth around them makes them doubly poor.

George Crabbe (1754-1832) English poet, writer, surgeon, clergyman
The Village, Book 1, line 136 (1783)
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Added on 2-Oct-17 | Last updated 2-Oct-17
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Love, I find is like singing. Everybody can do enough to satisfy themselves, though it may not impress the neighbors as being very much.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) American writer, folklorist, anthropologist
Dust Tracks on a Road, ch. 14 “Love” (1942)
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Added on 6-Sep-17 | Last updated 6-Sep-17
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No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

H.G. Wells (1866-1946) British writer [Herbert George Wells]
The War of the Worlds, Book 1, ch. 1 (1898)
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Added on 22-Aug-17 | Last updated 22-Aug-17
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She ate her trifle, reflecting that grinding poverty, though loathsome while one is in it, has the advantage of making one enjoy money in a way denied to the rich-from-birth.

Kerry Greenwood (b. 1954) Australian author and lawyer
Flying Too High, ch. 2 (1990)
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Added on 13-Jul-17 | Last updated 13-Jul-17
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You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of “the artist” and the all-sufficiency of “art” and “beauty” and “love”, back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermuda, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time — back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.

Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) American writer
You Can’t Go Home Again, Book 7 “A Wind Is Rising and the Rivers Flow” (1940)
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Added on 1-Jun-17 | Last updated 12-Jun-17
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When you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue — you sell him a whole new life.

Christopher Morley (1890-1957) American journalist, novelist, essayist, poet
Parnassus on Wheels, ch. 4 (1917)
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The moral of it is, that if we would build on a sure foundation in friendship, we must love our friends for THEIR sakes rather than OUR OWN; we must look at their truth to THEMSELVES, full as much as their truth to US. In the latter case, every wound to self-love would be a cause of coldness; in the former, only some painful change in the friend’s character and disposition — some frightful breach in his allegiance to his better self — could alienate the heart.

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) British novelist [pseud. Currer Bell]
Letter to W S. Williams (21 Jul 1851)
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Added on 7-Apr-17 | Last updated 7-Apr-17
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An individual has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow horizons of his particular individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. And this is one of the big problems of life, that so many people never quite get to the point of rising above self. And so they end up the tragic victims of self-centeredness. They end up the victims of distorted and disrupted personality.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Conquering Self-Centeredness,” sermon, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama (11 Aug 1957)
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Added on 31-Mar-17 | Last updated 31-Mar-17
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Happiness ain’t a thing in itself, it’s only a contrast with something that ain’t pleasant. That’s all it is. There ain’t a thing you can mention that is happiness in its own self — it’s only so by contrast with the other thing. And so, as soon as the novelty is over and the force of the contrast dulled, it ain’t happiness any longer, and you have to get something fresh.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
“Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven,” Harper’s Monthly Magazine (Dec 1907)
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Most people, no doubt, when they espouse human rights, make their own mental reservations about the proper application of the word “human.”

Suzanne La Follette (1893-1983) American journalist, author, feminist
Concerning Women, “The Beginnings of Emancipation” (1926)
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Added on 13-Feb-17 | Last updated 13-Feb-17
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Every man hears only what he understands.

goethe-every-man-hears-understands-wist_info-quote

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe, #385 [tr. Saunders (1892)]
Added on 25-Jan-17 | Last updated 25-Jan-17
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Tragedy plus time equals comedy.

allen-tragedy-plus-time-equals-comedy-wist_info

Steve Allen (1922-2000) American composer, entertainer, and wit.
“Steve Allen’s Almanac,” Cosmopolitan (Feb 1957)

Similar formulations have been made by Carol Burnett, Lenny Bruce, Bob Newhart, and Woody Allen. For more discussion see here.
Added on 29-Dec-16 | Last updated 29-Dec-16
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“Terrorism” is what we call the violence of the weak, and we condemn it; “war” is what we call the violence of the strong, and we glorify it.

harris-violence-of-the-weak-strong-wist_info-quote

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
“Nations Should Submit to the Rule of Law,” Clearing the Ground (1986)
Added on 19-Dec-16 | Last updated 19-Dec-16
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That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in the next.

mill-height-of-absurdity-wisdom-wist_info-quote

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) English philosopher and economist
(Attributed)
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Often cited from a quote in Adlai Stevenson, Call to Greatness (1954), but appears earlier in, e.g., National Magazine (Nov 1911). Unverified in Mills' writings.
Added on 15-Dec-16 | Last updated 15-Dec-16
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Solitude is naught and society is naught. Alternate them and the good of each is seen.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1838)
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