Quotations about   possession

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To have and not give is in some cases worse than stealing.

[Haben und nichts geben, ist in manchen Fällen schlechter als stehlen.]

Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830-1916) Austrian writer
Aphorisms [Aphorismen], No. 41 (1880-1893) [tr. Wister (1882)]
    (Source)

(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

To have and not give is in some instances worse than stealing.
[tr. Scrase/Mieder (1994)]
Added on 2-Aug-22 | Last updated 2-Aug-22
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Wise is he who instead of grieving over what he lacks delights in what he has.

[Εὐγνώμων ὁ μὴ λυπεόμενος ἐφ’ οἷσιν οὐκ ἔχει, ἀλλὰ χαίρων ἐφ’ οἷσιν ἔχει.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 231 (Diels) [tr. @sententiq (2016)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Diels citation "231 (61 N.)"; collected in Joannes Stobaeus (Stobaios) Anthologium III, 17, 25. Bakewell lists this under "The Golden Sayings of Democritus." Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter. Alternate translations:

  • "A sensible man takes pleasure in what he has instead of pining for what he has not." [tr. Bakewell (1907)]
  • "The right-minded man is he who is not grieved by what he has not, but enjoys what he has." [tr. Freeman (1948)]
  • "A man of sound judgement is not grieved by what he does not possess but rejoices in what he does possess." [tr. Barnes (1987)]
  • "A sensible man does not grieve for what he has not, but enjoys what he has." [Source]
Added on 11-May-21 | Last updated 11-May-21
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We are all more blind to what we have than to what we have not.

Audre Lorde (1934-1992) American writer, feminist, civil rights activist
“Notes from a Trip to Russia,” Sister Outsider (1984)
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Added on 19-Oct-20 | Last updated 19-Oct-20
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Marrying a woman for her beauty makes no more sense than eating a bird for its singing. But it’s a common mistake nonetheless.

Charles Frazier (b. 1950) American novelist
Cold Mountain (1997)
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Added on 29-Jul-20 | Last updated 29-Jul-20
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An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn’t know why they chose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done.

William Faulkner (1897-1962) American novelist
“The Art of Fiction,” Interview by Jean Stein, Paris Review #12 (Spring 1956)
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Added on 23-Jul-20 | Last updated 23-Jul-20
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The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyment and realities of life — will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
“Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren,” Nation and Athenaeum (11 and 18 Oct 1930)
    (Source)

Originally a society talk in 1920, expanded to a lecture given in Madrid (Jun 1930). Reprinted in Essays in Persuasion, Part 5, ch. 2 (1931).
Added on 11-Jun-20 | Last updated 11-Jun-20
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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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The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
Tremendous Trifles, “The Advantages of Having One Leg” (1909)
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Added on 12-Dec-17 | Last updated 12-Dec-17
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It is not merely that the ownership of any substantial share in the national wealth is concentrated to-day in the hands of a few hundred thousand families, and that at the end of an age which began with an affirmation of the rights of property, proprietary rights are, in fact, far from being widely distributed. Nor is it merely that what makes property insecure to-day is not the arbitrary taxation of unconstitutional monarchies or the privileges of an idle noblesse, but the insatiable expansion and aggregation of property itself, which menaces with absorption all property less than the greatest, the small master, the little shopkeeper, the country bank, and has turned the mass of mankind into a proletariat working under the agents and for the profit of those who own.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
The Acquisitive Century, ch. 5 “Property and Creative Work” (1920)
Added on 23-Feb-17 | Last updated 23-Feb-17
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In the end, a life of prayer is a life with open hands where we are not ashamed of our weakness but realize that it is more perfect for us to be led by the Other than to try to hold everything in our own hands.

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) Dutch Catholic priest and writer
With Open Hands (1972)
Added on 29-Apr-16 | Last updated 29-Apr-16
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In private life, no motive of action is at present so powerful and so persistent as acquisitiveness, which, unlike most other desires, knows no satiety.

Inge - acquisitiveness - wist_info quote

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Patriotism,” Outspoken Essays: First Series (1915)
Added on 21-Dec-15 | Last updated 4-Jan-16
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Songwriting is about getting the demon out of me. It’s like being possessed. You try to go to sleep, but the song won’t let you. So you have to get up and make it into something, and then you’re allowed to sleep. It’s always in the middle of the bloody night, or when you’re half-awake or tired, when your critical faculties are switched off. So letting go is what the whole game is.

John Lennon (1940-1980) English rock musician, singer, songwriter
Interview, Playboy (Sep 1980)
Added on 24-Mar-15 | Last updated 24-Mar-15
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Better one byrde in hand than ten in the wood.

John Heywood (1497?-1580?) English playwright and epigrammist
Proverbes, Part 1, ch. 2 (1546)
Added on 16-Feb-15 | Last updated 13-Jul-20
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It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Principles of Social Reconstruction [Why Men Fight], ch. 8 (1916)
Added on 31-Oct-12 | Last updated 2-Feb-22
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Prospect is often better than possession.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #3958 (1732)
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Added on 17-Oct-12 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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Whatever you can lose, reckon of no account.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 191 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
Added on 25-Jul-11 | Last updated 15-Feb-17
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The three most important things a man has are, briefly, his private parts, his money, and his religious opinions.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Further Extracts from Note-books of Samuel Butler (1934)
Added on 15-Aug-08 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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What difference does it make how much you have? What you do not have amounts to much more.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
(Attributed)

Attr. by Aulus Gellius in Noctes Atticae, bk. 12, ch. 2, sct. 13 (2nd cent. A.D.).
Added on 11-Jul-08 | Last updated 2-Feb-17
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TECMESSA: Ignorant men
Don’t know what good they hold in their hands until
They’ve flung it away.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Ajax, l. 964 [tr. Moore (1959)]

Alt trans.:
  • “Men of perverse opinion do not know / The excellence of what is in their hands, / Till some one dash it from them.” [George Young (1888)]
  • "Men of ill judgement oft ignore the good / That lies within their hands, till they have lost it."
  • "For those who are base in judgement do not know the good they hold in their hands until they cast it off."
Added on 2-Jun-08 | Last updated 17-Aug-16
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The longest liver and he who will die soonest lose just the same. For the present is the only thing of which a man can be deprived, if it is true that this is the only thing which he has, and that a man cannot lose a thing if he has it not.

Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) Roman emperor (161-180), Stoic philosopher
Meditations, Book 2, #14 [tr. Long (1862)]
    (Source)

Alternate translations:

  • "That life which any the longest liver, or the shortest liver parts with, is for length and duration the very same, for that only which is present, is that, which either of them can lose, as being that only which they have; for that which he hath not, no man can truly be said to lose." [tr. Casaubon (1634), #12]
  • "When the longest and shortest lived persons come to die, their loss is equal: for as I observe, the present is their all, and they can suffer no farther." [tr. Collier (1701)]
  • "When the longest and shortest-lived persons come to die, their loss is equal; they can but lose the present as being the only thing they have; for that which he has not, no man can be truly said to lose." [tr. Zimmern (1887)]
  • "The longest-lived and the shortest-lived man, when they come to die, lose one and the same thing." [tr. Morgan, in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (1894)]
  • "The longest-lived and the soonest to die have an equal loss; for it is the present alone of which either will be deprived, since (as we saw) this is all he has and a man does not lose what he has not got." [tr. Farquharson (1944)]
  • "When the longest- and shortest-lived of us come to die, their loss is precisely equal. For the sole thing of which any man can be deprived is the present; since this is all he owns, and nobody can lose what is not his." [tr. Staniforth (1964)]
  • "The longest-lived and those who will die soonest lose the same thing. The present is all that they give up, since that is all you have, and what you do not have, you cannot lose." [tr. Hays (2003)]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Mar-21
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Those two fatal words, Mine and Thine.

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) Spanish novelist
Don Quixote, Part 1, Book 2, ch. 11 (1605) [tr. Motteux & Ozell (1743)]
    (Source)

Alt trans.:
  • "Oh happy age, which our first parents called the age of gold! not because gold, so much adored in this iron-age, was then easily purchased, but because those two fatal words, mine and thine, were distinctions unknown to the people of those fortunate times." [Full version of the above]
  • "Happy the age, happy the time, to which the ancients gave the name of golden, not because in that fortunate age the gold so coveted in this our iron one was gained without toil, but because they that lived in it knew not the two words 'mine' and 'thine'!" [tr. Ormsby (1885)]
  • "Happy age, and happy days were those, to which the ancients gave the name of golden; not, that gold, which in these our iron-times, is so much esteemed, was to be acquired without trouble, in that fortunate period; but, because people then, were ignorant of those two words MINE and THINE." [tr. Smollett (1976), as Part 1, Book 1, ch. 3]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 9-Jun-15
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Most people seek after what they do not possess and thus are enslaved by the very things they want to acquire. They become prisoners of their desires even though they appear to be free.

Anwar el-Sadat (1918-1981) Egyptian soldier and statesman
In Search of Identity (1978)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-22
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