Quotations about   sloth

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On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammeled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided. But in certain circumstances and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains.

[At vero eos et accusamus et iusto odio dignissimos ducimus, qui blanditiis praesentium voluptatum deleniti atque corrupti, quos dolores et quas molestias excepturi sint, obcaecati cupiditate non provident, similique sunt in culpa, qui officia deserunt mollitia animi, id est laborum et dolorum fuga. et harum quidem rerum facilis est et expedita distinctio. nam libero tempore, cum soluta nobis est eligendi optio, cumque nihil impedit, quo minus id, quod maxime placeat, facere possimus, omnis voluptas assumenda est, omnis dolor repellendus. temporibus autem quibusdam et aut officiis debitis aut rerum necessitatibus saepe eveniet, ut et voluptates repudiandae sint et molestiae non recusandae. itaque earum rerum hic tenetur a sapiente delectus, ut aut reiciendis voluptatibus maiores alias consequatur aut perferendis doloribus asperiores repellat.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum [On the Ends of Good and Evil], Book 1, sec. 33 (ch. 10) (44 BC) [tr. Rackham (1914)]
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Alt. trans.:
  • "Then again we criticize and consider wholly deserving of our odium those who are so seduced and corrupted by the blandishments of immediate pleasure that they fail to foresee in their blind passion the pain and harm to come. Equally blameworthy are those who abandon their duties through mental weakness -- that is, through the avoidance of effort and pain. It is quite simple and straightforward to distinguish such cases. In our free time, when our choice is unconstrained and there is nothing to prevent us doing what most pleases us, every pleasure is to be tasted, every pain shunned. But in certain circumstances it will often happen that either the call of duty or some sort of crisis dictates that pleasures are to be repudiated and inconveniences accepted. And so the wise person will uphold the following method of selecting pleasures and pains: pleasures are rejected when this results in other greater pleasures; pains are selected when this avoids worse pains." [On Moral Ends, tr. Woolf (2001)]
  • "But in truth we do blame and deem most deserving of righteous hatred the men who, enervated and depraved by the fascination of momentary pleasures, do not foresee the pains and troubles which are sure to befall them, because they are blinded by desire, and in the same error are involved those who prove traitors to their duties through effeminacy of spirit, I mean because they shun exertions and trouble. Now it is easy and and simple to mark the difference between these cases. For at our seasons of ease, when we have untrammelled freedom of choice, and when nothing debars us from the power of following the course that pleases us best, then pleasure is wholly a matter for our selection and pain for our rejection. On certain occasions however either through the inevitable call of duty or through stress of circumstances, it will often come to pass that we must put pleasures from us and must make no protest against annoyance. So in such cases the principle of selection adopted by the wise man is that he should either by refusing cerftain pleasures attain to other and greater pleasures or by enduring pains should ward off pains still more severe." [tr. Reid (1883)]
  • "But we do accuse those men, and think them entirely worthy of the greatest hatred, who, being made effeminate and corrupted by the allurements of present pleasure, are so blinded by passion that they do not foresee what pains and annoyances they will hereafter be subject to; and who are equally guilty with those who, through weakness of mind, that is to say, from eagerness to avoid labour and pain, desert their duty. And the distinction between these things is quick and easy. For at a time when we are free, when the option of choice is in our own power, and when there is nothing to prevent our being able to do whatsoever we choose, then every pleasure may be enjoyed, and every pain repelled. But on particular occasions it will often happen, owing whether to the obligations of duty or the necessities of business, that pleasures must be declined and annoyances must not be shirked. Therefore the wise man holds to this principle of choice in those matters, that he rejects some pleasures, so as, by the rejection to obtain others which are greater, and encounters some pains, so as by that means to escape others which are more formidable." [On the Chief Good and Evil, tr. Yongue (1853)]
Added on 17-Aug-20 | Last updated 17-Aug-20
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CHARLIE MCCARTHY: Ambition is a poor excuse for not having sense enough to be lazy.

Edgar Bergen (1903-1978) American actor, radio performer, ventriloquist
(Attributed)
Added on 18-May-20 | Last updated 18-May-20
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The biggest sin is sitting on your ass.

Florynce "Flo" Kennedy (1916-2000) American lawyer, feminist, civil rights activist
(Attributed)
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Quoted in Gloria Steinem, "The Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.," Ms. (Mar 1973).

Full quote: "Some people say they won’t work 'inside the system' -- they’re 'waiting for the revolution.' Well, when the ramparts are open, honey, I'll be there. But until then, I'm going to go right on zapping the business and government delinquents, the jockocrats, the fetus fetishists, and all the other niggerizers any way I can. The biggest sin is sitting on your ass."
Added on 21-Jun-17 | Last updated 28-Aug-17
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My ambition is handicapped by my laziness.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
Factotum, ch. 45 (1975)
Added on 31-May-17 | Last updated 4-Sep-19
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A person who has not done one half his day’s work by ten o’clock runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.

Emily Brontë (1818-1848) British novelist, poet [pseud. Ellis Bell]
Wuthering Heights, ch. 7 (1847) [Nelly]
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Added on 15-Dec-16 | Last updated 15-Dec-16
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Dreadful will be the day when the world becomes contented, when one great universal satisfaction spreads itself over the world. Sad will be the day for every man when he becomes absolutely contented with the life that he is living, with the thoughts that he is thinking, with the deeds that he is doing, when there is not forever beating at the doors of his soul some great desire to do something larger which he knows that he was meant and made to do because he is a child of God.

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) American clergyman, hymnist
Daily Thoughts from Phillips Brooks (1893)
Added on 10-Aug-16 | Last updated 10-Aug-16
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Laziness is the sin most willingly confessed to, since it implies talents greater than have yet appeared.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays (2001)
Added on 23-Oct-15 | Last updated 23-Oct-15
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Indolence is a delightful but distressing state; we must be doing something to be happy. Action is no less necessary than thought to the instinctive tendencies of the human frame.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830) English writer
Table Talk, “On the Pleasure of Painting” (1821-22)
Added on 29-Jun-15 | Last updated 24-Jun-15
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Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished?
Yes: work never begun.

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) English poet
(Attributed)
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Added on 5-Jun-15 | Last updated 5-Jun-15
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Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It is not a day when you lounge around doing nothing: it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.

Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) British Prime Minister (1979-90), research chemist, barrister, politician
(Attributed)
Added on 16-Apr-15 | Last updated 16-Apr-15
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It is infinitely difficult to know when and where one should stop, and for all but one in thousands the goal of their thinking is the point at which they have become tired of thinking.

[Es ist unendlich schwer, zu wissen, wenn und wo man bleiben soll, und Tausenden für einen ist das Ziel ihres Nachdenkens die Stelle, wo sie des Nachdenkens müde geworden.]

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German playwright, philosopher, dramiturg, writer
Letter to Moses Mendelssohn (9 Jan 1771)
Added on 8-Apr-15 | Last updated 8-Apr-15
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The firefly only shines when on the wing.
So is it with the mind — when once we rest
We darken.

Philip James Bailey (1816-1902) English poet
Festus (1839)
Added on 30-Mar-15 | Last updated 30-Mar-15
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“Now … if you trust in yourself …”
“Yes?”
“… and believe in your dreams …”
“Yes?”
“… and follow your star …” Miss Tick went on.
“Yes?”
“… you’ll still be beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
The Wee Free Men (2003)
Added on 13-Mar-15 | Last updated 13-Mar-15
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Creativity is constantly in danger of being destroyed by success. The more effectively the environment is mastered, the greater is the temptation to rest on one’s oars.

Henry Kissinger (b. 1923) German-American diplomat
The Necessity for Choice: Prospects of American Foreign Policy, 8.3 (1961)
Added on 13-Mar-15 | Last updated 13-Mar-15
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To be idle and to be poor have always been reproaches, and therefore every man endeavours with his utmost care to hide his poverty from others, and his idleness from himself.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Idler, #17 (5 Aug 1758)
Added on 20-Jun-14 | Last updated 20-Jun-14
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The biggest sin is sitting on your ass.

Other Authors and Sources
Florynce R. Kennedy, in Gloria Steinem, “the Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.,” Ms. (Mar 1973)
Added on 6-Jun-14 | Last updated 6-Jun-14
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Yet many men, being slaves to appetite and sleep, have passed through life untaught and untrained, like mere wayfarers. In these men we see, contrary to Nature’s intent, the body a source of pleasure, the soul a burden.

[Sed multi mortales dediti ventri atque somno, indocti incultique vitam sicuti peregrinantes transegere.]

Sallust (c. 86-35 BC) Roman historian and politician [Gaius Sallustius Crispus]
Bellum Catilinae [The War of Catiline; The Conspiracy of Catiline], ch. 2, sent. 8 [tr. Rolfe (1931)]
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Original Latin. Alt. trans.:

"Yet we see in the mass of life numbers addicted to sloth and the gratifications of appetite; men uneducated and uninformed, who have passed their time like incurious travellers, of whom it may be said, the organs of bodily sensation were their delight, and their minds were no better than a burden." [tr. Murphy (1807)]

"Yet many there are in the world who, abandoned to sloth and sensuality, without learning or politeness, pass their lives much like travellers; and who, in opposition to the design of nature, place their whole happiness in animal pleasure, looking on their minds as a heavy burden." [tr. Rose (1831)]

"But many men abandoned to their belly and sleep, untaught and uneducated, have spent their days like strangers, whose body in truth, contrary to nature, has been their happiness, their soul a burden." [Source (1841)]

"Yet many human beings, resigned to sensuality and indolence, uninstructed and unimproved, have passed through life like travelers in a strange country; to whom, certainly, contrary to the intention of nature, the body was a gratification, and the mind a burden." [tr. Watson (1867)]

"Many, however, the slaves of gluttony and sloth, without learning or cultivation, have passed through life as though it were a journey in a foreign land, and thus, in defiance of nature, have actually found their body a pleasure and their real vital powers a burden." [tr. Pollard (1882)]

"But many mortals, devoted to their stomachs and to sleep, have passed through life untaught and uncouth, like foreign travellers; and of course, contracy to nature, their bodies were a source of pleasure to them, their minds a burden." [tr. Woodman (2007)]
Added on 17-Apr-14 | Last updated 23-Oct-20
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Up, Sluggard, and waste not life;
in the grave will be sleeping enough.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Alamanack (Sep 1741)

Repeated as "There will be enough sleeping in the Grave" in "The Way of Wealth" (7 Jul 1756).
Added on 17-May-11 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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Human nature is above all things — lazy.

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) American author
Household Papers and Stories, ch. 6 (1864)
Added on 26-Jan-11 | Last updated 17-Dec-13
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Idleness is sweet, and its consequences are cruel.

[La molesse est douce, et sa suite est cruelle.]

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) US President (1825-29)
(Attributed)

Said to have been written in his diary, but unverified.
Added on 28-Jul-09 | Last updated 28-Nov-16
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Too many people want to have written.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Post, alt.fan.pratchett (14 Jun 1998)
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See Parker.
Added on 9-May-08 | Last updated 20-Mar-20
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Not failure, but low aim, is crime.

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) American diplomat, essayist, poet
“For an Autograph,” st. 5 (1868)
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Added on 11-Sep-07 | Last updated 16-Aug-19
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Laziness: the habit of resting before fatigue sets in.

Jules Renard (1864-1910) French writer
Journal (May 1906) [tr. Bogan & Roget (1964)]

Also attributed to Mortimer Caplin.

Alt. trans.: "Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 3-Oct-16
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O, do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) American clergyman, hymnist
“Going Up to Jerusalem,” Selected Sermons [ed. William Scarlett (1949)]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 17-Jul-16
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As a confirmed melancholic, I can testify that the best and maybe only antidote for melancholia is action. However, like most melancholics, I suffer also from sloth.

Edward Abbey (1927-1989) American anarchist, writer, environmentalist
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness, ch. 4, “Life and Death and All That” (1989)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 31-Jul-17
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Everyone confesses that exertion which brings out all the powers of body and mind is the best thing for us; but most people do all they can to get rid of it, and as a general rule nobody does much more than circumstances drive them to do.

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) American author
“The Lady Who Does Her Own Work,” Atlantic Monthly (1864)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 17-Dec-13
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For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless, in short, are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections color and infect the understanding.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 1, Aphorism 49 (1620)

Alt. trans.: "Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true." [Quod enim mavult homo verum esse, id potius credit.] See Demosthenes.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-May-16
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