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I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and of little value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them.

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) Russian poet, novelist, and literary translator
Doctor Zhivago [До́ктор Жива́го], Part 2, ch. 13 “Opposite the House of Sculptures,” sec. 12 [Yury] (1955) [tr. Hayward & Harari (1958)]

The UK edition, showing the same translators, uses the line "Their virtue is lifeless and it isn't of much value," and the chapter title "Opposite the House of the Caryatids."

Alternate translation:
I don't like the righteous ones, who never fell, never stumbled. Their virtue is dead and of little value. The beauty of life has not been revealed to them.
[tr. Pevear & Volokhonsky (2010)]

Added on 2-Feb-24 | Last updated 2-Feb-24
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Perhaps no other animal is so torn between alternatives. Man might be described fairly adequately, if simply, as a two-legged paradox. He has never become accustomed to the tragic miracle of consciousness. Perhaps, as has been suggested, his species is not set, has not jelled, but is still in a state of becoming, bound by his physical memories to a past of struggle and survival, limited in his futures by the uneasiness of thought and consciousness.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) American writer
The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1941, 1951)
Added on 25-Oct-23 | Last updated 25-Oct-23
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Life beats down and crushes the soul, and art reminds you that you have one.

Adler - Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one - wist.info quote

Stella Adler
Stella Adler (1901-1992) American actor and acting teacher
Quoted in Barry Paris, ed., Stella Adler on America’s Master Playwrights, Introduction (2012)
Added on 12-Jun-23 | Last updated 12-Jun-23
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Therefore, rise. Force your breath, restore it
By that spirit which wins in every battle it fights,
Unless the beaten body says, “no more!”

[E però leva sù; vinci l’ambascia
l’animo che vince ogne battaglia,
col suo grave corpo non s’accascia.]

Dante Alighieri the poet
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Italian poet
The Divine Comedy [Divina Commedia], Book 1 “Inferno,” Canto 24, l. 52ff (24.52-54) [Virgil] (1320) [tr. Raffel (2010)]

(Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

Therefore rise up; your breathing short o'ercome
With Courage, for it ev'ry battle wins;
Unless your heavy limbs submit to sloth.
[tr. Rogers (1782)]

Arise!-- It ill befits the mounting mind
With mortal cares debas'd, to lag behind.
[tr. Boyd (1802)]

Thou therefore rise: vanish thy weariness
By the mind’s effort, in each struggle form’d
To vanquish, if she suffer not the weight
Of her corporeal frame to crush her down.
[tr. Cary (1814)]

Up then; o'ercome thy breathlessness by mind;
To win the battle mind shall never fail.
If by her own dull body's weight declined
She faint not.
[tr. Dayman (1843)]

And therefore rise! conquer thy panting with the soul, that conquers every battle, if with its heavy body it sinks not down.
[tr. Carlyle (1849)]

Then rouse thyself and conquer thy fatigue,
With mind victorious in every battle,
Unless the dull frame subdue its mettle.
[tr. Bannerman (1850)]

Up, up, then, up! conquer thy suff'ring breath,
That courage rouse which ev'ry battle wins,
If not kept down by the too-heavy flesh.
[tr. Johnston (1867)]

And therefore raise thee up, o'ercome the anguish
⁠With spirit that o'ercometh every battle,
⁠If with its heavy body it sink not.
[tr. Longfellow (1867)]

And therefore lift up, conquer the task with the mind that wins every battle, if with its heavy jody it throw not itself down.
[tr. Butler (1885)]

Therefore arise, thy weakness stem with worth
Of soul, that of all battles wins the prime,
Unless 'tis borne down by the body's dearth.
[tr. Minchin (1885)]

And therefore rise up, conquer the exhaustion with the spirit that conquers every battle, if by its heavy body it be not dragged down.
[tr. Norton (1892)]

Wherefore bestir thyself; conquer thy weariness with the courageous soul that conquereth in every fight, if it so be that it is not dragged down by the body's weight.
[tr. Sullivan (1893)]

And so do thou rise up, conquer the shortness
Of breath with spirit that wins every battle.
If with its heavy body it does not totter.
[tr. Griffith (1908)]

Rise, therefore, conquer thy panting with the soul, which conquers in every battle if it sink not with its body's weight.
[tr. Sinclair (1939)]

And therefore rise! Quell now thy panting breast
With the soul's strength that winneth every fight,
So it be not by the body's weight deprest.
[tr. Binyon (1943)]

Rise up; control thy panting breath, and call
The soul to aid, that wins in every fight,
Save the dull flesh should drag it to a fall.
[tr. Sayers (1949)]

Now, therefore, rise. Control your breath, and call
upon the strength of soul that wins all battles
unless it sink in the gross body's fall.
[tr. Ciardi (1954)]

Rise, therefore; conquer your panting with the soul that vvins every battle, if with its heavy body it sinks not down.
[tr. Singleton (1970)]

Stand up! Dominate this weariness of yours
with the strength of soul that wins in every battle
if it does not sink beneath the body's weight.
[tr. Musa (1971)]

Therefore, get up; defeat your breathlessness
with spirit that can win all battles if
the body’s heaviness does not deter it.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1980)]

Therefore get up: control your breathlessness
By force of mind, which wins in every battle,
If with its heavy body it does not sink.
[tr. Sisson (1981)]

So stand
And overcome your panting -- with the soul
Which wins all battles if it does not despond
Under its heavy body's weight.
[tr. Pinsky (1994), l. 52ff]

And therefore stand up; conquer your panting with the spirit that conquers in every battle, if it does not let the heavy body crush it down.
[tr. Durling (1996)]

So rise, and overcome weariness with spirit, that wins every battle, if it does not lie down with the gross body.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

Get up! breathe with the soul, for it is brave
in every battle, and will always win,
unless the heavy body be its grave.
[tr. Carson (2002)]

So upwards! On! And vanquish labored breath!
In any battle mind-power will prevail,
unless the weight of body loads it down.
[tr. Kirkpatrick (2006)]

Get to your feet! Conquer this laboring breath
with strength of mind, which wins the battle
if not dragged down by body's weight.
[tr. Hollander/Hollander (2007)]

Therefore arise, with your soul’s flag unfurled
Above your fear, for so your soul prevails
In every battle if the body's weight
Can't sink it.
[tr. James (2013)]

Added on 9-Jun-23 | Last updated 9-Jun-23
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I like the man who faces what he must,
With steps triumphant and a heart of cheer;
Who fights the daily battle without fear.

Sarah Knowles Bolton
Sarah Knowles Bolton (1841-1916) American writer, poet, journalist, activist
“The Inevitable” (1895)
Added on 25-Jan-23 | Last updated 25-Jan-23
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          Long is the way
And hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light.

John Milton (1608-1674) English poet
Paradise Lost, Book 2, l. 432ff (1667)

See Virgil.
Added on 12-Oct-22 | Last updated 12-Oct-22
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Yield not to evils, but the bolder thou
Persist, defiant of misfortune’s frown,
And take the path thy Destinies allow.

[Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito
Quam tua te fortuna sinet.]

Virgil the Poet
Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 6, l. 95ff (6.95-96) [The Sybil] (29-19 BC) [tr. Taylor (1907), st. 15, ll. 12]

Stoic maxim. There is argument as to whether it should be quam or qua, leading to some variations in translating the second half of the quotation.

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Yet dangers fear not, but on bolder goe,
What course thy fortune grants
[tr. Ogilby (1649)]

But thou, secure of soul, unbent with woes,
The more thy fortune frowns, the more oppose.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

Yield not under your sufferings, but encounter them with greater boldness than your fortune shall permit.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

Yet still despond not, but proceed
Along the path where Fate may lead.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

Yet yield not thou, but go more boldly on,
Where Fortune leads, till victory be won.
[tr. Cranch (1872), ll. 121-122]

Yield not thou to distresses, but all the bolder go forth to meet them, as thy fortune shall allow thee way.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

But thou, yield not to any ill, but set thy face, and wend
The bolder where thy fortune leads.
[tr. Morris (1900)]

Oh! yield not to thy woe, but front it ever,
And follow boldly whither Fortune calls.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Yield not thou to ills, but go forth to face them more boldly than thy Fortune shall allow thee!
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

          Do not yield to evil,
Attack, attack, more boldly even than fortune
Seems to permit.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

But never give way to those evils: face them all the more boldly,
Using what methods your luck allows you.
[tr. Day-Lewis (1952)]

Do not relent before distress, but be
far bolder than your fortune would permit.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), ll. 132-33]

          Never shrink from blows.
Boldly, more boldly where your luck allows,
Go forward, face them.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981), ll. 143-45]

You must not give way to these adversities but must face them all the more boldly wherever your fortune allows it.
[tr. West (1990)]

Do not give way to misfortunes, meet them more bravely,
as your destiny allows.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

Do not yield, but oppose your troubles
All the more boldly, as far as your fate
And fortune allow.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

But never bow to suffering, go and face it,
all the bolder, wherever Fortune clears the way.
[tr. Fagles (2006), ll. 113-14]

Don’t yield to evils, but go boldly forward
Where your fortune bids you.
[tr. @sentantiq (2018)]

Don't give up at these misfortunes. Be as brave as Fortune lets you.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

Added on 5-Oct-22 | Last updated 21-Jun-23
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There is always something pleasurable in the struggle and the victory. And if a man has no opportunity to excite himself, he will do what he can to create one, and according to his individual bent, he will hunt or play Cup and Ball: or led on by this unsuspected element in his nature, he will pick a quarrel with someone, or hatch a plot or intrigue, or take to swindling and rascally courses generally — all to put an end to a state of repose which is intolerable.

[Der Kampf mit ihnen und der Sieg beglückt. Fehlt ihm die Gelegenheit dazu, so macht er sie sich, wie er kann: je nachdem seine Individualität es mit sich bringt, wird er jagen, oder Bilboquet spielen, oder, vom unbewußten Zuge seiner Natur geleitet, Händel suchen, oder Intriguen anspinnen, oder sich auf Betrügereien und allerlei Schlechtigkeiten einlassen, um nur dem ihm unerträglichen Zustande der Ruhe ein Ende zu machen.]

Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. 1, “Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life [Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit],” ch. 5 “Counsels and Maxims [Paränesen und Maximen],” § 2.17 (1851) [tr. Saunders (1890)]

(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

The struggle with [obstacles] and the triumph make him happy. If he lacks the opportunity for this, he creates it as best he can; according to the nature of his individuality, he will hunt or play cup and ball; or, guided by the unconscious urge of his nature, he will pick a quarrel, hatch a plot, or be involved in fraud and all kinds of wickedness, merely in order to put an end to an intolerable state of repose.
[tr. Payne (1974)]

Added on 29-Jun-22 | Last updated 22-Feb-23
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Life is a hard battle anyway. If we laugh and sing a little as we fight the good fight of freedom, it makes it all go easier.

Truth - Life is a hard battle anyway laugh and sing a little fight the good fight of freedom easier - wist.info quote

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) American abolitionist, women's rights activist [b. Isabella Baumfree]
Quoted in Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Letter to the Editor, New York World (13 May 1867)

Recorded in Stanton, Anthony, Gage, History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 2 "1861-76", Appendix to Chapter 18 (1881).

This quote is often given with the following sentence appended to it:

I will not allow my life's light to be determined by the darkness around me.

However this is not in the original, and I have been unable to source it.
Added on 2-Mar-22 | Last updated 2-Mar-22
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There are really only two ways to approach life — as victim or as gallant fighter — and you must decide if you want to act or react, deal your own cards or play with a stacked deck. And if you don’t decide which way to play with life, it always plays with you.

Merle Shain (1935-1989) Canadian journalist and author
Added on 25-Feb-22 | Last updated 25-Feb-22
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In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Inaugural Address (20 Jan 1961) [with Ted Sorensen]
Added on 13-Jan-22 | Last updated 15-Jul-22
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There is always a certain glamour about the idea of a nation rising up to crush an evil simply because it is wrong. Unfortunately, this can seldom be realized in real life; for the very existence of the evil usually argues a moral weakness in the very place where extraordinary moral strength is called for.

W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) American writer, historian, social reformer [William Edward Burghardt Du Bois]
The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America, ch. 12, sec. 93 (1896)
Added on 23-Nov-21 | Last updated 23-Nov-21
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If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017)
Added on 25-Aug-21 | Last updated 25-Aug-21
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Only ambition is fired by the coincidences of success and easy accomplishment but nothing is quite as splendidly uplifting to the heart as the defeat of a human being who battles against the invincible superiority of fate. This is always the most grandiose of all tragedies, one sometimes created by a dramatist but created thousands of times by life.

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist, biographer
Stellar Moments in Human History [Sternstunden der Menschheit] (1953) [tr. Sonnenfeld]
Added on 5-Aug-21 | Last updated 5-Aug-21
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I hold it blasphemy to say that a man ought not to fight against authority: there is no great religion and no great freedom that has not done it, in the beginning.

George Eliot (1819-1880) English novelist [pseud. of Mary Ann Evans]
Felix Holt, the Radical, ch. 46 (1866)
Added on 16-Jun-21 | Last updated 16-Jun-21
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If fate means you to lose, give him a good fight anyhow.

William McFee (1881-1966) English writer
Casuals of the Sea, Book 2, ch. 2 (1916)
Added on 28-May-21 | Last updated 28-May-21
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If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright.

Amanda Gorman (b. 1998) American poet and activist
“The Hill We Climb” (2021)

Read at the Presidential Inauguration (20 Jan 2021).
Added on 22-Mar-21 | Last updated 22-Mar-21
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Both gods knotted the rope of strife and leveling war,
strangling both sides at once by stretching the mighty cable,
never broken, never slipped, that snapped the knees of thousands.

[Τοὶ δ’ ἔριδος κρατερῆς καὶ ὁμοιΐου πτολέμοιο
πεῖραρ ἐπαλλάξαντες ἐπ’ ἀμφοτέροισι τάνυσσαν
ἄῤῥηκτόν τ’ ἄλυτόν τε, τὸ πολλῶν γούνατ’ ἔλυσεν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 13, l. 358ff (13.358) (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), l. 417ff]

On Zeus and Poseidon driving on the Greeks and Trojans during the war. Alt. trans.:

So these Gods made men’s valours great, but equall’d them with war
As harmful as their hearts were good; and stretch’d those chains as far
On both sides as their limbs could bear, in which they were involv’d
Past breach, or loosing, that their knees might therefore be dissolv’d.
[tr. Chapman (1611), l. 336ff]

These powers infold the Greek and Trojan train
In War and Discord's adamantine chain;
Indissolubly strong; the fatal tie
Is stretched on both, and close-compelled they die.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Thus, these Immortal Two, straining the cord
Indissoluble of all-wasting war,
Alternate measured with it either host,
And loosed the joints of many a warrior bold.
[tr. Cowper (1791), l. 438ff]

This way and that they tugg’d of furious war
And balanc’d strife, where many a warrior fell,
The straining rope, which none might break or loose.
[tr. Derby (1864)]

These twain had strained the ends of the cords of strong strife and equal war, and had stretched them over both Trojans and Achaians, a knot that none might break nor undo, for the loosening of the knees of many.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

Thus, then, did these two devise a knot of war and battle, that none could unloose or break, and set both sides tugging at it, to the failing of men's knees beneath them.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

So these twain knotted the ends of the cords of mighty strife and evil war, and drew them taut over both armies, a knot none might break nor undo, that loosed the knees of many men.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

So these two had looped over both sides a crossing
cable of strong discord and the closing of the battle, not to be
slipped, not to be broken, which unstrung the knees of many.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

These gods had interlocked and drawn
an ultimate hard line of strife and war
between the armies; none
could loosen or break that line
that had undone the knees of many men.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

Added on 30-Dec-20 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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Gentlemen, ideas outlive men; ideas outlive all earthly things. You who fought in the war for the Union fought for immortal ideas, and by their might you crowned the war with victory. But victory was worth nothing except for the truths that were under it, in it, and above it.

James A. Garfield (1831-1881) US President (1881), lawyer, lay preacher, educator
Speech to the “Boys in Blue,” Madison Square Park, New York City (6 Aug 1880)
Added on 4-Dec-20 | Last updated 4-Dec-20
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I can entertain the proposition that life is a metaphor for boxing — for one of those bouts that go on and on, round following round, jabs, missed punches, clinches, nothing determined, again the bell and again and you and your opponent so evenly matched it’s impossible not to see your opponent is you.

Joyce Carol Oates (b. 1938) American author
“On Boxing,” On Boxing (1987)
Added on 23-Nov-20 | Last updated 23-Nov-20
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Life does not accommodate you, it shatters you. It is meant to, and it couldn’t do it better. Every seed destroys its container or else there would be no fruition.

Florida Scott-Maxwell (1883-1979) American-British playwright, author, psychologist
The Measure of My Days (1968)
Added on 9-Nov-20 | Last updated 9-Nov-20
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The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004) Swiss-American psychiatrist, author
Death: The Final Stage of Growth (1975)
Added on 14-Oct-20 | Last updated 14-Oct-20
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MORDEN: Think about it, Captain. Look at the long history of human struggle. Six thousand years of recorded wars, bloodshed, atrocities beyond description. But look at what came out of all that. We’ve gone to the stars. Split the atom. Written sonnets. We would never have evolved this far if we hadn’t been at each other’s throats, evolving our way up inch by inch.

J. Michael (Joe) Straczynski (b. 1954) American screenwriter, producer, author [a/k/a "JMS"]
Babylon 5, 3×22 “Z’Ha’Dum” (28 Oct 1996)
Added on 6-Aug-20 | Last updated 6-Aug-20
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It is a measure of the Negro’s circumstance that, in America, the smallest things usually take him so very long, and that, by the time he wins them, they are no longer little things: they are miracles.

Murray Kempton (1917-1997) American journalist.
Part of Our Time: Some Ruins & Monuments of the Thirties, ch. 8 (1955)

On the formation of the Pullman Porters union.
Added on 26-Jun-20 | Last updated 26-Jun-20
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One does not become fully human painlessly.

Rollo May (1909-1994) American psychotherapist
Foreword to Ronald S. Valle and Mark King, Existential-Phenomenological Alternatives for Psychology (1978)
Added on 15-May-20 | Last updated 15-May-20
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The world is not respectable; it is mortal, tormented, confused, deluded forever; but it is shot through with beauty, with love, with glints of courage and laughter; and in these, the spirit blooms timidly, and struggles to be a light amid the thorns.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
Platonism and the Spiritual Life (1927)
Added on 19-Mar-20 | Last updated 19-Mar-20
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Let me point out to you that freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be. One hasn’t got to have an enormous military in order to be unfree when it’s simpler to be asleep, when it’s simpler to be apathetic, when it’s simpler, in fact, not to want to be free, to think that something else is more important.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) American novelist, playwright, activist
“Notes for a Hypothetical Novel,” speech, San Francisco College (22 Oct 1960)

Later published in Nobody Knows My Name (1961).
Added on 6-Jan-20 | Last updated 6-Jan-20
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What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.

Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) German-American psychologist, writer
Man’s Search for Meaning, Part 2 (1946)
Added on 16-Apr-19 | Last updated 16-Apr-19
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Love responsibility. Say: “It is my duty, and mine alone, to save the earth. If it is not saved, then I alone am to blame.” Love each man according to his contribution in the struggle. Do not seek friends; seek comrades-in-arms.

Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) Greek writer and philosopher
The Saviors of God [Salvatores Dei], “The March: First Step: The Ego,” #15-16 (1923) [tr. Friar [1960])
Added on 4-Jul-17 | Last updated 4-Jul-17
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The biggest sin is sitting on your ass.

Florynce "Flo" Kennedy (1916-2000) American lawyer, feminist, civil rights activist

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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To ensure moral salvation, it is primarily necessary to depend on oneself, because in the moment of peril we are alone. And strength is not to be acquired instantaneously. He who knows that he will have to fight, prepares himself for boxing and dueling by strength and skill; he does not sit still with folded hands.

Maria Montessori (1870-1952) Italian educator, philosopher, educator, physician
The Advanced Montessori Method: Spontaneous Activity in Education, Vol. I (1917)
Added on 13-Jun-17 | Last updated 13-Jun-17
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Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Danish philosopher, theologian

Misattributed to Kierkegaard by Cyril Connolly, Horizon, vol. 11 (1945). More properly attributed to Jacobus Johannes van der Leeuw (1893–1934), The Conquest of Illusion, ch. 1: "The mystery of life in not a problem to be solved, it is a reality to be experienced."
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To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.


Howard Zinn (1922-2010) American historian, academic, author, social activist
“The Optimism of Uncertainty,” The Nation (2 Sep 2004)

Adopted from Zinn's essay of the same name in Paul Loeb (ed.), The Impossible Will Take a Little While (2004). See also Zinn, "A Marvelous Victory" (23 Feb 2004).
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I must confess, my friends, the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will be still rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. There will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair. Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted. We may again with tear-drenched eyes have to stand before the bier of some courageous civil rights worker whose life will be snuffed out by the dastardly acts of bloodthirsty mobs. Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
“Where Do We Go From Here?” Southern Christian Leadership Conference Presidential Address (16 Aug 1967)
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One hundred and eighty-eight years ago this week a small band of valiant men began a long struggle for freedom. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor not only to found a nation, but to forge an ideal of freedom — not only for political independence, but for personal liberty — not only to eliminate foreign rule, but to establish the rule of justice in the affairs of men. That struggle was a turning point in our history. Today in far corners of distant continents, the ideals of those American patriots still shape the struggles of men who hunger for freedom. This is a proud triumph. Yet those who founded our country knew that freedom would be secure only if each generation fought to renew and enlarge its meaning.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American politician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (1964-07-02)
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The way to bliss lies not on beds of down,
And he that has no cross deserves no crown.

Francis Quarles (1592-1644) English poet
Esther, Sec. 9, Meditation 9 (1621)
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Freedom is worth paying for.

[La liberté vaut qu’on la paye.]

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Part 2, ch. 8 “Vigo Bay” (1870)
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A religious life is a struggle and not a hymn.

Germaine de Staël (1766-1817) Swiss-French writer, woman of letters, critic, salonist [Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, Madame de Staël, Madame Necker]
Corinne, Book 10, ch. 5 (1807)
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There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not lead single-issue lives.

Lorde - single issue - wist_info quote

Audre Lorde (1934-1992) American writer, feminist, civil rights activist
“Learning from the 60s,” speech, Malcolm X weekend, Harvard University (Feb 1982)

Reprinted in Sister Outsider (1984).
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When I was younger, I thought I could change this world. Now I no longer think so but for emotional reasons I must keep on fighting a holding action.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Friday [Dr. Baldwin] (1982)
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Men might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
Speech on West India Emancipation (4 Aug 1857)
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Are you going to come along quietly, or am I going to have to use ear plugs?

Terence Alan "Spike" Milligan (1918-2002) Anglo-Irish comedian, writer, actor
The Goon Show, 9×12 “The Call of the West” (20 Jan 1959)

Variant: "Are you going to come along quietly, or do you want musical accompaniment?"
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A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
The Simplest Way to be Happy (1933)
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Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
Notebooks: 1942-1951, Notebook 4, Jan 1942 – Sep 1945 [tr. O’Brien/Thody (1963)

Cited as "B.B."
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Nothing, I am sure, calls forth the faculties so much as the being obliged to struggle with the world.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) English social philosopher, feminist, writer
Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, “Matrimony” (1787)
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Human life must be some kind of mistake. The truth of this will be sufficiently obvious if we only remember that man is a compound of needs and necessities hard to satisfy; and that even when they are satisfied, all he obtains is a state of painlessness, where nothing remains to him but abandonment to boredom. This is direct proof that existence has no real value in itself; for what is boredom but the feeling of the emptiness of life? If life — the craving for which is the very essence of our being — were possessed of any positive intrinsic value, there would be no such thing as boredom at all: mere existence would satisfy us in itself, and we should want for nothing. But as it is, we take no delight in existence except when we are struggling for something; and then distance and difficulties to be overcome make our goal look as though it would satisfy us — an illusion which vanishes when we reach it; or else when we are occupied with some purely intellectual interest — when in reality we have stepped forth from life to look upon it from the outside, much after the manner of spectators at a play. And even sensual pleasure itself means nothing but a struggle and aspiration, ceasing the moment its aim is attained. Whenever we are not occupied in one of these ways, but cast upon existence itself, its vain and worthless nature is brought home to us; and this is what we mean by boredom. The hankering after what is strange and uncommon — an innate and ineradicable tendency of human nature — shows how glad we are at any interruption of that natural course of affairs which is so very tedious.

[Daß das menschliche Daseyn eine Art Verirrung seyn müsse, geht zur Genüge aus der einfachen Bemerkung hervor, daß der Mensch ein Konkrement von Bedürfnissen ist, deren schwer zu erlangende Befriedigung ihm doch nichts gewährt, als einen schmerzlosen Zustand, in welchem er nur noch der Langenweile Preis gegeben ist, welche dann geradezu beweist, daß das Daseyn an sich selbst keinen Werth hat: denn sie ist eben nur die Empfindung der Leerheit desselben. Wenn nämlich das Leben, in dem Verlangen nach welchem unser Wesen und Daseyn besteht, einen positiven Werth und realen Gehalt in sich selbst hätte; so könnte es gar keine Langeweile geben: sondern das bloße Daseyn, an sich selbst, müßte uns erfüllen und befriedigen. Nun aber werden wir unsers Daseyns nicht anders froh, als entweder im Streben, wo die Ferne und die Hindernisse das Ziel als befriedigend uns vorspiegeln, welche Illusion nach der Erreichung verschwindet; oder aber in einer rein intellektuellen Beschäftigung, in welcher wir jedoch eigentlich aus dem Leben heraustreten, um es von außen zu betrachten, gleich Zuschauern in den Logen. Sogar der Sinnengenuß selbst besteht in einem fortwährenden Streben und hört auf, sobald sein Ziel erreicht ist. So oft wir nun nicht in einem jener beiden Fälle begriffen, sondern auf das Daseyn selbst zurückgewiesen sind, werden wir von der Gehaltlosigkeit und Nichtigkeit desselben überführt, und Das ist die Langeweile. Sogar das uns inwohnende und unvertilgbare, begierige Haschen nach dem Wunderbaren zeigt an, wie gern wir die so langweilige, natürliche Ordnung des Verlaufs der Dinge unterbrochen sähen.]

Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. 2, ch. 11 “The Vanity of Existence [Der Nichtigkeit des Daseins],” § 146 (1851)

(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

That human life must be a kind of mistake is sufficiently clear from the fact that man is a compound of needs, which are difficult to satisfy; moreover, if they are satisfied, all he is granted is a state of painlessness, in which he can only give himself up to boredom. This is a precise proof that existence in itself has no value, since boredom is merely the feeling of the emptiness of life. If, for instance, life, the longing for which constitutes our very being, had in itself any positive and real value, boredom could not exist; mere existence in itself would supply us with everything, and therefore satisfy us. But our existence would not be a joyous thing unless we were striving after something; distance and obstacles to be overcome then represent our aim as something that would satisfy us -- an illusion which vanishes when our aim has been attained; or when we are engaged in something that is of a purely intellectual nature, when, in reality, we have retired from the world, so that we may observe it from the outside, like spectators at a theatre. Even sensual pleasure itself is nothing but a continual striving, which ceases directly its aim is attained. As soon as we are not engaged in one of these two ways, but thrown back on existence itself, we are convinced of the emptiness and worthlessness of it; and this it is we call boredom. That innate and ineradicable craving for what is out of the common proves how glad we are to have the natural and tedious course of things interrupted.
[tr. Dircks]

That human existence must be some kind of error, is sufficiently clear from the simple observation that man is a concretion of needs and wants. Their satisfaction is hard to attain and yet affords him nothing but a painless state in which he is still abandoned to boredom. This, then, is a positive proof that, in itself, existence has no value; for boredom is just that feeling of its emptiness. Thus if life, in the craving for which our very essence and existence consist, had a positive value and in itself a real intrinsic worth, there could not possibly be any boredom. On the contrary, mere existence in itself would necessarily fill our hearts and satisfy us. Now we take no delight in our existence except in striving for something when the distance and obstacles make us think that the goal will be satisfactory, an illusion that vanishes when it is reached; or else in a purely intellectual occupation where we really step out of life in order to contemplate it from without, like spectators in the boxes. Even sensual pleasure itself consists in a constant striving and ceases as soon as its goal is attained. Now whenever we are not striving for something or are not intellectually occupied, but are thrown back on existence itself, its worthlessness and vanity are brought home to us; and this is what is meant by boredom. Even our inherent and ineradicable tendency to run after what is strange and extraordinary shows how glad we are to see an interruption in the natural course of things which is so tedious.
[tr. Payne (1974)]

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If there is no willingness to use force to defend civil society, it’s civil society that goes away, not force.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden (b. 1956) American editor, writer, essayist
Making Light, “Commonplaces”
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The struggle which is not joyous is the wrong struggle. The joy of the struggle is not hedonism and hilarity, but the sense of purpose, achievement, and dignity.

Germaine Greer (b. 1939) Australian-English feminist, reformer, author, educator
The Female Eunuch, Introduction (1970)
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To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

e e cummings (1894-1962) American poet and painter [Edward Estlin Cummings]
A Miscellany (1958)
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If it was a worthwhile fight, it didn’t matter who won; some good was sure to come of it.

Richard Brooks (1912-1992) American screenwriter, film director, novelist
Deadline: U.S.A. [film] (1952)

Line spoken by Ethyl Barrymore.
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You may either win your peace or buy it: win it, by resistance to evil; buy it, by compromise with evil.

John Ruskin (1819-1900) English art critic, painter, writer, social thinker
The Two Paths, Lecture 5 (1859)
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It isn’t enough to stand up and fight darkness. You’ve got to stand apart from it, too. You’ve got to be different from it.

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
Fool Moon (2001)
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Laugh whenever you can. Keeps you from killing yourself when things are bad. That and vodka.

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
Changes, ch. 33 [Sanya] (2010)
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Is it not strange that men are so keen to fight for a religion and so unkeen to live according to its precepts?

Georg C. Lichtenberg (1742-1799) German physicist, writer
Aphorisms, Notebook L, #85, p. 705 (1796-99) [tr. Hollingdale (1990)

Alternate translation: "Is it not peculiar that men are so glad to fight for religion and so reluctant to live according to its precepts?" [tr. Tester (2012)]
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In my head there is a permanent opposition-party; and whenever I take any step or come to any decision — though I may have given the matter mature consideration — it afterward attacks what I have done, without, however, being each time necessarily in the right. This is, I suppose, only a form of rectification on the part of the spirit of scrutiny; but it often reproaches me when I do not deserve it.

[In meinem Kopfe giebt es eine stehende Oppositionspartei, die gegen Alles, was ich, wenn auch mit reiflicher Überlegung, gethan, oder beschlossen habe, nachträglich polemisirt, ohne jedoch darum jedesmal Recht zu haben. Sie ist wohl nur eine Form des berichtigenden Prüfungsgeistes, macht mir aber oft unverdiente Vorwürfe.]

Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. 2, ch. 26 “Psychological Observations [Psychologische Bemerkungen],” § 345 (1851) [tr. Saunders (1890)]

(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

There is in my mind a standing opposition party which subsequently attacks everything I have done or decided, even after mature consideration, yet without its always being right on that account. It is, I suppose, only a form of the corrective spirit of investigation; but it often casts an unmerited slur on me.
[tr. Payne (1974)]

Added on 15-Oct-13 | Last updated 22-Sep-22
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