Quotations about   surprise

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Surprise becomes effective when we suddenly face the enemy at one point with far more troops than he expected. This type of numerical superiority is quite distinct from numerical superiority in general: it is the most powerful medium in the art of war.

[Die Überraschung zeigt sich dadurch wirksam, dass man dem Feinde auf einem Punkt viel mehr Truppen entgegen stellt, als er erwartete. Diese Überlegenheit der Zahl ist von der allgemeinen sehr verschieden, sie ist das wichtigste Agens der Kriegskunst.]

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War [Vom Kriege], Book 6 “Defense,” ch. 2 (1832) [tr. Howard & Paret (1984)]
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(Source(German)). Alternate translation:

The surprise produces an effect by opposing to the enemy a great many more troops than he expected at some particular point. The superiority in numbers in this case is very different to a general superiority of numbers; it is the most powerful agent in the art of war.
[tr. Graham (1874)]

Added on 21-Jul-22 | Last updated 21-Jul-22
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My life so far has been a long series of things I wasn’t ready for.

Ashleigh Brilliant (b. 1933) Anglo-American writer, epigramist, cartoonist
Pot-Shots, #3237
Added on 30-Apr-21 | Last updated 30-Apr-21
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Here’s a comforting thought for you, Peter. However long you may live, the world will never lose its ability to surprise you with its beauty.

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) British author
Lies Sleeping (2018)
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Added on 2-Apr-21 | Last updated 2-Apr-21
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It is a mark of genius not to astonish but to be astonished.

Aubrey Menen (1912-1989) English writer
The Prevalence of Witches, ch. 4 (1947)
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Added on 26-Aug-20 | Last updated 26-Aug-20
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Unexpected intrusions of beauty. This is what life is.

Saul Bellow (1915-2005) Canadian-American writer
Herzog (1964)
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Added on 20-May-20 | Last updated 20-May-20
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The future always arrives too fast — and in the wrong order.

Alvin Toffler (1928-2016) American writer and futurist
(Attributed)
Added on 24-Jan-20 | Last updated 24-Jan-20
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May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
Comment (31 Dec 2001)
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Added on 12-Feb-18 | Last updated 12-Feb-18
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We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself.

Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, “Let’s Pretend” (1952)
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Added on 21-Nov-16 | Last updated 21-Nov-16
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No one is so brave that he is not disturbed by something unexpected.

[Nemo est tam fortis, quin rei novitate perturbetur.]

Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) Roman general and statesman [Gaius Julius Caesar]
The Gallic Wars [De Bello Gallico], Book 6, ch. 39 (49 BC)
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Alt. trans.: "No one is so courageous as not to be disconcerted by the suddenness of the affair." [tr. McDevitte and Bohn]
Added on 23-Jun-14 | Last updated 23-Jun-14
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A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Notebook [ed. Paine (1935)]
Added on 13-Aug-13 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Crowley thumped the wheel. Everything had been going so well, he’d had it really under his thumb these few centuries. That’s how it goes, you think you’re on top of the world, and suddenly they spring Armageddon on you.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens, “Eleven Years Ago” (1990) [with Neil Gaiman]
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Added on 1-Dec-08 | Last updated 8-Jun-21
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Friendship, like the immortality of the soul, is too good to be believed.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Compensation,” Essays: First Series (1841)
Added on 24-Mar-04 | Last updated 19-Feb-22
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When we talk of tomorrow, the gods laugh.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Chinese proverb
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Art,” Essays: First Series (1841)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 19-Feb-22
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