Quotations about   survival

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          Goddess-born, wherever
Fate pulls or hauls us, there we have to follow;
Whatever happens, fortune can be beaten
By nothing but endurance.

[Nate dea, quo fata trahunt retrahuntque, sequamur;
Quidquid erit, superanda omnis fortuna ferendo est.]

Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 5, l. 709ff (5.709-710) [Nautes] (29-19 BC) [tr. Humphries (1951)]
    (Source)

Nautes encouraging Achilles after fire destroys some of the ships. Sometimes paraphrased in two separate phrases:

  • Quocunque trahunt fata sequamur. -- Wherever the Fates direct us, let us follow.
  • Superanda omnis fortuna ferendo est. -- Every misfortune is to be subdued by patience.
(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

O goddess-born, resign'd in ev'ry state,
With patience bear, with prudence push your fate.
By suff'ring well, our Fortune we subdue;
Fly when she frowns, and, when she calls, pursue.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

Goddess-born, let us follow the Fates, whether they invite us backward or forward: come what will, every fortune is to be surmounted by patience.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

My chief, let Fate cry on or back,
'Tis ours to follow, nothing slack:
Whate'er betide, he only cures
The stroke of fortune who endures.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

Wherever Fate may lead us, whether on
Or backward, let us follow. Whatsoe'er
Betides, all fortune must be overcome
By endurance.
[tr. Cranch (1872), l. 840ff]

Goddess-born, follow we fate's ebb and flow, whatsoever it shall be; fortune must be borne to be overcome.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

O Goddess-born, Fate's ebb and flow still let us follow on,
Whate'er shall be, by bearing all must Fortune's fight be won.
[tr. Morris (1900)]

O Goddess-born, where Fate directs the way,
'Tis ours to follow. Who the best can bear,
Best conquers Fortune, be the doom what may.
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 97, l. 865ff]

O goddess-born, we follow here or there,
as Fate compels or stays. But come what may,
he triumphs over Fortune, who can bear
whate'er she brings.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Goddess-born, whither the Fates, in their ebb and flow, draw us, let us follow ; whatever befall, all fortune is to be o'ercome by bearing.
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

Goddess-born, let us follow our destiny, ebb or flow.
Whatever may happen, we master fortune by fully accepting it.
[tr. Day-Lewis (1952)]

O goddess-born, there where the fates would have us
go forward or withdraw, there let us follow;
whatever comes, all fortune must be won
by our endurance.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), l. 934ff]

Sir, born of an immortal, let us follow
Where our fates may lead, or lead us back.
Whatever comes,
All Fortune can be mastered by endurance.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981)]

Son of the goddess, let us follow the Fates, whether they lead us on or lead us back. Whatever fortune may be ours, we must at all times rise above it by enduring it.
[tr. West (1990)]

Son of the Goddess, let us follow wherever fate ebbs or flows,
whatever comes, every fortune may be conquered by endurance.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

Son of Venus, whether the Fates will draw us on
or draw us back, let’s follow where they lead.
Whatever Fortune sends, we master it all
by bearing it all, we must!
[tr. Fagles (2006)]

Goddess-born, let's follow where fate draws us, even if we backtrack. Come what may, we'll win out by endurance.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

Added on 22-Sep-22 | Last updated 22-Sep-22
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What threatens our security is not change but the inability to change; what threatens progress is not revolution but stagnation; what threatens our survival is not novel or dangerous ideas but the absence of ideas.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“The University and the Community of Learning,” speech, Kent State University, Ohio (10 Apr 1971)
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Humanity will ever seek but never attain perfection. Let us at least survive and go on trying.

Dora Russell
Dora, Countess Russell (1894-1986) British author, feminist, social activist [Dora Russell, née Black]
The Religion of the Machine Age (1983)
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All passes. — Only strong art
Passes to eternity.
The bust
Survives the city.

And the austere coin
That a workman finds
Underground
Reveals an emperor.

[Tout passe. — L’art robuste
Seul a l’éternité,
     Le buste
Survit à la cité.

Et la médaille austère
Que trouve un laboureur
     Sous terre
Révèle un empereur.]

Théophile Gautier (1811-1872) French poet, writer, critic
“L’Art,” l. 41ff, Émaux et Camées (1852)
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Everything passes. --
Only robust art is eternal.
The bust outlives the city.

And the simple coin
Unearthed by a peasant
Reveals the image of an emperor.
[Source]

All passes, Art alone
Enduring stays to us;
The Bust outlasts the throne, --
The Coin, Tiberius.
[Austin Dobson, "Ars Victrix" (1876), in imitation]

Everything passes -- Robust art
Alone is eternal.
The bust
Survives the city.
[Source]

Everything disappears -- Robust art
   alone is eternal:
      The Bust survives the city.
[Source]

Everything passes away. -- Robust Art
   Alone has eternity;
      The bust
   Survives the city.
[Source]

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If you stay alive for no other reason at all, please do it for spite.

Maria Bamford
Maria Bamford (b. 1970) American actress and stand-up comedian
“The Special Special Special!” (2012)
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The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
(Paraphrase)
    (Source)

This was based on a statement Mark Twain made to a British correspondent of the New York Journal (in some incorrect versions the New York Evening Sun) who tracked him down in London upon reports in America that Twain was dying there. Twain wrote out a note saying, "James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness; the report of my death was an exaggeration." This response was published 2 June 1897, and the longhand note is still preserved.

In 1906, Twain recalled the incident for his memoir that he told the reporter, "Say the report is exaggerated." On retyping the manuscript some months later, he scribbled the word "greatly" in front of "exaggerated," and it was published that way in The North American Review.

In Albert B. Paine's Mark Twain, a Biography, Vol. 2, ch. 197 (1912), the story is that Twain told the correspondent, "Just say the report of my death has been grossly exaggerated."

Further discussion:
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“Darkness” is shorthand for anything that scares me — that I want no part of — either because I am sure that I do not have the resources to survive it or because I do not want to find out. The absence of God is in there, along with the fear of dementia and the loss of those nearest and dearest to me. So is the melting of polar ice caps, the suffering of children, and the nagging question of what it will feel like to die. If I had my way, I would eliminate everything from chronic back pain to the fear of the devil from my life and the lives of those I love — if I could just find the right night-lights to leave on.

At least I think I would. The problem is this: when, despite all my best efforts, the lights have gone off in my life (literally or figuratively, take your pick), plunging me into the kind of darkness that turns my knees to water, nonetheless I have not died. The monsters have not dragged me out of bed and taken me back to their lair. The witches have not turned me into a bat. Instead, I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.

Barbara Brown Taylor (b. 1951) American minister, academic, author
Learning to Walk in the Dark, Introduction (2014)
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sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think,
I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside
remembering all the times you’ve felt that way

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
“Gamblers All” (1990)
    (Source)

Originally titled "8 Count and Up".
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To get home you had to end the war. To end the war was the reason you fought it. The only reason.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, ch. 11 (1989)
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Sitting in stunned silence, we remembered our dead. So many dead. So many maimed. So many bright futures consigned to the ashes of the past. So many dreams lost in the madness that had engulfed us. Except for a few widely scattered shouts of joy, the survivors of the abyss sat hollow-eyed and silent, trying to comprehend a world without war.

E B Sledge
E. B. Sledge (1923-2001) American soldier, biologist, academic, memoirist [Eugene Bondurant Sledge]
With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa (1981)

On the reaction of his fellow Marines to the announcement of the Japanese surrender in WWII.

Paul Fussell quotes this passage in his essay "Thank God for the Atom Bomb," The New Republic (26 Aug 1981), and it is sometimes misattributed to him.
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Does anything in nature despair except man? An animal with a foot caught in a trap does not seem to despair. It is too busy trying to survive. It is all closed in, to a kind of still, intense waiting. Is this a key? Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.

May Sarton
May Sarton (1912-1995) Belgian-American poet, novelist, memoirist [pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton]
Journal of a Solitude, “October 6th” (1973)
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Civilization is to groups what intelligence is to individuals. It is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation.

Octavia Butler (1947-2006) American writer
Parable of the Sower, ch. 10 (1993)
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That is, natural selection built the brain to survive in the world and only incidentally to understand it at a depth greater than is needed to survive. The proper task of scientists is to diagnose and correct the misalignment.

E. O. Wilson (1929-2021) American biologist, naturalist, writer [Edward Osborne Wilson]
Consilience, ch. 4 (1998)
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It’s one of those weird truths you learn early on as police that quite a high percentage of the public have all the survival instinct of a moth in a candle factory. They run the wrong way, they refuse to move, some will run toward the danger, and others will instantly whip out their phones and take footage.

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) British author
False Value (2020)
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If you survive long enough, you’re revered — rather like an old building.

Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003) American actress
In Michael Freedland, Katharine Hepburn (1984)

A longer form of this is quoted in Susan Ware, Letter to the World: Seven Women Who Shaped the American Century (1998): "Well, it's just a question of survival. If you survive long enough, you're revered, rather like an old building. The great trick is to get over the middle period. That's the tricky bit."

A variant is found in the Celebrity Register (1986): "If you survive you become a legend. I'm a legend because I've survived over a long period of time. I'm revered rather like an old building."
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Sometimes, carrying on, just carrying on, is the superhuman achievement.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Fall [La Chute] (1956)
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I believe in aristocracy, though — if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as for themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and they can take a joke.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“What I Believe,” The Nation (16 Jul 1938)
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“And what would humans be without love?”

RARE, said Death.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Sourcery, ch. 1 (1988)
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There is, I hope, a thesis in my work: we may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.

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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PISTOL: Knocks go and come. God’s vassals drop and die,
[Sings] And sword and shield,
In bloody field,
Doth win immortal fame.

BOY: Would I were in an alehouse in London! 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, l. 9ff (1599)
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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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Most of the activities of any bureaucracy are devoted not to the organization’s ostensible goals, but to ensuring that the organization survives: because if they aren’t, the bureaucracy has a life expectancy measured in days before some idiot decision maker decides that if it’s no use to them they can make political hay by destroying it. It’s no consolation that some time later someone will realize that an organization was needed to carry out the original organization’s task, so a replacement is created: you still lost your job and the task went undone. The only sure way forward is to build an agency that looks to its own survival before it looks to its mission statement. Just another example of evolution in action.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Annihilation Score, ch. 16 (2015)
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Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 17 (1969)
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A professional priesthood is like a group of professional politicians. First of all, it is under an obligation to keep itself in office.

Hendrik Willem van Loon (1882-1944) Dutch-American historian and journalist
The Arts (1939)
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NARRATOR: No moral. No message. No prophetic tract. Just a simple statement of fact: for civilization to survive, the human race has to remain civilized. Tonight’s very small exercise in logic from the Twilight Zone.

Serling - civlization to survive - wist_info quote

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
The Twilight Zone, 3×03 “The Shelter” (29 Sep 1961)
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My anger has meant pain to me but it has also meant survival, and before I give it up I’m going to be sure that there is something at least as powerful to replace it on the road to clarity.

Audre Lorde (1934-1992) American writer, feminist, civil rights activist
“The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism” (1981)
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And when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcome
but when we are silent
we are still afraid.
So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive.

Lorde - still afraid - wist_info

Audre Lorde (1934-1992) American writer, feminist, civil rights activist
“A Litany for Survival,” The Black Unicorn (1978)
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Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God, do you learn.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Attributed)

There are several variants, but no citation for this quotation. See Pliny the Younger.
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We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 [CEB]

Alt. trans:
  • "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed." [NRSV]
  • "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." [KJV]
  • "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." [NIV]
  • "We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed." [GNT]
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The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt.

Maxwell "Max" Lerner (1902-1992) American journalist, columnist, educator
The Unfinished Country (1959)
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All things pass in time. We are far less significant than we imagine ourselves to be. All that we are, all that we have wrought, is but a shadow, no matter how durable it may seem. One day, when the last man has breathed his last breath, the sun will shine, the mountains will stand, the rain will fall, the streams will whisper — and they will not miss him.

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
Princeps’ Fury, Epilogue [Gaius Sextus] (2008)
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We acquire the strength we have overcome.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Considerations by the Way,” The Conduct of Life, ch. 7 (1860)
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JOYCE: An artist is the magician put among men to gratify — capriciously — their urge for immortality. The temples are built and brought down around him, continuously and contiguously, from Troy to the fields of Flanders. If there is any meaning in any of it, it is in what survives as art, yes even in the celebration of tyrants, yes even in the celebration of nonentities. What now of the Trojan War if it had been passed over by the artist’s touch? Dust. A forgotten expedition prompted by Greek merchants looking for new markets. A minor redistribution of broken pots. But it is we who stand enriched, by a tale of heroes, of a golden apple, a wooden horse, a face that launched a thousand ships —– and above all, of Ulysses, the wanderer, the most human, the most complete of all heroes — husband, father, son, lover, farmer, soldier, pacifist, politician, inventor and adventurer.

Tom Stoppard (b. 1937) Czech-English playwright and screenwriter
Travesties. Act 1 (1974)

Stoppard called this "the most important" speech in the play.
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Richard was not dead. He was sitting in the dark, on a ledge, on the side of a storm drain, wondering what to do, wondering how much further out of his league he could possibly get. His life so far, he decided, had prepared him perfectly for a job in Securities, for shopping at the supermarket, for watching soccer on the television on the weekends, for turning up the thermostat if he got cold. It had magnificently failed to prepare him for a life as an un-person on the roofs and in the sewers of London, for a life in the cold and the wet and the dark.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
Neverwhere (1996)
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Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
As You Like It, Act 2, sc. 1, l. 12ff [Duke Senior] (1599)
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He knows not his own strength that hath not met adversity.

Ben Jonson (1572-1637) English playwright and poet
Timber: Or, Discoveries, “Explorata” (1640)
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I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that.

Lauren Bacall (1924-2014) American actress, model [b. Betty Joan Perske]
London Daily Telegraph (2 Mar 1988)
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Where the very safety of the country depends upon the resolution to be taken, no considerations of justice or injustice, humanity or cruelty, nor of glory or shame, should be allowed to prevail. But putting all other considerations aside, the only question should be, “What course will save the life and liberty of the country?”

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) Italian politician, philosopher, political scientist
The Discourses on Livy, Book 3, ch. 41 (1517) [tr. Detmold (1882)]
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Beseech you, sir, be merry. You have cause —
So have we all — of joy, for our escape
Is much beyond our loss. Our hint of woe
Is common; every day some sailor’s wife,
The masters of some merchant, and the merchant
Have just our theme of woe. But for the miracle —
I mean our preservation — few in millions
Can speak like us. Then wisely, good sir, weigh
Our sorrow with our comfort.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Tempest, Act 2, sc. 1, l. 1ff [Gonzalo] (1611)
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A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen: but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property & all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the end to the means.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to John B. Colvin (20 Sep 1810)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Jul-22
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The encouraging thing is that every time you meet a situation, though you may think at the time it is an impossibility and you go through the tortures of the damned, once you have met it and lived through it you find that forever after you are freer than you ever were before. If you can live through that you can live through anything. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it. If you fail anywhere along the line it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
You Learn by Living, ch. 2 “Fear — the Great Enemy” (1960)
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This is the likely source for the misattribution of this Mary Schmich quotation to Roosevelt.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 3-Sep-22
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A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
“Atomic Education Urged by Einstein,” New York Times (25 May 1946)

This may be the source of some otherwise unsourced Einstein quotes:

  • "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them"
  • "The world we have created today as a result of our thinking thus far has problems which cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them."
  • "The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking."
  • "This problem will not be solved by the same minds that created it."
  • "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."
Einstein revisited this theme in "The Real Problem Is in the Hearts of Men," New York Times Magazine (23 Jun 1946): "Many persons have inquired concerning a recent message of mine that 'a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.' [...] Past thinking and methods did not prevent world wars. Future thinking must prevent wars."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 19-Feb-21
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HAYWOOD: There are those in our own country, too, who today speak of the protection of country, of survival. A decision must be made, in the life of every nation, at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat, when it seems the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient. To look the other way. Only the answer to that is: Survival as what?

Abby Mann (1927-2008) American screenwriter, producer [a.k.a. Abraham Goodman, Ben Goodman]
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 6-Dec-14
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He who limps still walks.

Stanislaw Lec (1909-1966) Polish aphorist, poet, satirist
Unkempt Thoughts [Myśli nieuczesane] (1957) [tr. Gałązka (1962)]
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Variant: "He who limps still walks."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-Mar-22
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To condemn spontaneous and delightful occupations because they are useless for self-preservation shows an uncritical prizing of life regardless of its contents.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Sense of Beauty, Part 1 “The Nature of Beauty,” sec. 4 “Work and Play” (1896)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Mar-20
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Learning is not compulsory; it’s voluntary. Improvement is not compulsory; it’s voluntary. But to survive, we must learn.

W Edwards Deming
W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993) American management consultant, educator
“Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position” seminar (24-28 Feb 1986)
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Often paraphrased: "Learning is not compulsory. Neither is survival."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-Jul-20
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Out of life’s school of war: What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.

[Aus der Kriegsschule des Lebens. — Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker.]

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher and poet
Twilight of the Idols [Die Götzen-Dämmerung], “Maxims and Arrows [Sprüche und Pfeile]” #8 (1889) [tr. Hollingdale (1968)]
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Alt. trans.:
  • "From the military school of life. -- What does not kill me, strengthens me." [tr. Common (1896)]
  • "From the Military School of Life: Whatever does not kill me, makes me stronger. [tr. Large (1998), "Maxims and Barbs"]
  • "From life's school of war. -- What doesn't kill me makes me stronger." [tr. Norman (2005), "Arrows and Epigrams"]
  • "From the military school of life. -- That which does not kill me, makes me stronger." [tr. Ludovici (1911), "Maxims and Missiles"]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 12-Oct-20
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Let everyone, then, do something, according to the measure of his capacities. To have no regular work, no set sphere of activity — what a miserable thing it is! How often long travels undertaken for pleasure make a man downright unhappy; because the absence of anything that can be called occupation forces him, as it were, out of his right element. Effort, struggles with difficulties! that is as natural to a man as grubbing in the ground is to a mole. To have all his wants satisfied is something intolerable — the feeling of stagnation which comes from pleasures that last too long. To overcome difficulties is to experience the full delight of existence.

[Inzwischen treibe jeder etwas, nach Maßgabe seiner Fähigkeiten. Denn wie nachteilig der Mangel an planmäßiger Tätigkeit, an irgend einer Arbeit, auf uns wirke, merkt man auf langen Vergnügungsreisen, als wo man, dann und wann, sich recht unglücklich fühlt; weil man, ohne eigentliche Beschäftigung, gleichsam aus seinem natürlichen Elemente gerissen ist. Sich zu mühen und mit dem Widerstande zu kämpfen ist dem Menschen Bedürfnis, wie dem Maulwurf das Graben. Der Stillstand, den die Allgenugsamkeit eines bleibenden Genusses herbeiführte, wäre ihm unerträglich. Hindernisse überwinden ist der Vollgenuß seines Daseins.]

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. 1, “Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life [Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit],” “Counsels and Maxims [Paränesen und Maximen],” ch. B, § 17 (1851) [tr. Saunders (1890), 2.17]
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(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

Nevertheless, everyone should do something according to the measure of his abilities. For on long pleasure-trips we see how pernicious is the effect on us of not having any systematic activity or work. On such trips we feel positively unhappy because we are without any proper occupation and are, so to speak, torn from our natural element. Effort, trouble, and struggle with opposition are as necessary to man as grubbing in the ground is to a mole. The stagnation that results from being wholly contented with a lasting pleasure would be for him intolerable. The full pleasure of his existence is in overcoming obstacles.
[tr. Payne (1974)]

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 22-Jun-22
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