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The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.

Havelock Ellis (1859-1939) British sexologist, physician, social reformer [Henry Havelock Ellis]
The Dance of Life, ch. 5 “The Art of Religion,” sec. 4 (1923)
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Added on 17-Mar-22 | Last updated 17-Mar-22
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We do not protect freedom in order to indulge error. We protect freedom in order to discover truth. We do not maintain freedom in order to permit eccentricity to flourish; we maintain freedom in order that society may profit from criticism, even eccentric criticism. We do not encourage dissent for sentimental reasons; we encourage dissent because we cannot live without it.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“The Necessity of Freedom,” Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent (1954)
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An earlier version of the essay was given as "The Pragmatic Necessity for Freedom," Cooper Lecture, Swarthmore College (1951).
Added on 26-Jan-22 | Last updated 22-Jun-22
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Science is in far greater danger from the absence of challenge than from the coming of any number of even absurd challenges.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
“The Role of the Heretic,” Foreword to Donald W. Goldsmith (ed.), Scientists Confront Velikovsky (1977)
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Added on 3-Nov-21 | Last updated 3-Nov-21
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Things get bad for all of us, almost continually, and what we do under the constant stress reveals who/what we are.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (1999)
Added on 22-Sep-21 | Last updated 22-Sep-21
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All things are tolerable which others have borne and are bearing.

[Sed significat tolerabilia esse, quae et tulerint et ferant ceteri.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 3, ch. 23 (3.23) / sec. 57 (45 BC) [tr. Yonge (1853)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

  • "Those things are in themselves tolerable, which others have born, and do bear." [tr. Wase (1643)]
  • "All things are tolerable which others have borne and can bear." [tr. Main (1824)]
  • "What others have endured and endure must be tolerable." [tr. Otis (1839)]
  • "Things are tolerable which others have borne and are bearing." [tr. Peabody (1886)]
  • "The circumstances at hand are indeed tolerable, since others have tolerated them and continue to do so." [tr. Graver (2002)]
Added on 13-Sep-21 | Last updated 11-Aug-22
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I agree as to the doubtful value of competitive examination. The qualities which you really want, viz., self-control, self-reliance, habits of accurate thought, integrity and what you generally call trustworthiness, are not decided by competitive examination, which test little else than the memory.

Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) English social reformer, statistician, founder of modern nursing
Letter to Lord Edward Geoffrey Stanley (17 May 1857)
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Regarding selection processes for military officers. This was undergoing reform during the period, including the radical proposal to prevent people from buying their way into lower officer ranks.
Added on 5-Aug-21 | Last updated 5-Aug-21
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If political loyalty is signaled by believing a true story, anyone can fake it. But believing ridiculous and outlandish stories exacts greater cost, and is therefore a better signal of loyalty. If you believe your leader only when he or she tells the truth, what does that prove? In contrast, if you believe your leader even when he or she builds castles in the air, that’s loyalty! Shrewd leaders might sometimes deliberately say nonsensical things as a way to distinguish reliable devotees from fair-weather supporters.

Yuval Noah Harari
Yuval Noah Harari (b. 1976) Israeli public intellectual, historian, academic, writer [יובל נח הררי]
“Why Fiction Trumps Truth,” New York Times (24 May 2019)
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Added on 29-Jun-21 | Last updated 29-Jun-21
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A society is most vigorous, and appealing, when both partisan and critic are legitimate voices in the permanent dialogue that is the testing of ideas and experience. One can be a critic of one’s country without being an enemy of its promise.

Daniel Bell (1919-2011) American sociologist, writer, editor, academic
The End of Ideology, Introduction (1961 ed.)
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Added on 5-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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Life never tires of testing the proposition that life must go on.

Robert Brault (b. c. 1945) American aphorist, programmer
(Attributed)
Added on 15-Dec-20 | Last updated 15-Dec-20
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Three kinds of souls, three prayers:
1) I am a bow in your hands, Lord. Draw me, lest I rot.
2) Do not overdraw me, Lord. I shall break.
3) Overdraw me, Lord, and who cares if I break.

Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) Greek writer and philosopher
Report to Greco, Epigraph (1965) [tr. Bien (1973)]
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In the Epilogue, this is repeated: "There are three kinds of souls, three kinds of prayers. One: I am a bow in your hands, Lord. Draw me lest I rot. Two: Do not overdraw me, Lord. I shall break. Three: Overdraw me, and who cares if I break!"
Added on 2-Nov-20 | Last updated 2-Nov-20
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Necessity may well be called the mother of invention — but calamity is the test of integrity.

Samuel Richardson (1689-1761) English writer and printer
Clarissa, or, The History of a Young Lady, Letter 47 (1748)
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Added on 28-Oct-20 | Last updated 28-Oct-20
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He must be a man of little faith, who would fear to subject his own religion to the same critical tests to which the historian subjects all other religions. We need not surely crave a tender or merciful treatment for that faith which we hold to be the only true one. We should rather challenge it for the severest tests and trials, as the sailor would for the good ship to which he trusts his own life, and the lives of those who are dear to him. In the Science of Religion, we can decline no comparisons, nor claim any immunities for Christianity, as little as the missionary can, when wrestling with the subtle Brahmin, or the fanatical Mussulman, or the plain speaking Zulu.

Max Müller (1823-1900) German-British philologist, Orientalist, religious studies founder
Chips from a German Workshop, vol. 1, Preface (1866)
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Added on 9-Oct-20 | Last updated 16-Oct-20
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Any experience deeply felt makes some men better and some men worse. When it has ended, they share nothing but the recollection of a commitment in which each was tested and to some degree found wanting. They were not alike when they began, and they were not alike when they finished. […] The consequences of the journey change the voyager so much more than the embarking or the arrival.

Murray Kempton (1917-1997) American journalist.
Part of Our Time: Some Ruins & Monuments of the Thirties, “A Prelude” (1955)
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Added on 5-Jun-20 | Last updated 5-Jun-20
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Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
“What Is Science?” address, National Science Teachers Association, New York (1966)
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Added on 4-Mar-20 | Last updated 4-Mar-20
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Art is an adventure. When it ceases to be an adventure, it ceases to be art.

Robert Ardrey (1908-1980) American playwright, screenwriter and science writer
The Hunting Hypothesis: A Personal Conclusion Concerning the Evolutionary Nature of Man (1976)
Added on 27-Feb-20 | Last updated 27-Feb-20
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A sure friend is known in unsure times.

[Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur.]

Quintus Ennius (239-169 BC) Roman poet, writer
Fragment, Scaenica 210 [Vahlen]

As quoted in Cicero, On Friendship [De Amicitia], ch. 17. sec. 64.

Alt. trans.:
  • "In unsure fortune a sure friend is seen." [tr. Peabody (1884)]
  • "When things get iffy, you find out who your true friends are." [tr. Ehrlich (1995)]
  • "A sure friend is tried in doubtful matters." [Source]
  • "A friend is never known until one have need." [Source]
  • "A friend is never known 'till a man have need." [Source]
  • "A true friend is discerned during an uncertain matter." [Source]
  • "A certain friend is discerned in an uncertain time." [Source]
Added on 20-Feb-20 | Last updated 20-Feb-20
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Though I’ve never understood how God could expect his creatures to pick the one true religion by faith — it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Stranger in a Strange Land, ch. 13 [Jubal] (1961)
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In the "original uncut" edition (1960, published 1991), this is given as: "I've never been able to understand 'faith' myself, nor to see how a just God could expect his creatures to pick the one true religion out of an infinitude of false ones -- by faith alone. It strikes me as a sloppy way to run an organization, whether a universe or a smaller one."
Added on 7-Jul-17 | Last updated 12-Jul-17
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It is by presence of mind in untried emergencies that the native metal of a man is tested.

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) American diplomat, essayist, poet
“Abraham Lincoln,” The North American Review (Jan 1864)
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Added on 13-Jun-17 | Last updated 13-Jun-17
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Blessed is he who has never been tempted; for he knows not the frailty of his rectitude.

Christopher Morley (1890-1957) American journalist, novelist, essayist, poet
Inward Ho!, ch. 1 (1923)
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Added on 12-Jun-17 | Last updated 12-Jun-17
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It is a good morning exercise for a research scientist to discard a pet hypothesis every day before breakfast. It keeps him young.

Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989) Austrian zoologist, ethologist, ornithologist
On Aggression, ch. 2 (1966)
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Added on 9-May-17 | Last updated 9-May-17
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That fortitude which has encountered no dangers, that prudence which has surmounted no difficulties, that integrity which has been attacked by no temptations, can at best be considered but as gold not yet brought to the test, of which therefore the true value cannot be assigned.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler, #150 (24 Aug 1751)
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Added on 11-Apr-17 | Last updated 26-Jun-22
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No facts are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker, with no Past at my back.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Circles,” Essays: First Series (1841)
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Added on 13-Feb-17 | Last updated 13-Feb-17
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Yet somehow our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) American writer
My Several Worlds, Part 4 (1954)
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See Dostoyevsky, Johnson.
Added on 6-Feb-17 | Last updated 6-Jul-22
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Difficulties are things that show what men are.

epictetus-difficulties-show-what-men-are-wist_info-quote

Epictetus (c.55-c.135) Greek (Phrygian) Stoic philosopher
The Discourses, Book 1, ch. 24
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Men trust their ears less than their eyes.

Herodotus (c.484-c.420 BC) Greek historian
The Histories, Book 1, ch. 8
Added on 31-Aug-16 | Last updated 31-Aug-16
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These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or in the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues.

Abigail Adams (1744-1818) American correspondent, First Lady (1797-1801)
Letter to John Quincy Adams (19 Jan 1780)

Probable source of the similar "Great necessities call forth great leaders," usually cited (but not found) as a letter to Thomas Jefferson.
Added on 7-Aug-15 | Last updated 7-Aug-15
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To avoid the various foolish opinions to which mankind are prone, no superhuman genius is required. A few simple rules will keep you, not from all error, but from silly error. If the matter is one that can be settled by observation, make the observation yourself. Aristotle could have avoided the mistake of thinking that women have fewer teeth than men, by the simple device of asking Mrs. Aristotle to keep her mouth open while he counted. He did not do so because he thought he knew. Thinking that you know when in fact you don’t is a fatal mistake, to which we are all prone. I believe myself that hedgehogs eat black beetles, because I have been told that they do; but if I were writing a book on the habits of hedgehogs, I should not commit myself until I had seen one enjoying this unappetizing diet.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
Added on 15-Mar-12 | Last updated 2-Jul-15
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‘You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!’

She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illumined her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.

‘I pass the test,’ she said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.’

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) English writer, fabulist, philologist, academic [John Ronald Reuel Tolkien]
The Lord of the Rings, Vol. 1: The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 2, ch. 7 “The Mirror of Galadriel” [Galadriel] (1954)
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Added on 14-Jun-11 | Last updated 10-Jun-22
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BECKET: Until the day of his death, no man can be sure of his courage.

Jean Anouilh (1910-1987) French dramatist
Becket or The Honor of God [Becket ou l’honneur de Dieu], Act 1 (1959)
Added on 15-Nov-10 | Last updated 13-Apr-20
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Times of trouble best discover the true worth of a man.

Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380-1471) German monk, author
The Imitation of Christ, Book 1, ch. 16 (c. 1418) [tr. L. Sherley-Price (1952)]
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Alt trans.: "The measure of every man's virtue is best revealed in time of adversity -- adversity that does not weaken a man but rather shows what he is."
Added on 5-Jun-09 | Last updated 14-Sep-16
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Opinions are made to be changed — or how is truth to be got at?

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
Letter to John Murray (9 May 1818)
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But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in Cargo Cult Science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school — we never explicitly say what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty — a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid — not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked — to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
“Cargo Cult Science,” commencement address, California Institute of Technology (1974)
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Added on 1-Nov-07 | Last updated 10-Jan-20
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“Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature — that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance — and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth.”
“No, I wouldn’t consent,” said Alyosha softly.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) Russian novelist
The Brothers Karamazov, Part 2, book 5, ch. 4 [Ivan] (1880) [tr. Garnett (1912)]
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Valor is a gift. Those having it never know for sure whether they have it till the test comes. And those having it in one test never know for sure if they will have it when the next test comes.

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) American poet, biographer
(Attributed)

Sometimes attributed to news accounts from 14 December 1954, but not confirmed. Also attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte.
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“Perhaps this isn’t just a test of the world,” said Crowley. “It might be a test of you people, too. Hmm?”

“God does not play games with His loyal servants,” said the Metatron, but in a worried tone of voice.

“Whooo-eee,” said Crowley. “Where have you been?”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990) [with Neil Gaiman]
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“I mean, maybe you just want to see how it all turns out. Maybe it’s all part of a great big ineffable plan. All of it. You, me, him, everything. Some great big test to see if what you’ve built all works properly, eh? You start thinking: it can’t be a great cosmic game of chess, it has to be just very complicated Solitaire. And don’t bother to answer. If we could understand, we wouldn’t be us. Because it’s all — all –”

INEFFABLE, said the figure feeding the ducks.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990) [with Neil Gaiman]
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God moves in extremely mysterious, not to say, circuitous ways. God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players (i.e., everybody), to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens, “Eleven Years Ago” (1990) [with Neil Gaiman]
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Armageddon only happens once, you know. They don’t let you go around again until you get it right.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990) [with Neil Gaiman]
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When men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas — that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935) American jurist, Supreme Court Justice
Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616, 630 (1919) [Dissent]
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The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) US President (1933-1945)
Commencement Speech, Oglethorpe U. (22 May 1932)
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