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S. R. Piccoli

Blessed Are the Free in Spirit
Blessed Are the Free in Spirit
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Breviario del giovane politico
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Blessed Are the Contrarians
Blessed Are the Contrarians
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Being Conservative
Being Conservative from A to Z
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~   on life, wisdom, religion, spirituality, politics, etc.  ~


Why Quotations Matter | Introductory Note

“Life itself is a quotation.”
~ Jorge Luis Borges

It's not unusual that some of my friends, readers and acquaintances ask me why I so often show a particular predilection for quotations, or better still why I seem to have a sort of veneration for them. My answer is very simple: Because quotations matter, words matter, and words matter because ideas matter... I mean, quotations are a brilliant way to communicate ideas and concepts!

It has also been said that quotations are the best bits of the best minds, and the records of the funniest, truest, wisest and most memorable things anyone has ever said. That's also why, though expressed through somebody else's words, quotations—or at least the most evergreen of them—are perhaps the best way to express one's thoughts and feelings. They can have deep and meaningful impact to anyone.

If you are a writer or a journalist, but even if you are simply writing something—a term paper, sermon, blog post, etc.—quotations are great devices to put that extra “something” into what you are writing. They are great ways to provide evidence for a thesis statement or premises. They can make a difference in an essay, article or book, they make great hooks or attention-grabbers, and are certainly a powerful way of inspiring and motivating people.

They are sometimes mantras for patience and calm, some other times eloquent remarks for use in sophisticated company, and some other times they are jokes that shake the whole room. Good quotations can be irreverent, eccentric, funny, but always they possess great power, and always they are thoughtful, surprising, and, despite their brevity, remarkably rich and often profound, poetic, and enlightening. And as such they are worth preserving, repeating, and bringing into our future before they're forgotten. As it was not enough, for those who love history—but not only for them—a good collection of quotations may be something like an oral history of history itself, told both by its celebrities and by the people working behind the scenes.

As for those numerous collections of thoughts and sayings we like to call “Favorite Quotations,” it must be said that they are a true record and mirror of an individual's personality, of his or her complex psychological and cultural history. To make an example, my own favorite quotations have changed over time: some of them have been taken off the list, while some have been added, and that, of course, not by chance, but by thought and will, in accordance with my personal evolution as a human being. One's favorite quotations reflect the width and depth of his/her interests and the extent of his/her knowledge of life and view of the world.

Great quotations are more than just a source of pleasure. They are like fine wine matured over time.   They are the condensed wisdom of the ages. They bridge time and space. They connect the living and the dead. Someone once said:  'Quotations make the world go round.' I think that's not an exaggeration.

Adams, J. | Alexandria, C. of | Alighieri, D. | Antoninus, M.A. | Aquinax, Th. | Arendt, H. | Ausonius, D.M. | Bacon, F. | Barzini, L. | Benedict XVI | Bergson, H. | Bonaparte, N. | Borges, J.L. | Bowie, D. | Burke, E. | Caesar, C.J. | Calcutta, M. Teresa of | Calvino, I. | Carlyle, Th. | Chateaubriand, F. de | Chesterton, G.K. | Churchill, W. | Cicero, M.T. | Cioran, E.M. | Clairvaux, B. of | Coleridge, S.T. | Confucius | Conrad, J. | Dostoyevsky, F. | Eco, U. | Eliot, T.S. | Emerson, R.W. | Fallaci, O. | Fellini, F. | Flaiano, E. | Franklin, B. | Friedrich, C. | Galilei, G. | Gandhi, M. | Gibran, K. | Gogh, V. van | Goldwater, B. | Guénon, R. | Guicciardini, F. | Hegel, G.W.F. | Heine, H. | Hemingway, E. | Hesse, H. | Hippo, A. of | Holmes, O.W. | Hugo, V. | Huxley, A. | Jefferson, Th. | Kant, I. | Kennedy, J.F. | Kennedy, R.F. | Kirk, R. | La Rochefoucauld, F. de | Leopardi, G. | Lewis, C.S. | Lincoln, A. | Locke, J. | Lubac, H. de | Machiavelli, N. | Madison, J. | Mahler, G. | Manzoni, A. | Maro, P.V. | Mencken, H.L. | Merton, Th. | Michelangelo | Montaigne, M. de | Montanelli, I. | Newton, I. | Nietzsche, F. | Paine, Th. | Pascal, B. | Pasternak, B. | Patton, G.S. | Petrarca, F. | Piccoli, S.R. | Pound, E. | Proverbs | Reagan, R. | Rilke, R.M. | Roosevelt, Th. | Rotterdam, E. of | Rumi, J. | Salinger, J.D. | Santayana, G. | Scruton, R. | Seneca, L.A. | Shakespeare, W. | Shaw, G. B. | Stravinsky, I. | Swift, J. |Tacitus, P.C. | Tagore, R. | Thatcher, M. | Thiry, P.H. | Thoreau, H.D. | Tocqueville, A. de | Tolstoy, L. | Ullman, S. | Vico, G.B. | Vinci, L. da | Voltaire | Washington, G. | Welles, O. | Wilde, O. | Wittgenstein, L. | Wordsworth, W. |

  • It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.
    ~ John Adams (in a letter to Zabdiel Adams, on June 21, 1776.)

  • Be not intimidated, therefore, by any terrors, from publishing with the utmost freedom, whatever can be warranted by the laws of your country; nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretenses of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery, and cowardice.
    ~ John Adams (A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law)

  • It follows, therefore, that He Who Is, The One Who Exists, is necessarily born of the flesh, taking all that is ours into himself so that all that is born of the flesh, that is us corruptible and perishing beiings, might rest in him. In short, he took what was ours to be his very own so that we might have all that was his... he came down into our condition solely in order to lead us to his own divine state.  
    ~ St. Cyril of Alexandria (On the Unity of Christ)

  • Consider your origin;
    you were not born to live like brutes,
    but to follow virtue and knowledge.

    ~ Dante Alighieri (The Divine Comedy - "Inferno")

  • O human race, born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou so fall?
    ~ Dante Alighieri (The Divine Comedy - "Purgatorio")

  • As the geometrician, who endeavours
    To square the circle, and discovers not,
    By taking thought, the principle he wants,
    Even such was I at that new apparition;
    I wished to see how the image to the circle
    Conformed itself, and how it there finds place;
    But my own wings were not enough for this,
    Had it not been that then my mind there smote
    A flash of lightning, wherein came its wish.
    Here vigour failed the lofty fantasy:
    But now was turning my desire and will,
    Even as a wheel that equally is moved,
    The Love which moves the sun and the other stars.

    ~ Dante Alighieri (The Divine Comedy - "Paradiso")

  • At dawn of day, when you dislike being called, have this thought ready: "I am called to man's labour; why then do I make a difficulty if I am going out to do what I was born to do and what I was brought into the world for?"
    ~ Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Meditations)

  • Take heed not to be transformed into a Caesar, not to be dipped in the purple dye, for it does happen. Keep yourself therefore, simple, good, pure, grave, unaffected, the friend of justice, religious, kind, affectionate, strong for your proper work. Wrestle to be the man philosophy wished to make you. Reverence the gods, save men. Life is brief; there is but one harvest of earthly existence, a holy disposition and neighborly acts.
    ~ Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Meditations)

  • Do what nature now requires. Set thyself in motion, if it is in thy power, and do not look about thee to see if any one will observe it; nor yet expect Plato's Republic: but be content if the smallest thing goes on well, and consider such an event to be no small matter.
    ~ Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Meditations)

  • To them that ask thee, Where hast thou seen the Gods, or how knowest thou certainly that there be Gods, that thou art so devout in their worship? I answer first of all, that even to the very eye, they are in some manner visible and apparent. Secondly, neither have I ever seen mine own soul, and yet I respect and honour it. So then for the Gods, by the daily experience that I have of their power and providence towards myself and others, I know certainly that they are, and therefore worship them.
    ~ Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Meditations)

  • Look within; within is the fountain of all good. Such a fountain, where springing waters can never fail, so thou dig still deeper and deeper.
    ~ Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Meditations)

  • If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
    ~ Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Meditations)

  • Now that unto every one is most profitable, which is according to his own constitution and nature. And my nature is, to be rational in all my actions and as a good, and natural member of a city and commonwealth, towards my fellow members ever to be sociably and kindly disposed and affected. My city and country as I am Antoninus, is Rome; as a man, the whole world. Those things therefore that are expedient and profitable to those cities, are the only things that are good and expedient for me.
    ~ Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Meditations)

  • ‘They kill me, they cut my flesh; they persecute my person with curses.’ What then? May not thy mind for all this continue pure, prudent, temperate, just? As a fountain of sweet and clear water, though she be cursed by some stander by, yet do her springs nevertheless still run as sweet and clear as before; yea though either dirt or dung be thrown in, yet is it no sooner thrown, than dispersed, and she cleared. She cannot be dyed or infected by it. What then must I do, that I may have within myself an overflowing fountain, and not a well? Beget thyself by continual pains and endeavours to true liberty with charity, and true simplicity and modesty.
    ~ Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Meditations)

  • Understand however that every man is worth just so much as the things are worth about which he busies himself.
    ~ Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Meditations)

  • God is honored by silence, but not in such a way that we may say nothing of Him or make no inquiries about Him, but, inasmuch as we understand that we lack ability to comprehend Him. Wherefore in Sirach 43: 32-34, "Glorify the Lord as much as ever you can, for He will yet far exceed, and His magnificence is wonderful. Blessing the Lord, exit Him as much as you can: for He is above all praise. When you exalt Him put forth all your strength, and be not weary: for you can never go far enough."
    ~ St. Thomas Aquinas (Super Boetium De Trinitate)

  • It is indeed my opinion now that evil is never 'radical', that it is only extreme, and that it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension. It can overgrow and lay waste the whole world precisely because it spreads like a fungus on the surface. It is 'thought-defying' [...] because thought tries to reach some depth, to go to roots, and the moment it concerns itself with evil, it is frustrated because there is nothing. That is its 'banality'. Only the good has depth and can be radical.
    ~ Hannah Arendt (Letter to Gershom Gerhard Scholem, July 24, 1963)

  • The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.  
    ~ Hannah Arendt (The Life of the Mind, "Thinking")

  • If fortune favors you, do not be elated; if fortune frowns, do not sink in despair.
    ~ Decimus Magnus Ausonius (Septem Sapienium Sententiae)

  • Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.  
    ~ Francis Bacon (Of Studies)

  • Fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weightly and solid.  
    ~ Francis Bacon (Essays, "Of Praise")

  • Foreign diplomats in Rome disconsolately say, Italy is the opposite of Russia. In Moscow nothing is known, yet everything is clear. In Rome everything is public, there are no secrets, everybody talks, things are at times flamboyantly enacted, yet one understands nothing.  
    ~ Luigi Barzini (The Italians)

  • The cosmic excursion in which Dante wants to involve the reader in his Divine Comedy ends before the everlasting light that is God himself, before that light which at the same time is the love "which moves the sun and the other stars" ("Paradise" XXXIII, verse 145). Light and love are but one thing. They are the primordial creative power that moves the universe.
    If these words of the poet reveal the thought of Aristotle, who saw in the eros the power that moves the world, Dante's gaze, however, perceives something totally new and unimaginable for the Greek philosopher. Eternal light not only is presented with the three circles of which he speaks with those profound verses that we know: "Eternal Light, You only dwell within Yourself, and only You know You; Self-knowing, Self-known, You love and smile upon Yourself!" ("Paradise" XXXIII, verses 124-126).
    In reality, the perception of a human face – the face of Jesus Christ – which Dante sees in the central circle of light is even more overwhelming than this revelation of God as trinitarian circle of knowledge and love.
    God, infinite light, whose incommensurable mystery had been intuited by the Greek philosopher, this God has a human face and – we can add – a human heart.
    In this vision of Dante is shown, on one hand, the continuity between the Christian faith in God and the search promoted by reason and by the realm of religions; at the same time, however, in it is also appreciated the novelty that exceeds all human search, the novelty that only God himself could reveal to us: the novelty of a love that has led God to assume a human face, more than that, to assume the flesh and blood, the whole of the human being.
    God's eros is not only a primordial cosmic force, it is love that has created man and that bends before him, as the Good Samaritan bent before the wounded man, victim of thieves, who was lying on the side of the road that went from Jerusalem to Jericho.
    ~ Benedict XVI (Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est)

  • Fortunately, some are born with spiritual immune systems that sooner or later give rejection to the illusory worldview grafted upon then from birth through social conditioning. They begin sensing that something is amiss, and start looking for answers. Inner knowledge and anomalous outer experiences show them a side of reality others are oblivious to, and so begins the journey of awakening. Each step of the journey is made by following the heart instead of the crowd, and by choosing knowledge over veils of ignorance.  
    ~ Henri Bergson (On Intuition vs. Intellect )

  • All great events hang by a hair. The man of ability takes advantage of everything and neglects nothing that can give him a chance of success; whilst the less able man sometimes loses everything by neglecting a single one of those chances.
    ~ Napoléon Bonaparte (Letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Passariano, September 26, 1797, as quoted in Napoleon as a General, by Maximilian Yorck von Wartenburg) 

  • A form of government that is not the result of a long sequence of shared experiences, efforts, and endeavors can never take root.
    ~ Napoléon Bonaparte (As quoted in The Mind of Napoleon, by J. Christopher Herold) 

  • There is but a step from the sublime to the ridiculous.
    ~ Napoléon Bonaparte (As quoted in The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, by William Hodgson) 

  • Life itself is a quotation.
    ~ Jorge Luis Borges (As quoted in Cool Memories [1987], by Jean Baudrillard [trans. 1990], Ch. 5; heard by Baudrillard at a lecture given in Paris)

  • A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
    ~ Jorge Luis Borges (Twenty Conversations with Borges, Including a Selection of Poems: Interviews by Roberto Alifano 1981–1983)

  • The original is unfaithful to the translation.
    ~ Jorge Luis Borges (On William Thomas Beckford's Vathek (1782) and Samuel Henley's 1786 translation, in "Sobre el Vathek de William Beckford" [1943])

  • Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.
    ~ David Bowie  

  • A man full of warm, speculative benevolence may wish his society otherwise constituted than he finds it; but a good patriot and a true politician, always considers how he shall make the most of the existing materials of his country. A disposition to preserve, and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman. Every thing else is vulgar in the conception, perilous in the execution.
    ~ Edmund Burke (Reflections on the Revolution in France

  • In some people I see great liberty indeed; in many, if not in the most, an oppressive, degrading servitude. But what is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint. Those who know what virtuous liberty is cannot bear to see it disgraced by incapable heads on account of their having high-sounding words in their mouths.
    ~ Edmund Burke (Reflections on the Revolution in France)

  • People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.
    ~ Edmund Burke (Reflections on the Revolution in France)

  • There is no safety for honest men but by believing all possible evil of evil men.
    ~ Edmund Burke (Reflections on the Revolution in France)

  • It is a general popular error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for their welfare.
    ~ Edmund Burke (Observations on "The Present State of the Nation"

  • Men willingly believe what they wish.
    ~ Caius Julius Caesar (De Bello Gallico)

  • If I ever become a Saint — I surely be one of "darkness". I will continually be absent from Heaven — to light the light of those in darkness on earth.
    ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta (as quoted in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, 2007, by Brian Kolodiejchuk) 

  • We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But if the drop was not in the ocean, I think the ocean would be less because of the missing drop.
    ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta (as quoted in Mother Teresa's Reaching Out In Love - Stories told by Mother Teresa, 2002, Compiled and Edited by Edward Le Joly and Jaya Chaliha) 

  • In an age when other fantastically speedy, widespread media are triumphing and running the risk of flattening all communication onto a single, homogeneous surface, the function of literature is communication between things that are different simply because they are different, not blunting but even sharpening the differences between them, following the true bent of the written language.
    ~ Italo Calvino (Six Memos for the Next Millennium

  • Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the language of the Devil; for which reason I have, long since, as good as renounced it.
    ~ Thomas Carlyle (Sartor Resartus

  • Humor is properly the exponent of low things; that which first renders them poetical to the mind. The man of Humor sees common life, even mean life, under the new light of sportfulness and love ; whatever has existence has a charm for him. Humor has justly been regarded as the finest perfection of poetic genius. He who wants it, be his other gifts what they may, has only half a mind; an eye for what is above him, not for what is about him or below him. Now, among all writers of any real poetic genius, we cannot recollect one who, in this respect, exhibits such total deficiency as Schiller. In his whole writings there is scarcely any vestige of it, scarcely any attempt that way. His nature was without Humor; and he had too true a feeling to adopt any counterfeit in its stead. Thus no drollery or caricature, still less any barren mockery, which, in the hundred cases are all that we find passing current as Humor, discover themselves in Schiller. His works are full of labored earnestness; he is the gravest of all writers.
    ~ Thomas Carlyle ("Shiller," first published in Fraser's Magazine, 1831) 

  • Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time.
    ~ Thomas Carlyle ( Sir Walter Scott, 1838) 

  • A degree of silence envelops Washington’s actions; he moved slowly; one might say that he felt charged with future liberty, and that he feared to compromise it. It was not his own destiny that inspired this new species of hero: it was that of his country; he did not allow himself to enjoy what did not belong to him; but from that profound humility what glory emerged! Search the woods where Washington’s sword gleamed: what do you find? Tombs? No; a world! Washington has left the United States behind for a monument on the field of battle.
    Bonaparte shared no trait with that serious American: he fought amidst thunder in an old world; he thought about nothing but creating his own fame; he was inspired only by his own fate. He seemed to know that his project would be short, that the torrent which falls from such heights flows swiftly; he hastened to enjoy and abuse his glory, like fleeting youth. Following the example of Homer’s gods, in four paces he reached the ends of the world. He appeared on every shore; he wrote his name hurriedly in the annals of every people; he threw royal crowns to his family and his generals; he hurried through his monuments, his laws, his victories. Leaning over the world, with one hand he deposed kings, with the other he pulled down the giant, Revolution; but, in eliminating anarchy, he stifled liberty, and ended by losing his own on his last field of battle.
    Each was rewarded according to his efforts: Washington brings a nation to independence; a justice at peace, he falls asleep beneath his own roof in the midst of his compatriots’ grief and the veneration of nations.
    Bonaparte robs a nation of its independence: deposed as emperor, he is sent into exile, where the world’s anxiety still does not think him safely enough imprisoned, guarded by the Ocean. He dies: the news proclaimed on the door of the palace in front of which the conqueror had announced so many funerals, neither detains nor astonishes the passer-by: what have the citizens to mourn?
    Washington’s Republic lives on; Bonaparte’s empire is destroyed. Washington and Bonaparte emerged from the womb of democracy: both of them born to liberty, the former remained faithful to her, the latter betrayed her.
    Washington acted as the representative of the needs, the ideas, the enlightened men, the opinions of his age; he supported, not thwarted, the stirrings of intellect; he desired only what he had to desire, the very thing to which he had been called: from which derives the coherence and longevity of his work. That man who struck few blows because he kept things in proportion has merged his existence with that of his country: his glory is the heritage of civilisation; his fame has risen like one of those public sanctuaries where a fecund and inexhaustible spring flows.

    ~ François-René de Chateaubriand (Memoirs from Beyond the Grave)

  • Aristocracy has three successive ages, — the age of superiorities, the age of privileges, and the age of vanities; having passed out of the first, it degenerates in the second, and dies away in the third.
    ~ François-René de Chateaubriand (Memoirs from Beyond the Grave)

  • The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed. It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them. It is a rational thesis that we are all in a dream; it will be a mystical sanity to say that we are all awake.
    Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. We shall look on the impossible grass and the skies with a strange courage. We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed.

    ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton (Heretics)

  • Rome was not loved because she was great; she was great because she was loved.
    ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy)

  • A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.
    ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton (Everlasting Man)

  • It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.
    ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton (The Catholic Church and Conversion)

  • There are only two kinds of people, those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don’t know it.
    ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton ("The Mercy of Mr. Arnold Bennett," Fancies vs. Fads)

  • If there were no God, there would be no atheists.
    ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton (Where All Roads Lead)

  • The Faith faces every possible way, so far as angle and attitude to life is concerned; and there is no artistic style it cannot use. The jewel has a hundred facets, and reflects every colour and corner of the sky; but that does not mean that it wavers or wobbles; and those who would break it find it the hardest stone in the world.
    ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton (The Resurrection of Rome)

  • There is a great man who makes every man feel small. But the real great man is the man who makes every man feel great. 
    ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton (Charles Dickens: A Critical Study)

  • The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.  
    ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton (The Illustrated London News, Jan. 14, 1911)

  • Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon.
    ~ Winston Churchill (Speech at Zurich University, September 19, 1946)

  • All the greatest things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: Freedom; Justice; Honour; Duty; Mercy; Hope.
    ~ Winston Churchill (United Europe Meeting, Albert Hall, London, May 14, 1947)

  • Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.
    ~ Winston Churchill (The Second World War, Volume I : The Gathering Storm)

  • Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.
    ~ Winston Churchill (Speech, London, November 2, 1949, quoted in Richard Langworth, Churchill By Himself: The Definitive Book of Quotations, New York, PublicAffair, 2008)

  • For myself, I am an optimist — it does not seem to be much use being anything else.
    ~ Winston Churchill (Speech at the Lord Mayor's banquet in London, September 9, 1954)

  • To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history.
    ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero (Orator)

  • There is nothing so absurd that it has not been said by some philosopher.
    ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero (De Divinatione)

  • True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrong-doing by its prohibitions.
    ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero (De Re Publica)

  • We should not be too confident in our belief of anything.
    ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero (Tusculan Disputations)

  • I'd like to be a cannibal not for the pleasure of eating people, but to vomit them.  
    ~ Émile Michel Cioran (The Trouble With Being Born)

  • No one should forget: Eros alone can fulfill life; knowledge, never. Only Eros makes sense; knowledge is empty infinity; — for thoughts, there is always time; life has its time; there is no thought that comes too late; any desire can become a regret.  
    ~ Émile Michel Cioran (The Book of Delusions)

  • Believe me, you will find more lessons in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters.
    ~ Bernard of Clairvaux (Epistola CVI)

  • Seeing that the Scripture saith, God has made all for His own glory (Isa. 43.7), surely His creatures ought to conform themselves, as much as they can, to His will. In Him should all our affections center, so that in all things we should seek only to do His will, not to please ourselves. And real happiness will come, not in gratifying our desires or in gaining transient pleasures, but in accomplishing God’s will for us: even as we pray every day: ‘Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven’ (Matt. 6.10). O chaste and holy love! O sweet and gracious affection! O pure and cleansed purpose, thoroughly washed and purged from any admixture of selfishness, and sweetened by contact with the divine will! To reach this state is to become deified. As a drop of water poured into wine loses itself, and takes the color and savor of wine; or as a bar of iron, heated red-hot, becomes like fire itself, forgetting its own nature; or as the air, radiant with sun-beams, seems not so much to be illuminated as to be light itself; so in the saints all human affections melt away by some unspeakable transmutation into the will of God. For how could God be all in all, if anything merely human remained in man? The substance will endure, but in another beauty, a higher power, a greater glory. When will that be? Who will see, who possess it? ‘When shall I come to appear before the presence of God?’ (Ps. 42.2). ‘My heart hath talked of Thee, Seek ye My face: Thy face, Lord, will I seek’ (Ps. 27.8). Lord, thinkest Thou that I, even I shall see Thy holy temple?
    ~ Bernard of Clairvaux (On Loving of God)

  • An idea, in the highest sense of that word, cannot be conveyed but by a symbol. 
    ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Biographia Literaria)

  • No man was ever yet a great poet, without being at the same time a profound philosopher. 
    ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Biographia Literaria)

  • If a man is not rising upwards to be an angel, depend upon it, he is sinking downwards to be a devil. He cannot stop at the beast. The most savage of men are not beasts; they are worse, a great deal worse.
    ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Table Talk)

  • The Master said, “The superior man is at ease without being arrogant; the small man is arrogant without being at ease.” 
    ~ Confucius (Analects of Confucius)

  • To know that You could read me is good news indeed–for one writes only half the book; the other half is with the reader.
    ~ Joseph Conrad (letter to Cunninghame Graham, 1987)

  • Neither a person nor a nation can exist without some higher idea. And there is only one higher idea on earth, and it is the idea of the immortality of the human soul, for all other "higher" ideas of life by which humans might live derive from that idea alone.  
    ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky (A Writer's Diary)

  • The prince says that the world will be saved by beauty! And I maintain that the reason he has such playful ideas is that he is in love. 
    ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky (The Idiot)

  • The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man. 
    ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky (The Brothers Karamazov)

  • Even those who have renounced Christianity and attack it, in their inmost being still follow the Christian ideal, for hitherto neither their subtlety nor the ardor of their hearts has been able to create a higher ideal of man and of virtue than the ideal given by Christ. 
    ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky (The Brothers Karamazov)

  • All writers, not ours alone but foreigners also, who have sought to represent Absolute Beauty, were unequal to the task, for it is an infinitely difficult one. The beautiful is the ideal ; but ideals, with us as in civilized Europe, have long been wavering. There is in the world only one figure of absolute beauty: Christ. That infinitely lovely figure is, as a matter of course, an infinite marvel.
    ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Notes from the Underground)

  • In the construction of Immortal Fame you need first of all a cosmic shamelessness.  
    ~ Umberto Eco (Faith in Fakes: Travels in Hyperreality)

  • "What terrifies you most in purity," I asked? "Haste," William answered.  
    ~ Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose)

  • What is love? There is nothing in the world, neither man nor Devil nor any thing, that I hold as suspect as love, for it penetrates the soul more than any other thing. Nothing exists that so fills and binds the heart as love does. Therefore, unless you have those weapons that subdue it, the soul plunges through love into an immense abyss.   
    ~ Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose)

  • Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn’t ask ourselves what it says but what it means.  
    ~ Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose)

  • The good of a book lies in its being read. A book is made up of signs that speak of other signs, which in their turn speak of things. Without an eye to read them, a book contains signs that produce no concepts; therefore it is dumb. 
    ~ Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose)

  • How does a person feel when looking at the sky? He thinks that he doesn’t have enough tongues to describe what he sees. Nevertheless, people have never stopped describing the sky, simply listing what they see... We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die. 
    ~ Umberto Eco (Interview with Der Spiegel, 2009)

  • I think a book should be judged 10 years later, after reading and re-reading it. I was always defined as too erudite and philosophical, too difficult. Then I wrote a novel that is not erudite at all, that is written in plain language, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, and among my novels it is the one that has sold the least. So probably I am writing for masochists. It’s only publishers and some journalists who believe that people want simple things. People are tired of simple things. They want to be challenged.  
    ~ Umberto Eco (Interview with The Guardian, 2011)

  • Half the harm that is done in this world
    Is due to people who want to feel important.
    They don't mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them.
    Or they do not see it, or they justify it
    Because they are absorbed in the endless struggle
    To think well of themselves. 

    ~ Thomas Stearnes Eliot (The Cocktail Party)

  • Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
    ~ Thomas Stearnes Eliot ("Philip Massinger", a biographical essay in The Sacred Wood)

  • To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men,—that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,—and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. 
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Self-Reliance)

  • Speak the truth, and all things alive or brute are vouchers, and the very roots of the grass underground there, do seem to stir and move to bear you witness. 
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Harvard Divinity Address)

  • It was a great instruction," said a saint in Cromwell's war, "that the best courages are but beams of the Almighty." Hitch your wagon to a star. Let us not fag in paltry works which serve our pot and bag alone. Let us not lie and steal. No god will help. We shall find all their teams going the other way,–Charles's Wain, Great Bear, Orion, Leo, Hercules: every god will leave us. Work rather for those interests which the divinities honor and promote,–justice, love, freedom, knowledge, utility. 
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (American Civilization)

  • He is a great average man; one who, to the best thinking, adds a proportion and equality in his faculties, so that men see in him their own dreams and glimpses made available and made to pass for what they are. A great common-sense is his warrant and qualification to be the world's interpreter. He has reason, as all the philosophic and poetic class have: but he has also what they have not,- this strong solving sense to reconcile his poetry with the appearances of the world, and build a bridge from the streets of cities to the Atlantis.
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Representative Men - "Plato; or the Philosopher")

  • Proverbs, like the sacred books of each nation, are the sanctuary of the intuitions. 
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Compensation)

  • A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. 
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Self-Reliance)

  • Of that ineffable essence which we call Spirit, he that thinks most, will say least. We can foresee God in the coarse, and, as it were, distant phenomena of matter; but when we try to define and describe himself, both language and thought desert us, and we are as helpless as fools and savages. That essence refuses to be recorded in propositions, but when man has worshipped him intellectually, the noblest ministry of nature is to stand as the apparition of God. It is the organ through which the universal spirit speaks to the individual, and strives to lead back the individual to it.  
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Nature, 1836)

  • A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Self-Reliance)

  • For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure. And therefore a man must know how to estimate a sour face. The by-standers look askance on him in the public street or in the friend's parlour. If this aversation had its origin in contempt and resistance like his own, he might well go home with a sad countenance; but the sour faces of the multitude, like their sweet faces, have no deep cause, but are put on and off as the wind blows and a newspaper directs.
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Self-Reliance)

  • Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him.  
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Self-Reliance)

  • Nature seems to exist for the excellent. The world is upheld by the veracity of good men: they make the earth wholesome. They who lived with them found life glad and nutritious. Life is sweet and tolerable only in our belief in such society; and, actually or ideally, we manage to live with superiors. We call our children and our lands by their names. Their names are wrought into the verbs of language, their works and effigies are in our houses, and every circumstance of the day recalls an anecdote of them.
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Representative Men - "Uses of Great Men")

  • It is the delight of vulgar talent to dazzle and to blind the beholder. But true genius seeks to defend us from itself. True genius will not impoverish, but will liberate, and add new senses. If a wise man should appear in our village he would create, in those who conversed with him, a new consciousness of wealth, by opening their eyes to unobserved advantages; he would establish a sense of immovable equality, calm us with assurances that we could not be cheated; as every one would discern the checks and guaranties of condition. The rich would see their mistakes and poverty, the poor their escapes and their resources.
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Representative Men - "Uses of Great Men")

  • Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary. The stream retreats to its source. A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think. Does he lack organ or medium to impart his truths? He can still fall back on this elemental force of living them. This is a total act. Thinking is a partial act.
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (The American Scholar)

  • Our weakness in the West is born of the fact of so-called "objectivity." Objectivity does not exist. The word is a hypocrisy which is sustained by the lie that the truth stays in the middle. No, sir: Sometimes truth stays on one side only. 
    ~ Oriana Fallaci ("The Rage of Oriana Fallaci", in The New York Observer, January 27, 2003)

  • Whether it comes from a despotic sovereign or an elected president, from a murderous general or a beloved leader, I see power as an inhuman and hateful phenomenon... I have always looked on disobedience toward the oppressive as the only way to use the miracle of having been born.  
    ~ Oriana Fallaci (As quoted in "The Agitator: Oriana Fallaci directs her fury toward Islam," by Margaret Talbot, in The New Yorker, June 5, 2006)

  • Experience is what you get while looking for something else. 
    ~ Federico Fellini (I'm a Born Liar)

  • I don't believe in total freedom for the artist. Left on his own, free to do anything he likes, the artist ends up doing nothing at all. If there's one thing that's dangerous for an artist, it's precisely this question of total freedom, waiting for inspiration and the rest of it.
    ~ Federico Fellini (I'm a Born Liar)

  • There are two kinds of fascists: fascists and anti-fascists. 
    ~ Ennio Flaiano (Frasario essenziale per passare inosservati in società)

  • Stupidity has made enormous progress. It's a sun so shining that we can no longer look at it directly. Thanks to communication media, it's no longer the same, it's nourished by other myths, it sells extremely well, it has ridiculed good sense and it's spreading its terrifying power.  
    ~ Ennio Flaiano ("Ombre grigie", Corriere della Sera, March 15, 1969 )

  • My Parents had early given me religious Impressions, and brought me through my Childhood piously in the Dissenting Way. But I was scarce 15 when, after doubting by turns of several Points as I found them disputed in the different Books I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself. Some Books against Deism fell into my Hands; they were said to be the Substance of Sermons preached at Boyle's Lectures. It happened that they wrought an Effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them: For the Arguments of the Deists which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much Stronger than the Refutations. In short I soon became a thorough Deist.
    ~ Benjamin Franklin (The Autobiography)

  • Human Felicity is produc'd not so much by great Pieces of good Fortune that seldom happen, as by little Advantages that occur every Day.
    ~ Benjamin Franklin (The Autobiography)

  • That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer, is a maxim that has been long and generally approved; never, that I know of, controverted.
    ~ Benjamin Franklin (Letter to Benjamin Vaughan, March 14, 1785)

  • Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
    ~ Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, in Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, 1755-1756 [see here])

  • To be an American is an ideal, while to be a Frenchman is a fact. 
    ~ Carl Friedrich (Time Magazine, November 9, 1987)

  • I do not think it is necessary to believe that the same God who has given us our senses, reason, and intelligence wished us to abandon their use, giving us by some other means the information that we could gain through them. 
    ~ Galileo Galilei (Letter to Castelli)

  • Truth alone will endure, all the rest will be swept away before the tide of time. I must continue to bear testimony to truth even if I am forsaken by all. Mine may today be a voice in the wilderness, but it will be heard when all other voices are silenced, if it is the voice of Truth.
    ~Mahatma Gandhi (Basic Education )

  • I will make my soul an envelope for your soul, and my heart a residence for your beauty and my breast a grave for your sorrows. I shall love you, Selma, as the prairies love the spring, and I shall live in you in the life of a flower under the sun's rays. I shall sing your name as the valley sings the echo of the bells of the village churches; I shall listen to the language of your soul as the shore listens to the story of the waves. I shall remember you as a stranger remembers his beloved country, and as a hungry man remembers a banquet, and as a dethroned king remembers the days of his glory, and as a prisoner remembers the hours of ease and freedom. I shall remember you as a sower remembers the bundles of wheat on his threshing flour, and as a shepherd remembers the green prairies the sweet brooks.
    ~Kahlil Gibran (The Broken Wings )

  • I think that everything that is really good and beautiful, the inner, moral, spiritual and sublime beauty in men and their works, comes from God, and everything that is bad and evil in the works of men and in men is not from God, and God does not approve of it.
    But I cannot help thinking that the best way of knowing God is to love many things. Love this friend, this person, this thing, whatever you like, and you will be on the right road to understanding Him better, that is what I keep telling myself. But you must love with a sublime, genuine, profound sympathy, with devotion, with intelligence, and you must try all the time to understand Him more, better and yet more. That will lead to God, that will lead to an unshakeable faith.
    ~ Vincent van Gogh (Letter to Theo van Gogh, July 1880)

  • We have forgotten that the proper function of the school is to transmit the cultural heritage of one generation to the next generation, and to so train the minds of the new generation as to make them capable of absorbing ancient learning and applying it to the problem of its own day.
    The fundamental explanation of this distortion of values is that we have forgotten that purpose of education. Or better: we have forgotten for whom education is intended. The function of our schools is not to educate, or elevate, society; but rather to educate individuals and to equip them with the knowledge that will enable them to take care of society's needs. We have forgotten that a society progresses only to the extent that it produces leaders that are capable of guiding and inspiring progress. And we cannot develop such leaders unless our standards of education are geared to excellence instead of mediocrity. We must give full rein to individual talents, and we must encourage our schools to enforce the academic disciplines—to put preponderant emphasis on English, mathematics, history, literature, foreign languages and the natural sciences. We should look upon our schools—not as a place to train the "whole character" of the child—a responsibility that properly belongs to his family and church—but to train his mind.
    Our country's past progress has been the result, not of the mass mind applying average intelligence to the problems of the day, but of the brilliance and dedication of wise individuals who applied their wisdom to advance the freedom and the material well-being of all of our people. And so if we would improve education in America—and advance the fortunes of freedom—we will not rush to the federal treasury with requests for money. We will focus attention on our local community, and make sure that our schools, private and public, are performing the job the Nation has the right to expect of them.
    ~ Barry Goldwater (The Conscience of a Conservative)

  • There is exact correspondence between a world where everything seems to be in a state of mere “becoming,” leaving no place for the changeless and permanent, and the state of mind of men who find all reality in this same “becoming,” denying by implication true knowledge as well as the object of that knowledge, by which we mean the transcendent and universal principles.
    ~ René Guénon (The Crisis of the Modern World)

  • Philosophy … is interesting because it expresses, in a form as clearly defined as possible, the tendencies of this or that period, much more than it really creates them; and even if it can be said to direct them to a certain extent, it does so only secondarily and when they are already formed.
    ~ René Guénon (The Crisis of the Modern World)

  • Experience has always shown, and reason also, that affairs which depend on many seldom succeed. 
    ~ Francesco Guicciardini (The History of Italy)

  • He who imitates what is evil always goes beyond the example that is set; on the contrary, he who imitates what is good always falls short. 
    ~ Francesco Guicciardini (The History of Italy)

  • Not curiosity, not vanity, not the consideration of expediency, not duty and conscientiousness, but an unquenchable, unhappy thirst that brooks no compromise leads us to truth.
    ~ G. W. F. Hegel (Briefe von und an Hegel, Volume 4, Part 1)

  • Poetry is the universal art of the spirit which has become free in itself and which is not tied down for its realization to external sensuous material; instead, it launches out exclusively in the inner space and the inner time of ideas and feelings.
    ~ G. W. F. Hegel (Introduction to Aesthetics)

  • What experience and history teach is this — that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it.
    ~ G. W. F. Hegel (Lectures on the Philosophy of History)

  • One should forgive one's enemies, but not before they are hanged. 
    ~ Heinrich Heine (Statement of 1848, as quoted in The Cynic's Lexicon : A Dictionary of Amoral Advice, 1984, by Jonathan Green)

  • My attitude toward punctuation is that it ought to be as conventional as possible. The game of golf would lose a good deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green. You ought to be able to show that you can do it a good deal better than anyone else with the regular tools before you have a license to bring in your own improvements. 
    ~ Ernest Hemingway (Selected Letters 1917–1961)

  • All my life I've looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time. 
    ~ Ernest Hemingway (Selected Letters 1917–1961)

  • The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.
    ~ Ernest Hemingway (A Farewell to Arms)

  • There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things and because it takes a man's life to know them the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.
    ~ Ernest Hemingway (Death in the Afternoon)

  • Most people...are like a falling leaf that drifts and turns in the air, flutters, and falls to the ground. But a few others are like stars which travel one defined path: no wind reaches them, they have within themselves their guide and path. 
    ~ Hermann Hesse (Siddharta)

  • Only humor, the superb discovery of those whose vocation is to the greatest self-consciousness, to the highest and most heartfelt, to the most abundant wretchedness – only humor, perhaps the truest and most cheerful capacity of mankind, achieves the impossible, pulling together and unifying all precincts of human experience with its kaleidoscopic radiance. To live in the world, as though it were not the world; to obey and to protect the law; to possess, as though there were no possession; to renounce, as though there were no renunciation – all these oft formulated accounts of the way to a higher plane of living are really only possible because of humor. 
    ~ Hermann Hesse (Steppenwolf)

  • I have learnt to love You late, beauty at once so ancient and so new! I have learnt to love You late! You were within me, and I was in the world outside myself. I searched for You outside myself and, disfigured as I was, I fell upon the lovely things of Your creation, You were with me, but I was not with You. The beautiful things of this world kept me far from You and yet, if they had not been in You, they would have no being at all. You called me; You cried aloud to me You broke my barrier of deafness. You shone upon me; Your radiance enveloped me; You put my blindness to flight. You shed Your fragrance about me; I drew breath and now I gasp for Your sweet odour. I tasted You, and now I hunger and thirst for You. You touched me, and I am inflamed with love of Your peace.  
    ~ Augustine of Hippo (Confessions)

  • Do not wander far and wide but return into yourself. Deep within man there dwells the truth.
    ~ Augustine of Hippo (The True Religion)

  • Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.”
    ~ Augustine of Hippo (The City of God, Book IV)

  • I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it,—but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor. 
    ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table)

  • He must be a poor creature that does not often repeat himself. Imagine the author of the excellent piece of advice, "Know thyself," never alluding to that sentiment again during the course of a protracted existence! Why, the truths a man carries about with him are his tools; and do you think a carpenter is bound to use the same plane but once to smooth a knotty board with, or to hang up his hammer after it has driven its first nail? I shall never repeat a conversation, but an idea often. I shall use the same types when I like, but not commonly the same stereotypes. A thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times. It has come to you over a new route, by a new and express train of associations. 
    ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table)

  • To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life. 
    ~ Victor Hugo (Les Miserables)

  • From pure sensation to the intuition of beauty, from pleasure and pain to love and the mystical ecstasy and death — all the things that are fundamental, all the things that, to the human spirit, are most profoundly significant, can only be experienced, not expressed. The rest is always and everywhere silence.
    After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music. 

    ~ Aldous Huxley (Music at Night and Other Essays)

  • When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. [...]
    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable Rights; that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. [...]
    For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

    ~ Thomas Jefferson ("Declaration of Independence," 1774)

  • When the representative body have lost the confidence of their constituents, when they have notoriously made sale of their most valuable rights, when they have assumed to themselves powers which the people never put into their hands, then indeed their continuing in office becomes dangerous to the state, and calls for an exercise of the power of dissolution.
    ~ Thomas Jefferson (A Summary View of the Rights of British America)

  • The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.
    ~ Thomas Jefferson (Letter to Colonel Edward Carrington, January 16, 1787)

  • Above all things, lose no occasion of exercising your dispositions to be grateful, to be generous, to be charitable, to be humane, to be true, just, firm, orderly, courageous, &c. Consider every act of this kind, as an exercise which will strengthen your moral faculties and increase your worth.
    ~ Thomas Jefferson (Letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787)

  • Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.
    ~ Thomas Jefferson (in a letter to his Italian friend Philip Mazzei)

  • Two things fill the mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more intensely the mind of thought is drawn to them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.
    ~ Immanuel Kant (Critique of Practical Reason)

  • Morality is not properly the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness.
    ~ Immanuel Kant (Critique of Practical Reason)

  • Only the descent into the hell of self-knowledge can pave the way to godliness.
    ~ Immanuel Kant (Metaphysics of Morals)

  • Character means that the person derives his rules of conduct from himself and from the dignity of humanity. Character is the common ruling principle in man in the use of his talents and attributes. Thus it is the nature of his will, and is good or bad. A man who acts without settled principles, with no uniformity, has no character. A man may have a good heart and yet no character, because he is dependent upon impulses and does not act according to maxims. Firmness and unity of principle are essential to character.
    ~ Immanuel Kant (quote of Kant as translated in The Educational Theory of Immanuel Kant, by Edward Franklin Buchner)

  • From such crooked wood as that which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned
    ~ Immanuel Kant (Idea for a General History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose)

  • The true democracy, living and growing and inspiring, puts its faith in the people — faith that the people will not simply elect men who will represent their views ably and faithfully, but will also elect men who will exercise their conscientious judgment — faith that the people will not condemn those whose devotion to principle leads them to unpopular courses, but will reward courage, respect honor, and ultimately recognize right.
    ~ John F. Kennedy (Profiles in Courage, 1964 Memorial Edition)

  • During the last sixty days, I have been at the task of constructing an administration. It has been a long and deliberate process. Some have counseled greater speed. Others have counseled more expedient tests. But I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arbella three hundred and thirty-one years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a new government on a perilous frontier. "We must always consider," he said, "that we shall be as a city upon a hill – the eyes of all people are upon us." Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us – and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, state and local, must be as a city upon a hill – constructed and inhabited by men aware of their great trust and their great responsibilities. For we are setting out upon a voyage in 1961 no less hazardous than that undertaken by the Arbella in 1630. We are committing ourselves to tasks of statecraft no less awesome than that of governing the Massachusetts Bay Colony, beset as it was then by terror without and disorder within. History will not judge our endeavors – and a government cannot be selected – merely on the basis of color or creed or even party affiliation. Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these.
    ~ John F. Kennedy (Speech to Massachusetts State Legislature. Delivered on January 9, 1961, in The State House, Boston)

  • Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
    ~ John F. Kennedy (Inaugural address, Washington D.C., January 20, 1961. This is one of seven quotes inscribed on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.)

  • “Give me a place to stand”, said Archimedes, “and I will move the world.” These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. Thousands of Peace Corps volunteers are making a difference in isolated villages and city slums in dozens of countries. Thousands of unknown men and women in Europe resisted the occupation of the Nazis and many died, but all added to the ultimate strength and freedom of their countries. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
    “If Athens shall appear great to you,” said Pericles, “consider then that her glories were purchased by valiant men, and by men who learned their duty.” That is the source of all greatness in all societies, and it is the key to progress in our time.

    ~ Robert F. Kennedy (N.U.S.A.S. "Day of Affirmation" Speech, University of Cape Town, South Africa, June 6, 1966)

  • It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
    ~ Robert F. Kennedy (N.U.S.A.S. "Day of Affirmation" Speech, University of Cape Town, South Africa, June 6, 1966. Inscribed on the Robert F. Kennedy gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery)

  • The conservative thinks of political policies as intended to preserve order, justice, and freedom. The ideologue, on the contrary, thinks of politics as a revolutionary instrument for transforming society and even transforming human nature. In his march toward Utopia, the ideologue is merciless.
    ~ Russell Kirk (The Politics of Prudence)

  • The passions are the only advocates which always persuade. They are a natural art, the rules of which are infallible; and the simplest man with passion will be more persuasive than the most eloquent without.  
    ~ François de La Rochefoucald (Reflections; or Sentences and Moral Maxims)

  • Sincerity is an openness of heart; we find it in very few people; what we usually see is only an artful dissimulation to win the confidence of others.  
    ~ François de La Rochefoucald (Reflections; or Sentences and Moral Maxims)

  • If we had no faults, we should not take so much pleasure in noting those of others.  
    ~ François de La Rochefoucald (Reflections; or Sentences and Moral Maxims)

  • Hypocrisy is an homage that vice pays to virtue.  
    ~ François de La Rochefoucald (Reflections; or Sentences and Moral Maxims)

  • We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others.  
    ~ François de La Rochefoucald (Reflections; or Sentences and Moral Maxims)

  • He who travels much has this advantage over others – that the things he remembers soon become remote, so that in a short time they acquire the vague and poetical quality which is only given to other things by time. He who has not traveled at all has this disadvantage – that all his memories are of things present somewhere, since the places with which all his memories are concerned are present.  
    ~ Giacomo Leopardi (Thoughts)

  • Freedom is the dream you dream
    While putting thought in chains again --
    ~ Giacomo Leopardi ("La Ginestra, o Il fiore del deserto," Canti)

  • Let us live, dear Porphyrius, and console each other. Let us not refuse our share of the sufferings of humanity, apportioned to us by destiny. Let us cling to each other with mutual encouragement, and hand in hand strengthen one another better to bear the troubles of life. Our time after all will be short; and when death comes, we will not complain. In the last hour, our friends and companions will comfort us, and we shall be gladdened by the thought that after death we shall still live in their memory, and be loved by them.  
    ~ Giacomo Leopardi (Dialogue between Plotinus and Porphyrius)

  • Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.  
    ~ C. S. Lewis (God in the Dock)

  • Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.  
    ~ C. S. Lewis (God in the Dock)

  • Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.  
    ~ Abraham Lincoln ("The Gettysburg Address," 1863)

  • Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government, nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty, as we understand it.  
    ~ A. Lincoln ("Allow the Humblest Man an Equal Chance," speech at New Haven, Connecticut, March 6, 1860)

  • At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time, or die by suicide.  
    ~ A. Lincoln (Address before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, January 27, 1838)

  • To love truth for truth's sake is the principal part of human perfection in this world, and the seed-plot of all other virtues.
    ~ John Locke (Letter to Anthony Collins, October 29, 1703)

  • It is not true, as is sometimes said, that man can organize the world without God. What is true is that, without God, he can ultimately only organize it against man. Exclusive humanism is inhuman humanism.
    ~ Henri de Lubac (The Drama of Atheist Humanism)

  • How laudable it is for a prince to keep good faith and live with integrity, and not with astuteness, every one knows. Still the experience of our times shows those princes to have done great things who have had little regard for good faith, and have been able by astuteness to confuse men's brains, and who have ultimately overcome those who have made loyalty their foundation. You must know, then, that there are two methods of fighting, the one by law, the other by force: the first method is that of men, the second of beasts; but as the first method is often insufficient, one must have recourse to the second. It is therefore necessary to know well how to use both the beast and the man. This was covertly taught to princes by ancient writers, who relate how Achilles and many others of those princes were given to Chiron the centaur to be brought up, who kept them under his discipline; this system of having for teacher one who was half beast and half man is meant to indicate that a prince must know how to use both natures, and that the one without the other is not durable. A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from snares, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognise snares, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those that wish to be only lions do not understand this. Therefore, a prudent ruler ought not to keep faith when by so doing it would be against his interest, and when the reasons which made him bind himself no longer exist. If men were all good, this precept would not be a good one; but as they are bad, and would not observe their faith with you, so you are not bound to keep faith with them.
    ~ Niccolò Machiavelli (The Prince)

  • When neither their property nor their honor is touched, the majority of men live content.  
    ~ Niccolò Machiavelli (The Prince)

  • Men never do good unless necessity drives them to it; but when they are free to choose and can do just as they please, confusion and disorder become rampant.  
    ~ Niccolò Machiavelli (Discourses on Livy)

  • Many have imagined republics and principalities which have never been seen or known to exist in reality; for how we live is so far removed from how we ought to live, that he who abandons what is done for what ought to be done, will rather bring about his own ruin than his preservation.  
    ~ Niccolò Machiavelli (The Prince)

  • All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.  
    ~ James Madison ("Speech at the Constitutional Convention," July 11, 1787)

  • Tradition is the preservation of fire, not the worship of ashes.  
    ~ Gustav Mahler (attributed)

  • One of the greatest comforts of this life is friendship; and one of the comforts of friendship is that of having someone we can trust with a secret. But friendship does not pair us off into couples, as marriage does; each of us generally has more than one friend to his name, and so a chain is formed, of which no man can see the end. When we allow ourselves the comfort of depositing a secret in the bosom of a friend, we inspire him with the wish to enjoy the same comfort for himself. It is true that we always ask him not to tell anyone else; and this is a condition which, if taken literally, would break the series of comforting confidences at once. But the general practice is to regard the obligation as one which prevents a man from passing the secret on, except to an equally trusted friend and on the same condition of silence. From trusted friend to trusted friend, the secret travels and travels along an unending chain, until it reaches the ears of the very man or men from whom the first speaker meant to keep it for ever. It would generally require a long time to get there, if each of us only had two friends—one to confide the secret to us, and another to whom we can pass it on. But there are some privileged men who have hundreds of friends, and once a secret reaches one of them, its subsequent journeys are so rapid and multitudinous that no one can keep track of them.  
    ~ Alessandro Manzoni (The Betrothed)

  • Courage isn't a thing that a man can give himself if he hasn't got it.  
    ~ Alessandro Manzoni (The Betrothed)

  • Be this your nobler praise in times to come,
    These your imperial arts, ye sons of Rome!
    O'er distant realms to stretch your awful sway,
    To bid those nations tremble and obey;
    To crush the proud, the suppliant foe to rear,
    To give mankind a peace, or shake the world with war.
    ~ Publius Virgilius Maro (Aeneid)

  • The gates of hell are open night and day;
    Smooth the descent, and easy is the way:
    But to return, and view the cheerful skies,
    In this the task and mighty labor lies.
    ~ Publius Virgilius Maro (Aeneid)

  • Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.  
    ~ H. L. Mencken (Notes on Democracy)

  • My God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
    ~ Thomas Merton (Thoughts in Solitude)

  • Not all men are called to be hermits, but all men need enough silence and solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally. When that inner voice is not heard, when man cannot attain to the spiritual peace that comes from being perfectly at one with his own true self, his life is always miserable and exhausting.
    ~ Thomas Merton (The Silent Life

  • The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most: and his suffering comes to him from things so little and so trivial that one can say that it is no longer objective at all. It is his own existence, his own being, that is at once the subject and the source of his pain, and his very existence and consciousness is his greatest torture.
    ~ Thomas Merton (The Seven Storey Mountain

  • Do not let yourself be disturbed too much by either friends or enemies … May you find again within yourself the deep life-giving silence which is genuine truth and the source of truth: for it is a fountain of life and a window into the abyss of eternity and God … it is an inviolable house of peace, a fortress in the depths of our being, the virginity of our soul where, like the Blessed Mary, we give our brave and humble answer to life, the "Yes" which brings Christ into the world.
    ~ Thomas Merton (Letter to Boris Pasternak, December 1958, quoted in Courage for Truth

  • Beauty is the purgation of superfluities. 
    ~ Michelangelo (As quoted in Character Sketches : Or, The Blackboard Mirror, by George Augustus Lofton)

  • If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all. 
    ~ Michelangelo (As quoted in Happiness Is Everything!, by Chris Crawford)

  • My art and profession is to live. 
    ~ Michel de Montaigne (Essays)

  • I want to be seen here in my simple, natural, ordinary fashion, without straining or artifice; for it is myself that I portray...I am myself the matter of my book. 
    ~ Michel de Montaigne (Essays)

  • No wind favors he who has no destined port. 
    ~ Michel de Montaigne (Essays)

  • Of all human and ancient opinions concerning religion, that seems to me the most likely and most excusable, that acknowledged God as an incomprehensible power, the original and preserver of all things, all goodness, all perfection, receiving and taking in good part the honour and reverence that man paid him, under what method, name, or ceremonies soever. 
    ~ Michel de Montaigne (Essays)

  • Few men have been admired by their own domestics. 
    ~ Michel de Montaigne (Essays)

  • The nice thing about political pundits is that, when they answer a question, one no longer understands what they were asked. 
    ~ Indro Montanelli (Controcorrente)

  • The only advice that I'm in the mood to give - and that I give regularly - to young people is this: fight for what you believe in. You will lose, just like I have lost, all the battles. But only one you may win. The one that you engage every morning, in front of the mirror. 
    ~ Indro Montanelli (Soltanto un giornalista)

  • Cynics are all moralists, and merciless too. 
    ~ Indro Montanelli (L'Italia giacobina e carbonara)

  • Which ever one of you will want to become a journalist, let him remember to choose his own master: the reader. 
    ~ Indro Montanelli (In a lesson on Journalism at the University of Turin, May 12, 1997)

  • I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. 
    ~ Isaac Newton (Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, 1855, by Sir David Brewster - Volume II. Ch. 27)

  • I mistrust all systematists and I avoid them. The will to system represents a lack of honesty. 
    ~ Friedrich Nietzsche (Twilight of the Idols)

  • He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee. 
    ~ Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil)

  • One must have chaos within to enable one to give birth to a dancing star. 
    ~ Friedrich Nietzsche (Thus Spoke Zarathustra)

  • Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one. 
    ~ Thomas Paine (Common Sense)

  • One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise, she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion. 
    ~ Thomas Paine (Common Sense)

  • I have discovered that all human evil comes from this, man's being unable to sit still in a room.
    ~ Blaise Pascal (Pensées)

  • The greatness of man is so evident, that it is even proved by his wretchedness. For what in animals is nature we call in man wretchedness; by which we recognise that, his nature being now like that of animals, he has fallen from a better nature which once was his.
    For who is unhappy at not being a king, except a deposed king?

    ~ Blaise Pascal (Pensées)

  • I don't think I could love you so much if you had nothing to complain of and nothing to regret. 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 (Doctor Zhivago)

  • Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and of the man who leads that gains that victory.
    ~ George S. Patton (Cavalry Journal, September 1933)

  • Of all the many talks I had in Washington, none gave me such pleasure as that with you. There were two reasons for this. In the first place, you are about my oldest friend. In the second place, your self-assurance and to me, at least, demonstrated ability, give me a great feeling of confidence about the future … and I have the utmost confidence that through your efforts we will eventually beat the hell out of those bastards — "You name them; I'll shoot them!"
    ~ George S. Patton (Letter to Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1942)

  • To-day I made the ascent of the highest mountain in this region, which is not improperly called Ventosum. My only motive was the wish to see what so great an elevation had to offer. […]
    While I was thus dividing my thoughts, now turning my attention to some terrestrial object that lay before me, now raising my soul, as I had done my body, to higher planes, it occurred to me to look into my copy of St. Augustine's Confessions, a gift that I owe to your love, and that I always have about me, in memory of both the author and the giver. I opened the compact little volume, small indeed in size, but of infinite charm, with the intention of reading whatever came to hand, for I could happen upon nothing that would be otherwise than edifying and devout. Now it chanced that the tenth book presented itself. My brother, waiting to hear something of St. Augustine's from my lips, stood attentively by. I call him, and God too, to witness that where I first fixed my eyes it was written: "And men go about to wonder at the heights of the mountains, and the mighty waves of the sea, and the wide sweep of rivers, and the circuit of the ocean, and the revolution of the stars, but themselves they consider not." I was abashed, and, asking my brother (who was anxious to hear more), not to annoy me, I closed the book, angry with myself that I should still be admiring earthly things who might long ago have learned from even the pagan philosophers that nothing is wonderful but the soul, which, when great itself, finds nothing great outside itself. Then, in truth, I was satisfied that I had seen enough of the mountain; I turned my inward eye upon myself, and from that time not a syllable fell from my lips until we reached the bottom again. Those words had given me occupation enough, for I could not believe that it was by a mere accident that I happened upon them. What I had there read I believed to be addressed to me and to no other, remembering that St. Augustine had once suspected the same thing in his own case, when, on opening the book of the Apostle, as he himself tells us, the first words that he saw there were, "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof."  

    ~ Francesco Petrarca ("The Ascent of Mount Ventoux," Letter to Dionigi di Borgo San Sepolcro)

  • Thomas Jefferson once said that, “every man has two countries—his own and France.” Today, one could advance that, every man has two countries—his own and America. That's why U.S. history, from the American Revolution to the present day, matters to everyone, everywhere.  
    ~ Samuel Robert Piccoli (Being Conservative from A to Z)

  • And New York is the most beautiful city in the world? It is not far from it. No urban nights are like the night there. I have looked down across the city from high windows. It is then that the great buildings lose reality and take on their magical powers. They are immaterial; that is to say, one sees but the lighted windows. Squares after squares of flame, set and cut into the Aether. Here is our poetry, for we have pulled down the stars to our will.  
    ~ Ezra Pound (Patria Mia)

  • We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.  
    ~ Native American Proverb

  • The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.  
    ~ Arab Proverb

  • When the pupil is ready the Master will appear.  
    ~ Zen Proverb

  • I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: as government expands, liberty contracts. 
    ~ Ronald Reagan ("Farewell Address," delivered live from the Oval Office, January 28th, 1986)

  • The longer I live, the more urgent it seems to me to endure and transcribe the whole dictation of existence up to its end, for it might just be the case that only the very last sentence contains that small and possibly inconspicuous word through which everything we had struggled to learn and everything we had failed to understand will be transformed suddenly into magnificent sense. 
    ~ Rainer Maria Rilke (Letter to Ilse Erdmann, December 21, 1913, in Letters on Life, U. Baer, trans., 2007)

  • The whole night rests
    upon a lover's sigh,
    a brief caress crosses the dazzled sky.
    As if in the universe
    an elemental power
    again became the mother
    of all love being lost.

    ~ Rainer Maria Rilke (Orchards: A Sequence of French Poems, Graywolf Press 1982, transl. A. Poulin)

  • There is need of a sound body, and even more of a sound mind. But above mind and above body stands character—the sum of those qualities which we mean when we speak of a man's force and courage, of his good faith and sense of honor.
    I believe in exercise for the body, always provided that we keep in mind that physical development is a means and not an end. I believe, of course, in giving to all the people a good education. But the education must contain much besides book-learning in order to be really good.
    We must ever remember that no keenness and subtleness of intellect, no polish, no cleverness, in any way make up for the lack of the great solid qualities. Self restraint, self mastery, common sense, the power of accepting individual responsibility and yet of acting in conjunction with others, courage and resolution—these are the qualities which mark a masterful people. Without them no people can control itself, or save itself from being controlled from the outside.
    I speak to brilliant assemblage; I speak in a great university which represents the flower of the highest intellectual development; I pay all homage to intellect and to elaborate and specialized training of the intellect; and yet I know I shall have the assent of all of you present when I add that more important still are the commonplace, every-day qualities and virtues.
    ~ Theodore Roosevelt ("Citizenship in a Republic," an address delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France, April 23, 1910)

  • Greatness means strife for nation and man alike. A soft, easy life is not worth living, if it impairs the fibre of brain and heart and muscle. We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage... We are face to face with our destiny and we must meet it with a high and resolute courage. For us is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out.  
    ~ Theodore Roosevelt (Address at the opening of the gubernatorial campaign, New York City, October 5, 1898)

  • We must beware of this only that we cloak not the vice of nature with the name of virtue, calling heaviness of mind gravity, cruelty justice, envy zeal, filthy niggardliness thrift, flattering good fellowship, knavery or ribaldry urbanity or merry speaking.  
    ~ Erasmus of Rotterdam (The Manual of a Christian Knight)

  • Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
    there is a field. I will meet you there.
    When the soul lies down in that grass,
    the world is too full to talk about
    language, ideas, even the phrase each other
    doesn't make any sense.
    ~ Jalal ad-Din Rumi (The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks)

  • What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.  
    ~ J. D. Salinger (The Catcher in the Rye)

  • Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  
    ~ George Santayana (The Life of Reason)

  • The truth is cruel, but it can be loved, and it makes free those who have loved it.  
    ~ George Santayana (Little Essays)

  • American life is a powerful solvent. As it stamps the immigrant, almost before he can speak English, with an unmistakable muscular tension, cheery self-confidence and habitual challenge in the voice and eyes, so it seems to neutralize every intellectual element, however tough and alien it may be, and to fuse it in the native good-will, complacency, thoughtlessness, and optimism.  
    ~ George Santayana (Character and Opinion in the United States)

  • Beauty is a pledge of the possible conformity between the soul and nature, and consequently a ground of faith in the supremacy of the good.  
    ~ George Santayana (The Sense of Beauty)

  • A writer who says there are no truths, or that all truth is 'merely relative,' is asking you not to believe him. So don't. Deconstruction deconstructs itself, and disappears up its own behind, leaving only a disembodied smile and a faint smell of sulphur.
    ~ Roger Scruton (Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey)

  • It is because of America, its success, its conflicts, and its symbolic importance in the world, that the question raised by Spengler is still with us: the question of Western identity. Take away America, its freedom, its optimism, its institutions, its Judeo-Christian beliefs, and its educational tradition, and little would remain of the West, besides the geriatric routines of a now toothless Europe.  
    ~ Roger Scruton ("Preface." Culture Counts: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged)

  • Cosmopolitans are at home in any city; they appreciate human life in all its peaceful forms, and are emotionally in touch with the customs, languages and cultures of many different people. They are patriots of one country, but nationalists of many. Internationalists, by contrast, wish to break down the distinctions between people; they do not feel at home in any city since they are aliens in all. They see the world as one vast system in which everyone is equally a customer, a consumer, a creature of wants and needs. They are happy to transplant people from place to place, to abolish local attachments, to shift boundaries and customs in accordance with the inexorable tide of political need or economic progress.  
    ~ Roger Scruton (How to Think Seriously about the Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism)

  • God is near you, with you, and in you. Thus I say, Lucilius: there sits a holy spirit within us, a watcher of our right and wrong doing, and a guardian.  
    ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Letter XLI: On the god within us)

  • Fire tries gold, misfortune tries brave men.  
    ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca (On Providence)

  • It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.  
    ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Letter LXXXIV: On gathering ideas)

  • No tree becomes rooted and sturdy unless many a wind assails it. For by its very tossing it tightens its grip and plants its roots more securely; the fragile trees are those that have grown in a sunny valley.  
    ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca (On Providence, iv. 6-9, Seneca's Essays Volume I.)

  • Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues / We write in water.
    ~ William Shakespeare (Henry VIII)

  • Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones; So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus Hath told you Caesar was ambitious: If it were so, it was a grievous fault, And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
    Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest-- For Brutus is an honourable man; So are they all, all honourable men-- Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral. He was my friend, faithful and just to me: But Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honourable man. He hath brought many captives home to Rome Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill: Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff: Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honourable man. You all did see that on the Lupercal I thrice presented him a kingly crown, Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition? Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And, sure, he is an honourable man.
    I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke, But here I am to speak what I do know. You all did love him once, not without cause: What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him? O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason. Bear with me; My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, And I must pause till it come back to me.

    ~ William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar)

  • A fool's brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education. 
    ~ George Bernard Shaw (Maxims for Revolutionists)

  • 'In everything that yields gracefully,' G.K. Chesterton says somewhere, 'there must be resistance. Bows are beautiful when they bend only because they seek to remain rigid. Rigidity that slightly yields, like Justice swayed by Pity, is all the beauty of earth. Everything seeks to grow straight, and happily, nothing succeeds in so growing. Try to grow straight and life will bend you.' The faculty of creating is never given to us all by itself. It always goes hand in hand with the gift of observation. And the true creator may be recognized by his ability always to find about him, in the commonest and humblest thing, items worthy of note. He does not have to concern himself with a beautiful landscape, he does not need to surround himself with rare and precious objects. He does not have to put forth in search of discoveries: they are always within his reach. Familiar things, things that are everywhere, attract his attention. If he slips, he will notice it; on occasion, he may draw profit from something unforeseen that a momentary lapse reveals to him. One cannot force one's self to love; but love presupposes understanding, and in order to understand, one must exert one's self. One does not contrive an accident: one observes it to draw inspiration therefrom. For imagination is not only the mother of caprice but the servant and handmaiden of the creative will as well. The more art is controlled, limited, worked over, the more it is free.  
    ~ Igor Stravinsky (Poetics of Music)

  • When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him. 
    ~ Jonathan Swift (Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting)

  • The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws. 
    ~ Publius Cornelius Tacitus (The Annals of Imperial Rome)

  • The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark. The small truth has words which are clear; the great truth has great silence.  
    ~ Rabindranath Tagore (On the Edges of Time)

  • Oh yes, I know, we have recently been told by no less than 364 academic economists that such things cannot be, that British enterprise is doomed. Their confidence in the accuracy of their own predictions leaves me breathless. But having myself been brought up over the shop, I sometimes wonder whether they back their forecasts with their money.  
    ~ Margaret Thatcher (Speech to Scottish Conservative Conference, May 8, 1981)

  • When, we examine the opinions of men, we find that nothing is more uncommon, than common sense; or, in other words, they lack judgment to discover plain truths, or to reject absurdities, and palpable contradictions.  
    ~ Paul-Henri Thiry, also known as Baron d'Holbach (Good Sense without God, or, Freethoughts Opposed to Supernatural Ideas)

  • It is impossible that the best arguments should be adopted by men, who are interested in error, prejudiced in its favour, and who decline all reflection; but truth must necessarily undeceive honest minds, who seek her sincerely.  
    ~ Paul-Henri Thiry, also known as Baron d'Holbach (Good Sense without God, or, Freethoughts Opposed to Supernatural Ideas)

  • Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him.  
    ~ Henry David Thoreau (Walking)

  • Born under another sky, placed in the middle of an always-moving scene, himself driven by the irresistible torrent which sweeps along everything that surrounds him, the American has no time to tie himself to anything; he grows accustomed to naught but change, and concludes by viewing it as the natural state of man; he feels a need for it; even more, he loves it: for instability, instead of occurring to him in the form of disasters, seems to give birth to nothing around him but wonders [...].
    ~ Alexis de Tocqueville (Mélanges, fragments historiques et notes sur l'ancien régime, la Révolution et l'Empire)

  • I studied the Koran a great deal. I came away from that study with the conviction there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Muhammad. So far as I can see, it is the principal cause of the decadence so visible today in the Muslim world and, though less absurd than the polytheism of old, its social and political tendencies are in my opinion to be feared, and I therefore regard it as a form of decadence rather than a form of progress in relation to paganism itself.  
    ~ Alexis de Tocqueville (Letter to Arthur de Gobineau, October 22, 1843)

  • The best laws cannot make a constitution work in spite of morals; morals can turn the worst laws to advantage. That is a commonplace truth, but one to which my studies are always bringing me back. It is the central point in my conception. I see it at the end of all my reflections.  
    ~ Alexis de Tocqueville (De la supériorité des mœurs sur les lois)

  • There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man.
    How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.
    ~ Leo Tolstoy ("Three Methods Of Reform")

  • What is now happening to the people of the East as of the West is like what happens to every individual when he passes from childhood to adolescence and from youth to manhood. He loses what had hitherto guided his life and lives without direction, not having found a new standard suitable to his age, and so he invents all sorts of occupations, cares, distractions, and stupefactions to divert his attention from the misery and senselessness of his life. Such a condition may last a long time.  
    ~ Leo Tolstoy (A Letter to a Hindu)

  • He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.  
    ~ Leo Tolstoy (Anna Karenina)

  • YOUTH (Poem)
    Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.
    Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.
    Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.
    Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.
    When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.
    ~ Samuel Ullman (From the Summit of Years, Four Score)

  • The best laws cannot make a constitution work in spite of morals; morals can turn the worst laws to advantage. That is a commonplace truth, but one to which my studies are always bringing me back. It is the central point in my conception. I see it at the end of all my reflections.  
    ~ Gianbattista Vico (The New Science)

  • Even despots accept the excellence of liberty. The simple truth is that they wish to keep it for themselves and promote the idea that no one else is at all worthy of it. Thus, our opinion of liberty does not reveal our differences but the relative value which we place on our fellow man. We can state with conviction, therefore, that a man's support for absolute government is in direct proportion to the contempt he feels for his country.  
    ~ Alexis de Tocqueville (Ancien Regime and the Revolution)

  • Human subtlety [...] will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature, because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.
    ~ Leonardo da Vinci (The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci)

  • Here forms, here colors, here the character of every part of the universe are concentrated to a point; and that point is so marvellous a thing—Oh! marvellous, O stupendous Necessity — by thy laws thou dost compel every effect to be the direct result of its cause, by the shortest path. These are miracles!
    ~ Leonardo da Vinci (The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci)

  • Common sense is not so common. 
    ~ Voltaire (Dictionnaire Philosophique)

  • I am sure there never was a people, who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe, that they have forgotten that agency, which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God, who is alone able to protect them. 
    ~ George Washington (Letter to John Armstrong, 11 March 1782)

  • Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence; true friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation. 
    ~ George Washington (Letter to Bushrod Washington, 15 January 1783)

  • I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy.  
    ~ George Washington ("Farewell Address," 1796)

  • In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed - they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love and five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock! 
    ~ Orson Welles (as the character Harry Lime in the film The Third Man, 1949)

  • I am but too conscious of the fact that we are born in an age when only the dull are treated seriously, and I live in terror of not being misunderstood. 
    ~ Oscar Wilde (The Critic as Artist)

  • Education is an admirable thing. But it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
    ~ Oscar Wilde (A Few Maxims for the Instruction of the Over-Educated)

  • Knowledge would be fatal. It is the uncertainty that charms one. A mist makes things wonderful.
    ~ Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray)

  • What can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence. 
    ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus)

  • Philosophy aims at the logical clarification of thoughts. Philosophy is not a body of doctrine but an activity. A philosophical work consists essentially of elucidations. Philosophy does not result in 'philosophical propositions', but rather in the clarification of propositions. Without philosophy thoughts are, as it were, cloudy and indistinct: its task is to make them clear and to give them sharp boundaries. 
    ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus)

  • Don't get involved in partial problems, but always take flight to where there is a free view over the whole single great problem, even if this view is still not a clear one. 
    ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein (Journal entry, November 1, 1914)

  • Every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished.
    ~ William Wordsworth (Letter to Lady Beaumont, May 21, 1807)

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