Quotes

A collection of my favorite quotes:


“There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.”
— Socrates

“Loneliness is the price we have to pay for being born in this modern age, so full of freedom, independence, and our own egotistical selves.”
— Natsume Sōseki, Kokoro

“We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come…. There is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself? … What happens but once, says the German adage, might as well not have happened at all. If we have only one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all.”
— Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

“Knowledge is one. Its division into subjects is a concession to human weakness.”
— Sir Halford John Mackinder

“If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.”
— Thomas Paine

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use…”
— Galileo Galilei

“If you want to make enemies, try to change something.”
— Woodrow Wilson

“History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.”
— Martin Luther King

“That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it.”
— Joan Didion, “Goodbye to All That”

“Though all things foul would wear the brows of grace, / Yet grace must still look so.”
— William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 4 Scene 3

“It’s hard to remember if she acted the way I like people to act or if what I like in people is to be reminded of Alice Lowe.”
— Justin Tussing, “The Laser Age”

“I thought, I’ll go with you, with nothing but the clothes on my back. Later you may run from me. If someone else is there to save you, it will fall on you to give that person some accounting of who I was. That will be your obligation. And though it’s hardly possible, I would like to be that next person, too. I would like to save you over and over again. That’s the type of life I wanted to lead when I was seventeen.”
— Justin Tussing, The Best People in the World

“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”
— Arthur Schopenhauer

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.”
— Arthur Schopenhauer

“Yet in truth the big question Camus asked was never the Anglo-American liberal one: How can we make the world a little bit better tomorrow? It was the grander French one: Why not kill yourself tonight? That the answers come to much the same thing in the end—easy does it; tomorrow may be a bit better than today; and, after all, you have to have a little faith in people—doesn’t diminish the glamour that clings to the man who turned the question over and look at it, elegantly, upside down.”
— Adam Gopnik, “Facing History”

“Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”
— Immanuel Kant

“When handsome men or beautiful women take up the work of the intellect, it impresses us because we know they could have chosen other paths to being impressive; that they chose the path of the mind suggests that there is on it something more worthwhile than a circuitous route to the good things that the good-looking get just by showing up.”
— Adam Gopnik, “Facing History”

“If nothing offends you, you’re a saint or you’re psychotic. If a few things offend you, deal with them—fairly. If you’re often offended by things, you’re probably a self-righteous asshole and it’s too bad you weren’t censored yourself—by your mother in an abortion clinic.”
— William T. Vollmann, Pornography’s Top Components

“Of all the creatures that breathe and crawl upon the earth / there is nothing more wretched than man.”
Homer, The Iliad, Book XVII, 446-447

“I recall certain moments, let us call them icebergs in paradise, when after having had my fill of her—after fabulous, insane exertions that left me limp and azure-barred—I would gather her in my arms with, at last, a mute moan of human tenderness (her skin glistening in the neon light coming from the paved court through the slits in the blind, her soot-black lashes matted, her grave gray eyes more vacant than ever—for all the world a little patient still in the confusion of a drug after a major operation)—and the tenderness would deepen to shame and despair, and I would lull and rock my lone light Lolita in my marble arms, and moan in her warm hair, and caress her at random and mutely ask her blessing, and at the peak of this human agonized selfless tenderness (with my soul actually hanging around her naked body and ready to repent), all at once, ironically, horribly, lust would swell again—and ‘oh, no,’ Lolita would say with a sigh to heaven, and the next moment the tenderness and the azure—all would be shattered.”
— Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

“Hope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said not to exist. It is just like roads across the earth. For actually the earth had no roads to begin with, but when many men pass one way, a road is made.”
— Lu Hsun, “My Old Home”

“I think about all the things I’ve never done and all the things I’ll never be, and I wonder if it’s too late.”
— Carolyn Steele Agosta, “After The Wink”

“Driving home, it’s all I can do to keep from crying. Time’s come, time’s gone, time’s never returning, I say to myself. What’s here in front of me is all I’ve got, I decide, and as I drive my car through the blowing snow it doesn’t seem like much, except for the kindness that I’ve just exchanged with an old lady, so I concentrate on that.”
— Russell Banks, “The Moor”

“The future will be like the past, in the sense that, no matter how amazing or technologically advanced a society becomes, the basic human rhythm of petty malevolence, sordid moneygrubbing, and official violence, illuminated by occasional bursts of loyalty or desire or tenderness, will go on.”
— Adam Gopnik, on Phillip K. Dick’s fiction in “Blows Against the Empire”

“I have insufficient self-esteem to need any duplication of myself in the world.”
— Carmen Callil

“A broader danger of unverifiable beliefs is the temptation to defend them by violent means. People become wedded to their beliefs, because the validity of those beliefs reflects on their competence, commends them as authorities, and rationalizes their mandate to lead. Challenge a person’s beliefs, and you challenge his dignity, standing, and power. And when those beliefs are based on nothing but faith, they are chronically fragile. No one gets upset about the belief that rocks fall down as opposed to up, because all sane people can see it with their own eyes. Not so for the belief that babies are born with original sin or that God exists in three persons or that Ali was the second-most divinely inspired man after Muhammad. When people organize their lives around these beliefs, and then learn of other people who seem to be doing just fine without them—or worse, who credibly rebut them—they are in danger of looking like fools. Since one cannot defend a belief based on faith by persuading skeptics it is true, the faithful are apt to react to unbelief with rage, and may try to eliminate that affront to everything that makes their lives meaningful.”
— Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature

He is a happy man who can once for all avoid having to do with a great many of his fellow creatures.
— Arthur Schopenhauer, Counsels and Maxims