Quotes you’ve mostly never heard

Some for renown, on scraps of learning dote, and feel they grow immortal as they quote.
—Edward Young (1683-1765).

This site is under construction. My old, massive collection of quotes, is available here.

Categories

Life

Meaning

Suffering

Virtue

Forgiveness

Kindness

Death

Philosophy

Religion

Knowledge

Mind

Society

Arts

music

Life

Meaning

When we grow older we hope—with a little philosophy—we ask more reflectively, and in a larger less ego–centric way: not just what’s the meaning of my life, but what’s the meaning of our lives. What’s the meaning of existence? What’s it all about?... But we do have to ask the question, does life have meaning, and the answer to that might be no. After all, there are some things that simply don“t have any meaning at all. There are some rocks in my garden, right now, that I know are absolutely meaningless. And it might well be that human life is something more like my rocks ...full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing.
—Jay Garfield. The Meaning of Life: Perspectives from the World’s Great Intellectual Traditions. 2011. Lecture 1: The Meaning of the Meaning of Life. The Teaching Company

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Life is not fair. Get your revenge on the universe by being happy anyway.
—Me

How is it? Is man only a mistake of God? Or God only a mistake of man?
—Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of the Idols. Maxims and Arrows: p1 s7.

The chief aim of their constitution is that, as far as the public needs permit, all citizens should be free to withdraw as much time as possible from the service of the body and devote themselves to the freedom and culture of the mind. For in that, they think, lies the happiness of life.
—Thomas More in Utopia, 1516.

True Happiness, great satisfaction, cannot be found by man in any form of “practical” life, no, not in the fullest and freest exercise possible of the “moral virtues”, not in the life of the citizen or of the great soldier or statesman. To seek it there is to court failure and disappointment. It is to be found in the life of the onlooker, the disinterested spectator; or, to put it more distinctly, “in the life of the philosopher, the life of scientific and philosophic contemplation.” The highest and most satisfying form of life possible to man is “the contemplative life”; it is only in a secondary sense and for those incapable of their life, that the practical or moral ideal is the best. It is time that such a life is not distinctively human, but it is the privilege of man to partake in it, and such participation, at however rare intervals and for however short a period, is the highest Happiness which human life can offer. All other activities have value only because and in so far as they render this life possible.
—Aristotle (2005-07-01). Ethics.

The highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization, is actually connected to the lowest level, group survival. People experience their highest joy in helping their neighbors make it through the day.
—Brooks, David. April 12, 2016. “How to Fix Politics.” The New York Times. The Opinion Pages.

When Gallup asked people around the world in 2007 if they felt a sense of meaning in their lives, Liberia came out as the nation where most people felt they led meaningful lives and the Netherlands came out last. It’s not that life is always easy in Liberia, but people are gripped by an urgent and communal desire to address the problems around them.
—Brooks, David. August 4, 2017. “Can People Change After Middle Age?” The New York Times. The Opinion Pages.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
—Gandhi, Mahatma. Quoted in: Effendi, Rena and Tom O’Neill. July 2015. “In the Footsteps of Gandhi.” National Geographic.

The most dreadful disaster that befalls a human being is not eschatological but existential. The messenger we’d most like to kill looks more like Sartre than Genghis Khan.
—Keizer, Garrett. Spring 2016. “Solidarity and Survival.” Lapham’s Quarterly. Volume IX, Number 2: Disaster. Page 205.

The universe allows us to experience both misery and merriment, as the latter cannot exist without the former, and for this the universe is benevolent. Because we become desensitized to merriment but not misery, the universe must slay us even as we beg to live. For this, the universe is merciful.
—Me

Dead muscle contracts; it is an effort for living muscle to relax.
—Logan, William Bryant. 1995. Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth. Riverhead Books: NY, NY. 1995. Page 56.

If you would preserve your life, look thoroughly into everything—matter and cause—and see it for what it is, and to do what is just, and speak what is true with every fiber of your being. What else remains but to experience the true joy of living by stacking one good deed upon another and packing them so tightly that not the slightest chink appears between them.
—Aurelius, Marcus (121 AD – 180 AD). The Emperor’s Handbook. A new translation of Meditations.

… life is never incomplete if it is an honorable one.
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LXXVII. Penguin Classics. Page 125.

... personal identity across time has to be anchored in something other than memory and aspiration.
—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 196.

The universe is an absurd place. So why not hold absurd beliefs?
—Me

And so, from hour to hour we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour we rot and rot,
And thereby hangs a tale.
—Shakespeare in As You Like It

Suffering

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods,—
They kill us for their sport.
—Shakespeare in King Lear

...one might indeed consider that the appropriate form of address between man and man ought to be, not monsieur, sir, but fellow sufferer, compagnon de misères. However strange this may sound it corresponds to the nature of the case, makes us see other men in a true light and reminds us of what are the most necessary of all things: tolerance, patience, forbearance and charity, which each of us needs and which each of us therefore owes.
—Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essays and Aphorisms (Classics)

Terrible things happen in this world. And the only comfort we get is that we didn’t cause them.
—The Leftovers [HBO series]. Season 2. Episode 6. 53:40.

IF the immediate and direct purpose of our life is not suffering then our existence is the most illadapted to its purpose in the world: for it is absurd to suppose that the endless affliction of which the world is everywhere full, and which arises out of the need and distress pertaining essentially to life, should be purposeless and purely accidental. Each individual misfortune, to be sure, seems an exceptional occurrence; but misfortune in general is the rule.
—Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essays and Aphorisms (Classics) (Kindle Locations 623-626). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him; a vapor, a drop of water, suffice to kill him. But when the universe has crushed him man will still be nobler than that which kills him, because he knows that he is dying, and of its victory the universe knows nothing.
—Pascal. Quoted in: Will and Ariel Durant. The Age of Louis XIV. The Story of Civilization. Page 64

... the god“s gifts and griefs we humans by necessity must endure, for the yoke like on our neck.
—Matanaira in Hymn to Demeter in Homeric Hymns.

If you imagine, in so far as it is approximately possible, the sum total of distress, pain and suffering of every kind which the sun shines upon in its course, you will have to admit it would have been much better if the sun had been able to call up the phenomenon of life as little on the earth as on the moon; and if, here as there, the surface were still in a crystalline condition.
—Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essays and Aphorisms (Classics) (Kindle Locations 724-725). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition

Jon: What kind of god would do that?
Melisandre: The one we’ve got.
—Game of Thrones. Season 6. Episode 9

The universe is designed to make us suffer, but that doesn“t mean we have to make each other suffer.
—Me

Do you not see what sort of life nature promised us, when it decided that the first thing human beings do at their birth should be to cry?
—Seneca in Consolation to Polybius in Hardship and Happiness. Page 84.

I“d gone crazy, couldn’t you tell? / Threw stones at the stars but the whole sky fell.
—Isakov, Gregory Alan. The Stable Song. That Sea, The Gambler [album].

Slave 1: Do you really believe in gods?
Slave 2: Of course.
Slave 1: What’s your proof?
Slave 2: The fact that I’m cursed by them. Won’t that do?
Slave 1: Well, it’s good enough for me
—Aristophanes. The Knights. 424 BC

The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.
——Horace Walpole

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.
—Soren Kierkegaard

Alas, that I was not born one of these!
—Pharoah Ptolemy II, whose gout and excessive wealth and power made him miserable, made this remark while looking out the window and seeing a beggar lying lazily in the sun. Source: —Durant, Will. 1939. The Story of Civilization Part II: The Life of Greece. Page 586.

The happiness of those who want to be popular depends on others; the happiness of those who seek pleasure fluctuates with moods outside their control; but the happiness of the wise grows out of their own free acts.
—Aurelius, Marcus (121 AD – 180 AD). The Emperor’s Handbook. A new translation of Meditations. Book 6. 52.

But damn your happiness! So long as life's full, it doesn't matter whether it's happy or not. I'm afraid your happiness would bore me.
—Jane Smily in A Thousand Acres

Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be.
—John Stuart Mill

Happiness is a mystery like religion, and should never be rationalized.
—G.K. Chesteron

Happiness is like Coke - something you get as a by-product in the process of making something else.
—Aldous Huxley

It“s because I take God so seriously that I can“t bring myself to believe in him. In that way, it’s really a sign of respect.
—Julia Sweeny. Quoted in Scientific American. January 2017. Page 19.

You know quite well, deep within you, that there is only a single magic, a single power, a single salvation…and that is called loving. Well, then, love your suffering. Do not resist it, do not flee from it. It is your aversion that hurts, nothing else.
—HERMAN HESSE, Wer lieben kann ist glücklich.

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Forgiveness

Repentance for wrongdoing is the saving grace of life.
—Democritus

To keep from becoming angry with individuals you must forgive all at once: the human race should be granted a pardon.
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC – 65 AD). On Anger. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster.

Life becomes easier when you learn to accept the apology you never got.
—R. Brault (it is said)

Gandhi saw his theory through to its ultimate conclusion. Nonviolence meant not only loving your enemies, he maintained, but realizing that they were not your enemies at all. He might hate the systemic and military violence of colonial rule, but he could not allow himself to hate the people who implemented it. “Mine is not an exclusive love. I cannot but love Muslims or Hindus and hate Englishmen, for if I loved merely Hindus and Muslims because their ways are on the whole pleasing to me, I shall soon begin to hate them when their ways displease me, which they may well do any moment. A love that is based on the goodness of those whom you love is a mercenary affair.”
—Armstrong, Karen. Fields of Blood.

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own.
—Marcus Aurelius in Meditations. 2:1.

It became clear to him that all the dreadful evil he had been witnessing in prisons and jails, and the quiet self-assurance of the perpetrators of the this evil, resulted from men attempting what was impossible: to correct the evil while themselves evil. Vicious men were trying to reform other vicious men, and thought they could do it by using mechanical means. And the result of all of this was that needy and covetous men, having made a profession of this pretended punishment and reformation of others, themselves became utterly corrupt, and unceasingly corrupt also those whom they torment. Now he saw clearly whence came all the horrors he had seen, and what ought to be done to put an end to them. The answer he had been unable to find was the same that Christ gave to Peter. It was to forgive always, everyone, to forgive an infinite number of times, because there are none who are not themselves guilty, and therefore none who can punish or reform.
—Tolstoy, Leo. 1899. Resurrection. Oxford University Press: NY, NY. Pages 480-481.

When one forgives, two souls are set free.
—Unknown

I apply not my sword, where my lash suffices, nor my lash where my tongue is enough. And even if there be one hair binding me to my fellow men I do not let it break; when they pull I loosen, and if they loosen I pull.
—Will Durant quoting Muawiya, the Umayyad caliphate, which lasted from from 661 to 750. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 193.

If a man foolishly does me wrong, I will return to him the protection of my ungrudging love; the more evil comes from him, the more good shall come from me.
—The Buddha. Quoted in: Will Durant. The Story of Civilization. Our Oriental Heritage. Page 429.

I think there is nothing more glorious than when those who are at the pinnacle of society grant pardon for many actions, but seek pardon for none.
—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

Anyone who recalls how often he’s been falsely suspected, how many of his own appropriate actions bad luck has made look like wrongs, how many people he came to like after hating them, will be able to avoid becoming angry instantly, at least if he says to himself, each time he’s offended, “I myself have made this mistake also.”
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). On Anger. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster.

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Virtue

I would say act like a man of thought and think like a man of action.
—Henri Bergson. 1937. Speech at the Descartes Conference in Paris.

When is it ever wrong to do the right thing?
—Holzricher, James [guest], a whistleblower of corporate misconduct. September 4, 2013. “The Cost of Truth.” The Story. Phoebe Judge [producer]. Dick Gorden [host].

Live for yourself and your fellow creature. I [nature] approve of your pleasures while they injure neither you nor others, whom I have rendered necessary to your happiness … Be just, since your goodness will attract every heart to you. Be indulgent, since you live among beings weak like yourself. Be modest, as your pride will hurt the self-love of everyone around you. Pardon injuries, do good to him who injures you, that you may … gain his friendship. Be moderate, temperate, and chaste, since lechery, intemperance, and excess will destroy you and make you contemptible.
—D’Holback. Source: Will Durant in The Story of Civiliation. Part IX. The Age of Voltaire. Page 706.

When a man is prey to his emotions, he is not his own master, but lies at the mercy of fortune.
—Spinoza, Baruch de. Quoted in: Ayan, Steve. January/February 2015. “And Live Happily Ever After.” Scientific American Mind. Page 49.

Let’s make our mistakes slowly.
—Dwight D. Eisenhower, as quoted in David Brooks’ The Road to Character

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
—Anne Frank

If everything seems under control, you aren't moving fast enough.
—Mario Andretti

Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world, as in being able to remake ourselves.
—Gandhi, Mahatma. Quoted in: Effendi, Rena and Tom O’Neill. July 2015. “In the Footsteps of Gandhi.” National Geographic.

Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

You should, I need hardly say, live in such a way that there is nothing which you could not as easily tell your enemy as keep to yourself.
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Penguin Classics. Page 35.

That wonderful, and now almost extinct Christian community, the Shakers, has an old expression that nicely reflects the wisdom of redirecting attention. Their motto is: hands to work, and hearts to God.
—Muesse, Mark. Chapter 9. Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation. The Great Courses. The Teaching Company.

You ask me to say what you should consider it particularly important to avoid. My answer is this: a mass crowd. … there is not one of them that will make some vice or other attractive to us.
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Penguin Classics. Page 41.

It is difficulties which show what men are. Therefore when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough young man. For what purpose? you may say. Why, that you may become an Olympic conqueror; but it is not accomplished without sweat.
—Epictetus (55-135 AD). Discourses and Selected Writings. Translated by George Long.

Being fearless, undaunted, and bold—these are the products of courage. And how else could these become someone“s qualities more effectively than if he would become firmly convinced that death and pain are not evils? For death and pain are things which derange and frighten those who have been convinced that they are evils. Philosophy alone teaches that they are not evils.
—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD)

Why do you stand there? What are you looking for? Do you expect the god himself to come and speak to you? Cut out the dead part of your soul, and you will recognize the god.
—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD)

The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.
—Ralph Sockman

What is it to bear a fever well? Not to blame god or man; not to be afflicted at that which happens, to expect death well and nobly, to do what must be done: when the physician comes in, not to be frightened at what he says; nor I'd he says you are doing well, to be overjoyed.
—Epictetus. 108 AD. The Discourses.

Recommend virtue to your children; it alone, not money, can make them happy. I speak from experience.
—Beethoven

The uninitiated imagine that one must await inspiration in order to create. That is a mistake. I am far from saying that there is no such thing as inspiration; quite the opposite. It is found as a driving force in every kind of human activity, and is in no wise peculiar to artists. But that force is only brought into action by an effort, and that effort is work
—Igor Stravinsky in An Autobiography

When everyone is against you, it means that you are absolutely wrong— or absolutely right.
—Albert Guinon

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

The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.
—Walter Bagehot (English economist and journalist; 1826-1877)

I have not yet begun to fight.
—John Paul Jones, father of the American Navy, in response to a British captain asking if he surrendered.

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson in Self-Reliance

Wholeness does not mean perfection. It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.
—Palmer, Parker J. 2015. The Quaker Tradition: Broken into Wholeness. Keynote Address at 2015 Gathering of Friends General Conference at Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina (July 9, 2015).

They adapted themselves to a circumstance like melting ice.
—Lao Tzu. Tao The Ching. 15.

Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life.
—Epictetus. Discourses and Selected Writings. VIII.

The secret to having it all is knowing that you already do.
—Unknown. From The Art of Ancient Knowledge Facebook page

Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.
—Eckhart Tolle.

I am a soldier, and am unable to weep or to exclaim on fortune’s fickleness.
—Shakespeare in Henry VI

To love only what happens, what was destined. No greater harmony.
—Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. 7:57

It is weak and silly to say you cannot bear what it is your fate to be required to bear.
—Charlotte Bronte. 1947. Quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly. IX:3. Summer 2016. Page 30.

Beware good luck: fattening hogs think themselves fortunate.
—German proverb.

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Kindness

I might best set down this model for a prince to imitate: let him wish to treat his fellow-citizens as he wishes the gods to treat him.
Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). On Clemency. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster

Zigong: “Is there any single word that could guide one’s entire life?”
Master: “Should it not be reciprocity? What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”
—Analects of Confucius

In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
—Jesus in Matthew 7:12.

I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all.
—Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1299.

Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.
—Muhammed, Hadith.

Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself.
—Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29.

This is the sum of duty; do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.
—Mahabharata, 5:1517.

Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
—Udana-Varga 5.18.

What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary.
—Hillel, Talmud, Shabbat 31a).

One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.
—Mahavira, Sutrakritanga.

Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor“s loss as your own loss.
—T“ai Shang Kan Ying P“ien, 2130218.

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight.
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.
—Mother Teresa as reported by Kent Keith.

My son, I commend thee to the most high God … Do his will, for that way lies peace. Abstain from shedding blood … for blood that is spilt never sleeps. Seek to win the hearts of thy people, and watch over their prosperity; for it is to secure their happiness that thou art appointed by God and me. Try to gain the hearts of thy ministers, nobles, an demirs. If I have become great it is because I have won men’s hearts by kindness and gentleness.
—Saladin’s death-bed instructions to his son in 1193. Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 602. Refers to feudalism in the High Middle Ages.

Suppose someone becomes angry with you. You, by contrast, should challenge him to match you in kindness.
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). On Anger. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster.

Let us then try what love can do to heal a broken world.
—William Penn. 1693.

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Death

I was not, I was, I am not, I care not.
—Note on a tombstone from ancient Rome. Quoted in: Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. The Story of Civilization. Page 389

Now I need never fear hunger, need never pay rent, and am at least free from gout.
—Note on a tombstone from ancient Rome. Quoted in: Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. The Story of Civilization. Page 389.

We must ensure that what has been granted for an unspecified period is always available, and when we are summoned, we must hand it back without complaint: it is a very poor kind of debtor who starts lashing out at his creditor.
—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia. Seneca is referring to death, and not being excessively distressed at death.

Our minds need frequent prompting to love things on the understanding that we are sure to lose them, or rather that we are already losing them: you should treat all of fortune’s gifts as coming without a guarantee.
—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

You were born for this, to suffer loss, to perish, to hope and to fear, to upset others and yourself, to dread death and yet also desire it, and, worst of all, never to understand your true condition.
—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

... imagine me coming to give you advice as you were being born: “You are about to enter a city shared by gods and men, one that embraces everything, is bound by fixed, eternal laws, and ensures that the revolving heavenly bodies carry out their duties untiringly. There you will see countless stars twinkling; you will see the universe filled with the light of a single star, the sun on its daily course marking out the periods of day and night, and on its annual course demarcating summers and winters more evenly … But in that same place there will be thousands of afflictions of body and mind, wars, robberies, poisons, shipwrecks, climatic and body disorders, bitter grief for those dearest to you, and eath, which may be easy or may result from punishment and torture. Think it over and weigh up what you want: to reach the one set of experiences you must run the gauntlet of the other. You will reply that you want to live, of course … So live on the terms agreed.
—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia in Hardship and Happiness. Pages 24-26.

It is no problem being a slave if, when you grow tired of being someone else’s property, you can cross over to freedom with a single step. Life, you are dear to me, thanks to death! Think what a blessing a timely death can be, and how many people have been disadvantaged by living too long.
—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

There are dreams that cannot be / And there are storms we cannot weather.
—Les Miserables, the musical.

What is death? Either a transition or an end. I am not afraid of coming to an end, this being the same as never having begun, nor of transition, for I shall never be in confinement quite so cramped anywhere else as I am here.
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LVI. Penguin Classics. Page 124.

No one is so ignorant as not to know that some day he must die. Nevertheless when death draws near he turns, wailing and trembling, looking for a way out. Wouldn’t you think a man an utter fool if he burst into tears because he didn’t live a thousand hears ago?
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LXXVII. Penguin Classics. Page 127.

Has anyone supposed it lucky to be born? I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.
—Walt Whiman. 1855. Discourses on the Condition of the Great. Quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly. IX:3. Summer 2016. Page 147.

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Philosophy

Religion

Human life is subject to constant disruption that cannot be acommodated in purely contractual terms.
—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 178.

The acts that stir our wonder and admiration, and the great tragic gestures put before us by art and literature, remind us that there is another world behind our daily negotiations. It is a world of absolutes, in which the ruling principles are creation and destruction, rather than agreemnt, obligation, and law.
—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 178.

The covenant demands that each person honor his obligations and receive his rights. But no one has a right to forgiveness, and no one, in the scheme of the covenant, is obligated to offer itg. Forgiveness comes, when it comes, as a gift. True, it is a gift that must be earned. But it is earned by penitence, contrition, and atonement—acts that cannot be terms of a contract ...
—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 182.

... faith is not the same thing as religion. It is an attitude to the world, one that refuses to rest content with the contingency of nature.
——Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 192.

Many people who might call themselves agnostics or even atheists live the life of faith, or something like it—in an attitude of openness toward meanings, recognizing the sacramental moments, and giving thanks, after their fashion, for the gift of the world. Yet they adhere to no religion. so what different does religion make? The heart of religion is ritual, and it is a mark of religion that its reituals are meticulous.
——Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 192.

All deities reside in the human breast.
—Blake, William. Proverbs from Hell

Knowledge

I would rather find a single explanation than become the King of Persia.
—Democritus

Question with boldness the existence of a God; Because, if there is one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.
—Thomas Jefferson

And harassed by the body“s overwhelming weight, the soul is in captivity unless philosophy comes to its rescue, bidding it breathe more freely in the contemplation of nature, releasing it from earthly into heavenly surroundings.
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LVI. Penguin Classics. Page 122.

The gods we stand by are the gods we need and can use, the gods whose demands on us are reinforcements of our demands on ourselves and on one another.
—James, Williams. 1902. The Varieties of Religious Experience

I believe that the practice of compassion and love—a genuine sense of brotherhood and sisterhood—is the universal religion. It does not matter whether you are a Buddhist or Christian, Moslem or Hindu, or whether you practice religion at all. What matters is your feelings of oneness with humankind.
—Fourteenth Dalai Lama. 2002. How to Practice The Way to a Meaningful Life. Page 12.

All religions are born in the mind of a crazy person. It is the job of reasonable people to take those nuggets of lunacy and transform them into something useful for society.
—Me

Man is quite insane. He wouldn’t know how to create a maggot, and he creates gods by the dozen.
—Michel de Montaigne 1533-1592.

Religion, as I have been considering it, does not describe the natural world but the Lebenswelt, the world of subjects, using allegories and myths in order to remind us at the deepest level of who and what we are. And God is the all-knowing subject who welcomes us as we pass into that other domain, beyond the veil of nature. ... The life of prayer rescues us from the Fall, and prepares us for a death that we can meaningfully see as a redemption, since it unites us with the soul of the world.
—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 198.

“How happy are the astrologers!” exclaimed Guicciardini, “who are believed if they tell one truth to a hundred lies, while other people lose all credit if they tell one lie to a hundred truths.”
—Durant, Will. 1953. The Renaissance. The Story of Civilization. Page 528.

Averring his inability to accept either popular Christianity or scholastic theism, [William] James, toward the close of his book, writes: “Does God really exist? How does he exist? What is he? Are so many irrelevant questions. Not God, but life, more life, a larger, richer, more satisfying life is, in the last analysis, the end of religion. The love of life, at any and every level of development, is the religious impulse.
—Epstein, Joseph. September 27-28, 2014. “Human Nature and the Fruits of Faith.” Review of William James 1902 book, Varieties of Religious Experience. The Wall Street Journal. C13

There are no living Christians today. I know this because Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom,” (Matthew 16:27, 28) so if you believe in the Bible, then you believe the world has already ended. It is not only impossible that you are a living Christian today, but it is impossible that you exist.
—Anonymous

What is the difference between Noah’s flood and a school shooter?
—Anonymous

Gods were assimilated with humans, humans with animals and plants, the transcendent with the immanent, and the visible with the invisible. This was not simply self-indulgent make-believe, but part of the endless human endeavor to endow the smallest details of life with meaning. Ritual, it has been said, creates a controlled environment in which, for a while, we lay aside the inescapable flaws of our mundane existence. Yet by so doing we paradoxically become acutely aware of them. After the ceremony, when we return to daily life, we can recall our experience of the way things ought to be. Ritual is therefore the creation of fallible human beings who can never fully realize their ideals.
—Armstrong, Karen. Fields of Blood.

Question from audience:... why do we need a god?
Answer from Armstrong: We probably don’t. Buddhists do fine without one. A god, again, is an example of how inept our theological thinking is. I don’t think we do need a god, but some people find it helpful. God is only a symbol of transcendence. That’s where our theology is weak. … We hear about god for the first time, very often, when we first learn about Santa Claus, and over the years our idea of Santa Claus develops … our religion gets stuck at this rather infantile level. … I think that transcendence is a fact of life, but transcendence … means something we can never describe or know.
—Armstrong, Karen. October 12, 2014. “Karen Armstrong on Religion and the History of Violence.” Intelligence Squared.

Jesus copied Pythagorus. Pythagorus was said to have

  • been the son of the god Apollo
  • his mother was called "virgin"
  • said to have returned from the dead, 3 days after his death
  • said to have appeared two places at once
  • the ability to control waters and the wind
  • preached that you should love your enemies
  • believed that possessions got in the way of truths
  • gathered disciples and lived in a communal lifestyle

—...Mlodinow, Leonard. 2002. Euclid’s Window. Free Press.

It was not merely that the average Greek accepted miracle stories—of Theseus rising from the dead to fight at Marathon, or of Dionysus changing water into wine: such stories appear among every people, and are part of the forgivable poetry with which imagination brightens the common life.
—Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Page 195.

Learning religion is part of human nature. Learning science is a battle against human nature.
—Dominic Johnson, quoted in: The Economist. January 23, 2016. “Religion and psychology: In the hands of an angry God.” Review of book God is Watching You: How the Fear of God Makes Us Human by Dominic Johnson.

The findings at Gobekli Tepe suggest that we have the story backward—that it was actually the need to build a sacred site that first obliged hunter-gatherers to organize themselves as a workforce, to spend long periods of time in one place, to secure a stable food supply, and eventually to invent agriculture.
—Elif Batuman. December 19 & 26, 2011. “The Sanctuary.” The New Yorker magazine.

If I could lay hold on that god who, out of a thousand men whom he has made, saves one and damns all the rest, I would tear and rend him tooth and nail as a traitor, and would spit in his face.
—A 1247 weaver of Toulouse. Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 735.

The power of Christianity lay in its offering to the people faith rather than knowledge, art rather than science, beauty rather than truth. Men preferred it so.
—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 737.

I place my conscience above any scripture. You may argue: there are evil people in the world, and perhaps even they follow their own conscience. If that is the case then scripture may be needed to prevent the evil from following their evil conscience. I don’t know. What I do know is that the only way I could become evil is if I betrayed my conscience and followed the words of apocalyptic prophets who spoke millennia ago.
—Me

If I governed a nation of Jews, I should restore the Temple of Solomon. Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.
—Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, after he signed an agreement making Catholicism the major, but not the only, religion of France.

Some people today argue that religion is primarily a source of violence, conflict, and social discord. Historically, however, religion has played the opposite role: it is a source of social cohesion that permits human beings to cooperate far more widely and securely than they would if they were the simple rational and self-interested agents posited by the economists.
—Fukuyama, Francis. 2011. The Origins of Political Order. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: NY, NY. Page 38.

Actually, to become a professor or a clergy member in Europe even a hundred years following Spinoza’s death, you had to have your denunciation of him ready. That was part of the oral exam, knowing where he’d made his mistakes. And this meant that everyone was reading Spinoza; they had to read him in order to denounce him, so he was radicalizing Europe, and in about a hundred years they were ready for the Enlightenment.
—Rebecca Goldstein’s acceptance speech for the 2011 Humanist of the Year award. Published in The Humanist. November-December, 2011. Pages 12-16.

Civilizations come and go; they conquer the earth and crumble into dust; but faith survives every desolation.
—Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Page 3.

People say, “What’s wrong with moderate religion?” And there are those nice folks who go to church on Sunday simply to take part in their neighborhoods. And here’s the problem with that. Moderate religion is religion where people do a little bit of cherry-picking. They take the best bits of religion and some of the more embarrassing or difficult or barbaric bits they leave to one side. Unkind people would call that hypocrisy. On the other end of the scale, however, are those who take their religion very seriously—extremists we call them. The point about the extremists is that they’re the most honest of the people who have religious views, because they commit themselves to what their tradition tells them. They stay closest to the texts. Now if that’s real religion, if that’s honest religion, the world is better off without it. And if the world is better off without the true or honest form of religion, why not put the hypocrites in with them too.
—A. C. Grayling. November 15, 2011. Intelligence Squared Debates. Motion: The World Would Be Better Off Without Religion.

An opinion poll conducted in 2005 showed that three out of four Americans believe in the existence of paranormal phenomena. Other work has revealed that about one in three of us claim to have experienced the supernatural.
—Richard Wiseman. January/February, 2012. “Wired for Weird.” Scientific American Mind.

EPICURUS's old questions are yet unanswered. Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?
—Hume, David. 1776. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

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Mind

The man who insists on seeing with perfect clearness before he decides, never decides.
—Henri-Frederic Amiel

To understand the most important ideas in psychology, you need to understand how the mind is divided into parts that sometimes conflict.
—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis. 2006. Basic Books.

This finding, that people will readily fabricate reasons to explain their own behavior, is called “confabulation.” Confabulation is so frequent in work with split-brain patients and other people suffering brain damage that Gazzaniga refers to the language centers on the left side of the brain as the interpreter module, whose job is to give a running commentary on whatever the self is doing, even though the interpreter module has no access to the real causes or motives of the self“s behavior.
—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis. 2006. Basic Books.

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Society

“Group selection,” he said, “brings abut virtue, and—this is an oversimplification, but—individual selection, which is competing with it, creates sin. That, in a nutshell, is an explanation of the human condition.”
—Howard W. French quoting E.O. Wilson. “E.O. Wilson’s Theory of Everything.” The Atlantic. November, 2011. Pages 70-82.

The history of philosophy is essentially an account of the efforts great men have made to avert social disintegration by building up natural moral sanctions to take the place of the supernatural sanctions which they themselves have destroyed.
—Durant, Will. 1917. Philosophy and the Social Problem. The Macmillan Company.

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Arts

music

Our musical culture, I suggested, requires us to respond to a subjectivity that lies beyond the world of objects, in a speace of its own. Music addresses us as others address us ... music addresses us from beyond the borders of the natural world.
—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 175.

The life of prayer rescues us from the Fall, and prepares us for a death that we can meaningfully see as a redemption, since it unites us with the soul of the world.
—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 198.





















Some for renown, on scraps of learning dote, and feel they grow immortal as they quote.
—Edward Young (1683-1765).

This site is under construction. My old, massive collection of quotes, is available here.

Categories

Life

Meaning

Suffering

Virtue

Forgiveness

Kindness

Death

Philosophy

Religion

Knowledge

Mind

Society

Arts

music

Life

Meaning

When we grow older we hope—with a little philosophy—we ask more reflectively, and in a larger less ego–centric way: not just what’s the meaning of my life, but what’s the meaning of our lives. What’s the meaning of existence? What’s it all about?... But we do have to ask the question, does life have meaning, and the answer to that might be no. After all, there are some things that simply don“t have any meaning at all. There are some rocks in my garden, right now, that I know are absolutely meaningless. And it might well be that human life is something more like my rocks ...full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing.
—Jay Garfield. The Meaning of Life: Perspectives from the World’s Great Intellectual Traditions. 2011. Lecture 1: The Meaning of the Meaning of Life. The Teaching Company

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Life is not fair. Get your revenge on the universe by being happy anyway.
—Me

How is it? Is man only a mistake of God? Or God only a mistake of man?
—Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of the Idols. Maxims and Arrows: p1 s7.

The chief aim of their constitution is that, as far as the public needs permit, all citizens should be free to withdraw as much time as possible from the service of the body and devote themselves to the freedom and culture of the mind. For in that, they think, lies the happiness of life.
—Thomas More in Utopia, 1516.

True Happiness, great satisfaction, cannot be found by man in any form of “practical” life, no, not in the fullest and freest exercise possible of the “moral virtues”, not in the life of the citizen or of the great soldier or statesman. To seek it there is to court failure and disappointment. It is to be found in the life of the onlooker, the disinterested spectator; or, to put it more distinctly, “in the life of the philosopher, the life of scientific and philosophic contemplation.” The highest and most satisfying form of life possible to man is “the contemplative life”; it is only in a secondary sense and for those incapable of their life, that the practical or moral ideal is the best. It is time that such a life is not distinctively human, but it is the privilege of man to partake in it, and such participation, at however rare intervals and for however short a period, is the highest Happiness which human life can offer. All other activities have value only because and in so far as they render this life possible.
—Aristotle (2005-07-01). Ethics.

The highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization, is actually connected to the lowest level, group survival. People experience their highest joy in helping their neighbors make it through the day.
—Brooks, David. April 12, 2016. “How to Fix Politics.” The New York Times. The Opinion Pages.

When Gallup asked people around the world in 2007 if they felt a sense of meaning in their lives, Liberia came out as the nation where most people felt they led meaningful lives and the Netherlands came out last. It’s not that life is always easy in Liberia, but people are gripped by an urgent and communal desire to address the problems around them.
—Brooks, David. August 4, 2017. “Can People Change After Middle Age?” The New York Times. The Opinion Pages.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
—Gandhi, Mahatma. Quoted in: Effendi, Rena and Tom O’Neill. July 2015. “In the Footsteps of Gandhi.” National Geographic.

The most dreadful disaster that befalls a human being is not eschatological but existential. The messenger we’d most like to kill looks more like Sartre than Genghis Khan.
—Keizer, Garrett. Spring 2016. “Solidarity and Survival.” Lapham’s Quarterly. Volume IX, Number 2: Disaster. Page 205.

The universe allows us to experience both misery and merriment, as the latter cannot exist without the former, and for this the universe is benevolent. Because we become desensitized to merriment but not misery, the universe must slay us even as we beg to live. For this, the universe is merciful.
—Me

Dead muscle contracts; it is an effort for living muscle to relax.
—Logan, William Bryant. 1995. Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth. Riverhead Books: NY, NY. 1995. Page 56.

If you would preserve your life, look thoroughly into everything—matter and cause—and see it for what it is, and to do what is just, and speak what is true with every fiber of your being. What else remains but to experience the true joy of living by stacking one good deed upon another and packing them so tightly that not the slightest chink appears between them.
—Aurelius, Marcus (121 AD – 180 AD). The Emperor’s Handbook. A new translation of Meditations.

… life is never incomplete if it is an honorable one.
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LXXVII. Penguin Classics. Page 125.

... personal identity across time has to be anchored in something other than memory and aspiration.
—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 196.

The universe is an absurd place. So why not hold absurd beliefs?
—Me

And so, from hour to hour we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour we rot and rot,
And thereby hangs a tale.
—Shakespeare in As You Like It

Suffering

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods,—
They kill us for their sport.
—Shakespeare in King Lear

...one might indeed consider that the appropriate form of address between man and man ought to be, not monsieur, sir, but fellow sufferer, compagnon de misères. However strange this may sound it corresponds to the nature of the case, makes us see other men in a true light and reminds us of what are the most necessary of all things: tolerance, patience, forbearance and charity, which each of us needs and which each of us therefore owes.
—Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essays and Aphorisms (Classics)

Terrible things happen in this world. And the only comfort we get is that we didn’t cause them.
—The Leftovers [HBO series]. Season 2. Episode 6. 53:40.

IF the immediate and direct purpose of our life is not suffering then our existence is the most illadapted to its purpose in the world: for it is absurd to suppose that the endless affliction of which the world is everywhere full, and which arises out of the need and distress pertaining essentially to life, should be purposeless and purely accidental. Each individual misfortune, to be sure, seems an exceptional occurrence; but misfortune in general is the rule.
—Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essays and Aphorisms (Classics) (Kindle Locations 623-626). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him; a vapor, a drop of water, suffice to kill him. But when the universe has crushed him man will still be nobler than that which kills him, because he knows that he is dying, and of its victory the universe knows nothing.
—Pascal. Quoted in: Will and Ariel Durant. The Age of Louis XIV. The Story of Civilization. Page 64

... the god“s gifts and griefs we humans by necessity must endure, for the yoke like on our neck.
—Matanaira in Hymn to Demeter in Homeric Hymns.

If you imagine, in so far as it is approximately possible, the sum total of distress, pain and suffering of every kind which the sun shines upon in its course, you will have to admit it would have been much better if the sun had been able to call up the phenomenon of life as little on the earth as on the moon; and if, here as there, the surface were still in a crystalline condition.
—Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essays and Aphorisms (Classics) (Kindle Locations 724-725). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition

Jon: What kind of god would do that?
Melisandre: The one we’ve got.
—Game of Thrones. Season 6. Episode 9

The universe is designed to make us suffer, but that doesn“t mean we have to make each other suffer.
—Me

Do you not see what sort of life nature promised us, when it decided that the first thing human beings do at their birth should be to cry?
—Seneca in Consolation to Polybius in Hardship and Happiness. Page 84.

I“d gone crazy, couldn’t you tell? / Threw stones at the stars but the whole sky fell.
—Isakov, Gregory Alan. The Stable Song. That Sea, The Gambler [album].

Slave 1: Do you really believe in gods?
Slave 2: Of course.
Slave 1: What’s your proof?
Slave 2: The fact that I’m cursed by them. Won’t that do?
Slave 1: Well, it’s good enough for me
—Aristophanes. The Knights. 424 BC

The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.
——Horace Walpole

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.
—Soren Kierkegaard

Alas, that I was not born one of these!
—Pharoah Ptolemy II, whose gout and excessive wealth and power made him miserable, made this remark while looking out the window and seeing a beggar lying lazily in the sun. Source: —Durant, Will. 1939. The Story of Civilization Part II: The Life of Greece. Page 586.

The happiness of those who want to be popular depends on others; the happiness of those who seek pleasure fluctuates with moods outside their control; but the happiness of the wise grows out of their own free acts.
—Aurelius, Marcus (121 AD – 180 AD). The Emperor’s Handbook. A new translation of Meditations. Book 6. 52.

But damn your happiness! So long as life's full, it doesn't matter whether it's happy or not. I'm afraid your happiness would bore me.
—Jane Smily in A Thousand Acres

Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be.
—John Stuart Mill

Happiness is a mystery like religion, and should never be rationalized.
—G.K. Chesteron

Happiness is like Coke - something you get as a by-product in the process of making something else.
—Aldous Huxley

It“s because I take God so seriously that I can“t bring myself to believe in him. In that way, it’s really a sign of respect.
—Julia Sweeny. Quoted in Scientific American. January 2017. Page 19.

You know quite well, deep within you, that there is only a single magic, a single power, a single salvation…and that is called loving. Well, then, love your suffering. Do not resist it, do not flee from it. It is your aversion that hurts, nothing else.
—HERMAN HESSE, Wer lieben kann ist glücklich.

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Forgiveness

Repentance for wrongdoing is the saving grace of life.
—Democritus

To keep from becoming angry with individuals you must forgive all at once: the human race should be granted a pardon.
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC – 65 AD). On Anger. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster.

Life becomes easier when you learn to accept the apology you never got.
—R. Brault (it is said)

Gandhi saw his theory through to its ultimate conclusion. Nonviolence meant not only loving your enemies, he maintained, but realizing that they were not your enemies at all. He might hate the systemic and military violence of colonial rule, but he could not allow himself to hate the people who implemented it. “Mine is not an exclusive love. I cannot but love Muslims or Hindus and hate Englishmen, for if I loved merely Hindus and Muslims because their ways are on the whole pleasing to me, I shall soon begin to hate them when their ways displease me, which they may well do any moment. A love that is based on the goodness of those whom you love is a mercenary affair.”
—Armstrong, Karen. Fields of Blood.

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own.
—Marcus Aurelius in Meditations. 2:1.

It became clear to him that all the dreadful evil he had been witnessing in prisons and jails, and the quiet self-assurance of the perpetrators of the this evil, resulted from men attempting what was impossible: to correct the evil while themselves evil. Vicious men were trying to reform other vicious men, and thought they could do it by using mechanical means. And the result of all of this was that needy and covetous men, having made a profession of this pretended punishment and reformation of others, themselves became utterly corrupt, and unceasingly corrupt also those whom they torment. Now he saw clearly whence came all the horrors he had seen, and what ought to be done to put an end to them. The answer he had been unable to find was the same that Christ gave to Peter. It was to forgive always, everyone, to forgive an infinite number of times, because there are none who are not themselves guilty, and therefore none who can punish or reform.
—Tolstoy, Leo. 1899. Resurrection. Oxford University Press: NY, NY. Pages 480-481.

When one forgives, two souls are set free.
—Unknown

I apply not my sword, where my lash suffices, nor my lash where my tongue is enough. And even if there be one hair binding me to my fellow men I do not let it break; when they pull I loosen, and if they loosen I pull.
—Will Durant quoting Muawiya, the Umayyad caliphate, which lasted from from 661 to 750. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 193.

If a man foolishly does me wrong, I will return to him the protection of my ungrudging love; the more evil comes from him, the more good shall come from me.
—The Buddha. Quoted in: Will Durant. The Story of Civilization. Our Oriental Heritage. Page 429.

I think there is nothing more glorious than when those who are at the pinnacle of society grant pardon for many actions, but seek pardon for none.
—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

Anyone who recalls how often he’s been falsely suspected, how many of his own appropriate actions bad luck has made look like wrongs, how many people he came to like after hating them, will be able to avoid becoming angry instantly, at least if he says to himself, each time he’s offended, “I myself have made this mistake also.”
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). On Anger. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster.

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Virtue

I would say act like a man of thought and think like a man of action.
—Henri Bergson. 1937. Speech at the Descartes Conference in Paris.

When is it ever wrong to do the right thing?
—Holzricher, James [guest], a whistleblower of corporate misconduct. September 4, 2013. “The Cost of Truth.” The Story. Phoebe Judge [producer]. Dick Gorden [host].

Live for yourself and your fellow creature. I [nature] approve of your pleasures while they injure neither you nor others, whom I have rendered necessary to your happiness … Be just, since your goodness will attract every heart to you. Be indulgent, since you live among beings weak like yourself. Be modest, as your pride will hurt the self-love of everyone around you. Pardon injuries, do good to him who injures you, that you may … gain his friendship. Be moderate, temperate, and chaste, since lechery, intemperance, and excess will destroy you and make you contemptible.
—D’Holback. Source: Will Durant in The Story of Civiliation. Part IX. The Age of Voltaire. Page 706.

When a man is prey to his emotions, he is not his own master, but lies at the mercy of fortune.
—Spinoza, Baruch de. Quoted in: Ayan, Steve. January/February 2015. “And Live Happily Ever After.” Scientific American Mind. Page 49.

Let’s make our mistakes slowly.
—Dwight D. Eisenhower, as quoted in David Brooks’ The Road to Character

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
—Anne Frank

If everything seems under control, you aren't moving fast enough.
—Mario Andretti

Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world, as in being able to remake ourselves.
—Gandhi, Mahatma. Quoted in: Effendi, Rena and Tom O’Neill. July 2015. “In the Footsteps of Gandhi.” National Geographic.

Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

You should, I need hardly say, live in such a way that there is nothing which you could not as easily tell your enemy as keep to yourself.
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Penguin Classics. Page 35.

That wonderful, and now almost extinct Christian community, the Shakers, has an old expression that nicely reflects the wisdom of redirecting attention. Their motto is: hands to work, and hearts to God.
—Muesse, Mark. Chapter 9. Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation. The Great Courses. The Teaching Company.

You ask me to say what you should consider it particularly important to avoid. My answer is this: a mass crowd. … there is not one of them that will make some vice or other attractive to us.
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Penguin Classics. Page 41.

It is difficulties which show what men are. Therefore when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough young man. For what purpose? you may say. Why, that you may become an Olympic conqueror; but it is not accomplished without sweat.
—Epictetus (55-135 AD). Discourses and Selected Writings. Translated by George Long.

Being fearless, undaunted, and bold—these are the products of courage. And how else could these become someone“s qualities more effectively than if he would become firmly convinced that death and pain are not evils? For death and pain are things which derange and frighten those who have been convinced that they are evils. Philosophy alone teaches that they are not evils.
—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD)

Why do you stand there? What are you looking for? Do you expect the god himself to come and speak to you? Cut out the dead part of your soul, and you will recognize the god.
—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD)

The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.
—Ralph Sockman

What is it to bear a fever well? Not to blame god or man; not to be afflicted at that which happens, to expect death well and nobly, to do what must be done: when the physician comes in, not to be frightened at what he says; nor I'd he says you are doing well, to be overjoyed.
—Epictetus. 108 AD. The Discourses.

Recommend virtue to your children; it alone, not money, can make them happy. I speak from experience.
—Beethoven

The uninitiated imagine that one must await inspiration in order to create. That is a mistake. I am far from saying that there is no such thing as inspiration; quite the opposite. It is found as a driving force in every kind of human activity, and is in no wise peculiar to artists. But that force is only brought into action by an effort, and that effort is work
—Igor Stravinsky in An Autobiography

When everyone is against you, it means that you are absolutely wrong— or absolutely right.
—Albert Guinon

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

The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.
—Walter Bagehot (English economist and journalist; 1826-1877)

I have not yet begun to fight.
—John Paul Jones, father of the American Navy, in response to a British captain asking if he surrendered.

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson in Self-Reliance

Wholeness does not mean perfection. It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.
—Palmer, Parker J. 2015. The Quaker Tradition: Broken into Wholeness. Keynote Address at 2015 Gathering of Friends General Conference at Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina (July 9, 2015).

They adapted themselves to a circumstance like melting ice.
—Lao Tzu. Tao The Ching. 15.

Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life.
—Epictetus. Discourses and Selected Writings. VIII.

The secret to having it all is knowing that you already do.
—Unknown. From The Art of Ancient Knowledge Facebook page

Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.
—Eckhart Tolle.

I am a soldier, and am unable to weep or to exclaim on fortune’s fickleness.
—Shakespeare in Henry VI

To love only what happens, what was destined. No greater harmony.
—Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. 7:57

It is weak and silly to say you cannot bear what it is your fate to be required to bear.
—Charlotte Bronte. 1947. Quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly. IX:3. Summer 2016. Page 30.

Beware good luck: fattening hogs think themselves fortunate.
—German proverb.

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Kindness

I might best set down this model for a prince to imitate: let him wish to treat his fellow-citizens as he wishes the gods to treat him.
Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). On Clemency. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster

Zigong: “Is there any single word that could guide one’s entire life?”
Master: “Should it not be reciprocity? What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”
—Analects of Confucius

In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
—Jesus in Matthew 7:12.

I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all.
—Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1299.

Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.
—Muhammed, Hadith.

Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself.
—Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29.

This is the sum of duty; do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.
—Mahabharata, 5:1517.

Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
—Udana-Varga 5.18.

What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary.
—Hillel, Talmud, Shabbat 31a).

One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.
—Mahavira, Sutrakritanga.

Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor“s loss as your own loss.
—T“ai Shang Kan Ying P“ien, 2130218.

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight.
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.
—Mother Teresa as reported by Kent Keith.

My son, I commend thee to the most high God … Do his will, for that way lies peace. Abstain from shedding blood … for blood that is spilt never sleeps. Seek to win the hearts of thy people, and watch over their prosperity; for it is to secure their happiness that thou art appointed by God and me. Try to gain the hearts of thy ministers, nobles, an demirs. If I have become great it is because I have won men’s hearts by kindness and gentleness.
—Saladin’s death-bed instructions to his son in 1193. Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 602. Refers to feudalism in the High Middle Ages.

Suppose someone becomes angry with you. You, by contrast, should challenge him to match you in kindness.
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). On Anger. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster.

Let us then try what love can do to heal a broken world.
—William Penn. 1693.

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Death

I was not, I was, I am not, I care not.
—Note on a tombstone from ancient Rome. Quoted in: Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. The Story of Civilization. Page 389

Now I need never fear hunger, need never pay rent, and am at least free from gout.
—Note on a tombstone from ancient Rome. Quoted in: Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. The Story of Civilization. Page 389.

We must ensure that what has been granted for an unspecified period is always available, and when we are summoned, we must hand it back without complaint: it is a very poor kind of debtor who starts lashing out at his creditor.
—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia. Seneca is referring to death, and not being excessively distressed at death.

Our minds need frequent prompting to love things on the understanding that we are sure to lose them, or rather that we are already losing them: you should treat all of fortune’s gifts as coming without a guarantee.
—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

You were born for this, to suffer loss, to perish, to hope and to fear, to upset others and yourself, to dread death and yet also desire it, and, worst of all, never to understand your true condition.
—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

... imagine me coming to give you advice as you were being born: “You are about to enter a city shared by gods and men, one that embraces everything, is bound by fixed, eternal laws, and ensures that the revolving heavenly bodies carry out their duties untiringly. There you will see countless stars twinkling; you will see the universe filled with the light of a single star, the sun on its daily course marking out the periods of day and night, and on its annual course demarcating summers and winters more evenly … But in that same place there will be thousands of afflictions of body and mind, wars, robberies, poisons, shipwrecks, climatic and body disorders, bitter grief for those dearest to you, and eath, which may be easy or may result from punishment and torture. Think it over and weigh up what you want: to reach the one set of experiences you must run the gauntlet of the other. You will reply that you want to live, of course … So live on the terms agreed.
—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia in Hardship and Happiness. Pages 24-26.

It is no problem being a slave if, when you grow tired of being someone else’s property, you can cross over to freedom with a single step. Life, you are dear to me, thanks to death! Think what a blessing a timely death can be, and how many people have been disadvantaged by living too long.
—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

There are dreams that cannot be / And there are storms we cannot weather.
—Les Miserables, the musical.

What is death? Either a transition or an end. I am not afraid of coming to an end, this being the same as never having begun, nor of transition, for I shall never be in confinement quite so cramped anywhere else as I am here.
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LVI. Penguin Classics. Page 124.

No one is so ignorant as not to know that some day he must die. Nevertheless when death draws near he turns, wailing and trembling, looking for a way out. Wouldn’t you think a man an utter fool if he burst into tears because he didn’t live a thousand hears ago?
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LXXVII. Penguin Classics. Page 127.

Has anyone supposed it lucky to be born? I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.
—Walt Whiman. 1855. Discourses on the Condition of the Great. Quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly. IX:3. Summer 2016. Page 147.

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Philosophy

Religion

Human life is subject to constant disruption that cannot be acommodated in purely contractual terms.
—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 178.

The acts that stir our wonder and admiration, and the great tragic gestures put before us by art and literature, remind us that there is another world behind our daily negotiations. It is a world of absolutes, in which the ruling principles are creation and destruction, rather than agreemnt, obligation, and law.
—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 178.

The covenant demands that each person honor his obligations and receive his rights. But no one has a right to forgiveness, and no one, in the scheme of the covenant, is obligated to offer itg. Forgiveness comes, when it comes, as a gift. True, it is a gift that must be earned. But it is earned by penitence, contrition, and atonement—acts that cannot be terms of a contract ...
—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 182.

... faith is not the same thing as religion. It is an attitude to the world, one that refuses to rest content with the contingency of nature.
——Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 192.

Many people who might call themselves agnostics or even atheists live the life of faith, or something like it—in an attitude of openness toward meanings, recognizing the sacramental moments, and giving thanks, after their fashion, for the gift of the world. Yet they adhere to no religion. so what different does religion make? The heart of religion is ritual, and it is a mark of religion that its reituals are meticulous.
——Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 192.

All deities reside in the human breast.
—Blake, William. Proverbs from Hell

Knowledge

I would rather find a single explanation than become the King of Persia.
—Democritus

Question with boldness the existence of a God; Because, if there is one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.
—Thomas Jefferson

And harassed by the body“s overwhelming weight, the soul is in captivity unless philosophy comes to its rescue, bidding it breathe more freely in the contemplation of nature, releasing it from earthly into heavenly surroundings.
—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LVI. Penguin Classics. Page 122.

The gods we stand by are the gods we need and can use, the gods whose demands on us are reinforcements of our demands on ourselves and on one another.
—James, Williams. 1902. The Varieties of Religious Experience

I believe that the practice of compassion and love—a genuine sense of brotherhood and sisterhood—is the universal religion. It does not matter whether you are a Buddhist or Christian, Moslem or Hindu, or whether you practice religion at all. What matters is your feelings of oneness with humankind.
—Fourteenth Dalai Lama. 2002. How to Practice The Way to a Meaningful Life. Page 12.

All religions are born in the mind of a crazy person. It is the job of reasonable people to take those nuggets of lunacy and transform them into something useful for society.
—Me

Man is quite insane. He wouldn’t know how to create a maggot, and he creates gods by the dozen.
—Michel de Montaigne 1533-1592.

Religion, as I have been considering it, does not describe the natural world but the Lebenswelt, the world of subjects, using allegories and myths in order to remind us at the deepest level of who and what we are. And God is the all-knowing subject who welcomes us as we pass into that other domain, beyond the veil of nature. ... The life of prayer rescues us from the Fall, and prepares us for a death that we can meaningfully see as a redemption, since it unites us with the soul of the world.
—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 198.

“How happy are the astrologers!” exclaimed Guicciardini, “who are believed if they tell one truth to a hundred lies, while other people lose all credit if they tell one lie to a hundred truths.”
—Durant, Will. 1953. The Renaissance. The Story of Civilization. Page 528.

Averring his inability to accept either popular Christianity or scholastic theism, [William] James, toward the close of his book, writes: “Does God really exist? How does he exist? What is he? Are so many irrelevant questions. Not God, but life, more life, a larger, richer, more satisfying life is, in the last analysis, the end of religion. The love of life, at any and every level of development, is the religious impulse.
—Epstein, Joseph. September 27-28, 2014. “Human Nature and the Fruits of Faith.” Review of William James 1902 book, Varieties of Religious Experience. The Wall Street Journal. C13

There are no living Christians today. I know this because Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom,” (Matthew 16:27, 28) so if you believe in the Bible, then you believe the world has already ended. It is not only impossible that you are a living Christian today, but it is impossible that you exist.
—Anonymous

What is the difference between Noah’s flood and a school shooter?
—Anonymous

Gods were assimilated with humans, humans with animals and plants, the transcendent with the immanent, and the visible with the invisible. This was not simply self-indulgent make-believe, but part of the endless human endeavor to endow the smallest details of life with meaning. Ritual, it has been said, creates a controlled environment in which, for a while, we lay aside the inescapable flaws of our mundane existence. Yet by so doing we paradoxically become acutely aware of them. After the ceremony, when we return to daily life, we can recall our experience of the way things ought to be. Ritual is therefore the creation of fallible human beings who can never fully realize their ideals.
—Armstrong, Karen. Fields of Blood.

Question from audience:... why do we need a god?
Answer from Armstrong: We probably don’t. Buddhists do fine without one. A god, again, is an example of how inept our theological thinking is. I don’t think we do need a god, but some people find it helpful. God is only a symbol of transcendence. That’s where our theology is weak. … We hear about god for the first time, very often, when we first learn about Santa Claus, and over the years our idea of Santa Claus develops … our religion gets stuck at this rather infantile level. … I think that transcendence is a fact of life, but transcendence … means something we can never describe or know.
—Armstrong, Karen. October 12, 2014. “Karen Armstrong on Religion and the History of Violence.” Intelligence Squared.

Jesus copied Pythagorus. Pythagorus was said to have

  • been the son of the god Apollo
  • his mother was called "virgin"
  • said to have returned from the dead, 3 days after his death
  • said to have appeared two places at once
  • the ability to control waters and the wind
  • preached that you should love your enemies
  • believed that possessions got in the way of truths
  • gathered disciples and lived in a communal lifestyle

—...Mlodinow, Leonard. 2002. Euclid’s Window. Free Press.

It was not merely that the average Greek accepted miracle stories—of Theseus rising from the dead to fight at Marathon, or of Dionysus changing water into wine: such stories appear among every people, and are part of the forgivable poetry with which imagination brightens the common life.
—Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Page 195.

Learning religion is part of human nature. Learning science is a battle against human nature.
—Dominic Johnson, quoted in: The Economist. January 23, 2016. “Religion and psychology: In the hands of an angry God.” Review of book God is Watching You: How the Fear of God Makes Us Human by Dominic Johnson.

The findings at Gobekli Tepe suggest that we have the story backward—that it was actually the need to build a sacred site that first obliged hunter-gatherers to organize themselves as a workforce, to spend long periods of time in one place, to secure a stable food supply, and eventually to invent agriculture.
—Elif Batuman. December 19 & 26, 2011. “The Sanctuary.” The New Yorker magazine.

If I could lay hold on that god who, out of a thousand men whom he has made, saves one and damns all the rest, I would tear and rend him tooth and nail as a traitor, and would spit in his face.
—A 1247 weaver of Toulouse. Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 735.

The power of Christianity lay in its offering to the people faith rather than knowledge, art rather than science, beauty rather than truth. Men preferred it so.
—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 737.

I place my conscience above any scripture. You may argue: there are evil people in the world, and perhaps even they follow their own conscience. If that is the case then scripture may be needed to prevent the evil from following their evil conscience. I don’t know. What I do know is that the only way I could become evil is if I betrayed my conscience and followed the words of apocalyptic prophets who spoke millennia ago.
—Me

If I governed a nation of Jews, I should restore the Temple of Solomon. Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.
—Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, after he signed an agreement making Catholicism the major, but not the only, religion of France.

Some people today argue that religion is primarily a source of violence, conflict, and social discord. Historically, however, religion has played the opposite role: it is a source of social cohesion that permits human beings to cooperate far more widely and securely than they would if they were the simple rational and self-interested agents posited by the economists.
—Fukuyama, Francis. 2011. The Origins of Political Order. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: NY, NY. Page 38.

Actually, to become a professor or a clergy member in Europe even a hundred years following Spinoza’s death, you had to have your denunciation of him ready. That was part of the oral exam, knowing where he’d made his mistakes. And this meant that everyone was reading Spinoza; they had to read him in order to denounce him, so he was radicalizing Europe, and in about a hundred years they were ready for the Enlightenment.
—Rebecca Goldstein’s acceptance speech for the 2011 Humanist of the Year award. Published in The Humanist. November-December, 2011. Pages 12-16.

Civilizations come and go; they conquer the earth and crumble into dust; but faith survives every desolation.
—Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Page 3.

People say, “What’s wrong with moderate religion?” And there are those nice folks who go to church on Sunday simply to take part in their neighborhoods. And here’s the problem with that. Moderate religion is religion where people do a little bit of cherry-picking. They take the best bits of religion and some of the more embarrassing or difficult or barbaric bits they leave to one side. Unkind people would call that hypocrisy. On the other end of the scale, however, are those who take their religion very seriously—extremists we call them. The point about the extremists is that they’re the most honest of the people who have religious views, because they commit themselves to what their tradition tells them. They stay closest to the texts. Now if that’s real religion, if that’s honest religion, the world is better off without it. And if the world is better off without the true or honest form of religion, why not put the hypocrites in with them too.
—A. C. Grayling. November 15, 2011. Intelligence Squared Debates. Motion: The World Would Be Better Off Without Religion.

An opinion poll conducted in 2005 showed that three out of four Americans believe in the existence of paranormal phenomena. Other work has revealed that about one in three of us claim to have experienced the supernatural.
—Richard Wiseman. January/February, 2012. “Wired for Weird.” Scientific American Mind.

EPICURUS's old questions are yet unanswered. Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?
—Hume, David. 1776. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

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Mind

The man who insists on seeing with perfect clearness before he decides, never decides.
—Henri-Frederic Amiel

To understand the most important ideas in psychology, you need to understand how the mind is divided into parts that sometimes conflict.
—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis. 2006. Basic Books.

This finding, that people will readily fabricate reasons to explain their own behavior, is called “confabulation.” Confabulation is so frequent in work with split-brain patients and other people suffering brain damage that Gazzaniga refers to the language centers on the left side of the brain as the interpreter module, whose job is to give a running commentary on whatever the self is doing, even though the interpreter module has no access to the real causes or motives of the self“s behavior.
—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis. 2006. Basic Books.

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Society

“Group selection,” he said, “brings abut virtue, and—this is an oversimplification, but—individual selection, which is competing with it, creates sin. That, in a nutshell, is an explanation of the human condition.”
—Howard W. French quoting E.O. Wilson. “E.O. Wilson’s Theory of Everything.” The Atlantic. November, 2011. Pages 70-82.

The history of philosophy is essentially an account of the efforts great men have made to avert social disintegration by building up natural moral sanctions to take the place of the supernatural sanctions which they themselves have destroyed.
—Durant, Will. 1917. Philosophy and the Social Problem. The Macmillan Company.

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Arts

music

Our musical culture, I suggested, requires us to respond to a subjectivity that lies beyond the world of objects, in a speace of its own. Music addresses us as others address us ... music addresses us from beyond the borders of the natural world.
—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 175.

The life of prayer rescues us from the Fall, and prepares us for a death that we can meaningfully see as a redemption, since it unites us with the soul of the world.
—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 198.