Strong Memes

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No one behind, no one ahead.
The path the ancients cleared has closed.
And the other path, everyone's path,
Easy and wide, goes nowhere.
I am alone and find my way.

—ancient Sanskrit verse adapted by Octavio Paz


The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, or a hell of heaven.

—Milton, Paradise Lost


Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.

—John Stuart Mill, Autobiography


It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.

—Theodore Roosevelt, from an address called "Citizenship in a Republic" given at the Sorbonne, April 23, 1910.


Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things.

—Donald Knuth on email


The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery—even if mixed with fear—that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms—it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man. I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.

—Albert Einstein, "The World As I See It"


Yes, we have a soul. But it's made of lots of tiny robots.

—Giulio Giorelli


There are far too many smart, educated, talented people operating at quarter speed, unsure of their place in the world, contributing far too little to the productive engine of modern civilization. There are far too many people who look like they have their act together but have yet to make an impact. You know who you are.

—Po Bronson, What Should I Do With My Life?


And finally the moment came when I pushed aside what I had done and started to begin again with the announcement that Jupiter himself had never existed; that man was alone in a world in which no voices were heard than his own, a world neither friendly nor unfriendly save he made it so...

How terrifying and glorious the role of man if, indeed, without guidance and without consolation he must create from his own vitals the meaning for his existence and write the rules whereby he lives...

—Julius Caesar, in Thornton Wilder's novel The Ides of March


The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.

—Bertrand Russell


Television is for the weak. A warrior's mind must be strong.

Time is an abstract concept created by carbon-based life forms to monitor their ongoing decay.

—Thundercleese, robot/warrior/sage


I will act AS IF what I do makes a difference.

—William James


When we analyze will we shall find ourselves pushed back to the level of attention as the seat of will. The effort which goes into the exercise of the will is really effort of attention; the strain in willing is the effort to keep the consciousness clear, i.e., the strain of keeping the attention focused.

—Rollo May


You cannot find yourself, only create yourself.

—Anne B. Sekel


Mental health is the process of trading one set of problems for a more interesting set of problems.

—Nathaniel Brandon


There are 10 types of people: those who read binary, and those who don't.


In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.

—Albert Camus


Integrity has no need of rules.

—Albert Camus


Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elemental truth—the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the Providence moves, too.

—Goethe


Research is the process of going up alleys to see if they are blind.

—Marston Bates


On those remote pages it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's hair brush, (l) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance.

—Jorge Luis Borges, "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins"


There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

—William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, Scene V


Favorites from The Simpsons:

Sideshow Bob: Oh, come now. You wanted to be Krusty's sidekick since you were five. What about the buffoon lessons? The four years at clown college?
Cecil: I'll thank you not to refer to Princeton that way.

Joblessness: it's no longer just for philosophy majors. Useful people are starting to feel the pinch.

—Kent Brockman

You little SOB! Why, when I find out who you are, I'm going to shove a sausage down your throat and stick starving dogs up your butt!

—Moe Szyslak

Gentlemen, it's time we face up to the un-face-up-to-able.

—Mayor "Diamond" Joe Quimby

I can't promise that I'll do it, and I can't even promise that I'll try. But I'll try to try.

—Bart Simpson


All man's miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.

—Blaise Pascal


The way that can be spoken of
Is not the constant way;
The name that can be named
Is not the constant name.
The nameless was the beginning of heaven and earth;
The named was the mother of the myriad creatures.
Hence always rid yourself of desires to observe its secrets;
But always allow yourself to have desires in order to observe its manifestations.
These two are the same
But diverge in name as they issue forth.
Being the same they are called mysteries,
Mystery upon mystery—
The gateway of the manifold secrets.

—Lao Tse


A physical system is defined in terms of a number of degrees of freedom which are represented as variables in the equations of motion. Once the initial conditions are specified for a given time, the equations of motion give a deterministic procedure for finding the state of the systems at any other time. Since there is no room for alternatives in this description, there is apparently no room for hereditary processes... The only useful description of memory or heredity in a physical system requires introducing the possibility of alternative pathways or trajectories for the system, along with a 'genetic' mechanism for causing the system to follow one or another of these possible alternatives depending on the state of the genetic mechanism. This implies that the genetic mechanism must be capable of describing or representing all of the alternative pathways even though only one pathway is actually followed in time. In other words, there must be more degrees of freedom available for the description of the total system than for following its actual motion... Such constraints are called non-holonomic.

—Howard Pattee, 1969


An ancient Chinese story tells of a farmer in a poor country village. He was considered well-to-do because he owned a horse that he used for plowing and transportation. One day his horse ran away. All his neighbors exclaimed how terrible this was, but the farmer simply replied, "Maybe."

A few days later the horse returned and brought two wild horses with it. The neighbors rejoiced at his good fortune, but the farmer simply replied, "Maybe."

The next day the farmer's son tried to ride one of the wild horses, but the horse threw him and broke the son's leg. The neighbors all offered sympathy at the farmer's misfortune, but the farmer simply replied, "Maybe."

The next week, the conscription officers came to the village to take young men for the army. They rejected the farmer's son because of his broken leg. When the neighbors told him how lucky he was, the farmer replied, "Maybe."




Auf einmal kreischt ein Neid durch die Volière;
sie aber haben sich erstaunt gestreckt
und schreiten einzeln ins Imaginäre.

Immediately shrieks of jealousy go through the aviary;
but already, astonished, they have stretched themselves
and stride off one by one into the imaginary.

—Rainer Marie Rilke, "Die Flamingos" ("The Flamingos")


"How? Is there a special way to avoid pain?"

"Yes, there is a way."

"Is it a formula, a procedure, or what?"

"It is a way of grabbing onto things. For instance, when I was learning about the devil's weed I was too eager. I grabbed onto things the way kids grab onto candy. The devil's weed is only one of a million paths. Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question. This question is one that only a very old man asks. My benefactor told me about it once when I was young, and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it. Now I do understand it. I will tell you what it is: Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long, long paths, but I am not anywhere. My benefactor's question has meaning now. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn't. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.

—don Juan de Matus, as quoted by Carlos Castaneda in The Teachings of Don Juan


"But how do you know when a path has no heart, don Juan?"

"Before you embark on it you ask the question: Does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path."

"But how will I know whether a path has a heart or not?"

"Anybody would know that. The trouble is nobody asks the question; when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him. At that point very few men can stop to deliberate, and leave the path."

—don Juan de Matus, as quoted by Carlos Castaneda in The Teachings of Don Juan


For me there is only the traveling on the paths that have a heart, on any path that may have a heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge for me is to traverse its full length. And there I travel—looking, looking, breathlessly.

—don Juan de Matus, as quoted by Carlos Castaneda in The Teachings of Don Juan


There is no exercise of the intellect which is not, in the final analysis, useless. A philosophical doctrine begins as a plausible description of the universe; with the passage of years it becomes a mere chapter—if not a paragraph or a name—in the history of philosophy.

Thinking, analyzing, inventing are not anomalous acts; they are the normal respiration of the intelligence.

Every man should be capable of all ideas.

—Jorge Luis Borges, "Pierre Menard"


...the irrecoverable colors of the sky...

On one of the nights of Islam called the Night of Nights, the secret doors of heaven open wide and the water in the jars becomes sweeter.

...its algebra and its fire...

...transparent tigers and towers of blood...

...upward behind the onstreaming it mooned...

The metaphysicians of Tlön do not seek for the truth or even for verisimilitude, but rather for the astounding. They judge that metaphysics is a branch of fantastic literature.

...that there is only one subject, that this indivisible subject is every being in the universe and that these beings are the organs and masks of divinity.

—Jorge Luis Borges


The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

—Wendell Berry


The way through the world is more difficult to find than the way beyond it.

—Wallace Stevens


By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.

—Confucius


The end comes when we no longer talk with ourselves. It is the end of genuine thinking and the beginning of the final loneliness.

The remarkable thing is that the cessation of the inner dialogue marks also the end of our concern with the world around us. It is as if we noted the world and think about it only when we have to report it to ourselves.

—Eric Hoffer


A doctrine insulates the devout not only against the realities around them but also against their own selves. The fanatical believer is not conscious of his envy, malice, pettiness and dishonesty. There is a wall of words between his consciousness and his real self.

—Eric Hoffer


This craving to be otherwise, to be elsewhere, permeates the body, feelings, perceptions, will—consciousness itself. It is like the background radiation from the big bang of birth, the aftershock of having erupted into existence.

—Stephen Bachelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs


Since death is certain, and the time of death uncertain, what should I do?

—Stephen Bachelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs


Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.

—Rainer Marie Rilke


Oh, I would now so lay out the pieces in my game that all was centered in her and led to fulfillment.

—Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf


Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.

—Jean Paul Sartre


What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver, "The Summer Day"


Mariposa

Like a butterfly alighting in my palm
Too delicate to grasp
Too lovely to lose

—some guy


For my part, the whole building reverberated everywhere with the sound of dancing, and the whole intoxicated crowd of masks became by degrees wild dream of paradise. Flower upon flower wooed me with its scent. I toyed with fruit after fruit. Serpents looked at me from green and leafy shadows with mesmeric eyes. Lotus blossoms luxuriated over black bogs. Enchanted birds sang allurement from the trees.

—Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf


Before all else I learned that these playthings [such as ladies' purses] were not mere idle trifles invented by manufacturers and dealers for the purposes of gain. They were, on the contrary, a little or, rather, a big world, authoritative and beautiful, many sided, containing a multiplicity of things all of which had the one and only aim of serving love, refining the senses, giving life to the dead world around us, endowing it in a magical way with new instruments of love, from powder and scent to the dancing show, from ring to cigarette-case, from waist-buckle to handbag. This bag was no bag, this purse no purse, flowers no flowers, the fan no fan. All were the plastic material of love, of magic and delight. Each was a messenger, a smuggler, a weapon, a battle cry.

—Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf


Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going—
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.

—a fourteenth-century Japanese Zen monk


Every man in the world is better than someone else. And not as good as someone else.

—William Saroyan


The world is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.

—J.B.S. Haldane


Now for my conclusion, which you will find, I think, to become more and more startling to the imagination the longer you think about it. I draw the conclusion that, assuming no important wars and no important increase in population, the economic problem may be solved, or be at least within sight of solution, within a hundred years. This means that the economic problem is not—if we look into the future—the permanent problem of the human race.

Thus for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem—how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.

The strenuous purposeful money-makers may carry all of us along with them into the lap of economic abundance. But it will be those peoples, who can keep alive, and cultivate into a fuller perfection, the art of life itself and do not sell themselves for the means of life, who will be able to enjoy the abundance when it comes.

—John Maynard Keynes, "Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren" (1930)


There is, in fact, no way back either to the wolf or to the child. From the very start there is no innocence and no singleness. Every created thing, even the simplest, is already guilty, already multiple. It has been thrown into the muddy stream of being and may never more swim back again to its source. The way to innocence, to the uncreated and to God leads on, not back, not back to the wolf or to the child, but ever further into sin, ever deeper into human life.

—Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf


It is not in the nature of man—nor of any living entity—to start out by giving up, by spitting in one's own face and damning existence; that requires a process of corruption whose rapidity differs from man to man. Some give up at the first touch of pressure; some sell out; some run down by imperceptible degrees and lose their fire, never knowing when or how they lost it. Then all of these vanish into the vast swamp of their elders who tell them persistently that maturity consists of abandoning one's mind; security, of abandoning one's values; practicality, of losing self-esteem.

—Ayn Rand, from the introduction to The Fountainhead


As an archer aims his arrow, the wise aim their restless thoughts, hard to aim, hard to restrain.

The Dhammapada, §3

Your worst enemy cannot harm you
like your own thoughts unmastered.
But once mastered, you have no greater friend,
not your father or your mother.

The Dhammapada

Your work is discover your work
and then to give yourself to it
with all your heart.

The Dhammapada


[Man] is nothing else than the narrow and perilous bridge between nature and spirit. His innermost destiny drives him on to the spirit and to God. His innermost longing draws him back to nature, the mother. Between the two forces his life hangs tremulous and irresolute.

—Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf


He and She

As the moon sidles up
Must she sidle up,
As trips the scared moon
Away must she trip:
'His light had struck me blind
Dared I stop.'
She sings as the moon sings:
'I am I, am I;
The greater grows my light
The further that I fly.'
All creation shivers
With that sweet cry.

—William Butler Yeats


I am exposed ... cut by bitter and poisoned hail,
Steeped amid honeyed morphine ... my windpipe squeezed in the fakes of death,
Let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,
And that we call Being.

—Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, "Song of Myself"


My voice goes out after what my eyes cannot reach,
With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of worlds.

Speech is the twin of my vision ... it is unequal to measure itself.

It provokes me forever,
It says sarcastically, Walt, you understand enough ... why don't you let it out then?

Come now I will not be tantalized ... you conceive too much of articulation.

—Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, "Song of Myself"


Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun ... there are millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand ... nor look through the eyes of the dead ... nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.

—Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, "Song of Myself"


...Our existence is a product of self-interpretation in the space of all possible worlds...

—Hans Moravec, Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind


We are what our deep, driving desire is. As our deep, driving desire is, so is our will. As our will is, so is our deed. As our deed is, so is our destiny.

—The Upanishads, Brihadaranyaka IV.4.5


The reverence that philosophers show for the historical sources of ideas is very perverse. ...Surely it is more interesting to argue about what the truth is, than about what some particular thinker, however great, did or did not think.

—David Deutsch, The Fabric of Reality


In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

—Yogi Berra


Wife

Of all the women
Of all the world
Delicate in their various encasings of body and mind
This one bent asleep before me on the bed
Is the one through whom
All must be loved
As I have promised.

—Norman Fischer


In this personal existence of ours, bounded as it is at both ends by suffering and uncertainty and constantly attended by the possibility of illness and accident and tragedy, total security is likewise a myth. Here, too, an anxious perfectionism can operate to destroy those real underpinnings of existence founded in faith, modesty, humor, and a sense of relativity on which alone a tolerable human existence can be built. The first criterion of a healthy spirit is the ability to walk cheerfully and sensibly amid the congenital uncertainties of existence, to recognize as natural the inevitable precariousness of the human condition, to accept this without being disoriented by it, and to live effectively and usefully in its shadow.

—George F. Kennan, The Illusion of Security


Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream;
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.

The Diamond Sutra, §32


We are in the beginning of the greatest change that humanity has ever undergone. There is no shock, no epoch-making incident, but then there is no shock at a cloudy daybreak. At no point can we say, here it commences, now, last minute was night and this is morning. But insensibly we are in the day. What we can see and imagine gives us a measure and gives us faith for what surpasses the imagination.

—H. G. Wells, "The Discovery of the Future", lecture delivered at the Royal Institution in London, 1902, as quoted by Freeman Dyson in Infinite in All Directions


We look back through countless millions of years and see the great will to live struggling out of the intertidal slime, struggling from shape to shape and from power to power, crawling and then walking confidently upon the land, struggling generation after generation to master the air, creeping down into the darkness of the deep; we see it turn upon itself in rage and hunger and reshape itself anew, we watch it draw nearer and more akin to us, expanding, elaborating itself, pursuing its relentless inconceivable purpose, until at least it reaches us and its being beats through our brains and arteries, throbs and thunders in our battleships, roars through our cities, sings in our music and flowers in our art. And when, from that retrospect, we turn again towards the future, surely any thought of finality, any millennial settlement of cultured persons, has vanished from our minds. The fact that man is not final is the great unmanageable disturbing fact that rises upon us in the scientific discovery of the future, and to my mind at any rate the question what is to come after man is the most persistently fascinating and the most insoluble question in the whole world. Of course we have no answer. Such imaginations as we have refuse to rise to the task.

—H. G. Wells, "The Discovery of the Future", lecture delivered at the Royal Institution in London, 1902, as quoted by Freeman Dyson in Infinite in All Directions


A more accurate way of thinking about [this] is to think of all our knowledge-generating processes, our whole culture and civilization, and all the thought processes in the minds of every individual, and indeed the entire evolving biosphere as well, as being a gigantic computation. The whole thing is executing a self-motivated, self-generating computer program. More specifically it is, as I have mentioned, a virtual-reality program in the process of rendering, with ever-increasing accuracy, the whole of existence.

—David Deutsch, The Fabric of Reality


It is a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best you very often get it.

—W. Somerset Maugham


Happiness is not the reward of virtue, but virtue itself; nor do we delight in happiness because we restrain our lusts; but, on the contrary, because we delight in it, therefore are we able to restrain them.

—Spinoza, Ethics


We are never living, but only hoping to live; and, looking forward always to being happy, it is inevitable that we are never so.

—Blaise Pascal


Men are disturbed, not by things that happen, but by their opinion of things that happen.

—Epictetus


Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

—Abraham Lincoln

November 21, 1864
Mrs. Bixby—

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

—A. Lincoln


The education of the will is the object of our existence.

He has not learned the lesson of life, who does not every day surmount a fear.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Society and Solitude, Chapter 7, "Courage"


The measure of mental health is the disposition to find good everywhere.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson


If I never meet you in this life, let me feel the lack. A glance from your eyes and my life will be yours.

—Terrence Malick, The Thin Red Line (screenplay)


From Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self-Reliance, a solid gold hit parade:

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, —that is genius.

Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. [!!]

If I am the Devil's child, I will live then from the Devil.

It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is that it scatters your force.

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word because the eyes of others have no data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loth to disappoint them. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.

Be it how it will, do right now. [emphasis added]

The force of character is cumulative.

A true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre of things.

In that deep force [Spontaneity], the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin.

If therefore a man claims to know and speak of God and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old mouldered nation in another country, in another world, believe him not.

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say 'I think,' 'I am,' but quotes some saint or sage.

It is as easy for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak.

And now at last the highest truth on this subject remains unsaid; probably cannot be said; for all that we say is the far-off remembering of the intuition. That thought by what I can now nearest approach to say it, is this. When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the footprints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name; —the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new.

I will have no covenants but proximities.

I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me and the heart appoints.

If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened and in complaining the rest of his life...

...A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always like a cat falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days and feels no shame in not 'studying a profession,' for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances.

With the exercise of self-trust, new powers shall appear.

As men's prayers are a disease of the will, so are their creeds a disease of the intellect.

Insist on yourself; never imitate.

He who knows that power is inborn, that he is weak because he has looked for good out of him and elsewhere, and, so perceiving, throws himself unhesitatingly on his thought, instantly rights himself, stands in the erect position, commands his limbs, works miracles.

Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.


In this light all the weirdly abstract and pompous pursuits of men are suddenly transformed into natural marvels of the same order as the immense beaks of the toucans and hornbills, the fabulous tails of the birds of paradise, the towering necks of the giraffes, and the vividly polychromed posteriors of the baboons. Seen thus, neither as something to be condemned nor in its accustomed aspect of serious worth, the self-importance of man dissolves in laughter. His insistent purposefulness and his extraordinary preoccupation with abstractions are, while perfectly natural, overdone—like the vast bodies of the dinosaurs.

—Alan Watts, Nature, Man and Woman


[Zen] is primarily a way of liberation for those who have mastered the disciplines of social convention, of the conditioning of the individual by the group. Zen is a medicine for the ill effects of this conditioning, for the mental paralysis and anxiety which come from excessive self-consciousness.

—Alan Watts, The Way of Zen


As to all those images of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and Devas and other beings that one comes across in Zen temples, they are like so many pieces of wood or stone or metal; they are like the camellias, azaleas, or stone lanterns in my garden. Make obeisance to the camellia now in full bloom, and worship it if you like, Zen would say. There is as much religion in so doing as in bowing to the various Buddhist gods, or as sprinkling holy water, or as participating in the Lord's Supper. All these pious deeds considered to be meritorious or sanctifying by most so-called religiously minded people are artificialities in the eyes of Zen.

—D. T. Suzuki, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism


If you're going through hell, keep going.

—Winston Churchill


Good timber does not grow with ease; the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.

—J. Willard Marriott


What was any art but an effort to make a sheath, a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining, elusive element which is life itself—life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose?

—Willa Cather


To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch... to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!

—commonly but inaccurately attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson


Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers 'Grow, grow'.

Midrash Rabba, Bereshit 10:6 (Talmudic commentary on Genesis)


I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the live which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him, or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will be not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

—Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined.

—the "motivational quotes" bastardization of Thoreau


I can't really remember the days. The light of the sun blurred and annihilated all color. But the nights, I remember them. The blue was more distant than the sky, beyond all depths, covering the bounds of the world. The sky, for me, was the stretch of pure brilliance crossing the blue, that cold coalescence beyond all color. Sometimes, it was in Vinh Long, when my mother was sad she'd order the gig and we'd drive out into the country to see the night as it was in the dry season. I had that good fortune—those nights, that mother. The light fell from the sky in cataracts of pure transparency, in torrents of silence and immobility. The air was blue, you could hold it in your hand. Blue. The sky was the continual throbbing of the brilliance of the light. The night lit up everything, all the country on either bank of the river as far as the eye could reach. Every night was different, each one had a name as long as it lasted. Their sound was that of the dogs, the country dogs baying at mystery. They answered one another from village to village, until the time and space of the night were utterly consumed.

—Marguerite Duras, The Lover


An expert is someone who knows more and more about less and less, until he knows absolutely everything about absolutely nothing.

—Unknown


People don't change when they see light. They change when they feel the heat.

—Unknown


For after all, philosophy—that is, the best wisdom that has ever in any way been revealed to our man-of-war world—is but a slough and a mire, with a few tufts of good footing here and there.

—Herman Melville, White-Jacket


I have friends on both sides of the issue, and I like to stand with my friends.

—James E. Watson


Ever tried. Ever failed.
No matter. Try again.
Fail again. Fail better.

—Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho


Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.

—Neils Bohr