Things I Wish I’d Said About Human Nature

“If there is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A despotism may also be defined as a tired democracy. As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep.” — G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

“Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much.” — Oscar Wilde

“If all our misfortunes were laid in one common heap, whence every one must take an equal portion, most people would be contented to take their own and depart.” ― Solon

“But being paid,–what will compare with it? The urbane activity with which a man receives money is really marvelous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven. Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!” — Herman Melville in Moby-Dick

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” — Socrates

“Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be!” — Miguel de Cervantes

“Errors to be dangerous must have a great deal of truth mingled with them. It is only from this alliance that they can ever obtain an extensive circulation.” — Sydney Smith

“America may be unique in being a country which has leapt from barbarism to decadence without touching civilization.” John O’Hara

“When I was a boy of 14 my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man learned in 7 years.” — Mark Twain

“Do you know what a pessimist is? A person who thinks everybody as nasty as himself, and hates them for it.” George Bernard Shaw

“They used to say that knowledge is power. I used to think so, but I now know that they mean money.” Lord Byron

“It is not worth an intelligent man’s time to be in the majority. By definition, there are already enough people to do that.” G. H. Hardy

“I have every sympathy with the American who was so horrified by what he had read about the effects of smoking that he gave up reading.” Henry G. Strauss

“Is this true or only clever?” Augustine Birrell

“We imply, and often believe, that habitual vices are exceptional single acts, and make the opposite mistake about our virtues — like the bad tennis player who calls his normal form his ‘bad days’ and mistakes his rare successes for his normal.” — C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

“There are two kinds of men who never amount to much: those who cannot do what they are told, and those who can do nothing else.” Cyrus Curtis

“I haven’t been wrong since 1961, when I thought I made a mistake.” Bob Hudson

“A great many people mistake opinions for thoughts.” Herbert V. Prochnow

“The cruelest lies are often told in silence.” Robert Louis Stevenson

“Never explain – your friends don’t need it, and your enemies won’t believe you anyhow.” Elbert Hubbard

“We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone.” Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

“Half of the harm that is done in this world Is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm But the harm does not interest them.” T.S. Eliot

“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.” Hermann Hesse

“The only gracious way to accept an insult is to ignore it; if you can’t ignore it, top it; if you can’t top it, laugh at it; if you can’t laugh at it, it’s probably deserved.” Russell Lynes

“To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts — such is the duty of the artist.” Schumann

“I sometimes think of what future historians will say of us. A single sentence will suffice for modern man: he fornicated and read the papers.” Albert Camus

“There is in every madman a misunderstood genius whose idea, shining in his head, frightened people, and for whom delirium was the only solution to the strangulation that life had prepared for him.” Antonin Artaud, of Van Gogh

“All you need in life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.” Mark Twain

“The degree of one’s emotions varies inversely with one’s knowledge of the facts — the less you know the hotter you get.” Bertrand Russell

“Man is so muddled, so dependent on the things immediately before his eyes, that every day even the most submissive believer can be seen to risk the torments of the afterlife for the smallest pleasure.” Joseph de Maistre

“The best argument is that which seems merely an explanation.” Dale Carnegie

“Everyone is a genius at least once a year; a real genius has his original ideas closer together.” G.C. Lichtenberg

“A person reveals his character by nothing so clearly as the joke he resents.” G.C. Lichtenberg

“Presumptuous man! the reason wouldst thou find,
Why form’d so weak, so little, and so blind?
First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess,
Why form’d no weaker, blinder, and no less?” Alexander Pope

“Arguments have no chance against petrified training; they wear it as little as the waves wear a cliff.” Mark Twain

“If I had the remaking of man, he wouldn’t have any conscience. It is one of the most disagreeable things connected with a person; and although it certainly does a great deal of good, it cannot be said to pay, in the long run; it would be much better to have less good and more comfort. . . when you come to think, there is no real difference between a conscience and an anvil — I mean for comfort.” Mark Twain

“A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. . . A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.” C.S. Lewis

“We spend too much time confessing other people’s sins.” — unknown

“A man with an obsession is a man who has very little sales resistance.” C.S. Lewis

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.” C.S. Lewis

“Men are as the time is.” — Edmund (Shakespeare)

“The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none.” Thomas Carlyle

“There are so many fools in the world for the devil to operate upon, it gives him the advantage oftentimes.” Joseph Smith

“When we are born, we cry that we are come
To this great stage of fools.” — King Lear (Shakespeare)

“For I am haunted night and day
By all the deeds I have not done.
O unattempted loveliness!
O costly valor never won!” Marguerite Wilkinson

“We make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion.” — Edmund (Shakespeare)

“He that is robb’d, not wanting what is stoln,
Let him not know’t, and he’s not robb’d at all.” — Othello (Shakespeare)

“Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Trifles, light as air
Are to the jealous confirmations strong
As proofs of holy writ.” — Iago (Shakespeare)

“I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.” — King Richard (Shakespeare)

“I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung.” Tagore

. . . . . . . .”–but whate’er I be,
Nor I, nor any man that but man is,
With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased
With being nothing.” — King Richard (Shakespeare)

“Whatever praises itself but in the deed, devours the deed in the praise.” — Agamemnon (Shakespeare)

“The fool doth think himself wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” — Touchstone (Shakespeare)

“Do you now know that I am a woman? when I think, I must speak.” — Rosalind (Shakespeare)

“It is not enough to be wicked to prosper.” Victor Hugo

“Our proper bliss depends on what we blame.” Alexander Pope

“People are fickle by nature; and it is simple to convince them of something, but difficult to hold them in that conviction.” Machiavelli

“I thought to myself, ‘I am wiser than this man: neither of us knows anything that is really worthwhile, but he thinks he has knowledge when he has not, while I, having no knowledge, do not think that I have. I seem, at any rate, to be a little wiser than he is on this point: I do not think that I know what I do not know.” — Socrates (Plato’s Apology)

“For to fear death, my friends, is only to think ourselves wise without really being wise, for it is to think that we know what we do not know. For no one knows whether death may not be the greatest good that can happen to man. But men fear it as if they knew quite well that it was the greatest of evils.” Socrates

“Are you not ashamed of caring so much for the making of money and for fame and prestige, when you neither think nor care about wisdom and truth and the improvement of your soul?” Socrates

“Virtue does not come from wealth, but. . . wealth, and every other good thing which men have. . . comes from virtue.” Socrates

“I know I can quit smoking because I’ve done it a thousand times.” Mark Twain

“The first and greatest victory is to conquer yourself; to be conquered by yourself is of all things most shameful and vile.” Plato

“An unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates

“There are many. . . ways of avoiding death in every danger if a man is willing to say and do anything. But, my friends, I think that it is a much harder thing to escape from wickedness than from death, for wickedness is swifter than death. And now I, who am old and slow, have been overtaken by the slower pursuer: and my accusers, who are clever and swift, have been overtaken by the swifter pursuer — wickedness.” Socrates

“Rationalizing is the bringing of ideals down to one’s conduct. Repentance is bringing one’s conduct up to the level of his ideals.” — anonymous

“Human prosperity never rests but always craves more, till blown up with pride it totters and falls. From the opulent mansions pointed at by all passersby none warns it away, none cries, ‘Let no more riches enter!'” Aeschylus

“Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself.” James Allen

“Too few rejoice at a friend’s good fortune.” Aeschylus

“Time, and time alone, will show the just man, Though scoundrels are discovered in a day.” Creon

“One secret act of self-denial, one sacrifice of inclination to do is worth all of the good thought, warm feelings, and passionate prayers in which idle men indulge themselves.” David O. McKay

“The real tragedy is the tragedy of the man who never in his life braces himself for his one supreme effort, who never stretches to his full capacity, never stands up to his full stature.” Arnold Bennett

“Rectitude is a perpetual victory, celebrated not by cries of joy, but by serenity, which is joy fixed or habitual.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

[Don Juan, in Hell, speaking to the devil] “Your friends are all the dullest dogs I know. They are not beautiful: they are only decorated. They are not clean: they are only shaved and starched. They are not dignified: they are only fashionably dressed. They are not educated: they are only college passmen. They are not religious: they are only pewrenters. They are not moral: they are only conventional. They are not virtuous: they are only cowardly. They are not even vicious: they are only “frail.” They are not artistic: they are only lascivious. They are not prosperous: they are only rich. They are not loyal, they are only servile; not dutiful, only sheepish; not public spirited, only patriotic; not courageous, only quarrelsome; not determined, only obstinate; not masterful, only domineering; not self-controlled, only obtuse; not self-respecting, only vain; not kind, only sentimental; not social, only gregarious; not considerate, only polite; not intelligent, only opinionated; not progressive, only factious; not imaginative, only superstitious; not just, only vindictive; not generous, only propitiatory; not disciplined, only cowed; and not truthful at all: liars every one of them, to the very backbone of their souls.” George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

“A great mind is one that is neither ancient nor modern; it is neither ashamed of the old nor afraid of the new. It thinks neither in terms of old traditions nor in terms of new fashions. It is only concerned with the true and the workable.” — N. Eldon Tanner

“Within the university, students and professors scrutinize every possible aspect of our universe — from the billions of galaxies to subatomic particles, electrons, quarks — but they assiduously avoid examining their own lives. In the wider world, we keep hectically busy and fill every free moment of the day with some form of diversion — work, computers, television, movies, radio, magazines, newspapers, sports, alcohol, drugs, parties. Perhaps we distract ourselves because looking at our lives confronts us with our lack of meaning, our unhappiness, and our loneliness — and with the difficulty, the fragility, and the unbelievable brevity of life.” Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr., The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life

The Old Woman [surprised to find herself in Hell]: I tell you, wretch, I know I am not in hell.
Don Juan: How do you know?
The Old Woman: Because I feel no pain
Don Juan: Oh, then there is no mistake: you are intentionally damned.
The Old Woman: Why do you say that?
Don Juan: Because hell, Señora, is a place for the wicked. The wicked are quite comfortable in it: it was made for them. You tell me you feel no pain. I conclude that you are one of those for whom Hell exists. George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

“Egotism is nature’s compensation for mediocrity.” Louis A. Safian

“Humility, after the first shock, is a cheerful virtue.” — C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

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