Study requires solitude, and solitude is a state dangerous to those
who are too much accustomed to sink into themselves.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Rambler #89
Mark! where his carnage and his conquests cease!
He makes a solitude, and calls it -- peace!
George Noel Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824),
_The Bride of Abydos , canto II, st. 20_
Only when one is connected to one's own core is one
connected to others... And, for me, the core, the
inner spring, can best be refound through solitude.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.
To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and
dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion
that was so companionable as solitude.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) in Walden, "Solitude"
Alone, even doing nothing, you do not waste your time. You do,
almost always, in company. No encounter with yourself can be
altogether sterile: Something necessarily emerges, even if only
the hope of some day meeting yourself again.
E. M. Cioran (1911-1995), The New Gods (1969; tr. 1974)
Though the most beautiful creature were waiting for me at the end
of a journey or a walk; though the carpet were of silk, the
curtains of the morning clouds; the chairs and sofa stuffed with
cygnet's down; the food manna, the wine beyond claret, the window
opening on Winander Mere, I should not feel, or rather my
happiness would not be so fine, as my solitude is sublime.
John Keats (1795-1821), in a letter, Oct. 1818, to his
brother and sister-in-law, George and Georgiana Keats
(published in Letters of John Keats,
ed. by Frederick Page, 1954)
We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and
in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand
into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers
desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single
self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit
is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings,
insights, fancies - all these are private and, except through symbols
and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about
experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to
nation, every human group is a society of island universes.
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Thus am I condemned to solitude; the day moves slowly forward, and I
see the dawn with uneasiness, because I consider that night is at a
great distance. I have tried to sleep by a brook, but find its murmurs
ineffectual; so that I am forced to be awake at least twelve hours,
without visits, without cards, without laughter, and without flattery.
I walk because I am disgusted with sitting still, and sit down because
I am weary with walking. I have no motive to action, nor any object of
love, or hate, or fear, or inclination. I cannot dress with spirit, for
I have neither rival nor admirer. I cannot dance without a partner, nor
be kind, or cruel, without a lover.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Rambler #42 (August 11, 1750);
given to the character of "Euphelia"
Lonliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.
(from "Mrs Stevens Hears The Mermaids Singing" in 1993)
To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Solitude is dangerous to reason, without being favourable to
virtue. Remember that the solitary mortal is certainly luxurious,
probably superstitious, and possibly mad.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784),
Hester Thrale Piozzi: Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson
There are days when solitude is a heady wine that intoxicates you with
freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic, and still others when it is a
poison that makes you beat your head against the wall.
Colette (1873-1954), _Earthly Paradise_
Don't be confused by surfaces; in the depths everything becomes law.
What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner
solitude. Walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours--that is what
you must be able to attain.
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)
Solitude, in the sense of being often alone, is essential to any depth
of meditation or of character; and solitude in the presence of natural
beauty or grandeur, is the cradle of thought and aspirations which are
not only good for the individual, but which society could ill do
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
The value of solitude - one of its values - is, of course, that there
is nothing to cushion against attacks from within, just as there is
nothing to help balance at times of particular stress or depression...
sometimes one has simply to endure a period of depression for what it
may hold of illumination if one can live through it, attentive to what
it exposes or demands.
May Sarton, "Journal of a Solitude" (1973)
To be self-sufficent, to be all and all to oneself, to want for
nothing...is assuredly the chief qualification for happiness. Hence
Aristotle's remark-- to be happy means to be self-sufficient-- cannot
be too often repeated... All society necessarily involves, as the
first condition of its existence, mutual accommodation and restraint
upon the part of its members. This means that the larger it is, the
more insipid will be its tone. A man can be *himself* only so long as
he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love
freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.
Constraint will always be present in society, like a companion of whom
there is no riddance; and in proportion to the greatness of a man's
individuality, it will be hard for him to bear the sacrifice which all
intercourse with others demands. Solitude will be welcomed or endured
or avoided, according as a man's value is large or small-- the wretch
feeling, when he is alone, the whole burden of his misery; the great
intellect delighting in its greatness; and everyone, in short, being
just what he is.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), "Our Relation to Ourselves,"
in essay, Counsels and Maxims, 1851.
The essence of life is statistical improbability on a colossal scale.
Richard Dawkins (1941-)
_The Blind Watchmaker_ (1986) ch. 11
I have one share in corporate Earth, and I am nervous about the
E.B. White (1899-1985)
A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need
for illusion is deep.
We improve ourselves by victories over ourself. There must be contests,
and we must win.
Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)
In "The Book of Success," ed. Richard Shea, 1993
There'll be two dates on your tombstone
And all your friends will read 'em
But all that's gonna matter is that little dash between 'em...
You'll find that there's no arbitrarily designated "right" or
"wrong" here...just what works for _you_.
Satan, in an anteroom of Hades, to a very surprised group of
educated-looking people, in a 1970s New Yorker cartoon.
Although men are not laboratory animals, they often behave as though
they are. Sometimes they are put in cages and treated like rats,
manipulated and sacrificed at the will of their masters. . . . But
always, such a caged person hopes or fears that some force greater than
himself, the Great Experimenter or the Great Computer, will change or
end it all.
Eric Berne (1910-1970)
Perhaps the most characteristically human habit of all is that we are
the critters who actively transform the world we live in - and with it,
ourselves. The essence of human nature is that we change human nature,
faster then Nature alone can do it, and in ways that suit our own wants
Skeletons of mice are often to be found in coconuts, for it is
easier to get in, slim and greedy, than to get out, appeased but fat.
Viktor Korchnoi - chess player
There is enough in this world for everyone's need, but not enough
for everyone's greed.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
The avaricious man is like the barren sandy ground of the
desert which sucks in all the rain and dew with greediness,
but yields no fruitful herbs or plants for the benefit of others.
Zeno (B.C. 335?-264)
Coughing in a shady grove
Sat my Juliana,
Lozenges I gave my love,
Full twenty from the lozenge box
The greedy nymph did pick;
Then, sighing sadly, said to me--
My Damon, I am sick.
George Canning (1770-1827)
Gold in the mountain,
And gold in the glen,
And greed in the heart,
Heaven having no part,
And unsatisfied men.
Herman Melville (1819-1891)
What can be so remarkable about reading the Bible or the works of one
of the great Greek philosophers or Shakespeare for that matter is the
sudden recognition that as people, we have barely changed at all over
hundreds, or for that matter, thousands of years. We're still fighting
the same selfish urges. Lust and Greed continue to make everybody's Top
Ten as they have since the beginning of recorded history. And the fact
that we can fly into space or communicate instantly with one another
over vast distances -- even the fact that we can extend our lives by
decades -- none of that has really changed who we are. It is in fact
the one prediction we can confidently make about the future, be it 100
or another 1,000 years from now: The standards by which we measure a
person's goodness or evil will be the same as they are today. [No
matter how fantastic we might imagine that future to be] or how we
travel the highways of the universe, the essential ingredients of a
moral man or woman will be unchanged.
Ted Koppel's epilogue to his Nightline Millenium special:
"The Future That Never Was" - Dec. 30, 1999
APHORISM, n. Predigested wisdom.
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) "The Devil's Dictionary"
A good aphorism is too hard for the tooth of time, and
is not worn away by all the centuries, although it serves
as food for every epoch.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900)
_Miscellaneous Maxims and Opinions_ (1879) no. 168
The aphorism is a personal observation inflated into a
universal truth, a private posing as a general. A proverb
is anonymous human history compressed to the size of a seed.
``Proverbs or Aphorisms,'' _Time_ magazine, July 11, 1983,
p. 74, quoted in Wolfgang Meider, _Proverbs Are Never Out
of Season_, Oxford University Press, 1993, p 35
The flabby wine-skin of his brain
Yields to some pathologic strain,
And voids from its unstored abysm
The driblet of an aphorism.
"The Mad Philosopher," 1697 - found in
"The Devil's Dictionary" by Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?)
Aphorisms are essentially an aristocratic genre of writing. The
aphorist does not argue or explain, he asserts; and implicit in his
assertion is a conviction that he is wiser or more intelligent than his
readers. For this reason the aphorist who adopts a folksy style with
"democratic" diction and grammar is a cowardly and insufferable hypocrite.
W. H. Auden and Louis Kronenberger
excerpt from the Forward to their book
"The Viking Book of Aphorisms - A Personal Selection"
Barnes & Noble Books, 1993, p [vii]
by arrangement with The Viking Press
Perhaps the excellence of aphorisms consists not so much in the
expression of some rare or abstruse sentiment, as in the comprehension
of some useful truth in few words. We frequently fall into error and
folly, not because the true principles are not known, but because, for a
time, they are not remembered; and he may therefore be justly numbered
among the benefactors of mankind, who contracts the great rules of life
into short sentences, that may be easily impressed on the memory, and
taught by frequent recollection to recur habitually to the mind.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Rambler #175
When the state is most corrupt, then the laws are most multiplied.
Tacitus (55-118 AD)
But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.
George Orwell (1903-1950)
_Politics and the English Language_
Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat.
John Lehman, Secretary of the Navy, 1981-1987
Power does not corrupt man; fools, however, if they get into a
position of power, corrupt power.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Association with corrupt people is a pain,
the cure of which is separating yourself from them.
Abu Ali Katib (fl. c. 940)
Any institution which does not suppose the people good, and the
magistrate corruptible, is evil.
Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794)
Declaration of the Rights of Man, 24 April 1792.
Power not only corrupts he who wields the power but those who submit
to it. Those who grovel at the feet of power betray their fellows to
hide themselves behind the cloak of submission. It is an evil thing.
Louis L'Amour (1908-1988), _The Haunted Mesa_
They who worship gold in a world so corrupt as this, have at least one
thing to plead in defence of their idolatry--the power of their idol.
This idol can boast of two peculiarities; it is worshipped in all
climates, without a single temple, and by all classes, without a single
Caleb Colton (1780-1832)
I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike
other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If
there is any presumption it is the other way, against the holders of
power, increasing as the power increases... Historic responsibility
has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to
corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost
always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority,
still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of
corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office
sanctifies the holder of it.
Lord Acton (John Emerich Edward Dalberg, 1st Baron Acton,
1834-1902, English historian),
Letter to Mandell (later, Bishop) Creighton, April 3, 1887,
in Louise Creighton, _Life and Letters of Mandell Creighton_,
vol. 1, ch. 13 (1904), and in Lord Acton,
_Historical Essays and Studies_ (1907)
Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits.
Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Memory and habit are the harbingers of death.
Powerful indeed is the empire of habit.
Publilius Syrus (c. 42 BC), Maxim 305
Curious things, habits. People themselves never knew they had them.
"Witness for the prosecution."
An unfortunate thing about this world is that the good habits are much
easier to give up than the bad ones."
W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
Every year, one villainous habit rooted out in time ought to make the
most corrupt man good.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but
coaxed downstairs a step at a time.
Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Small habits well pursued betimes
May reach the dignity of crimes.
Hannah More (Florio Part I)
Every habit and faculty is preserved and increased by correspondent
actions,--as the habit of walking, by walking; of running, by running.
Epictetus (c. 50-120)
...it is a filthy, dirty habit that ruins my wind and may eventually
kill me off with lung cancer, but I just happen to _like_ filthy dirty
Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988)
"If This Goes On--" ASF c.1940
The truth is, that there is very little hypocrisy in the world; we do
not so often endeavour or wish to impose on others as on ourselves; we
resolve to do right, we hope to keep our resolutions, we declare them to
confirm our own hope, and fix our own inconstancy by calling witnesses
of our actions; but at last habit prevails, and those whom we invited to
our triumph laugh at our defeat.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784): Idler #27
Men's natures are alike; it is their habits that carry them far apart.
Confucius (B.C. 551-479)
_Analects_ (tr. James Legge)
A large part of virtue consists in good habits.
Habit, if not resisted, soon becomes necessity.
St. Augustine (354-430)
If an idiot were to tell you the same story every day for a
year, you would end by believing him.
Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
Sow an act, and you reap a habit; sow a habit, and you reap a
character; sow a character, and you reap a destiny.
George Dana Boardman
Long customs are not easily broken; he that attempts to change
the course of his own life very often labors in vain.
The regularity of a habit is generally in proportion to its
Marcel Proust (1871-1922), in Remembrance of Things Past
My attempts to eliminate some of my bad habits are meeting with
The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Sow an act and you reap a habit.
Sow a habit and you reap a character.
Sow a character and you reap a destiny.
Charles Reade, attributed,
Notes and Queries (9th Series) vol 12, 17 October 1903, p.309,
Reference: "Oxford Dictionary of Quotations",
4th revised edition, 1996
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little
statesman and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul
has simply nothing to do ... Speak what you think in hard words and
tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it
contradict everything you said today.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) - _Self Reliance_ (1841)
It seldom happens that a man changes his life through his habitual
reasoning. No matter how fully he may sense the new plans and aims
revealed to him by reason, he continues to plod along in old paths
until his life becomes frustrating and unbearable - he finally makes
the change only when his usual life can no longer be tolerated.
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)