The most futile thing in this world is any attempt, perhaps, at exact definition of character. All individuals are a bundle of contradictions — none more so than the most capable.
Theodore Herman Albert Dreiser, “The Financier” (1912), Ch. XIII
Was die Erfahrung aber und die Geschichte lehren, ist dieses, dass Völker und Regierungen niemals etwas aus der Geschichte gelernt und nach Lehren, die aus derselben zu ziehen gewesen wären, gehandelt haben.
What experience and history teach is this — that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, “Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte” (1837)
#John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir
How if Space is really full of things we cannot see and as yet do not know? How if all animals and some savages have a cell in their brain or a nerve which responds to the invisible world? How if all Space be full of these landmarks, not material in our sense, but quite real? A dog barks at nothing, a wild beast makes an aimless circuit. Why? Perhaps because Space is made up of corridors and alleys, ways to travel and things to shun? For all we know, to a greater intelligence than ours the top of Mont Blanc may be as crowded as Piccadilly Circus.
John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, “The Moon Endureth” (1912), Space
Rien ne se crée, ni dans les opérations de l’art, ni dans celles de la nature, et l’on peut poser en principe que, dans toute opération, il y a une égale quantité de matière avant et après l’opération ; que la qualité et la quantité des principes est la même, et qu’il n’y a que des changements, des modifications.
Nothing is created, neither in the operations of art, nor in those of nature, and it can be assumed that in any transaction, there is an equal amount of material before and after the operation, as the quality and quantity of the principles are the same, and there are only changes, modifications.
Antoine Laurent de Lavoisier , “Traité élémentaire de chimie”, (1864), p. 101
#Pliny the Elder
aut quid non miraculo est, cum primum in notitiam venit? quam multa fieri non posse prius quam sunt facta iudicantur?
Indeed, what is there that does not appear marvelous when it comes to our knowledge for the first time? How many things, too, are looked upon as quite impossible until they have actually been effected?
Gaius Plinius Secundus “Plinius Maior || Pliny the Elder”, “Naturalis Historia” (77-78), Liber VII, VI
It’s so easy to say, “That’ll do.” Everyone’s in a hurry. People are intellectually lazy, morally lazy, ethically lazy… When people get angry with a traffic warden they don’t stop and think what it would be like to be a traffic warden or how annoying it would be if people could park wherever they liked. People talk lazily about how hypocritical politicians are. But everyone is. On the one hand we hate that petrol is expensive and on the other we go on about global warming. We abrogate the responsibility for thought and moral decisions onto others and then have the luxury of saying it’s not good enough.
Stephen John Fry, From Fry’s interview with The Daily Telegraph promoting his book The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within
Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running and robbing the country. That’s our problem.
Howard Zinn, “Failure to Quit: Reflections of an Optimistic Historian” (1993), p. 45
#Jorge Luis Borges
Somos nuestra memoria, somos ese quimérico museo de formas inconstantes, ese montón de espejos rotos.
We are our memories, we are that chimerical museum of ways, that heap of broken mirrors.
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges, “Poema Cambridge del libro Elogio de la sombra” (1969)
Pericles was the people’s friend. He was so fond of the people that he paid them to go to the Assembly and vote, and they were so fond of him that they elected him year after year.
William Jacob Cuppy, “The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody” (1950), Part II: Ancient Greeks and Worse, Pericles
#William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley, “Invictus” (1888)