Quotations

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“Wealth is like sea-water; the more we drink, the thirstier we become; and the same is true of fame.” — Arthur Schopenhauer

(Thanks, Macari.)

Faded Glory

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“It is a curious thing that every creed promises a paradise which will be absolutely uninhabitable for anyone of civilized taste.” — Evelyn Waugh

“I have read descriptions of Paradise that would make any sensible person stop wanting to go there.” — Montesquieu

“In heaven, all the interesting people are missing.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

“Of the delights of this world man cares most for sexual intercourse, yet he has left it out of his heaven.” — Mark Twain

“I should have no use for a paradise in which I should be deprived of the right to prefer hell.” — Jean Rostand

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“Congress is so strange. A man gets up to speak and says nothing. Nobody listens — and then everybody disagrees.” — Russian actor Boris Marshalov, after visiting the House of Representatives

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la rochefoucauld

More maxims of François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680):

  • “We always love those who admire us; but we don’t always love those whom we admire.”
  • “There are people who would never have been in love, if they had never heard talk of Love.”
  • “The Generality of People judge of Men by their Reputation, or Fortune.”
  • “Men would not live long in Society, if they were not the mutual Dupes of one another.”
  • “Titles, instead of exalting, debase those who don’t act up to them.”
  • “Prosperity is a stronger Trial of Virtue than Adversity.”
  • “Weak People can’t be sincere.”
  • “‘Tis more difficult to be faithful to a Mistress when on good Terms with her, than when on bad.”
  • “‘Tis not so dangerous to do Ill to most Men as to do them too much Good.”
  • “A Man often imagines he acts, when he is acted upon; and while his Mind aims at one thing, his Heart insensibly gravitates towards another.”
  • “When great Men suffer themselves to be subdued by the Length of their Misfortunes, they discover that the Strength of their Ambition, not of their Understanding, was what supported them; and that, bating a little Vanity, Heroes are just like other Men.”
  • “Cunning and Treachery proceed from Want of Capacity.”
  • “If we took as much Pains to be what we ought, as we do to deceive others by disguising what we are; we might appear as we are, without being at the Trouble of any Disguise.”

And “‘Tis a Mistake to imagine that only the violent Passions, such as Ambition and Love, can triumph over the rest. Laziness, languid as it is, often masters them all; she indeed influences all our Designs and Actions, and insensibly consumes and destroys both the Passions and the Virtues.”

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“Happiness is lost by criticizing it; sorrow by accepting it.” — Ambrose Bierce

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“There are very few things which we know, which are not capable of being reduc’d to a Mathematical Reasoning; and when they cannot it’s a sign our knowledge of them is very small and confus’d; and when a Mathematical Reasoning can be had it’s as great a folly to make use of any other, as to grope for a thing in the dark, when you have a Candle standing by you.” — John Arbuthnot, Of the Laws of Chance, 1692

The Moralist

la rochefoucauld

More maxims of La Rochefoucauld:

  • “We should often be ashamed of our best Actions, if the world saw all their Motives.”
  • “If we had no Faults ourselves, we should not take such Pleasure in observing those of others.”
  • “The Reason we are so angry with such as trick us is, because they think they have more Wit than we.”
  • “There are Heroes in Ill, as well as in Good.”
  • “There are People who are disagreeable with great Merit; and others who with great Faults are agreeable.”
  • “We easily forget Crimes that are known to none but ourselves.”
  • “To judge of Love by most of its Effects, one would think it more like Hatred than Kindness.”
  • “Our Merit procures us the Esteem of Men of Sense, and our Fortune that of the Public.”
  • “Narrowness of Mind is the Cause of Obstinacy; and we don’t easily believe beyond what we see.”
  • “Quarrels would not last long if the Fault was but on one Side.”
  • “We are not able to act up to our Reason.”
  • “Men are oftener treacherous through Weakness than Design.”
  • “Our Self-love bears with less Patience the Condemnation of our Tastes, than of our Opinions.”
  • “We are almost always tired with the Company of those whom we ought not to be tired of.”
  • “The Mind, thro’ Laziness and Constancy, fixes on what is easy or agreeable to it. This Habit bounds our Knowledge; and no Man has ever given himself the trouble to extend and carry his Genius as far as it was capable of going.”

And “Few People are well-acquainted with Death. ‘Tis generally submitted to thro’ Stupidity and Custom, not Resolution; and most Men die merely because they can’t help it.”

Near and Far

More proverbs from around the world:

  • A lover should be regarded as a person demented. (Roman)
  • Great politeness means “I want something.” (Chinese)
  • Large desire is endless poverty. (India)
  • A short rest is always good. (Danish)
  • A stumble is not a fall. (Haitian)
  • Abroad one has a hundred eyes, at home not one. (German)
  • The church is near, but the way is icy; the tavern is far, but I will walk carefully. (Ukrainian)
  • A bully is always a coward. (Spanish)
  • Failure is the source of success. (Japanese)
  • The greater part of humankind is bad. (Greek)
  • The inside is different from the outside. (Korean)
  • You are as many a person as languages you know. (Armenian)
  • By getting angry, you show you are wrong. (Madagascar)
  • Life is a road with a lot of signs. (Jamaican)
  • Old age does not announce itself. (Zulu)
  • Whether small or large, a snake cannot be used as a belt. (Yoruban)
  • He that is too smart is surely done for. (Yiddish)

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“I detest life-insurance agents: they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so.” — Stephen Leacock

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“I can’t recall who first pointed out that the word ‘explain’ means literally to ‘flatten out.'” — Philip Slater