Over many years, from all the books I have read, I have collected and copied down paragraphs that I have liked and admired.
Here, in alphabetical order by author, I choose fourteen of my favourites.
I hope you enjoy and recognize the elegance of the writing, the distilled wisdom of the thoughts, and the combination of intelligence and wit that – to me at least – makes them memorable.
“In six days, do you hear me, in six days, God made the world. Yes Sir, no less Sir, the WORLD! And you are not bloody well capable of making me a pair of trousers in three months!” [Tailor’s voice, scandalized] “But my dear Sir, my dear Sir, look - [disdainful gesture, disgustedly] - at the world - [pause] and look [loving gesture, proudly] - at my TROUSERS.”
"Now look, your grace," said Sancho, "what you see over there aren't giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone." "Obviously," replied Don Quixote, "you don't know much about adventures.”
Miguel de Cervantes
It doesn’t seem to me that this fantastically marvellous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms, with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil - which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.
The human mind delights in finding pattern - so much so that we often mistake coincidence or forced analogy for profound meaning. No other habit of thought lies so deeply within the soul of a small creature trying to make sense of a complex world not constructed for it.
Stephen Jay Gould
The three summits of human happiness are first the consciousness of having done your duty & the pious purity that comes over your Soul. The next, success in great schemes, & the third is a lovely girl who loves you, in the dining room of the Star & Garter at Richmond, sitting after dinner on your knee.
It is a dream within a dream, varied in detail, one in substance. I am sitting at a table with my family, or with friends, or at work, or in the green countryside; in short, in a peaceful relaxed environment, apparently without tension or affliction; yet I feel a deep and subtle anguish, the definite sensation of an impending threat. And in fact, as the dream proceeds, slowly or brutally, each time in a different way, everything collapses and disintegrates around me, the scenery, the walls, the people, while the anguish becomes more intense and more precise. Now everything has changed to chaos; I am alone in the centre of a grey and turbid nothing, and now, I know what this thing means, and I also know that I have always known it; I am in the Lager once more, and nothing is true outside the Lager. All the rest was a brief pause, a deception of the senses, a dream; my family, nature in flower, my home.
There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.
W. Somerset Maugham
"A certain man," said Rex, as he turned round the corner with Margot, "once lost a diamond cuff-link in the wide blue sea, and twenty years later, on the exact day, a Friday apparently, he was eating a large fish - but there was no diamond inside. That's what I like about coincidence."
I see things as they are. Nature is selfish. All creatures kill to survive. Love is a mechanism to propagate the species. Beauty is a trick that fades. Friendship is an arrangement for mutual advantage. Goodness is not rewarded, and evil is not punished. Religion is superstition. Death is annihilation. And as for God, if he exists at all he stopped caring for humankind centuries ago. Wouldn’t you?
"You must stop imagining that posterity will vindicate you, Winston. Posterity will never hear of you. You will be lifted clean out from the stream of history. We shall turn you into gas and pour you into the stratosphere. Nothing will remain of you: not a name in a register, not a memory in a living brain. You will be annihilated in the past as well as in the future. You will never have existed."
When I saw him looking at me like that, I knew I loved him, and that it was for always. It was as if my heart turned over, and I knew that it was for always. It’s a strange feeling – when you know quite certainly in yourself that something is for always. It’s like what death must be.
The world is suffering from intolerance and bigotry, and from the belief that vigorous action is admirable even when misguided; whereas what is needed in our very complex modern society is calm consideration, with readiness to call dogmas in question and freedom of mind to do justice to the most diverse points of view.
A scorpion comes up to a buffalo on a riverbank. Please, sir, says the scorpion - could you give us a ride across? No way, says the buffalo. You'll sting me and I'll drown. But the scorpion swears he won't. Why would I, he asks the buffalo, when if I did, I'd drown along with you? So off they go. Halfway across the scorpion stings the buffalo. And the poor buffalo says, you bastard, you killed us both. Before they go under, the scorpion says - it's my nature.
We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world will be run by synthesisers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically, and make important choices wisely.
Edward O Wilson
Principal & CEO
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