Last Updated: February 10, 2021
These have been collected over the course of decades and some are unverified. If you see anything here that you know is misattributed, please contact me.
It should be noted that the quotes contained here are snippets of text I find interesting, or seem, currently, to point to a truth. No assumptions should be made about my opinion of the author, nor should it be assumed I condone or advocate other things the author condones or advocates. In several cases, I have read nothing else by the author other than the quotes collected here.
Love is an activity, not a feeling. True love is the disciplined generosity we require of ourselves for the sake of another when
we would rather be selfish.
The craving to risk death is our last great perversion. We come from night, we go into night. Why live in night?
Never turn your back on fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.
This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun, and animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence towards The People, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men; go freely with the powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and mothers, of families: read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church, or in any books, and dismiss whatever insults your soul.
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live
under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be
satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
The great political superstition of the past was the divine right of kings. The great political superstition of the present is the
divine right of parliaments. The oil of anointing seems unawares to have dripped from the head of the one to the heads of the many, and given sacredness
to them also and to their decrees.
The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.
A peasant found a genie that granted him a single wish. He wished for a goat, as having a source of milk to sell would make his life less terrible. Soon, his neighbor became jealous, seeing his newly en-goated companion with a little extra cash to spend. So the neighbor tracked down the genie and asked for his wish. "And what is your wish?" asked the genie. The neighbor responded: "Kill the goat."
The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it. Power is what all messiahs really seek: not the chance to serve.
Man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it is dark.
I never joined an organization - not even the ones I've organized myself. I prize my own independence too much. And philosophically, I could never accept any rigid dogma or ideology, whether it's Christianity or Marxism. One of the most important things in life is what Judge Learned Hand described as "that ever-gnawing inner doubt as to whether you're right." If you don't have that, if you think you've got an inside track to absolute truth, you become doctrinaire, humorless, and intellectually constipated. The greatest crimes in history have been perpetrated by such religious and political and racial fanatics, from the persecutions of the Inquisition on down to Communist purges and Nazi genocide.
...in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representatives who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.
Laws are cobwebs for the rich, and chains of steel for the poor.
Seriousness is stupidity sent to college.
Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.
Madness is something rare in individuals -- but in groups, parties, peoples, and ages, it is the rule.
Those who are willing to surrender their freedom for security have always demanded that if they give up their full freedom it should also be taken from those not prepared to do so.
Everything simple is false. Everything which is complex is unusable.
There is a midrash that, when Adam and Eve were turned out of Eden or earthy paradise, an angel smashed the gates, and the fragments flying all over the earth are the precious stones. We can carry the midrash further. The precious stones were picked up by the various religions and philosophers of the world. Each claimed and claims that its own fragment alone reflects the light of heaven, forgetting the setting and incrustations which time has added. Patience my brother. In G-d's own time we shall, all of us, fit our fragments together and reconstruct the gates of paradise. There will be an era of reconciliation of all living faiths and systems, the era of all being in at-one-ment, or atonement, with G-d. Through the gates shall all people pass to the foot of G-d's throne.
I can tell a lie, but I can't sing one.
Except for the field organizers of strikes, who were pretty tough monkeys and devoted, most of the so-called communists I met were middle-class, middle-aged people playing a game of dreams. I remember a woman in easy circumstances saying to another even more affluent: "After the revolution even we will have more, won't we, dear?" Then there was another lover of proletarians who used to raise hell with Sunday picknickers on her property.
I guess the trouble was that we didn't have any self-admitted proletarians. Everyone was a temporarily embarrassed capitalist. Maybe the communists so closely questioned by the investigation committees were a danger to America, but the ones I knew -- at least they claimed to be communists -- couldn't have disrupted a Sunday-school picnic. Besides they were too busy fighting among themselves.
Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.
That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I'd point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn't. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.
I take my desires for reality because I believe in the reality of my desires.
I ask for daily bread, but not for wealth, lest I forget the poor. I ask for strength, but not for power, lest I despise the meek. I ask for wisdom, but not for learning, lest I scorn the simple. I ask for a clean name, but not for fame, lest I condemn the lowly. I ask for peace of mind, but not for idle hours, lest I fail to hearken to the call of duty. For these and much more, O Father, do I crave, knocking at Thy door; and, if I dare not enter, yet Thou canst dole out the crumbs fallen from Thy table.
I cannot sanction your buffoonery.
To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity
in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.
It’s OK to make your fortune. But don’t drive your fortune past people who are starving.
The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types -- the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine. Each new blunder of the progressive or prig becomes instantly a legend of immemorial antiquity for the snob. This is called the balance, or mutual check, in our Constitution.
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