Quotes! I like quotes. Here’s a bunch of them. These have all, at one point or another, given me that little rush in my shoulders either for some truth they contain or just for being a sharp turn of phrase (lies can be pretty too).

I pared down a handful for flow and brevity, marked with an asterisk after the attribution. I’m fine doing this because (a) quotes are usually excerpts from even longer texts anyway, (b) this freer recombination lets me leave out ugly looking [pronoun clarifiers], …ellipses and such, (c) some people aren’t that good with phrasing, and (d) none of these sentiments originate with the named author so the least we can do is remember the words in their most essential form. Oral history in text or something like that.

 

Non sum qualis eram. (trans: I am not what I was.)

  • Horace

 

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

  • HL Mencken*

He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.

  • Samuel Johnson

 

As soon as something seems the most obvious thing in the world, we abandon all attempts of understanding it.

  • Berthold Brecht

 

We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.

  • Archilochus

 

Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats.

  • Howard Aiken

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.

  • Pablo Picasso

The only thing you cannot do with a bayonet is sit on it.

  • Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord

 

The shortcut that’s sure to work, every time: Take the long way. Do the hard work, consistently and with generosity and transparency.

  • Seth Godin

 

If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn't plan properly.

  • General Hackworth

 

Anyone who will lie for you can lie to you.

  • Penn Jillette*

 

You are not thinking, you are just being logical.

  • Niels Bohr*

 

To never confront the possibility of getting lost is to live in perpetual dislocation. If you never worry where you are, you will never find out.

  • Nick Carr, The Glass Cage*

 

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a sick society.

  • J Krishnamurti*

 

When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

  • Abraham Maslow*

 

These are places that are not worth caring about.

  • James Kunstler, in reference to American suburban sprawl (though the sentiment extends

 

Everyone has a plan til they get punched in the mouth.

  • Mike Tyson

 

I feel an earnest and humble desire, and shall till I die, to increase the stock of harmless cheerfulness.

  • Justin McElroy

 

Can you complete your 10-year plan in the next 6 months?

  • Peter Thiel*

 

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down "happy." They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life.

  • John Lennon

 

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.

  • AJ Liebling

 

No life worthy of the name consists of anything more than the continual series of struggles to develop one's character through the medium of whatever one has chosen as a career.

  • Juan Belmonte


"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

  • Second stanza of The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

 

It is more from carelessness about truth than from intentional lying, that there is so much falsehood in the world.

  • Samuel Johnson

 

Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's just the opposite.

  • John Kenneth Galbraith

 

There is no evidence that we've been placed on this planet to be especially happy or especially normal. And in fact our unhappiness and our strangeness, our anxieties and compulsions, those least fashionable aspects of our personalities, are quite often what lead us to do rather interesting things.

  • Jon Ronson

 

To the engineer falls the job of clothing the bare bones of science with life, comfort, and hope.

  • Herbert Hoover

 

I mention all this to make the point that if you were designing an organism to look after life in our lonely cosmos, to monitor where it is going and keep a record of where it has been, you wouldn't choose human beings for the job. But here's an extremely salient point: we have been chosen, by fate or Providence or whatever you wish to call it. As far as we can tell, we are the best there is. We may be all there is. It's an unnerving thought that we may be living the universe's supreme achievement and its worst nightmare simultaneously.

  • Bill Bryson

 

We have more physical evidence of some ancient sea monsters and lumbering sauropods than we do of a bird that lived into modern times and required nothing of us to survive except our absence.

  • HE Strickland, referring to the dodo

The curious task of economics is to show how little we know about what we seek to design.

  • Friedrich Hayek* 

On November 6, 2000, during his final pre-election stump speech, Bush explained his history of political triumph thusly: "They misunderestimated me."

What an idiot. American liberals made fun of him for that one for years.

It is worth considering that he didn't misspeak.

  • Emmitt Rensin

 

And the rest are my personal attempts at short-form poignancy:

 

It is neither above nor below you to create something beautiful.

Nothing of consequence distinguishes apathy from death.

The fulcrum between amateur and professional work hinges on whether you fool yourself or everyone else.

No decision lacks the power to define you.

Living a good life within your understanding of the term must satisfy you.

Future you doesn't want to do it either.

Why do you work so hard to impress people you hate?