Inspirational Quotes

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from Authors new and old

Selected by Gavin Duley


No culture has yet solved the dilemma each has faced with the growth of a concious mind: how to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherrent in all life, when one find darkness not only in ones culture but within oneself. If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts the responsibility for a life lived in the middle of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, for if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of a leaning into the light.
-from Artic Dreams by Barry Lopez




"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then -- to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn."
from The Once and Future King by T.H. White.




"Wisest is he who knows he does not know."
- Socrates 470-399BC




"Imagination is more important than knowledge."
- Albert Einstein




"As for human life,
It is a shadow, as I have long believed. And this
I say without hesitation: those whom most would call
Intelligent, the propounders of wise theories -
Their folly is of all men's the most culpable.
Happiness is a thing no man possesses. Fortune
May come now to one man, now to another, as
Prosperity increases; happiness never."
from Medea by Euripides, 484-407BC.




"Lux et Umbra vicissim, sed semper Amor"
Light and Shadow by turns, but always Love
- from Moondialby Helen Cresswell




"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear"
- Mark Twain




"All works of art that are purely imaginative - poems, novels, stories - are pulled out of the future as you may pluck a roasted chestnut out of the fire, scorching your hand in the process. But in this cruel and meaningless epoch, behind the bars of which I now write, neither past nor future seems to have any existence; only the present which contains the dead ashes of the past. Since the whole of life and its background is being dissolved to chaos before our eyes, it is impossible - because our balance from day to day remains too precarious - to wrest a book from the future."
- from the Introduction, Left Hand, Right Hand! by Sir Osbert Sitwell




"I found myself reading a good deal about deserts while I was in the south, and at that time I was engrossed in Thesiger's Arabian Sands. Like Antarctica, the heart of the desert was a blank in time, devoid of human history. Both places could be percieved as a gigantic reflection of all you had known of emptiness and loss, if you were minded to internalise the landscape in that way. I felt the reverse. Even sitting in a base which resembled a small Alaskan mining town, I had similar intimations about the cold southern desert to which Thesiger had in the hot sands of Arabia. 'Here in the desert,' he wrote, 'I had found all that I had asked; I knew that I should never find it again.'"
- from Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica, by Sara Wheeler




"Law stands mute in the midst of arms"
- Marcus Tullius Cicero




"So much rain, so much life like the swollen sky
of this black August. My sister, the sun,
broods in her yellow room and won't come out.

Everything goes to hell; the mountains fume
like a kettle, rivers overrun; still,
she will not rise and turn off the rain.

She's in her room, fondling old things,
my poems, turning her album. Even if thunder falls
like a crash of plates from the sky,

she does not come out.
Don't you know I love you but am hopeless
at fixing the rain? But I am learning slowly

to love the dark days, the steaming hills,
the air with gossiping mosquitoes,
and to sip the medicine of bitterness,

so that when you emerge, my sister,
parting the beads of the rain,
with your forehead of flowers and eyes of forgiveness,

all will not be as it was, but it will be true
(you see they will not let me love
as I want), because, my sister, then

I would have learnt to love black days like bright ones,
the black rain, the white hills, when once
I loved only my happiness and you."

Dark August by Derek Walcott




"In the presence of O'Keeffe paintings, I cannot claim to fully understand them; I accept their power and dignity and the assurance that there is a tremendous reserve of beauty that fine artists, in all media, can give us. They may deny it voiciferously, but artists burn with a need to convey by implication their personal conception of life and potential beauty, transcending all the laws, dogmas, practical aspirations, and the instincts of self-preservation. They, along with the scientists, poets and phillosophers, illuminate the world rather than exploit it. Anyone who has viewed a Stieglitz, a Moore, a Strand or an O'Keeffe must be excited by such vision and execution; their messages stand as beacons.
       "I believe that the artist and his art are only a part of the total human experience; the viewer in the world at large is the essential other part. I feel that a true work of art is like nothing else in the world. It is not essential to know how the artist thinks or how he believes he relates to his profession or his society. What he creates is his messages. For me a work of art does not cry for comprehension, only for reaction at the level of art itself.
       "Stieglitz taught me what became my first commandment: 'Art is the affirmation of life.'"

- from Ch.10 Stieglitz and O'Keeffe, Ansel Adams An Autobiography




"And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clair, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open."

- Postscript, from The Spirit Level by Seamus Heaney.




"Suttree went out through the kitchen and through the ruined garden to the old road. Reprobate scion of doomed Saxon clans, out of the rainy day surmised. Old paint on an old sign said dimly to keep out. Someone must have turned it around because it posted the outer world. He went on anyway. He said he was only passing through."

- from Suttree by Cormac McCarthy




Copyright belongs to the authors or estates.
Quotes reproduced without permission for a noncommercial/personal study use and with thanks.
If you are the copyright owner of one of the above texts and object to it being on this page - please
email me and I will remove it. Remember I'm only a student, so I'm not worth suing ;-)
-- Gavin.

This page last updated Tuesday 25 July 2017