Inspiration can be found in quotations by wise persons. Not only in quotes about values, but also proverbs, song lyrics, bits of poetry, and so on. But you don’t want to get sidetracked or duped by self-serving, wanna-be “gurus” whose aim is really to sell a product. Where can you turn that is reputable, but without having to do all the heavy lifting yourself? You’ve come to the right place: Values of the Wise.com. Values of the Wise is a thirteen-year-old pursuit by philosophical thinker and independent scholar Jason Merchey wherein many great quotations that can provide inspiration, enlightenment, and lifelong learning are brought to the table. It’s like a smorgasbord – it’s pretty much all here, you just have to pick and digest. A superb “quote search engine” is available here, and it can be modified to find quotations by females or males, from different regions of the world, based on keywords, or based on the value that the quote is about. How much does this cost? Free! How many ads do you have to put up with? None. What’s the point? Inspiration, insight, and independence. Read on to learn a bit more about how to determine which quotes about values will not only feel right, but be right.
“There are no days in life so memorable as those which vibrated to some stroke of the imagination.”
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
One thing to consider is the source of a particular thought that seems to be wisdom. Obviously, a proverb that goes back to the ancient Hebrews may really hold water because it has “withstood the test of time.” Some say that “there is nothing new under the sun.” Heraclitus noted over two thousand years ago that “All things flow, nothing abides.” So which is it: does truth pretty much remain the same despite the time, from culture to culture, and so on? Or do things change, such that thoughts and statements of Socrates or Confucius or King Solomon that maybe once were considered wisdom can really no longer be considered so? It’s a fundamental question, one of philosophy. My point is that we must ask: who said this thing, what did they mean, what was the context, have things significantly changed, and what do we know of the author?
“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”
“A philosophical approach arises when religious authority is not regarded as all-powerful. In one of Plato’s dialogues, humans are described as puppets of the gods. But they have one string to pull back on – the golden cord of reason.
Case in point. We all tend to give Albert Einstein a lot of slack when it comes to saying things that are considered true, insightful, or wise. That’s probably fair. But even he is not above reproach; his name was actually sullied during his lifetime. Consider the scandalous details divulged about his life in the 2017 miniseries, Genius. He had terrible relationships with his kids, and his first wife loathed him eventually. She literally accused him of cheating, being a bad father and husband, and even benefitting from her imagination and diligence on his professional theorizing and papers (yes, she was a student of physics and mathematics). So, we can probably trust what he has to say about relativity, physics, and probably science – but even that must be taken with a grain of salt, considering the recent disclosure about what percentage of scientists aren’t very rigorous – or simply cheaters. Here is a simple article on the question of the reliability of scientific findings. How does this relate to the topic at hand: finding inspiration in quotations? We mustn’t be sidetracked by someone’s reputation (an Einstein) or their panache or image (Tony Robbins comes to mind), but instead, be critical consumers of the message they are communicating via their quotation. Not every thought that has ” ” around it is justifiable, worthy, or legitimate. Sometimes inspiration is just… well, fluff. Sunshine. The cotton candy of the intellectual world.
“There lives more faith in honest doubt – believe me – than in half the creeds.”
“Do not be scared of the word authority. Believing things on authority only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority.”
“Liars are not to be believed even when they tell the truth.”
Here is the difference, though: the more legitimate glimpses of true wisdom will come from the mouths (pens?) of those who are credible, honorable, consistent, insightful, learned, experienced, yes – but, they also should have nothing in particular to sell you. Also, their reputation shouldn’t ideally be on the line. For example, picture the time when demagogue Joseph McCarthy was seeing his house of cards fall down around him in the 1950s, and greater men such as Edward R. Murrow were prevailing in this monumental struggle of ideas, and Joseph Welch famously leaned into the mic and said: “Let us not assassinate this lad further. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” (If you don’t know of this man and his ascent and descent from the pinnacle of credulity, read about it here). At that time, anything McCarthy would have said would not be considered rational and dispassionate enough to count as wisdom; he was merely backpedaling and dissembling to keep his pride. In sum, I’m not saying that wise persons cannot be harried and embarrassed; they can. And some people, such as yours truly, do have a book to sell. You, the one doing the seeking and the analyzing and the investigating must decide how partial or impartial a particular person is. Think of yourself as being the lead member of a jury: do you believe not only what is being claimed as fact, but in the credibility of the defendant? If Bernie Madoff were to come to you telling you of his vaunted investment pool, do you get pulled in by his mystique, his act, his reputation? Or can you be critical enough to pump the brakes mentally, and ask: If something seems too good to be true, is it?
“People will accept your idea more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first.”
“While irrational faith is the acceptance of something as true only because an authority or the majority say so, rational faith is rooted in an independent conviction based upon one’s own productive observing and thinking in spite of the majority’s opinion.”
I don’t want to come too far afield from the topic at hand: inspiration. I just want to take pains to point out that humans are gullible animals; if something feels right, we tend to go with it. We are very smart and adept at certain mental processes – such as recognizing a pattern. But we also have blind spots and Achilles’ Heels, if you will. This is because human thinking is often based on an algorithm more than rationality and critical thinking. This “shorthand” serves us well when, say, someone asks us for directions at night, or when we read of a police officer killing an unarmed man (or, if you’re conservative and want an example you can get into: when a person lobbies to have a speaker barred from a college campus). Haven’t you ever loved an idea, felt the kind of excitement that kinda gets your blood pumping or makes you (in the case of a quote) think: “Now THAT is the stuff, right there!” That is the part of our brain that is emotional flashing, and sometimes that is good, and sometimes it is misleading. After all, over half of marriages that were once marked by church bells ringing and family members in tuxedos and honeymoons and lingerie and joy end in divorce. In the end, what once seemed like a great idea that was bound to succeed, often fails. Point being: watch your own gullibility. Just because you want something to be true doesn’t mean it is. Often when we are emotionally attracted to some idea it is because it fits in nicely with our prejudices, biases, wishes – basically, our subconscious mind. When it comes to wisdom, don’t forget to use your conscious mind. Your critical thinking. When it feels right and checks out rationally, you just might have wisdom there. That is true inspiration.
P.S. Just so you don’t settle into a rut, here is a curveball: “Create a vision and never let the environment, other people’s beliefs, or the limits of what has been done in the past shape your decisions. Ignore conventional wisdom.”
“Authority is never a primary source of knowledge…The authority himself must be able to rationally defend his position through proof and argumentation; indeed, it is his ability to do so that qualifies him as an authority in the first place.”
“Be comfortable with uncertainty. There are some things we simply cannot know or that we currently do not know. There may be times when, after reviewing all the logic and evidence, our only conclusion is that we currently don’t know.”
Want to learn more about which values particularly move you? Try this free, interesting little inventory on for size: The Top Values Tool