Will Durant was one of America’s greatest intellectuals. He lived from 1885 to 1981. In his long, varied, and distinguished career, he taught, wrote, earned a doctorate in philosophy, and came to know many of the most important and elusive truths. His interest in history was as salient than his love of philosophy, for he is best known for his book the massive, 11-volume set The Story of Civilization, his take on significant historical happenings and patterns (which he published with his lifelong interlocutor, his wife Ariel). They won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom for the work. Only slightly less remarkable was The Story of Philosophy, which detailed the lives and works of a dozen of the most impactful philosophers throughout history, such as Plato and Nietzsche. Durant was truly a remarkable man; we are so lucky he lived to the ripe old age he did, and that he was a philosopher, historian, teacher and writer – and not a banker or a tennis player or a gambler. This blog is about Will Durant’s quotes about the meaning of life from his superb book on the subject.
In his remarkable little book from near the end of his life, On the Meaning of Life, Will Durant did a very interesting thing. He wrote to many of the most notable people still alive at the time. H. L. Mencken, Upton Sinclair, John Erskine, Bertrand Russell, Jawaharlal Nehru, to name a few. Even a prisoner in Sing Sing. He asked them about their philosophies, and what he got back from most of them (some were curt, some didn’t reply at all) is a wonderful collection of quotes about the meaning of life from some of history’s most sagacious and productive individuals.
Here is a summary of his life and his significance.
In this blog, I share many of the most useful and insightful quotes about the meaning of life from his book. NOTE: When I don’t attribute a quote to any author, it was written by Durant; when I cite a person after a quotation, the words belong to that individual (which came from the book, written by Durant).
First I want to show you the inscription from the back of the book, because it really beautifully describes what the book is about. As you can see from the average Amazon rating, folks really liked it, like I did. If it’s your cup of tea; it’s not a Sue Grafton novel!
In the Fall of 1930 Will Durant found himself outside his home in Lake Hill, New York, raking leaves. He was approached by a well-dressed man who told him in a quiet tone that he was going to kill himself unless the philosopher could give him a valid reason not to. Not having the time to wax philosophic on the matter, Durant did his best to furnish the man with reasons to continue his existence. Haunted by the encounter with the despondent stranger, Durant contacted 100 luminaries in the arts, politics, religion and sciences, challenging them to respond not only to the fundamental question of life’s meaning (in the abstract) but also to relate how they each (in the particular) found meaning, purpose and fulfillment in their own lives. Durant turned their answers and his own into a book entitled “On The Meaning Of Life”, which was released to the general public in 1932. Unpromoted, the little treasure found its way into few hands, and almost no copies of the book exist today. Now available for a new generation through Promethean Press, “On The Meaning Of Life” is a powerful book on a very powerful topic. In this book Will Durant has fashioned an unprecedented “dream team” of luminaries that is both profound and diverse: poets, philosophers, saints, inmates, athletes, Nobel Prize winners, college professors, psychologists, entertainers, musicians, authors and leaders. Within their varied insights, despite their uniqueness as individuals and the very different lives they led, the reader will note a consistent thread running through their viewpoints, revealing a commonality among human beings who not only seek meaning in life, but who actually achieve it.
I organize the quotes about the meaning of life according to the “Value Set” I think aptly describes the quotations. So, the quotes that are about Truth and Justice, in my opinion, will be categorized under that heading. As you would imagine, the largest category belongs to Fulfillment, Meaning & Optimism. Enjoy!
FULFILLMENT, MEANING & OPTIMISM
The natural condition of humanity, and even of philosophers, is hope. Great religions arise and flourish out of the need men feel to believe in their worth and destiny; and great civilizations have normally rested upon these inspiriting religions.
Reduced to a microscopic triviality by the perspective of science, the informed individual loses belief in himself and his race, and enterprises of great pith and moment, which once aroused his effort and admiration, awaken in him only skepticism and scorn. Faith and hope disappear; doubt and despair are the order of the day.
My Jewish home life and religion gave me a spiritual uplift and a sense of responsibility to my subconscious better self — which I think is the God within me, the Unknowable, the Inexplicable. This makes me believe I am more than an animal, and that this life cannot be the end of our spiritual nature. ~ Adolph S. Ochs
You will see that what you need is not philosophy, but a wife and a child, and hard work. Voltaire once remarked that he might occasionally have killed himself, had he not had so much work on his hands. I notice that is only leisurely people who despair.
Let me confess at once that I cannot answer, in any absolute or metaphysical sense, your question as to the meaning of life. I suspect that there is some ultimate significance to everything, though I know that our little minds will never fathom it. For the meaning of anything must lie in its relation to some whole of which it is a part; and how could any fragment or moment of life — like you or me — pretend to rise out of its individual cell and survey or understand the entirety of things?
We who are too superior to belong to groups, who are too wise to marry or too clever to have children, find life empty and vain, and wonder has it any meaning. But ask the father of sons and daughters “What is the meaning of life?” and he will answer you very simply: “Feeding your family.”
This, then, I should say, is the road to significance and content: join a whole, and work for it with all your body and mind. The meaning in life lies in the chance it gives us to produce, or to contribute to, something greater than ourselves. It need not be a family; that, so to speak, is the direct and broadest road, which Nature in her blind wisdom has provided for even the simplest soul; it may be any group that can call out the latent nobility of the individual, and give him a cause to work for that shall not be shattered by his death.
The sources of my energy are egotism and a selfish altruism — the greed for applause, and a mad devotion to those dependent upon me. The goal and motive force of my work? — to see happiness around me, and to win, at last, the approval of my betters. The haunts of happiness? — my home and my books, my ink and my pen.
There is something selfish in the desire for personal immortality, and a heaven crowded to suffocation with interminable egos would be an insufferable place; but I suspect that I, too, shall be sorry to go, and should be glad to know, when I am gone, what fate befalls my children and my friends, and the causes I tried to serve.
What immortality means to me now is that we are all parts of a whole, cells in the body of life; that the death of the part is the life of the whole; and that though as individuals we pass away, yet the whole is made forever different by what we have done and been.
I think it is the sense of my creative capacity, matching however microscopically the creative capacity at the heart of the universe, that gives me strength to live … I try to think when I have felt most happy because most alive. Surely, in the experience of love; surely, also, in hours of crisis, when I have cast all on some great hazard; again, in some swift moment when a “concourse of sweet sounds” in symphony or opera has caught my soul and taught me to relive the emotion of the composer in his original conception; again, when I have myself conceived, in a sudden instant, some vision of the spirit and seen it clothe itself in words upon my startled lips; still again, when I have thrown myself into some cause of justice and the right, and fought to victory or defeat; most of all, perhaps, when I have prayed, or tried to pray, and heard faintly within myself some answer. ~ John Haynes Holmes
The meaning of life, then, must lie within life itself; it must be independent of individual death, even of national decay; it must be sought in life’s own instinctive cravings and natural fulfillments.
Life grows in meaning as I go on. It has not only more significance, but, also, more happiness, fewer moods of depression than when I was a girl. At the basis of this increasing significance is religion. I think that if it were not for that I could not “go on” for I am more conscious of the suffering of the world, more troubled by it. I cannot quite understand how a human being can face life without a belief in a Supreme Power, a Personality with whom communion can be a real thing. ~ Mary E. Woolley
Life, even from within prison walls, can be as intensely interesting, as vitally worthwhile as it is to any man on the outside. It all depends upon the faith one has in the soundness of his philosophy. ~ Owen C. Middleton: Life-Term Convict 79206, Sing Sing Prison, New York
You are reading quotes about the meaning of life relevant to the values of Fulfillment, Meaning, and Optimism on Values of the Wise.com
I was troubled by these feelings and felt my helplessness. These seemed to be no obvious way of realizing my heart’s desire. Then came Mr. Gandhi and pointed a way which seemed to promise results, or at any rate which was a way worth trying and afforded an outlet for my pent-up feeling. I plunged in, and I discovered that I had at last found what I had long sought. It was in action that I found this — action on behalf of a great cause which I held dear. Ever since then I have used all my strength in battling for this cause and the recompense I have had has strengthened me, for the reward has been a fuller life with a new meaning and purpose to it. ~ Jawaharlal Nehru
To have a great purpose to work for, a purpose larger than ourselves, is one of the secrets of making life significant; for then the meaning and worth of the individual overflow this personal borders, and survive his death.
The intellectual and scientific impulse has indeed been the mainspring of my life and activities. Religious rituals and dogmas possess no significance for me; but the teachings of Buddha or Christ, if not taken too literally, have a value which I recognize and which I believe time cannot diminish. The desire to labor, to achieve and to help others to do likewise, these are the motive powers which have kept me going. ~ C.V. Raman
The question itself implies many other questions; why are we here? Is there a God? If so, why do we suffer so much? If not, then what is the point of our existence? Is our existence on this planet merely a dress rehearsal for a better play to follow — or is this all that there is? And what is existence? — Nothing more than a freak cosmological farce; a fortuitous congruence of atoms that, over millions of years, resulted in the creation of sentient beings — “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?” Or is there some deeper meaning that can be fathomed? ~ John Little
I am far luckier than most men, for I have been able since boyhood to make a good living doing precisely what I have wanted to do — what I would have done for nothing, and very gladly, if there had been no reward for it. Not many men, I believe, are so fortunate. Millions of them have to make their livings at tasks which really do not interest them. ~ H.L. Mencken
What meaning of human life may be I don’t know: I incline to suspect that it has none. All I know about it is that, to me at least, it is very amusing while it lasts. Even its troubles, indeed, can be amusing. Moreover, they tend to foster the human qualities that I admire most — courage and its analogues. ~ H.L. Mencken
I am convinced that the world is not a mere bog in which men and women trample themselves in the mire and die. Something is taking place here amid the cruelties and tragedies, and the supreme challenge to intelligence is that of making the noblest and best in our curious heritage prevail. ~ Charles Beard
You ask me “what keeps me going?” — My answer is the answer which all smart alecks laugh at — it is work. I get a tremendous kick out of seeing my ideas take form and bring concrete results. The fact that countless ideas do not work out does not take away from the pleasure I derive from those that do. ~ Carl Laemmie
Confinement in prison doesn’t cause unhappiness, else all those who are free would be happy. Poverty doesn’t cause it, else the rich all would be happy. Those who live and die in one small town are often as happy, or happier than many who spend their entire lives in travel. ~ Owen C. Middleton
Will you interrupt your work for a moment and play the game of philosophy with me? I am attempting to face a question which our generation, perhaps more than any, seems always ready to ask and never able to answer — What is the meaning or worth of human life?
When the eighteenth century laid the foundations of the nineteenth, it staked everything upon one idea — the replacement of theology with science. Given science, and there would soon be wealth, which would make men happy; given science, and there would soon be truth, which would make men free. Universal education would spread the findings of science, liberate men from superstition, and make them fit for democracy; a century of such universal schooling, Jeremy Bentham predicted, would solve all major problems, and bring Utopia.
If the reader has been disturbed by these pages, it is good; let him now find in his own mental resources some basis for his faith; let him honestly formulate his own reply to this philosophy of despair. For those of us who wish to live consciously, to know the worst and praise the best, must meet all these doubts if we are to maintain any longer our pretense to the life of reason.
The precise form of an individual’s activity is determined, of course, by the equipment with which he came into the world. In other words, it is determined by his heredity. I do not lay eggs, as a hen does, because I was born without any equipment for it. For the same reason I do not get myself elected to Congress, or play the violoncello, or teach metaphysics in a college, or work in a steel mill. What I do is simply what lies easiest to my hand. ~ H.L. Mencken
If I go to a play I do not enjoy it less because I do not believe that it is divinely created and divinely conducted, that it will last forever instead of stopping at eleven, that many details of it will remain in my memory after a few months, or that it will have any particular moral effect upon me. And I enjoy life as I enjoy that play. ~ Sinclair Lewis
KNOWLEDGE, WISDOM & EDUCATION
The growth and spread of knowledge, for which so many idealists and reformers prayed, has resulted in a disillusionment which has almost broken the spirit of our race.
… No one deserves to believe unless he has served an apprenticeship of doubt.
Sixty years ago I knew everything. Now I know nothing. Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.
It happens that I was born with an intense and insatiable interest in ideas, and, thus, like to play with them. It happens also that I was born with rather more than the average facility for putting them into words. In consequence, I am a writer and editor; which is to say, a dealer in them and concoctor of them.
As for religion, I am quite devoid of it… I have read a great deal in theology — perhaps much more than the average clergyman — but I have never discovered any reason to change my mind. ~ H.L. Mencken
I feel for all faiths the warm sympathy of one who has come to learn that even the trust in reason is a precarious faith, and that we are all fragments of darkness groping for the sun. I know no more about the ultimates than the simplest urchin in the streets.
I can say this with a clear conscience, for He has treated me very well — in fact, with vast politeness. But I can’t help thinking of his barbaric torture of most of the rest of humanity. I simply can’t imagine revering the God of war and politics, theology and cancer. ~ H. L. Mencken
It is true that we have acquired a great deal of material knowledge in recent years, but so far as knowledge of the truth itself is concerned, I cannot see that we are any nearer to it now than our less imaginative ancestors were when they cracked each others’ skulls with stone hatchets, or that we know any more than they knew of what happened to the soul that escaped in the process. ~ Edwin Arlington Robinson
I have always believed, (and I still do) that a man’s philosophy of life should be founded not on individual experience but on wide and unbiased observation. We all have eyes to see and ears to hear. The opportunity is given us of watching hundreds of lives besides our own. Should anyone be so narrow as to judge the world by what happens to be his personal good fortune or ill-luck? Because I eat three meals a day, does it follow that there is no starvation anywhere? Because some of us enjoy good health, must we remain blind to the fact that thousands of human beings daily endure the agony of bodily suffering? ~ Ossip Gabrilowitsch
Better never to have learned anything than know that the universe is a battlefield of cruel forces. Better, a thousand times better, to spend one’s short life ignoring all this than to be depressed or tortured by knowledge. Our ancestors were happier than we are. The less one knows, the happier one is. ~ Abbe Dimnet
Philosophy was unsatisfactory, of course. What can it do in the presence of mysteries except deepen our sense of mystery? Creation, the beginnings of life, the dawn of consciousness, the appearance of vision, mind and reflection remained inexplicable by philosophy as well as by science. ~ Abbe Dimnet
You are reading quotes about the meaning of life from Will Durant’s amazing book of the same title.
HUMOR, LIGHTHEARTEDNESS & ACCEPTANCE OF ABSURDITY
Democracy has degenerated into such corruption as only Milo’s Rome knew; and our youthful dreams of a socialist Utopia disappear as we see, day after day, the inexhaustible acquisitiveness of men. Every invention strengthens the strong and weakens the weak; every new mechanism displaces men, and multiplies the horrors of war. God, who was once the consolation of our brief life, and our refuge in bereavement and suffering, has apparently vanished from the scene; no telescope, no microscope discovers him.
A thousand varieties of man — Piltdown, Neanderthal, Chellean, Acheulean, Mousterian, Aurignacian, Cro-magnon, Rhodesian, Pekin man — lived for thousands of years, fought, thought, invented, painted, carved, made children, and left no more to posterity than a few flints and scratches, forgotten for millennia and found only by the picks and spades of our inquisitive day.
The educator is frustrated, and superstition, that infamewhich Voltaire thought he had crushed, flourishes as before, leaving progress to be created and maintained by a precarious and sterile fragment of the race. In this unregulated reproductivity of the mob lies the secret of our political corruption, and the raw material of our municipal “machines”; democracy goes to pieces because “there is always a majority of fools.”
All history, then, all the proud record of human accumulations and discoveries, seems at times to be a futile circle, a weary tragedy in which Sisyphus man repeatedly pushes invention and labor up the high hill of civilization and culture, only to have the precarious structure again and again topple back into barbarism — into coolies, ryots, fellaheen, moujiks and serfs — through the exhaustion of the soil, or the migrations of trade, or the vandalism of invaders, or the educated sterility of the race. So much remains of Condorcet’s “indefinite perfectibility of mankind.” Indefinite indeed.
We discovered birth control, and now it sterilized the intelligent, multiplies the ignorant, debases love with promiscuity, frustrates the educator, empowers the demagogue, and deteriorates the race. We enfranchised all men, and find them supporting and preserving, in nearly every city, a nefarious “machine” that blocks the road between ability and office; we enfranchised all women, and discovered that nothing is changed except clerical expense. We dreamed of socialism, and found our own souls too greedy to make it possible; in our hearts we too are capitalists, and have no serious objection to becoming rich.
There was something ferocious in the old faiths; the gentle gospels of Buddha and Christ were blackened by time into holy orgies of revenge; every paradise had its inferno, to which good people fervently consigned those who had succeeded too well in life, or had adopted the wrong myth.
Science does not offer consolation, it offers death. Everything, from the unwinding universe of the astronomers to the college girl irradiating life with beauty and laughter, must pass away: this handsome youth, erect and vigorous, fresh from athletic victories, will be laid low tomorrow by some modest, ingratiating germ; this noble pianist, who has dignified his time with perfection, has taught a million souls to forget themselves in beauty, is already in the clutch of death, and will, within a decade, be rotting in the tomb.
Quotes about the meaning of life relevant to TRUTH & JUSTICE
Remember that the same greed which has concentrated our wealth so narrowly, and so diminished its purchasing power, lies in our souls too; that the only difference in motive between the rich man and ourselves is seldom a difference in scruples, but is usually a difference in opportunity and skill. In the end we are all guilty together. Let us stop complaining about others, and begin to root the evil out of our own hearts.
There is much evidence for believing that the material, physical and mental status of the average man on the earth today — bad as that status is — is higher than it ever was before. Students despair of their own age because they compare the average man of their acquaintance with the exceptional men of the past; let them study a little further, and they will find that not all the Athenians were geniuses, and that not all of these geniuses were saints; they will discover, behind Plato and Aristides, a corrupt democracy, a suppressed womanhood, a superstitious people, and a brutal mob.
We are driven to conclude that the greatest mistake in human history was the discovery of “truth.” It has not made us free, except from delusions that comforted us and restraints that preserved us. It has not made us happy, for truth is not beautiful, and did not deserve to be so passionately chased. As we look on it now we wonder why we hurried so to find it.
All things, said Aristotle, have been discovered and forgotten many times over. Progress, he assures us, is a delusion; human affairs are like the sea, which on its surface is disturbed into a thousand motions, and seems to be headed somewhere, while at its bottom it is comparatively changeless and still. What we call progress is, perhaps, mere superficial change…
The truth which different men think they have discovered is probably not the truth at all, and that is why it has not made us free. ~ Carl Laemmie
I would rather remain a hard working businessman and be as happy as I am than become the world’s greatest sage and accept all the sourness and hopelessness which seem to go with too much abstract thinking. ~ Carl Laemmie
The whole modern civilized world of thought has fallen subject to the fallacy that truth is an end in itself rather than that it is simply a means to an end. The approach to fullness of life is along the way of truth, but the path is not the destination. The enduring value of religion is in its challenge to aspiration and hope in the mind of man. ~ Ernest M. Hopkins
Astronomy, geology, and biology told you their tale and there was no faith, no hope and no love in it. You built yourself a philosophy on their data and the philosophy might comment on itself in Remy de Gourmont’s words — “The horrible thing about looking for truth is that one finds it.” After a few years of bitter satisfaction or purely intellectual delight at possessing those data, you have experienced the usual reaction: what is the good of knowing all these disheartening facts? ~ Abbe Dimnet
Truth is not beautiful, neither is it ugly. Why should it be either? Truth is truth, just as figures are figures. When a man wishes to learn the exact condition of his business affairs, he employs figures and, if these figures reveal a sad state of his affairs, he doesn’t condemn them and say that they are unlovely and accuse them of having disillusioned him. Why, then, condemn truth, when it only serves him in this enterprise of life as figures serve him in his commercial enterprises? ~ Owen C. Middleton
STRENGTH & COURAGE quotes about the meaning of life
Once the child had an immortal soul; now it has glands. To the physicist it is only a bundle of molecules, or atoms, or electrons, or protons; to the physiologist it is an unstable conjunction of muscles, bones and nerves; to the physician it is a red mass of illnesses and pains; to the psychologist it is a helpless mouthpiece of heredity and environment, a rabble of conditioned reflexes marshaled by hunger and love.
The end product at the top is a blasé and cynical epicurean who would take to his heels at the first call of hardship or danger. Nations do not grow great on such men. We smile at the Puritan today, but it may be just the virtues of the Puritan that will be needed — or are needed now — when crisis comes: the same stern self-discipline, the same stoic capacity to suffer and persevere, which made nearly all the strong characters in modern history.
DEVELOPMENT, PROGRESSIVISM & INTEGRATION
Solitude is worse than war.
By a pessimist I do not mean one who has a realistic awareness of the evils and hardships of human life; I mean one who, unable to face those hardships with equanimity, concludes from his own weakness that all life is a worthless snare. Perhaps a good deal of this pessimism comes from thinking of ourselves as individuals — as complete and separate entities.
It is a mistake to think that the past is dead. Nothing that has ever happened is quite without influence at this moment. The present is merely the past rolled up and concentrated in this second of time. You, too, are your past; often your face is your autobiography; you are what you are because of what you have been; because of your heredity stretching back into forgotten generations; because of every element of environment that has affected you, every man or woman that has met you, every book that you have read, every experience that you have had; all these are accumulated in your memory, your body, your character, your soul. So with a city, a country, and a race; it is its past, and cannot be understood without it.
“Be a whole or join a whole,” said Goethe. If we think of ourselves as part of a living (no merely theoretical) group, we shall find life a little fuller, perhaps even more significant. For to give life a meaning one must have a purpose larger than one’s self and more enduring than one’s life.
A man feels significant in proportion as he contributes, physically or mentally, to the entity of which he acknowledges himself a part.
These are some of the best quotes about the meaning of life from Will Durant’s remarkable book On The Meaning of Life
All the dogman that in the last one hundred years gave to earthly life something of the significance which the hope of heaven brought to medieval man, seems to have lost countenance in this skeptical century. “Progress,” “universal education,” “popular sovereignty” — who is now so poor in doubt as to do them reverence?
As I study the march of the human race through the centuries and try to understand its present status, I am unable to discern any plan leading to a higher fruition here or elsewhere. Cruelty, injustice, lawlessness seem to characterize the nature and actions of man today as much (though possibly in a different form) as they did thousands of years ago. A glance at the unprecedented chaos — political, social, and economic — which prevails in the world at present, teaches us this lesson. It is but the inevitable result of our incurable inability or unwillingness to learn by experience; our lack of generosity, our lack of moral courage — all things as characteristic of the human race today as centuries ago. ~ Ossip Gabrilowitsch
A man is as old as his arteries, and as young as his ideas.
We go on working even when some of our cherished ideals seem crushed to earth never to rise again. Why? We do not know. We can only guess. One answer is that we are driven by the biological force within us, but the necessity of earning a living, and discharging the obligations which we have gathered on the way. But that is not enough. Thousands go on working after they have secured an abundance of the good things men prize. Others keep on working, as did William Lloyd Garrison, amid the gathering gloom of apparent defeat. ~ Charles Beard
I do not see how one can work for years with young people, as I have done, and be a pessimist! I have seen too many lives develop into something fine and strong. ~ Mary E. Woolley
Until life is quite secure, and no man need worry about food for himself and those dependent upon him, men will continue to acquire greedily, and to hoard against evil days. Perhaps we shall control this impulse by governmental assurance and regimentation of work and wages for all; or perhaps greed will continue to decrease, as fear has decreased, through the manipulation of wealth and the growth of provision and order.
PASSION, WILLINGNESS TO RISK & SELF-AWARENESS quotes that are at heart quotes about the meaning of life
Long since, I fear, religion has become a business with them. The uninformed women, whose shrill voices carry the burden of song, are pale and thin, empty in body and soul; everything spiritual dies when it is sold, or made a motley to the view.
Life demands to be lived. Inaction, save as a measure of recuperation between bursts of activity, is painful and dangerous to the healthy organism — in fact, it is almost impossible. Only the dying can be really idle. ~ H.L. Mencken
A seventy-four-year-old agnostic like Clarence Darrow is not less but more cheerful and excited about life’s adventure — yes, and ‘spiritual minded’ — than an aged bishop whose bright hopes of Heaven are often overbalanced by his fears of Hell. ~ Sinclair Lewis
Let death come; meanwhile I have seen the purple hills of South Dakota, and one point of a star taking its place quietly in the evening sky. Nature will destroy me, but she has a right to — she made me, and burned my sense with a thousand delights; she gave me all that she will take away. How shall I ever thank her sufficiently for these five senses of mine — these fingers and lips, these eyes and ears, this restless tongue and this gigantic nose?
If it is a mistake not to recognize that our spiritual life is as natural as our physical, it is another and probably a more common error to confuse our spiritual ideals with the actual facts of existence. If we were willing to follow our ideals as ideals — as ends which we hope to achieve — we could then perhaps be gentle with our fellow man who has other purposes. But an intense faith, if one can judge from history, often makes us stupidly literal… ~ John Erskine
CREATIVITY, INGENUITY & VISION quotes
Natural history teaches us that in the great scheme of evolution, which is the only true and not comparative progress, certain forms of life, unable to adjust themselves to evolutionary changes, have been entirely blotted out. These were devoid of that constructive instinct we call “invention.” Life is in a constant state of change, and the development of thought and invention enables us to adjust ourselves to these changes. In fact our very fitness, our only hope of survival, depends upon the fertility of our inventiveness. ~ Owen C. Middleton
In the end I know how vain and snobbish all advice is, and how hard it is for one human being to understand another, but come and spend an hour with me, and I will show you a path through the woods which will better dissuade you from surrender than all the arguments of my books. Come and tell me what a childish optimist I am: lay about you freely, and damn this middling world as you will; I shall agree with everything but your conclusion. Then we shall eat the bread of peace together, and let the prattle of the children restore our youth.
This evening I stood in the prison yard amid other prisoners, with eyes lifted aloft, gazing at that great, beautiful sight, the airship Los Angeles as it sailed majestically over our heads. Into my mind came the thought that, just as that prehistoric creature struggle up out of the sea to the land, so is man struggling up from the land into the air. Who dare deny that, someday, up, ever up he will struggle through the great reaches of interstellar space to wrest from it the knowledge which will enable him to lift his life to a plane as high above this, our present one, as it is above that of prehistoric man? ~ Owen C. Middleton
It does not disturb me that man’s conception of God varies greatly at different times and in different places. Apparently that variation is a condition of our nature in this world. To think of life in these terms is, I suppose, to define religion as an art, as something which man will surely put forth out of himself whether it emerges as Mohammedanism, or Catholicism, or as the present Communism of Russia. ~ John Erskine
…but you can never tell what queer things a man might think of during this depression, they say Hunger produces the best that’s in a man, so if this keeps up, something awful good ought to come out of some of us. ~ Will Rogers
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