History is so indifferently rich that a case for almost any conclusion from it can be made by a selection of instances.

Will Durant

At the moment you are prophesying in the desert, the fine pollen of an oak is falling to the ground and, in a century, will grow up into a forest.

Jean Paul Richter

Life must be lived forwards, but can only be understood backwards.

Søren Kierkegaard

The Indians long ago knew that music was going on permanently and that hearing it was like looking out a window at a landscape which didn’t stop when one turned away.

John Cage

We all live in the past, because there is nothing else to live in. To live in the present is like proposing to sit on a pin. It is too minute, it is too slight a support, it is too uncomfortable a posture, and it is of necessity followed immediately by totally different experiences, analogous to those of jumping up with a yell. To live in the future is a contradiction in terms. The future is dead, in the perfectly definite sense that it is not alive.

G.K. Chesterton

It is invisible, and no hand can lay hold of it;
Intangible, and yet it can be felt everywhere. . . .
What is it? O wonder! What is it not? For it has no name.
In my foolishness, I tried to grasp it,
And I closed my hand, thinking that I held it fast:
But it escaped, and I could not retain it in my fingers.
Full of sadness, I unclenched my grip
And I saw it once again in the palm of my hand.
O unutterable wonder! O strange mystery!
Why do we trouble ourselves in vain? Why do we all wander astray?

St. Symeon, the New Theologian

The man who writes about himself and his own time is the only man who writes about all people and about all time.

George Bernard Shaw

I am writing the memoirs of a man who has lost his memory.

Eugene Ionesco

Another way of approaching the thing is to consider it unnamed, unnameable.

Frances Ponge

They always ask me if I’m happy when I’m finished with my work. Happy? Who’s happy? What’s happy? It’s a dumb question.

Paul Simon

We ought not to let ourselves be satisfied with the God we thought of, for when the thought slips our mind, that God slips with it. What we want is rather the reality of God, exalted far above any thought or creature.

Meister Eckhart

How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn.

Stanley Kunitz

Systems die; instincts remain.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

James Joyce

Reality can destroy the dream, why shouldn’t the dream destroy reality?

George Moore

For history you need a camera with two lenses — the telephoto and the kind of close-up with a fine, penetrating focus. You can forget the wide-angle lens; there is no angle wide enough.

John Irving

Every abstract thinker tears love and time asunder.


A man is infinitely more complicated than his thoughts.

Paul Valéry

Won’t you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you.

Richard B. Sheridan