That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way. There’s a pressure on us all the time to go on to something that seems new because there are new words attached to it. But I want to take words as ordinary as bread. Or life. Or death. Cliches. I want to have my nose rubbed in cliches.

Doris Lessing
The Four-Gated City

I leave this world without a regret.

Henry David Thoreau,
last words

Turn up the lights. I don’t want to go home in the dark.

O. Henry,
last words

It requires moral courage to grieve; it requires religious courage to rejoice.

Søren Kierkegaard

The thing that astonished him was that cats should have two holes cut in their coat exactly at the place where their eyes are.

George C. Lichtenberg

Let us face a pluralistic world in which there are no universal churches, no single remedy for all diseases, no one way to teach or write or sing, no magic diet, no world poets and no chosen races, but only the wretched and wonderfully diversified human race.

Jacques Barzun

Every individual is representative of the whole . . . and should be intimately understood, and this would give a far greater understanding of mass movements and sociology.

Anaïs Nin

But as she has grown, her smile has widened with a touch of fear and her glance has taken on depth. Now she is aware of some of the losses you incur by being here — the extraordinary rent you have to pay as long as you stay.

Annie Dillard

Lonely people talking to each other can make each other lonelier.

Lillian Hellman
The Autumn Garden

Between no place of mine and no place of yours, you’d have thought I’d know the way by now.

W.S. Merwin

I never dreamed of being Shakespeare or Goethe, and I never expected to hold the great mirror of truth up before the world; I dreamed only of being a little pocket mirror, the sort that a woman can carry in her purse; one that reflects small blemishes, and some great beauties, when held close enough to the heart.

Peter Altenberg

Mirror makers know the secret
— one does not make a mirror
to resemble a person.
One brings a person to the mirror.

Jack Spicer

Then there is the matter of my mother’s abandonment of me. Again, this is the common experience. They walk ahead of us, and walk too fast, and forget us, they are so lost in thoughts of their own, and soon or late they disappear. The only mystery is that we expect it to be otherwise.

Marilynne Robinson

I stand on the terrible threshold, and I see
The end and the beginning in each other’s arms.

Stanley Kunitz
Open the Gates

If God lived on earth, people would break his windows.

Yiddish proverb

Have you seen a room from which faith has gone, like a marriage from which love has gone? And patience, patience everywhere like a fog.

Graham Greene

If Garp could have been granted one vast and naive wish, it would have been that he could make the world safe. For children and for grown-ups. The world struck Garp as unnecessarily perilous for both.

John Irving

And all the time it’s your own story, even when you think — “It’s all just made up, a trick. What is the author trying to do?” Reader, we are in such a story: all of this is trying to arrange a kind of prayer for you. Pray for me.

William Stafford