Welcome to my personal archive of quotes that have amused, inspired, or enlightened me. (Their near-eidetic recitation can also double as a party trick, when the occasion calls for it).

Filter by category or be delighted by the randomness of it all.

Upton Sinclair

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Winston Churchill

“A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

David Graeber

“Such imaginary constructs are of course what scientists referred to as models and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with them. Actually, I think a fair case can be made that we cannot think without them. The problem with such models, at least it always seems to happen when we model something called the market, is that once created we have a tendency to treat them as objective realities or even fall down before them and start worshiping them as gods.”

Audre Lorde

“Look inside yourself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives there. See whose face it wears.”

Gregory David Roberts

“The best qualities, called up quickly in a crisis, are very often the hardest to find in a prosperous calm. The contours of all our virtues are shaped by adversity.”

Tom Stoppard

“Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up. But a child’s purpose is to be a child. Nature doesn’t disdain what lives only for a day. It pours the whole of itself into each moment… Life’s bounty is in its flow, later is too late.”

Martha Nussbaum

“Do not despise your inner world. That is the first and most general piece of advice I would offer… Our society is very outward-looking, very taken up with the latest new object, the latest piece of gossip, the latest opportunity for self-assertion and status. But we all begin our lives as helpless babies, dependent on others for comfort, food, and survival itself. And even though we develop a degree of mastery and independence, we always remain alarmingly weak and incomplete, dependent on others and on an uncertain world for whatever we are able to achieve…A creature without any needs would never have reasons for fear, or grief, or hope, or anger. But for that very reason we are often ashamed of our emotions, and of the relations of need and dependency bound up with them. We are all going to encounter illness, loss, and aging, and we’re not well prepared for these inevitable events by a culture that directs us to think of externals only, and to measure ourselves in terms of our possessions of externals. What is the remedy of these ills? A kind of self-love that does not shrink from the needy and incomplete parts of the self, but accepts those with interest and curiosity, and tries to develop a language with which to talk about needs and feelings. Storytelling plays a big role in the process of development. As we tell stories about the lives of others, we learn how to imagine what another creature might feel in response to various events. At the same time, we identify with the other creature and learn something about ourselves. As we grow older, we encounter more and more complex stories — in literature, film, visual art, music — that give us a richer and more subtle grasp of human emotions and of our own inner world. So my second piece of advice, closely related to the first, is: Read a lot of stories, listen to a lot of music, and think about what the stories you encounter mean for your own life and lives of those you love. In that way, you will not be alone with an empty self; you will have a newly rich life with yourself, and enhanced possibilities of real communication with others.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

“Rid yourself from the idea of earning, the idea of deserving, and you will be able to think.”

Arturo Casadevall

“If you write an interdisciplinary grant proposal, it goes to people who are really, really specialized in A or B, and maybe if you’re lucky they have the capacity to see the connections at the interface of A and B… Everyone acknowledges that great progress is made at the interface, but who is there to defend the interface?”