Quotes

A ThisIsNotThat Perspective

Learning

Sowing SeedsHe who learns and learns and yet does not what he knows, is one who plows and plows yet never sows. — ancient Persian proverb, quoted by Alfred Korzybski in Science and Sanity 

If the world has nearly destroyed itself, it is not from lack of knowledge in the sense that we lack the knowledge to cure cancer or release atomic energy, but is due to the fact that the mass of men have not applied to public policy knowledge which they already possess, which is indeed of almost universal possession, deducible from the facts of everyday life. If this is true — and it seems inescapable — then no education which consists mainly in the dissemination of knowledge can save us. If men can disregard in their policies the facts they already know, they can just as easily disregard new facts which they do not at present know. What is needed is the development in men of that particular type of skill which will enable them to make social use of knowledge already in their possession; enable them to apply simple, sometimes self-evident, truths to the guidance of their common life. — Sir Norman Angell, 1942

Children must be free to think in all directions irrespective of the peculiar ideas of parents who often seal their children’s minds with preconceived prejudices and false concepts of past generations. Unless we are very careful, very careful indeed, and very conscientious, there is still great danger that our children may turn out to be the same kind of people we are. — Maj Gen Brock Chisholm, first Director General of the World Health Organization

The aim of education is the condition of suspended judgment on everything. — George Santayana  

If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. The free mind is no barking dog to be tethered on a 10-foot chain. — Adlai Stevenson

Teaching and learning that lead to no significant change in behavior are practically worthless. — Irving Lee

Learning to un-learn to learn, for me, best describes the process of learning the discipline theoretically (verbally) and organismically. —  M. Kendig

Being myself a remarkably stupid fellow, I have had to un-teach myself the difficult, and now beg to present to my fellow fools the parts that aren’t hard. Master these thoroughly and the rest will follow. What one fool can do, another can. — Sylvanus P. Thompson, Introduction to Calculus Made Easy

Learning is the gradual replacement of fantasy with fact. — Gifford Pinchot III

The trouble with people is not so much with their ignorance as it is with their knowing so many things that are not so. — attributed to William Alanson White by Alfred Korzybski in Science and Sanity; also attributed to Josh Billings

You can’t no more teach what you ain’t learned than you can come from where you ain’t been. — Mark Twain, as quoted by Helen Harkness

There are two ways to slide easily through life: Namely, to believe everything, or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking. — Alfred Korzybski 

A person does what he does because he sees the world as he sees it. — Alfred Korzybski

We see the world as ‘we’ are, not as ‘it’ is; because it is the I behind the ‘eye’ that does the seeing. — Anais Nin

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. — Marcel Proust

You can’t step into the same river twice. — Heraclitus

We see what we see because we miss all the finer details. — Alfred Korzybski

Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the ‘real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group … We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation. — Edward Sapir (1929)

Language plays a tremendous role in human affairs. It serves as a means of cooperation and as a weapon of conflict. With it, men can solve problems, erect the towering structures of science and poetry—and talk themselves into insanity and social confusion. — Irving J. Lee

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality. — Albert Einstein 

The more you do what you’ve always done, the more you’ll get what you’ve always got. — paraphrased from Albert Einstein

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. — index card tacked to Einstein’s office wall

All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions. — Leonardo da Vinci 

To know and not to act is not to know. — attributed to Lao Tse

The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen. —  Lee Iaococca

We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it—and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again—and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore. — Mark Twain

“You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught,” from South Pacific — Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein 

You’ve got to be taught, to hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught, from year to year,
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a different shade.
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught, before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You’ve got to be carefully taught,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. — Sir Isaac Newton

I know I cannot paint a flower. I know I cannot paint the sun on the desert on a bright summer morning, but maybe in terms of paint color I can convey my experience of the flower or the experience that makes the flower of significance to me at that particular time. — Georgia O’Keeffe

What is demanded is a change in our imaginative picture of the world — a picture which has been handed down from remote, perhaps pre-human ancestors, and has been learned by each one of us in early childhood. A change in our imagination is always difficult, especially when we are no longer young. The same sort of change was demanded by Copernicus, when he taught that the earth is not stationary and the heavens do not revolve about it once a day. To us now there is no difficulty in this idea, because we learned it before our mental habits had become fixed. Einstein’s ideas, similarly, will seem easy to a generation which has grown up with them, but for our generation a certain effort of imaginative reconstruction is unavoidable. — Bertrand Russell, ABC of Relativity

If we are ever to become what we might have been, we must cease being who we’ve become. — Wendell Johnson

False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science for they often endure long; but false hypotheses do little harm, as everyone takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path toward error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened. — Charles Darwin

Those are the doubting reactions of impetuous youth. Today, you learn something. Tomorrow you think you can already be letter perfect in technique. But the ‘system’ is not a hand me down suit that you can put on and walk off in, or a cookbook where all you need to do is find the page and there is your recipe. No, it is a whole way of life, you have to grow up in it, educate yourself in it for years. You cannot cram it into yourselves, you can assimilate it, take it into your blood and flesh, until it becomes second nature, becomes so organic as part of your being that you are trans-formed by it for all time. It is a system that must be studied in parts and then merged into a whole so that it can be understood in all its fundamentals. When you can spread it all out before you like a fan you will have attained a true grasp of it. You cannot hope to do this all at once.  — Constantine Stanislavski, Building a Character

I must stress that I give no panaceas, but experience shows that when the methods of general semantics are applied, the results are usually beneficial, whether in law, medicine, business, etc., education on all levels, or personal inter-relationships, be they in family, national, or international fields. If they are not applied, but merely talked about, no results can be expected. — Alfred Korzybski

Every word or concept, clear as it may seem to be, has only a limited range of applicability. —  Werner Heisenberg (Physics and Philosophy, 1963)

Wit and Wisdom

If I’m who I am because I’m who I am and you’re who you are because you are who you are, then I’m who I am and you’re who you are. If, on the other hand, I’m who I am because you’re who you are, and if you’re who you are because I’m who I am, then I’m not who I am and you’re not who you are. —  from Art by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton

Do I love you because you’re beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you? — from “Cinderella” by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. — T.S. Eliot

Limitation of aims is the mother of wisdom and the secret of achievement. — Goethe

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. — Aristotle

Knowledge of the possible is the beginning of happiness. — Goethe

Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad: whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen. — John le Carre, from The Chancellor Who Agreed to Play Spy

Happiness is not something that happens … It does not depend on outside events, but, rather, on how we interpret them. —  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

How we feel about ourselves, the joy we get from living, ultimately depend directly on how the mind filters and interprets everyday experiences. — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered. — G.K. Chesterton

We are always getting to live, but never living. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, as quoted by Csikszentmihalyi

186,000 miles per second: It’s not just a good idea, it’s THE LAW! —  seen on an Einstein t-shirt

There is no coming to consciousness without pain. — Carl Jung

One test is worth a thousand expert opinions. — bumper sticker seen on a US Army test range

Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy. — The Eagles, “Take It Easy”

Who rules our symbols, rules us. — Alfred Korzybski

The pursuit of excellence is the proper vocation of man. — Cassius J. Keyser

The present is no more exempt from the sneer of the future than the past has been. — Cassius J. Keyser

The next-most difficult thing in the world is to get perspective. The most difficult is to keep it. — Cassius J. Keyser

It is commonly, but erroneously, believed that it is easy to ask questions. A fool, it is said, can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer. The fact is that a wise man can answer many questions that a fool cannot ask. — Cassius J. Keyser

How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living? — Henry David Thoreau

To a mouse, cheese is cheese. That is why mouse traps are effective. (page 192 of People In Quandaries; often repeated as “That’s why mousetraps work.”) — Wendell Johnson

The true meaning of a term is to be found by observing what a man does with it, not by what he says about it. — P.W. Bridgman

If your language is confused, your intellect, if not your whole character, will almost certainly correspond. — Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

God may forgive your sins. But your nervous system won’t. — Alfred Korzybski

It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubbornness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed. — Albert Einstein

The world we have created today as a result of our thinking thus far has problems which cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them. — Albert Einstein

Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen. — Albert Einstein

Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits. — Mark Twain

There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will. — Epictetus

The self explorer, whether he wants to or not, becomes an explorer of everything else. — Elias
Canetti

You don’t get meaning, you respond with meaning. — Charles Sanders Peirce

Ultimately, we attach meaning to experience. — an instructor in a corporate training class offered by Gifford Pinchot III

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimation of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. — Marcus Aurelius

We cannot command the wind, but we can adjust our sails. — Anonymous

We tend to discriminate against people to the degree that we fail to distinguish between them. —  Irving Lee

You can’t make me what you call me! — Al Fleishman 

I lived with the terrible knowledge that one day I would be an old man, still waiting for my real life to start. — Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides 

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. — William James

Out of time we cut days and nights, summers and winters. We say what each part of the sensible continuum is, and all these abstract whats are concepts. The intellectual life of man consists almost wholly in his substitution of a conceptual order for the perceptual order in which his experience originally comes. — William James, “The World We Live In”

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. — Elvis Costello

Time is but the stream I go fishing in. — Henry David Thoreau

It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and only lukewarm defenders among those who may do well under the new. — Machiavelli

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. — George Bernard Shaw

The only man who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measure anew each time he sees me, whilst all the rest go on with their old measurements and expect them to fit me. — George Bernard Shaw

To progress, man must re-make himself, and he cannot re-make himself without suffering. For he is both the marble and the sculptor. — Alexis Carrel

Laughter is the only thing that’ll cut trouble down to a size where you can talk to it. — Dan Jenkins, Semi-Tough

There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion. Carl Jung

If the minimum wasn’t good enough, it wouldn’t be the minimum. (And if the minimum isn’t good enough, it shouldn’t be the minimum.) — Air Force Academy aphorism, c. 1972

A ship in the harbor is safe. But that is not what ships are for. — Anonymous, from a poster c.1972

You can’t sail on a still day. — from Shania Twain’s “If It Don’t Take Two”

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas. — repeated by Dandy Don Meredith on Monday Night Football

Act as if the future of the universe depends on what you do, while laughing at yourself for thinking that your actions make any difference. — Buddhist saying

Keep company with those who make you better. — English Saying

If you aren’t getting flak, you aren’t over the target. — Gifford Pinchot III

If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly. — G.K. Chesterton

Your task it is, amid confusion, rush, and noise, to grasp the lasting, calm and meaningful, and finding it anew, to hold and treasure it. — Paul Hindemith

The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. — Steve Biko

The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything. — 19th century U.S. diplomat Edward John Phelps

He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery. — former British prime minister Harold Wilson

Progress has not followed a straight, ascending line, but a spiral with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution. — Goethe

Life has a way of demanding that you live it. — Nora Percival, heard on NPR’s Storycorps series.

The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution. — Bertrand Russell

Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine. — Sir Arthur S. Eddington

What can be shown, cannot be said. — Ludwig Wittgenstein

Nothing in human history that flowed from the decisions of governments has been inevitable. No historical event ever had to happen the way it happened. The counter-factual, the “could have been” in history is a unique and essential aspect of human intelligence. And it should always be recognized that options existed. Alternatives always have been available, and they always will be available. — Martin J. Sherwin

The opposite of a true statement is a false statement, but the opposite of a profound truth is usually another profound truth. — Niels Bohr

There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum. — Arthur C. Clarke

from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” [emphasis added]

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.

The virtue most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It [Conformity] loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it.

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own. But the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loth to disappoint them.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. Ah,so you shall be sure to be misunderstood. Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour. For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem. These varieties are lost sight of at a little distance, at a little height of thought. One tendency unites them all. The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.

At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door, and say, Come out unto us. But keep thy state; come not into their confusion.

The power men possess to annoy me, I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act.

If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails,men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not studying a profession, for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances.

A political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.

Henry David Thoreau Walden

In most books, the I, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference. We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking. I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.

But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon ploughed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation…. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things. But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear.

It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however, ancient, can be trusted without proof. … Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new.

‘But,’ says one, ‘you do not mean that the students should go to work with their hands instead of their heads?’ I do not mean that exactly, but mean
something which he might think a good deal like that; I mean that they should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end. How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?

There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted. It is human, it is divine, carrion. If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life, as from that dry and parching wind of the African deserts called the simoom, which fills the mouth and nose and ears and eyes with dust till you are suffocated, for fear that I should get some of his good done to me,-some of its virus mingled with my blood.

I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

I perceive that we inhabitants of New England live this mean life that we do because our vision does not penetrate the surface of things. We think that that is which appears to be.

From Mahatma Gandhi

Compiled by C.D. Deshmukh:

I am conscious of my own limitations. That consciousness is my only strength.

My life is an indivisible whole, and all my activities run into one another; and they all have their rise in my insatiable love of mankind.

I have in my life never been guilty of saying things I did not mean – my nature is to go straight to the heart and if often I fail in doing so for the time being, I know that Truth ultimately makes itself heard and felt, as it has often done in my experience.

I believe in the absolute oneness of God and, therefore, also of humanity. I have always believed God to be without form. What I did hear was like a Voice from afar, and yet quite near.

Like every other faculty, this faculty for listening to the still small voice within requires previous effort and training, perhaps greater than what is required for the acquisition of any other faculty, and even if out of thousands of claimants only a few succeed in establishing their claim, it is well worth running the risk having and tolerating doubtful claimants.

from Gamtano Kariye Gulal, compiled by Balvant K. Parekh:

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

The most heinous and the most cruel crimes of which history has record have been committed under the cover of religion or equally noble motives.

from the movie Gandhi directed by Sir Richard Attenborough:

Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mighter than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment.

A nation that is capable of limitless sacrifice is capable of rising to limitless heights. The purer the sacrifice the quicker the progress.

Truth is God and God is truth.

Where there is love, there is life; hatred leads to destruction.

Truth, purity, self-control, firmness, fearlessness, humility, unity, peace, and renunciation – these are the inherent qualities of a civil resister.

Non-cooperation is a protest against an unwitting and unwilling participation in evil.

You will eat not to satisfy your palate but your hunger. A self-indulgent man lives to eat; a self-restrained man eats to live.

Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.

Love is the strongest force the world possesses, and yet is the humblest imaginable.

It does not require money to be neat, clean and dignified.

Cowards can never be moral.

To forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves.