Good Virtues Quotes

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Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.
Maya Angelou
When I'm good, I'm very good, but when I'm bad, I'm better.
Mae West
Abashed the devil stood and felt how awful goodness is and saw Virtue in her shape how lovely: and pined his loss
John Milton (Paradise Lost)
Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.
Marcus Aurelius
It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.
Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics and Politics)
We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the neverending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.
John Steinbeck (East of Eden)
If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don't deal in lies, Or being hated, don't give way to hating, And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise If you can dream - and not make dreams your master; If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the will which says to them: 'Hold on!' If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
Rudyard Kipling (If: A Father's Advice to His Son)
The sense of tragedy - according to Aristotle - comes, ironically enough, not from the protagonist's weak points but from his good qualities. Do you know what I'm getting at? People are drawn deeper into tragedy not by their defects but by their virtues. ... [But] we accept irony through a device called metaphor. And through that we grow and become deeper human beings.
Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)
Virtue is persecuted by the wicked more than it is loved by the good.
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Don Quixote)
When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.
Fulton J. Sheen (Life Is Worth Living)
I hate purity, I hate goodness! I don't want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone to be corrupt to the bones.
George Orwell (1984)
How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one's country; is it hate of one's uncountry? Then it's not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That's a good thing, but one mustn't make a virtue of it, or a profession... Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate. And beyond that, I am ignorant, I hope.
Ursula K. Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness)
Good and great are seldom in the same man.
Winston S. Churchill
the highest point a man can attain is not Knowledge, or Virtue, or Goodness, or Victory, but something even greater, more heroic and more despairing: Sacred Awe!
Nikos Kazantzakis (Zorba the Greek)
The evil in the world comes almost always from ignorance, and goodwill can cause as much damage as ill-will if it is not enlightened. People are more often good than bad, though in fact that is not the question. But they are more or less ignorant and this is what one calls vice or virtue, the most appalling vice being the ignorance that thinks it knows everything and which consequently authorizes itself to kill. The murderer's soul is blind, and there is no true goodness or fine love without the greatest possible degree of clear-sightedness.
Albert Camus (The Plague)
Humanity is not perfect in any fashion; no more in the case of evil than in that of good. The criminal has his virtues, just as the honest man has his weaknesses.
Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (Les Liaisons dangereuses)
Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns. These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are as distinct as is vice from virtue. Men too often confound them: they should not be confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for truth; narrow human doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a few, should not be substituted for the world-redeeming creed of Christ. There is – I repeat it – a difference; and it is a good, and not a bad action to mark broadly and clearly the line of separation between them.
Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre)
A horse must be a bit mad to be a good cavalry mount, and its rider must be completely so.
Steven Pressfield (The Virtues of War)
Virtue does not come from wealth, but. . . wealth, and every other good thing which men have. . . comes from virtue.
Know you not that a good man does nothing for appearance sake, but for the sake of having done right?
A virtuos woman is not moved by big names and flamboyance, but only men of profound wisdom and integrity move her.
Michael Bassey Johnson
In the time of your life, live—so that in that good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches. Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding place and let it be free and unashamed. Place in matter and in flesh the least of the values, for these are the things that hold death and must pass away. Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption. Encourage virtue in whatever heart it may have been driven into secrecy and sorrow by the shame and terror of the world. Ignore the obvious, for it is unworthy of the clear eye and the kindly heart. Be the inferior of no man, or of any men be superior. Remember that every man is a variation of yourself. No man's guilt is not yours, nor is any man's innocence a thing apart. Despise evil and ungodliness, but not men of ungodliness or evil. These, understand. Have no shame in being kindly and gentle but if the time comes in the time of your life to kill, kill and have no regret. In the time of your life, live—so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.
William Saroyan (The time of your life (RSC playtext))
There is no such thing as pure good or pure evil, least of all in people. In the best of us there are thoughts or deeds that are wicked, and in the worst of us, at least some virtue. An adversary is not one who does loathsome acts for their own sake. He always has a reason that to him is justification. My cat eats mice. Does that make him bad? I don't think so, and the cat doesn't think so, but I would bet the mice have a different opinion.
Terry Goodkind (Wizard's First Rule (Sword of Truth, #1))
These virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions ... The good of man is a working of the soul in the way of excellence in a complete life.
Aristotle (The Nicomachean Ethics)
Humility must accompany all our actions, must be with us everywhere; for as soon as we glory in our good works they are of no further value to our advancement in virtue.
Augustine of Hippo
Our whole life is startlingly moral. There is never an instant's truce between virtue and vice. Goodness is the only investment that never fails.
Henry David Thoreau
You think they are kind, that the Nephilim are kind, because they are good, but goodness is not kindness, and there is nothing crueler than virtue.
Cassandra Clare (City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6))
The scholar does not consider gold and jade to be precious treasures, but loyalty and good faith.
Confucius (The Ethics of Confucius)
If you have a comprehensive explanation for everything then it decreases uncertainty and anxiety and reduces your cognitive load. And if you can use that simplifying algorithm to put yourself on the side of moral virtue then you’re constantly a good person with a minimum of effort.
Jordan B. Peterson
In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted shortcuts to love...We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the neverending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.
John Steinbeck (East of Eden)
If the Good Lord didn't want men to play with themselves, we'd have hooks for hands.
Mackenzi Lee (The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings, #1))
I love you, but I don’t know how to help you. I still don’t! I’m an emotional delinquent and I say wrong things all the time, but I want to be better for you. I promise that. It doesn’t matter to me that you’re ill and it doesn’t matter if I have to give up everything, because you’re worth it. You’re worth it all because you are magnificent, you are. Magnificent and gorgeous and brilliant and kind and good and I just . . . love you, Percy. I love you so damn much.
Mackenzi Lee (The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings, #1))
There is a place within each of us where we cannot hide from the truth, where virtue sits as judge. To admit the truth of our actions is to go before that court, where process is irrelevant. Good and evil are intents, and intent is without excuse.
R.A. Salvatore (Passage to Dawn (Forgotten Realms: Legacy of the Drow, #4; Legend of Drizzt, #10))
For what prevents us from saying that the happy life is to have a mind that is free, lofty, fearless and steadfast - a mind that is placed beyond the reach of fear, beyond the reach of desire, that counts virtue the only good, baseness the only evil, and all else but a worthless mass of things, which come and go without increasing or diminishing the highest good, and neither subtract any part from the happy life nor add any part to it? A man thus grounded must, whether he wills or not, necessarily be attended by constant cheerfulness and a joy that is deep and issues from deep within, since he finds delight in his own resources, and desires no joys greater than his inner joys.
Seneca (The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca: Essays and Letters)
He knew Alec enough by now to know the conflicting impulses that warred in him. He was conscientious, the kind of person who believed that the others around him were so much more important than he was, who already believed he was letting everybody down. And he was honest, the kind of person that was naturally open about all he felt and wanted. Alec's virtues had made a trap for him; these two good qualities had collided painfully. He felt he could not be honest without disappointing everyone he loved. It was a hideous conundrum for him. It was as if the world had been designed to make him unhappy.
Cassandra Clare (What to Buy the Shadowhunter Who Has Everything (The Bane Chronicles, #8))
What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a young man and was prone to speak critically, my father would say: “Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve.
Gordon B. Hinckley
I look at the blanked-out faces of the other passengers--hoisting their briefcases, their backpacks, shuffling to disembark--and I think of what Hobie said: beauty alters the grain of reality. And I keep thinking too of the more conventional wisdom: namely, that the pursuit of pure beauty is a trap, a fast track to bitterness and sorrow, that beauty has to be wedded to something more meaningful. Only what is that thing? Why am I made the way I am? Why do I care about all the wrong things, and nothing at all for the right ones? Or, to tip it another way: how can I see so clearly that everything I love or care about is illusion, and yet--for me, anyway--all that's worth living for lies in that charm? A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don't get to choose our own hearts. We can't make ourselves want what's good for us or what's good for other people. We don't get to choose the people we are. Because--isn't it drilled into us constantly, from childhood on, an unquestioned platitude in the culture--? From William Blake to Lady Gaga, from Rousseau to Rumi to Tosca to Mister Rogers, it's a curiously uniform message, accepted from high to low: when in doubt, what to do? How do we know what's right for us? Every shrink, every career counselor, every Disney princess knows the answer: "Be yourself." "Follow your heart." Only here's what I really, really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can't be trusted--? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight toward a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster?...If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?
Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch)
That dress…was a very, very good decision. I could write an entire poem on the virtues of your legs alone. You are a feast for the senses.” I laughed. “I don’t know about a feast. Maybe just an hors d'oeuvre.” He took my hand and wrapped it around his arm. “Not an hors d'oeuvre. The dessert. And I plan to spoil my appetite.
Colleen Houck
So will I turn her virtue into pitch, And out of her own goodness make the net That shall enmesh them all.
William Shakespeare (Othello)
I want people to come away from my book with questions," she says. "Questions about virtue and goodness. Not answers.
Veronica Roth
Good art however "immoral" is wholly a thing of virtue. Good art can not be immoral. By good art I mean art that bears true witness, I mean the art that is most precise.
Ezra Pound
Good is good in the final hour, in the deepest pit – without hope, without witness, without reward. Virtue is only virtue in extremis.
Steven Moffat
On the whole, men are more good than bad; that, however, isn't the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. The soul of the murderer is blind; and there can be no true goodness nor true love without the utmost clear-sightedness.
Albert Camus
Every good thing in the Christian life grows in the soil of humility. Without humility, every virtue and every grace withers. That’s why Calvin said humility is first, second, and third in the Christian faith.
John Piper
Misanthropes have some admirable - if paradoxical - virtues. It is no exaggeration to say that we are among the nicest people you are likely to meet. Because good manners build sturdy walls, our distaste for intimacy makes us exceedingly cordial. “ships that pass in the night.” As long as you remain a stranger we will be your friend forever.
Florence King
The word "We" is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages. What is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it? What is my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me? What is my freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and impotent, are my masters? What is my life, if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey? But I am done with this creed of corruption. I am done with the monster of "We," the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame. And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: "I.
Ayn Rand (Anthem)
A true woman of virtue is one who will socialize with every man on earth, and doesn't share her body with any of them.
Michael Bassey Johnson
The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together: our virtues would be proud,if our faults whipped them not; and our crimes would despair, if they were not cherished by our virtues.
William Shakespeare (All's Well That Ends Well)
Variability is one of the virtues of a woman. It avoids the crude requirement of polygamy. So long as you have one good wife you are sure to have a spiritual harem".
G.K. Chesterton
There is nothing good about watching another man claim your ship because your skin is too dark to do it yourself," he says, each word a glancing wound. "So in future, you needn't demand apologies on my behalf.
Mackenzi Lee (The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings, #1))
Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.
Margaret D. Nadauld
If I had a friend and loved him because of the benefits which this brought me and because of getting my own way, then it would not be my friend that I loved but myself. I should love my friend on account of his own goodness and virtues and account of all that he is in himself. Only if I love my friend in this way do I love him properly.
Meister Eckhart (Selected Writings)
Kindness is strength. Good-nature is often mistaken for virtue, and good health sometimes passes for genius. Anger blows out the lamp of the mind. In the examination of a great and important question, every one should be serene, slow-pulsed, and calm. Intelligence is not the foundation of arrogance. Insolence is not logic. Epithets are the arguments of malice.
Robert G. Ingersoll (The Christian Religion: An Enquiry)
A girl's life was defined by lines: fine lines, hairlines, bikini lines, class lines, the tightrope line between being a good girl and a slut. But there was always a moment when the lines blurred and a good girl had to decide whether to toe the line, cross the line, or stay safe behind the line that guarded her virtue.
Thea Devine
Listen, Kafka. What you’re experiencing now is the motif of many Greek tragedies. Man doesn’t choose fate. Fate chooses man. That’s the basic worldview of Greek drama. And the sense of tragedy—according to Aristotle—comes, ironically enough, not from the protagonist’s weak points but from his good qualities. Do you know what I’m getting at? People are drawn deeper into tragedy not by their defects but by their virtues. Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex being a great example. Oedipus is drawn into tragedy not because of laziness or stupidity, but because of his courage and honesty. So an inevitable irony results.
Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)
I have not loved the world, nor the world me, but let us part fair foes; I do believe, though I have found them not, that there may be words which are things, hopes which will not deceive, and virtues which are merciful, or weave snares for the failing: I would also deem o'er others' griefs that some sincerely grieve; that two, or one, are almost what they seem, that goodness is no name, and happiness no dream.
Lord Byron
Assume a virtue, if you have it not. That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat, Of habits devil, is angel yet in this, That to the use of actions fair and good He likewise gives a frock or livery That aptly is put on. Refrain tonight, And that shall lend a kind of easiness To the next abstinence; the next more easy; For use almost can change the stamp of nature.
William Shakespeare (Hamlet)
I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things, except perhaps as a joke. Everyone there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes. But this is near the stage where the road passes over the rim of our world. No one's eyes can see very far beyond that: lots of people's eyes can see further than mine.
C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)
If you want to know if someone was meant to be in your future, then remove all the worldly things about them from your mind. Don’t think about their looks, the intimate moments or their personality. Now, think about how they made you feel, how they improved your life and what virtues they possess that push you to want to become better. Did they bring you closer to God? Did they bring you to your life mission? Did they ever lie to you, betray you or made it impossible for you to feel comfortable speaking your mind? When you remove all the shine from a diamond, it becomes a glass rock. What value is it then? See beneath the surface and you will know who your future is with.
Shannon L. Alder
You have a good many little gifts and virtues, but there is no need of parading them, for conceit spoils the finest genius. There is not much danger that real talent or goodness will be overlooked long; even if it is, the consciousness of possessing and using it well should satisfy one, and the great charm of all power is modesty.
Louisa May Alcott (Little Women)
You will find it less easy to unroot faults than to choke them by gaining virtues. Do not think of your faults, still less of others faults; in every person who comes near you look for what is good and strong; honor that; rejoice in it and as you can, try to imitate it; and your faults will drop off like dead leaves when their time comes.
John Ruskin
Though I obviously have no proof of this, the one aspect of life that seems clear to me is that good people do whatever they believe is the right thing to do. Being virtuous is hard, not easy. The idea of doing good things simply because you're good seems like a zero-sum game; I'm not even sure those actions would still qualify as 'good,' since they'd merely be a function of normal behavior. Regardless of what kind of god you believe in--a loving god, a vengeful god, a capricious god, a snooty beret-wearing French god, or whatever--one has to assume that you can't be penalized for doing the things you believe to be truly righteous and just. Certainly, this creates some pretty glaring problems: Hitler may have thought he was serving God. Stalin may have thought he was serving God (or something vaguely similar). I'm certain Osama bin Laden was positive he was serving God. It's not hard to fathom that all of those maniacs were certain that what they were doing was right. Meanwhile, I constantly do things that I know are wrong; they're not on the same scale as incinerating Jews or blowing up skyscrapers, but my motivations might be worse. I have looked directly into the eyes of a woman I loved and told her lies for no reason, except that those lies would allow me to continue having sex with another woman I cared about less. This act did not kill 20 million Russian peasants, but it might be more 'diabolical' in a literal sense. If I died and found out I was going to hell and Stalin was in heaven, I would note the irony, but I couldn't complain. I don't make the fucking rules.
Chuck Klosterman (Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto)
She had thought once that there were good people and bad people, that there was a side of light and a side of darkness, but she no longer thought that. She had seen evil, in her brother and her father, the evil of good intentions gone wrong and the evil of sheer desire for power. But in goodness there was also no safety: Virtue could cut like a knife, and the fire of Heaven was blinding.
Cassandra Clare (City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6))
If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love - You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.
C.S. Lewis (The Weight of Glory)
The gift of the Holy Ghost...quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands, and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates, and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings, and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness, and charity. It develops beauty of person, form, and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation, and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.
Parley P. Pratt
Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion–when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing–when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors–when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you–when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice–you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot
Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged)
Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smoothes there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown upon his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiselling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendour of virtue, until you shall see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine.
The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.
G.K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy)
It is true that the virtues which are less esteemed and practiced now--independence, self-reliance, and the willingness to bear risks, the readiness to back one's own conviction against a majority, and the willingness to voluntary cooperation with one's neighbors--are essentially those on which an individualist society rests. Collectivism has nothing to put in their place, and in so far as it already has destroyed then it has left a void filled by nothing but the demand for obedience and the compulsion of the individual to what is collectively decided to be good.
Friedrich A. Hayek (The Road to Serfdom)
But happiness is a difficult thing-it is, as Aristotle posited in The Nicomachean Ethics, an activity, is is about good social behavior, about being a solid citizen. Happiness is about community, intimacy, relationships, rootedness, closeness, family, stability, a sense of place, a feeling of love. And in this country, where people move from state to state and city to city so much, where rootlessness is almost a virtue ("anywhere I hang my someone else's home"), where family units regularly implode and leave behind fragments of divorce, where the long loneliness of life finds its antidote not in a hardy, ancient culture (as it would in Europe), not in some blood-deep tribal rites (as it would in the few still-hale Third World nations), but in our vast repository of pop culture, of consumer goods, of cotton candy for all-in this America, happiness is hard.
Elizabeth Wurtzel (Prozac Nation)
True character arises from a deeper well than religion. It is the internalization of moral principles of a society, augmented by those tenets personally chosen by the individual, strong enough to endure through trials of solitude and adversity. The principles are fitted together into what we call integrity, literally the integrated self, wherein personal decisions feel good and true. Character is in turn the enduring source of virtue. It stands by itself and excites admiration in others.
Edward O. Wilson
Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; likewise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust. Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override. For this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others. It does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many. Therefore in a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled; the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests.
John Rawls (A Theory of Justice)
I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught - in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too - in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well - or ill?
John Steinbeck (East of Eden)
Remember to act always as if you were at a symposium. When the food or drink comes around, reach out and take some politely; if it passes you by don't try pulling it back. And if it has not reached you yet, don't let your desire run ahead of you, be patient until your turn comes. Adopt a similar attitude with regard to children, wife, wealth and status, and in time, you will be entitled to dine with the gods. Go further and decline these goods even when they are on offer and you will have a share in the gods' power as well as their company. That is how Diogenes, Heraclitus and philosophers like them came to be called, and considered, divine.
Epictetus (The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness)
You go on, I presume, with your latin Exercises: and I wish to hear of your beginning upon Sallust who is one of the most polished and perfect of the Roman Historians, every Period of whom, and I had almost said every Syllable and every Letter is worth Studying. In Company with Sallust, Cicero, Tacitus and Livy, you will learn Wisdom and Virtue. You will see them represented, with all the Charms which Language and Imagination can exhibit, and Vice and Folly painted in all their Deformity and Horror. You will ever remember that all the End of study is to make you a good Man and a useful Citizen.—This will ever be the Sum total of the Advice of your affectionate Father, John Adams
John Adams (The Letters of John and Abigail Adams)
Virtue is under certain circumstances merely an honorable form of stupidity: who could be ill-disposed toward it on that account? And this kind of virtue has not been outlived even today. A kind of sturdy peasant simplicity, which, however, is possible in all classes and can be encountered only with respect and a smile, believes even today that everything is in good hands, namely in the "hands of God"; and when it maintains this proportion with the same modest certainty as it would that two and two make four, we others certainly refrain from contradicting. Why disturb THIS pure foolishness? Why darken it with our worries about man, people, goal, future? And even if we wanted to do it, we could not. They project their own honorable stupidity and goodness into the heart of things (the old God, deus myops, still lives among them!); we others — we read something else into the heart of things: our own enigmatic nature, our contradictions, our deeper, more painful, more mistrustful wisdom.
Friedrich Nietzsche (The Will to Power)
I learned that the world of men as it exists today is a bureaucracy. This is an obvious truth, of course, though it is also one the ignorance of which causes great suffering. “But moreover, I discovered, in the only way that a man ever really learns anything important, the real skill that is required to succeed in a bureaucracy. I mean really succeed: do good, make a difference, serve. I discovered the key. This key is not efficiency, or probity, or insight, or wisdom. It is not political cunning, interpersonal skills, raw IQ, loyalty, vision, or any of the qualities that the bureaucratic world calls virtues, and tests for. The key is a certain capacity that underlies all these qualities, rather the way that an ability to breathe and pump blood underlies all thought and action. “The underlying bureaucratic key is the ability to deal with boredom. To function effectively in an environment that precludes everything vital and human. To breathe, so to speak, without air. “The key is the ability, whether innate or conditioned, to find the other side of the rote, the picayune, the meaningless, the repetitive, the pointlessly complex. To be, in a word, unborable. “It is the key to modern life. If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.
David Foster Wallace (The Pale King)
You have a hierarchy of values; pleasure is at the bottom of the ladder, and you speak with a little thrill of self-satisfaction, of duty, charity, and truthfulness. You think pleasure is only of the senses; the wretched slaves who manufactured your morality despised a satisfaction which they had small means of enjoying. You would not be so frightened if I had spoken of happiness instead of pleasure: it sounds less shocking, and your mind wonders from the sty of Epicurus to his garden. But I will speak of pleasure, for I see that men aim at that, and I do not know that they aim at happiness. It is pleasure that lurks in the practice of every one of your virtues. Man performs actions because they are good for him, and when they are good for other people as well they are thought virtuous: if he finds pleasure in giving alms he is charitable; if he finds pleasure in helping others he is benevolent; if he finds pleasure in working for society he is public-spirited; but it is for your private pleasure that you give twopence to a beggar as much as it is for my private pleasure that I drink another whiskey and soda. I, less of a humbug than you, neither applaud myself for my pleasure nor demand your admiration.
W. Somerset Maugham (Of Human Bondage)
The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole, men are more good than bad; that, however, isn’t the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. The soul of the murderer is blind; and there can be no true goodness nor true love without the utmost clear-sightedness.
Albert Camus
One question in my mind, which I hardly dare mention in public, is whether patriotism has, overall, been a force for good or evil in the world. Patriotism is rampant in war and there are some good things about it. Just as self-respect and pride bring out the best in an individual, pride in family, pride in teammates, pride in hometown bring out the best in groups of people. War brings out the kind of pride in country that encourages its citizens in the direction of excellence and it encourages them to be ready to die for it. At no time do people work so well together to achieve the same goal as they do in wartime. Maybe that's enough to make patriotism eligible to be considered a virtue. If only I could get out of my mind the most patriotic people who ever lived, the Nazi Germans.
Andy Rooney (MY WAR)
I should like to make life beautiful--I mean everybody's life. And then all this immense expense of art, that seems somehow to lie outside life and make it no better for the world, pains one. It spoils my enjoyment of anything when I am made to think that most people are shut out from it." I call that the fanaticism of sympathy," said Will, impetuously. "You might say the same of landscape, of poetry, of all refinement. If you carried it out you ought to be miserable in your own goodness, and turn evil that you might have no advantage over others. The best piety is to enjoy--when you can. You are doing the most then to save the earth's character as an agreeable planet. And enjoyment radiates. It is of no use to try and take care of all the world; that is being taken care of when you feel delight--in art or in anything else. Would you turn all the youth of the world into a tragic chorus, wailing and moralising over misery? I suspect that you have some false belief in the virtues of misery, and want to make your life a martyrdom.
George Eliot (Middlemarch)
Never,” said he, as he ground his teeth, “never was anything at once so frail and so indomitable. A mere reed she feels in my hand!” (And he shook me with the force of his hold.) “I could bend her with my finger and thumb: and what good would it do if I bent, if I uptore, if I crushed her? Consider that eye: consider the resolute, wild, free thing looking out of it, defying me, with more than courage—with a stern triumph. Whatever I do with its cage, I cannot get at it—the savage, beautiful creature! If I tear, if I rend the slight prison, my outrage will only let the captive loose. Conqueror I might be of the house; but the inmate would escape to heaven before I could call myself possessor of its clay dwellingplace. And it is you, spirit—with will and energy, and virtue and purity— that I want: not alone your brittle frame. Of yourself you could come with soft flight and nestle against my heart, if you would: seized against your will, you will elude the grasp like an essence—you will vanish ere I inhale your fragrance.
Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre)
That a good man may have his back to the wall is no more than we knew already, but that God could have His back to the wall is a boast for all insurgents forever. Christianity is the only religion on earth that has felt that omnipotence made God incomplete. Christianity alone felt that God, to be wholly God, must have been a rebel as well as a king. Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point -- and does not break. In this indeed I approach a matter more dark and awful than it is easy to discuss; and I apologize in advance if any of my phrases fall wrong or seem irreverent touching a matter which the greatest saints and thinkers have justly feared to approach. But in the terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unthinkable way) went not only through agony, but through doubt. It is written, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." No; but the Lord thy God may tempt Himself; and it seems as if this was what happened in Gethsemane. In a garden Satan tempted man: and in a garden God tempted God. He passed in some superhuman manner through our human horror of pessimism. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.
G.K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy)
Class never runs scared. It is sure-footed and confident. It can handle anything that comes along. Class has a sense of humor. It knows a good laugh is the best lubricant for oiling the machinery of human relations. Class never makes excuses. It takes its lumps and learns from past mistakes. Class knows that good manners are nothing more than a series of small, inconsequential sacrifices. Class bespeaks an aristocracy that has nothing to do with ancestors or money. Some wealthy “blue bloods” have no class, while individuals who are struggling to make ends meet are loaded with it. Class is real. It can’t be faked. Class never tried to build itself by tearing others down. Class is already up and need not strive to look better by making others look worse. Class can “walk with kings and keep it’s virtue and talk with crowds and keep the common touch.” Everyone is comfortable with the person who has class because that person is comfortable with himself. If you have class, you’ve got it made. If you don’t have class, no matter what else you have, it doesn’t make any difference.
Ann Landers
In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted shortcuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world. We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly re-spawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.
John Steinbeck (East of Eden)
What men and women need is encouragement. Their natural resisting powers should be strengthened, not weakened…. Instead of always harping on a man’s faults,tell him of his virtues. Try to pull him out of his rut of bad habits. Hold up to him his better self, his REAL self that can dare and do and win out! … The influence of a beautiful, helpful, hopeful character is contagious, and may revolutionize a whole town…. People radiate what is in their minds and in their hearts. If a man feels kindly and obliging, his neighbors will feel that way, too, before long.But if he scolds and scowls and criticizes—his neighbors will return scowl for scowl, and add interest! … When you look for the bad, expecting it, you will get it. When you know you will find the good—you will get that…
Eleanor H. Porter (Pollyanna (Pollyanna, #1))
If, by the virtue of charity or the circumstance of desperation, you ever chance to spend a little time around a Substance-recovery halfway facility like Enfield MA’s state-funded Ennet House, you will acquire many exotic new facts… That certain persons simply will not like you no matter what you do. That sleeping can be a form of emotional escape and can with sustained effort be abused. That purposeful sleep-deprivation can also be an abusable escape. That you do not have to like a person in order to learn from him/her/it. That loneliness is not a function of solitude. That logical validity is not a guarantee of truth. That it takes effort to pay attention to any one stimulus for more than a few seconds. That boring activities become, perversely, much less boring if you concentrate intently on them. That if enough people in a silent room are drinking coffee it is possible to make out the sound of steam coming off the coffee. That sometimes human beings have to just sit in one place and, like, hurt. That you will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do. That there is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agendaless kindness. That it is possible to fall asleep during an anxiety attack. That concentrating intently on anything is very hard work. That 99% of compulsive thinkers’ thinking is about themselves; that 99% of this self-directed thinking consists of imagining and then getting ready for things that are going to happen to them; and then, weirdly, that if they stop to think about it, that 100% of the things they spend 99% of their time and energy imagining and trying to prepare for all the contingencies and consequences of are never good. In short that 99% of the head’s thinking activity consists of trying to scare the everliving shit out of itself. That it is possible to make rather tasty poached eggs in a microwave oven. That some people’s moms never taught them to cover up or turn away when they sneeze. That the people to be the most frightened of are the people who are the most frightened. That it takes great personal courage to let yourself appear weak. That no single, individual moment is in and of itself unendurable. That other people can often see things about you that you yourself cannot see, even if those people are stupid. That having a lot of money does not immunize people from suffering or fear. That trying to dance sober is a whole different kettle of fish. That different people have radically different ideas of basic personal hygiene. That, perversely, it is often more fun to want something than to have it. That if you do something nice for somebody in secret, anonymously, without letting the person you did it for know it was you or anybody else know what it was you did or in any way or form trying to get credit for it, it’s almost its own form of intoxicating buzz. That anonymous generosity, too, can be abused. That it is permissible to want. That everybody is identical in their unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else. That this isn’t necessarily perverse. That there might not be angels, but there are people who might as well be angels.
David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest)
What good does it do me, after all, if an ever-watchful authority keeps an eye out to ensure that my pleasures will be tranquil and races ahead of me to ward off all danger, sparing me the need even to think about such things, if that authority, even as it removes the smallest thorns from my path, is also absolute master of my liberty and my life; if it monopolizes vitality and existence to such a degree that when it languishes, everything around it must also languish; when it sleeps, everything must also sleep; and when it dies, everything must also perish? There are some nations in Europe whose inhabitants think of themselves in a sense as colonists, indifferent to the fate of the place they live in. The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved. They are so divorced from their own interests that even when their own security and that of their children is finally compromised, they do not seek to avert the danger themselves but cross their arms and wait for the nation as a whole to come to their aid. Yet as utterly as they sacrifice their own free will, they are no fonder of obedience than anyone else. They submit, it is true, to the whims of a clerk, but no sooner is force removed than they are glad to defy the law as a defeated enemy. Thus one finds them ever wavering between servitude and license. When a nation has reached this point, it must either change its laws and mores or perish, for the well of public virtue has run dry: in such a place one no longer finds citizens but only subjects.
Alexis de Tocqueville (Democracy in America)
The Barbarian hopes — and that is the mark of him, that he can have his cake and eat it too.He will consume what civilization has slowly produced after generations of selection and effort, but he will not be at pains to replace such goods, nor indeed has he a comprehension of the virtue that has brought them into being. Discipline seems to him irrational, on which account he is ever marvelling that civilization, should have offended him with priests and soldiers.... In a word, the Barbarian is discoverable everywhere in this, that he cannot make: that he can befog and destroy but that he cannot sustain; and of every Barbarian in the decline or peril of every civilization exactly that has been true. We sit by and watch the barbarian. We tolerate him in the long stretches of peace, we are not afraid. We are tickled by his irreverence; his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creed refreshes us; we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond, and on these faces there are no smiles.
Hilaire Belloc
Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective purpose. We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth. We no longer ask of a judicial ruling or a legislative act: Is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help bring about a better society or a better world? Those used to be the political questions, even if they invited no easy answers. We must learn once again to pose them. The materialistic and selfish quality of contemporary life is not inherent in the human condition. Much of what appears "natural" today dates from the 1980s: the obsession with wealth creation, the cult of privatization and the private sector, the growing disparities of rich and poor. And above all, the rhetoric that accompanies these: uncritical admiration for unfettered markets, disdain for the public sector, the delusion of endless growth. We cannot go on living like this. The little crash of 2008 was a reminder that unregulated capitalism is its own worst enemy: sooner or later it must fall prey to its own excesses and turn again to the state for rescue. But if we do no more than pick up the pieces and carry on as before, we can look forward to greater upheavals in years to come.
Tony Judt (Ill Fares the Land)
Of course we would all like to "believe" in something, like to assuage our private guilts in public causes, like to lose our tiresome selves; like, perhaps, to transform the white flag of defeat at home into the brave white banner of battle away from home. And of course it is all right to do that; that is how, immemorially, thing have gotten done. But I think it is all right only so long as we do not delude ourselves about what we are doing, and why. It is all right only so long as we remember that all the ad hoc committees, all the picket lines, all the brave signatures in The New York Times, all the tools of agitprop straight across the spectrum, do not confer upon anyone any ipso facto virtue. It is all right only so long as we recognize that the end may or may not be expedient, may or may not be a good idea, but in any case has nothing to do with "morality." Because when we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something or need something, not that it is a pragmatic necessity for us to have it, but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, then is when we join the fashionable madmen, and then is when the thin whine of hysteria is heard in the land, and then is when we are in bad trouble. And I suspect we are already there.
Joan Didion (Slouching Towards Bethlehem)
We stand at the crossroads, each minute, each hour, each day, making choices. We choose the thoughts we allow ourselves to think, the passions we allow ourselves to feel, and the actions we allow ourselves to perform. Each choice is made in the context of whatever value system we have selected to govern our lives. In selecting that value system, we are, in a very real way, making the most important choice we will ever make. Those who believe there is one God who made all things and who governs the world by this providence will make many choices different from those who do not. Those who hold in reverence that being who gave them life and worship Him through adoration, prayer, and thanksgiving will make choices different from those who do not. Those who believe that mankind are all of a family and that the most acceptable service of God is doing good to man will make many choices different from those who do not. Those who believe in a future state in which all that is wrong here will be made right will make many choices different from those who do not. Those who subscribe to the morals of Jesus will make many choices different from those who do not. Since the foundation of all happiness is thinking rightly, and since correct action is dependent on correct opinion, we cannot be too careful in choosing the value system we allow to govern our thoughts and actions. And to know that God governs in the affairs of men, that He hears and answers prayers, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, is, indeed, a powerful regulator of human conduct.
Benjamin Franklin (the Art of Virtue: His Formula for Successful Living)
The soul, in its loneliness, hopes only for "salvation." And yet what is the burden of the Bible if not a sense of the mutuality of influence, rising out of an essential unity, among soul and body and community and world? These are all the works of God, and it is therefore the work of virtue to make or restore harmony among them. The world is certainly thought of as a place of spiritual trial, but it is also the confluence of soul and body, word and flesh, where thoughts must become deeds, where goodness must be enacted. This is the great meeting place, the narrow passage where spirit and flesh, word and world, pass into each other. The Bible's aim, as I read it, is not the freeing of the spirit from the world. It is the handbook of their interaction. It says that they cannot be divided; that their mutuality, their unity, is inescapable; that they are not reconciled in division, but in harmony. What else can be meant by the resurrection of the body? The body should be "filled with light," perfected in understanding. And so everywhere there is the sense of consequence, fear and desire, grief and joy. What is desirable is repeatedly defined in the tensions of the sense of consequence.
Wendell Berry (The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays)
Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly. This has been always the instinct of Christendom, and especially the instinct of Christian art. Remember how Fra Angelico represented all his angels, not only as birds, but almost as butterflies. Remember how the most earnest mediaeval art was full of light and fluttering draperies, of quick and capering feet. It was the one thing that the modern Pre-raphaelites could not imitate in the real Pre-raphaelites. Burne-Jones could never recover the deep levity of the Middle Ages. In the old Christian pictures the sky over every figure is like a blue or gold parachute. Every figure seems ready to fly up and float about in the heavens. The tattered cloak of the beggar will bear him up like the rayed plumes of the angels. But the kings in their heavy gold and the proud in their robes of purple will all of their nature sink downwards, for pride cannot rise to levity or levitation. Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One "settles down" into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness. A man "falls" into a brown study; he reaches up at a blue sky. Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one's self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good Times leading article than a good joke in Punch. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.
G.K. Chesterton
Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900. To You WHOEVER you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams, I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under your feet and hands; Even now, your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners, troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dissipate away from you, Your true Soul and Body appear before me, They stand forth out of affairs—out of commerce, shops, law, science, work, forms, clothes, the house, medicine, print, buying, selling, eating, drinking, suffering, dying. Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem; I whisper with my lips close to your ear, I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than you. O I have been dilatory and dumb; I should have made my way straight to you long ago; I should have blabb’d nothing but you, I should have chanted nothing but you. I will leave all, and come and make the hymns of you; None have understood you, but I understand you; None have done justice to you—you have not done justice to yourself; None but have found you imperfect—I only find no imperfection in you; None but would subordinate you—I only am he who will never consent to subordinate you; I only am he who places over you no master, owner, better, God, beyond what waits intrinsically in yourself. Painters have painted their swarming groups, and the centre figure of all; From the head of the centre figure spreading a nimbus of gold-color’d light; But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head without its nimbus of gold-color’d light; From my hand, from the brain of every man and woman it streams, effulgently flowing forever. O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you! You have not known what you are—you have slumber’d upon yourself all your life; Your eye-lids have been the same as closed most of the time; What you have done returns already in mockeries; (Your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not return in mockeries, what is their return?) The mockeries are not you; Underneath them, and within them, I see you lurk; I pursue you where none else has pursued you; Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night, the accustom’d routine, if these conceal you from others, or from yourself, they do not conceal you from me; The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure complexion, if these balk others, they do not balk me, The pert apparel, the deform’d attitude, drunkenness, greed, premature death, all these I part aside. There is no endowment in man or woman that is not tallied in you; There is no virtue, no beauty, in man or woman, but as good is in you; No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is in you; No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal pleasure waits for you. As for me, I give nothing to any one, except I give the like carefully to you; I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God, sooner than I sing the songs of the glory of you. Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard! These shows of the east and west are tame, compared to you; These immense meadows—these interminable rivers—you are immense and interminable as they; These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature, throes of apparent dissolution—you are he or she who is master or mistress over them, Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, elements, pain, passion, dissolution. The hopples fall from your ankles—you find an unfailing sufficiency; Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by the rest, whatever you are promulges itself; Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are provided, nothing is scanted; Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what you are picks its way.
Walt Whitman
I learned a lot, when I was a child, from novels and stories, even fairytales have some point to them--the good ones. The thing that impressed me most forcibly was this: the villains went to work with their brains and always accomplished something. To be sure they were "foiled" in the end, but that was by some special interposition of Providence, not by any equal exertion of intellect on the part of the good people. The heroes and middle ones were mostly very stupid. If bad things happened, they practised patience, endurance, resignation, and similar virtues; if good things happened they practised modesty and magnanimity and virtues like that, but it never seemed to occur to any of them to make things move their way. Whatever the villains planned for them to do, they did, like sheep. The same old combinations of circumstances would be worked off on them in book after book--and they always tumbled. It used to worry me as a discord worries a musician. Hadn't they ever read anything? Couldn't they learn anything from what they read--ever? It appeared not. And it seemed to me, even as a very little child, that what we wanted was good people with brains, not just negative, passive, good people, but positive, active ones, who gave their minds to it. "A good villain. That's what we need!" I said to myself. "Why don't they write about them? Aren't there ever any?" I never found any in all my beloved story books, or in real life. And gradually, I made up my mind to be one.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Benigna Machiavelli)
These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint stock company in which the members agree for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It [That is, conformity.] loves not realities and creators, but names and customs. "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued adviser who was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of the church. On my saying, What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within? my friend suggested--'But these impulses may be from below, not from above.' I replied, 'They do not seem to me to be such; but if I am the devil's child, I will live them from the devil.' 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. A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition as if everything were titular and ephemeral but he. I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions. Every decent an well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right. I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral - immoral from the scientific point of view.' 'Why?' 'Because to influence a person is to give him one's own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of someone else's music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly - that is what each of us is here ofr. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one's self. Of course they are charitable. They feed the hungry, and clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked. Courage has gone out of our race. Perhaps we never had it. The terror of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God, which is the secret of religion - these are the two things that govern us. And yet [...] I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream - I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all maladies of medievalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal - to something finer, richer, than the Hellenic ideal, it may be. [...] We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us. ... The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.
Oscar Wilde
If you cannot understand my argument, and declare "It's Greek to me", you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger; if your wish is farther to the thought; if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool's paradise -why, be that as it may, the more fool you , for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then - to give the devil his due - if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then - by Jove! O Lord! Tut tut! For goodness' sake! What the dickens! But me no buts! - it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare.
Bernard Levin
Hold childhood in reverence, and do not be in any hurry to judge it for good or ill. Leave exceptional cases to show themselves, let their qualities be tested and confirmed, before special methods are adopted. Give nature time to work before you take over her business, lest you interfere with her dealings. You assert that you know the value of time and are afraid to waste it. You fail to perceive that it is a greater waste of time to use it ill than to do nothing, and that a child ill taught is further from virtue than a child who has learnt nothing at all. You are afraid to see him spending his early years doing nothing. What! is it nothing to be happy, nothing to run and jump all day? He will never be so busy again all his life long. Plato, in his Republic, which is considered so stern, teaches the children only through festivals, games, songs, and amusements. It seems as if he had accomplished his purpose when he had taught them to be happy; and Seneca, speaking of the Roman lads in olden days, says, "They were always on their feet, they were never taught anything which kept them sitting." Were they any the worse for it in manhood? Do not be afraid, therefore, of this so-called idleness. What would you think of a man who refused to sleep lest he should waste part of his life? You would say, "He is mad; he is not enjoying his life, he is robbing himself of part of it; to avoid sleep he is hastening his death." Remember that these two cases are alike, and that childhood is the sleep of reason. The apparent ease with which children learn is their ruin. You fail to see that this very facility proves that they are not learning. Their shining, polished brain reflects, as in a mirror, the things you show them, but nothing sinks in. The child remembers the words and the ideas are reflected back; his hearers understand them, but to him they are meaningless. Although memory and reason are wholly different faculties, the one does not really develop apart from the other. Before the age of reason the child receives images, not ideas; and there is this difference between them: images are merely the pictures of external objects, while ideas are notions about those objects determined by their relations.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Emile, or On Education)