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About Ralph Waldo Emerson



Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society, and he disseminated his thoughts through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States.  Wikipedia

References:   Encyclopaedia Britannica   |   Biography.com   |   Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

  

Ralph Waldo Emerson (quotes)

Emerson believed in principle centred living

  • A man is usually more careful of his money than he is of his principles.
  • As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.
  • If you learn only methods, you’ll be tied to your methods, but if you learn principles you can devise your own methods.
  • Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.  Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles. 
  • A man is a method, a progressive arrangement; a selecting principle, gathering his like to him; wherever he goes.
  • The intuition of the moral sentiment is an insight of the perfection of the laws of the soul. These laws execute themselves. They are out of time, out of space, and not subject to circumstance.
  • The value of a principle is the number of things it will explain.
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Principles that Emerson believed in

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The power of thought and thinking

  • A man is what he thinks about all day long.
  • All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.
  • As a man thinketh, so is he, and as a man chooseth, so is he.
  • Every fact is related on one side to sensation, and, on the other, to morals. The game of thought is, on the appearance of one of these two sides, to find the other; given the upper, to find the under side.
  • The ancestor of every action is a thought.
  • Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than material force, that thoughts rule the world.
  • In the uttermost meaning of the words, thought is devout, and devotion is thought. Deep calls unto deep.
  • Intellect annuls fate. So far as a man thinks, he is free.
  • Life consists of what a person is thinking about all day.
  • Man was born to be rich, or to inevitably grow rich, by the use of his faculties: by the union of thought with nature.
  • Men grind and grind in the mill of a truism, and nothing comes out but what was put in. But the moment they desert the tradition for a spontaneous thought, then poetry, wit, hope, virtue, learning, anecdote, and all flock to their aid.
  • Our best thoughts come from others.
  • The ancestor of every action is a thought.
  • There is no prosperity, trade, art, city, or great material wealth of any kind, but if you trace it home, you will find it rooted in a thought of some individual man.
  • There is only one way in which you can ‘change your luck’ and that is by altering your thoughts.
  • Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it.  
  • We are prisoners of ideas.  
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Friendship

  • A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud. I am arrived at last in the presence of a man so real and equal, that I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness with which one chemical atom meets another.
  • A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.
  • A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.
  • He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, and he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere.
  • I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.  Shall I not call God, the beautiful, who daily showeth himself so to me in his gifts.
  • I didn’t find my friends; the good God gave them to me.
  • It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
  • The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.
  • The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.
  • The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.
  • The torpid artist seeks inspiration at any cost, by virtue or by vice, by friend or by fiend, by prayer or by wine.
  • We take care of our health, we lay up money, we make our room tight, and our clothing sufficient; but who provides wisely that they shall not be wanting in the best property of all–friends?
  • When friendships are real, they are not glass threads or frost work, but the solidest things we can know.
  • Go oft to the house of thy friend, for weeds choke the unused path.
  • Friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it’s the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him with his friend.  
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Trust

  • Our distrust is very expensive.
  • Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.
  • Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.
  • Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.
  • All our progress is an unfolding, like the vegetable bud, you have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge, as the plant has root, bud and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.
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Love

  • Love is our highest word and the synonym for God.
  • Love… the essence of God.
  • The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry.
  • All mankind love a lover.
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Scatter joy, not pain

  • The meaning of good and bad, of better and worse, is simply helping or hurting.  
  • Scatter joy
  • There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.  ‘Tis good to give a stranger a meal, or a night’s lodging.  ‘Tis better to be hospitable to one’s good meaning and thought, and give courage to a companion.  We must be as courteous to a person as we are to a picture, which we are willing to give the advantage of a good light.
  • To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
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Helping others

  • It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself… Serve and thou shall be served.
  • Happiness is a perfume which you cannot pour on someone without getting some on yourself.
  • I hate the giving of the hand unless the whole man accompanies it.
  • Make yourself necessary to somebody.
  • You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.
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Eloquence

  • There is no eloquence without a man behind it.
  • Eloquence is the appropriate organ of the highest personal energy.
  • Eloquence is the power to translate a truth into language perfectly intelligible to the person to whom you speak.
  • Eloquence must be grounded on the plainest narrative.
  • Eloquence shows the power and possibility of man. 
  • It is a fact often observed, that men have written good verses under the inspiration of passion, who cannot write well under other circumstances.
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Perseverance

  • Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.
  • The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it– so fine that we often are on the line and do not know it. 
  • Every artist was first an amateur.
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Truth

  • A life in harmony with nature, the love of truth and virtue, will purge the eyes to understanding her text.
  • Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society.
  • If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it? 
  • Is not prayer a study of truth, a sally of the soul into the unfound infinite? No man ever prayed heartily without learning something.
  • Let not the emphasis of hospitality lie in bed and board; but let truth and love and honor and courtesy flow in all thy deeds. 
  • Nothing shall warp me from the belief that every man is a lover of truth. There is no pure lie, no pure malignity in nature. The entertainment of the proposition of depravity is the last profligacy and profanation. There is no scepticism, no atheism but that. Could it be received into common belief, suicide would unpeople the planet. 
  • Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning, and under every deep a lower deep opens.
  • Talent for talent’s sake is a bauble and a show. Talent working with joy in a cause of universal truth lifts the possessor to a new power as a benefactor. 
  • The greatest homage we can pay to truth is to use it.
  • The highest compact we can make with our fellow is – “Let there be truth between us two forevermore.”
  • Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies. 
  • Truth, and goodness, and beauty are but different faces of the same all. 
  • Every mind must make its choice between truth and repose. It cannot have both.
  • Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.
  • Speak the truth, and all things alive or brute are vouchers, and the very roots of the grass underground there, do seem to stir and move to bear you witness.
  • Truth is the property of no individual but is the treasure of all men.
  • Wherever the invitation of men or your own occasions lead you, speak the very truth, as your life and conscience teach it, and cheer the waiting, fainting hearts of men with new hope and new revelation.
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Wisdom

  • The wise skeptic does not teach doubt but how to look for the permanent in the mutable and fleeting.
  • The wise through excess of wisdom is made a fool.
  • There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.
  • We judge of man’s wisdom by his hope.
  • Before we acquire great power we must acquire wisdom to use it well.
  • We are wiser than we know.
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Knowledge

  • Knowledge exists to be imparted.  
  • Knowledge is the antidote to fear.
  • Knowledge is the only elegance.
  • There is no knowledge that is not power.
  • People disparage knowing and the intellectual life, and urge doing. I am content with knowing, if only I could know.
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Personal greatness

  • A great man is always willing to be little.
  • 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 to- morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradicts everything 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.
  • Greatness is a property for which no man can receive credit too soon; it must be possessed long before it is acknowledged.
  • Men achieve a certain greatness unawares, when working to another aim.
  • No great man ever complains of want of opportunity.
  • Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.
  • The greatest man in history was the poorest.
  • Great hearts steadily send forth the secret forces that incessantly draw great events.
  • Great men or men of great gifts you shall easily find, but symmetrical men never.
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Personal power

  • The task ahead of us is never as great as the power behind us.   
  • Oh man! There is no planet sun or star could hold you, if you but knew what you are.
  • Nothing external to you has any power over you. 
  • A good indignation brings out all one’s powers.
  • What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.
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Excellence

  • If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mouse-trap than his neighbor, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.  
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Life as a process

  • Life is a journey, not a destination.
  • Life is a progress, and not a station.
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Using one’s talents in pursuit of a vocation

  • Each man has his own vocation; his talent is his call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him.
  • Nature arms each man with some faculty which enables him to do easily some feat impossible to any other, and thus makes him necessary to society.
  • Talent for talent’s sake is a bauble and a show. Talent working with joy in a cause of universal truth lifts the possessor to a new power as a benefactor.
  • Talent is commonly developed at the expense of character.
  • The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.
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The realisation of possibility and potential

  • Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.
  • That man is idle who can do something better.
  • The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.
  • The never-ending task of self improvement.
  • The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.
  • Make the most of yourself, because that’s all there is of you.
  • Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.
  • We do not yet possess ourselves, and we know at the same time that we are much more.
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The power of intention and desire

  • Beware of what you set your heart upon for it shall surely be yours.
  • We aim above the mark to hit the mark.
  • Our desires presage the capacities within us; they are harbingers of what we shall be able to accomplish. What we can do and want to do is projected in our imagination, quite outside ourselves, and into the future. We are attracted to what is already ours in secret. Thus passionate anticipation transforms what is indeed possible into dreamt-for reality.
  • There’s nothing capricious in nature, and the implanting of a desire indicates that its gratification is in the constitution of the creature that feels it.
  • Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.  
  • Hitch your wagon to a star.
  • The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.
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Faith

  • The disease with which the human mind now labors is want of faith.
  • Our faith comes in moments; our vice is habitual.
  • The faith that stands on authority is not faith.
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Wonder

  • Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of our science.
  • The foolish man wonders at the unusual; the wise man at the usual.
  • The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.
  • The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.
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Beauty

  • As soon as beauty is sought not from religion and love, but for pleasure, it degrades the seeker.
  • As the eye is the best composer, so light is the first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make beautiful; and the stimulus it affords to the sense, and a sort of infinitude which it hath like space and time, make all matter gay.
  • As we grow old, the beauty steals inward.
  • Beauty is God’s handwriting.
  • Beauty is the virtue of the body as virtue is the beauty of the soul.
  • Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait.
  • The man who has seen the rising moon break out of the clouds at midnight has been present like an archangel at the creation of light and of the world.
  • Wherever snow falls, or water flows, or birds fly, wherever day and night meet in twilight, wherever the blue heaven is hung by clouds, or sown with stars, wherever are forms with transparent boundaries, wherever are outlets into celestial space, wherever is danger, and awe, and love, there is Beauty, plenteous as rain, shed for thee.
  • If eyes were made for seeing, then Beauty is its own excuse for being.
  • Never lose an opportunity for seeing something beautiful for beauty is God’s handwriting.
  • Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful we must carry it within us or we find it not.
  • Truth, and goodness, and beauty are but different faces of the same all. 
  • Beauty is an outward gift, which is seldom despised, except by those to whom it has been refused.
  • Beauty without expression is boring.
  • Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.
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Being yourself

  • Do you want to be a power in the world? Then be yourself. Be true to the highest within your soul and then allow yourself to be governed by no customs or conventionalities or arbitrary man- made rules that are not founded on principle.
  • Insist on yourself; never imitate.
  • Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can offer with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation, but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession.
  • Make the most of yourself, because that’s all there is of you.
  • To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
  • The best gift is a portion of thyself. 
  • We must be our own before we can be another’s.
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Courage and deliverance from fear

  • Always, always, always, always, always do what you are afraid to do. Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.
  • Every man has his own courage, and is betrayed because he seeks in himself the courage of other persons.
  • It was high counsel that I once heard given to a young person,”Always do what you are afraid to do.”
  • The greater part of courage is having done it before.
  • The wise man in the storm prays God, not from safety from danger but from deliverance from fear. It is the storm within which endangers him not the storm without.
  • A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing before.
  • A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.
  • He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.
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Risk taking and valour

  • As soon as there is life, there is danger.
  • There is always safety in valor.
  • In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.
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Opportunity

  • The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.
  • No great man ever complains of want of opportunity.
  • America is another name for opportunity.
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Character

  • Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.
  • Character is that which can do without success.
  • Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams.
  • People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.
  • Talent is commonly developed at the expense of character.
  • No change of circumstances can repair a defect of character.
  • Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.
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Non-conformity

  • A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist.
  • Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.  
  • And truly it demands something godlike in him who cast off the common motives of humanity and ventured to trust himself for a taskmaster.
  • For non-conformity, the world whips you with its displeasure.
  • He who would be a man must therefore be a non-conformist.
  • Imitation is suicide.
  • 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.
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Self confidence and self command

  • If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me.
  • Self-trust is the essence of heroism.
  • Self-command is the main elegance.
  • Self-trust is the first secret of success.
  • They conquer who believe they can.
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Strength

  • As the Sandwich-Islander believes that the strength and valor of the enemy he kills passes into himself, so we gain the strength of the temptations we resist.  Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • We acquire the strength we have overcome.
  • Consideration is the soil in which wisdom may be expected to grow, and strength be given to every upspringings plant of duty.  Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Our strength grows out of our weaknesses.
  • We gain the strength of the temptation we resist.  
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The value of time

  • Guard well you spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.  
  • This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.  
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Work

  • Don’t waste life in doubts and fears; spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it.
  • As a cure for worrying, work is better than whiskey.
  • Men talk as if victory were something fortunate. Work is victory.
  • The sum of wisdom is that time is never lost that is devoted to work.
  • A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace.
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Learning

  • The years teach much which the days never know.  
  • Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood. All is riddle, and the key to a riddle is another riddle.
  • We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state.
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Simplicity

  • Can anything be so elegant as to have few wants, and to serve them one’s self?
  • Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.
  • Why need I volumes, if one word suffice?
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Imagination

  • There are no days in life so memorable as those which vibrated to some stroke of the imagination.
  • Things are pretty, graceful, rich, elegant, handsome, but, until they speak to the imagination, not yet beautiful. 
  • The imagination and the senses cannot be gratified at the same time.
  • The Sky is the daily bread of the imagination.
  • Discovery
  • We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities.  
  • The greatest discoveries are those that shed light unto ourselves.
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Belief

  • Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief, in denying them. Some minds are incapable of scepticism.    
  • We are born believing. A man bears beliefs, as a tree bears apples.  
  • The eloquent man is he who is no beautiful speaker, but who is inwardly and desperately drunk with a certain belief.   
  • Tis curious that we only believe as deeply as we live.
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Focus

  • Concentration is the secret of strength in politics, in war, in trade, in short, in all management of human affairs.
  • The only prudence in life is concentration.
  • There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.
  • The fox has many tricks. The hedgehog has but one. But that is the best of all.
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Experimentation

  • Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions.  All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make the better.  What if they are a little course, and you may get your coat soiled or torn?  What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.
  • No facts are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker, with no past at my back.  
  • That which we call sin in others is experiment for us. 
  • Every experiment, by multitudes or by individuals, that has a sensual and selfish aim, will fail.
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Curiosity

  • Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret.
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Genius

  • Common sense is as rare as genius, – is the basis of genius.
  • Coffee is good for talent, but genius wants prayer.
  • In every work of genius, we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
  • Genius always finds itself a century too early.
  • When nature has work to be done, she creates a genius to do it.
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Common sense

  • Common sense is as rare as genius, – is the basis of genius.
  • Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.  
  • Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.
  • Society is always taken by surprise at any new example of common sense.
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Health

  • Get Health. No labour, effort nor exercise that can gain it must be grudged.  
  • Health is the condition of wisdom, and the sign is cheerfulness, — an open and noble temper.
  • Health is the first muse, and sleep is the condition to produce it.  
  • Health is the first muse, comprising the magical benefits of air, landscape, and bodily exercise on the mind.
  • I honour health as the first muse, and sleep as the condition of health. Sleep benefits mainly by the sound health it produces; incidentally also by dreams, into whose farrago a divine lesson is sometimes slipped.  
  • Sickness is poor-spirited, and cannot serve anyone; it must husband its resources to live.  But health or fullness answers its own ends, and has to spare, runs over, and inundates the neighbourhoods and creeks of other men’s necessities.  
  • So of all the particulars of health and exercise, and fit nutriment, and tonics. Some people will tell you there is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.
  • The first wealth is health.
  • The measure of mental health is the disposition to see good everywhere.
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Pleasure

  • There is more difference in the quality of our pleasures than in the amount.
  • The pleasure of life is according to the man that lives it, and not according to the work or place.
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Joy and happiness

  • Allow yourself to trust joy and embrace it. You will find you dance with everything.
  • For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.
  • Happiness is a perfume which you cannot pour on someone without getting some on yourself.
  • Happy is the hearing man; unhappy the speaking man.
  • The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship. 
  • A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace.
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Cheerfulness

  • So of cheerfulness, or a good temper, the more it is spent, the more it remains.
  • To make knowledge valuable, you must have the cheerfulness of wisdom. Goodness smiles to the last.
  • Most of the shadows of life are caused by standing in our own sunshine.
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Inspiration

  • The man of genius inspires us with a boundless confidence in our own powers.
  • Treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.
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Success

  • … to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.
  • A man carries his success or his failure with him… he does not depend on outside conditions.
  • All successful men have agreed in one thing — they were causationists. They believed that things went not by luck, but by law; that there was not a weak or a cracked link in the chain that joins the first and last of things.
  • As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.
  • To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
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Respect

  • Men are respectable only as they respect.
  • The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil. It is not for you to choose what he shall know, what he shall do. It is chosen and foreordained and he only holds the key to his own secret.
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Freedom

  • I think we must get rid of slavery, or we must get rid of freedom.
  • The revelation of thought takes men out of servitude into freedom.
  • For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail?
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Letting go of the past …

  • Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.
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… and future …

  • If a man examines carefully his thoughts he will be surprised to find how much he lives in the future.  His well- being is always ahead.
  • Those who live to the future must always appear selfish to those who live to the present.
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… and embrace life in the present

  • One of the illusions of life is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it on your heart, that every day is the best day in the year.
  • We are always getting ready to live but never living.
  • It is not length of life, but depth of life.
  • It is the quality of the moment, not the number of days, or events, or of actors, that imports.
  • Too busy with the crowded hour to fear to live or die.
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Experience

  • All life is an experience.
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Speech

  • Spartans, stoics, heroes, saints and gods use short and positive speech.
  • Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel. It is to bring another out of his bad sense into your good sense.
  • The eloquent man is he who is no beautiful speaker, but who is inwardly and desperately drunk with a certain belief.
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Light

  • From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.
  • A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within.
  • The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child.
  • The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and mosquitoes and silly people.  
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Courtesy and manners

  • Life be not so short but that there is always time for courtesy.
  • Let not the emphasis of hospitality lie in bed and board; but let truth and love and honour and courtesy flow in all thy deeds.
  • Manners require time, and nothing is more vulgar than haste.
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Progress

  • Progress is the activity of today and the assurance of tomorrow.
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Action and follow through

  • Do the thing and you will have the power.  
  • The ancestor of every action is a thought.
  • Go put your creed into your deed.  
  • Good thoughts are no better than good dreams if you don’t follow through.    
  • Ideas must work through the brains and the arms of good and brave men, or they are no better than dreams.    
  • Our spontaneous action is always the best. You cannot, with your best deliberation and heed, come so close to any question as your spontaneous glance shall bring you.
  • Real action is done in moments of silence.
  • Real action is in silent moments.
  • The ancestor of every action is a thought.
  • Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it.   
  • One thing in the world, of value, is the active soul.
  • Men’s actions are too strong for them. Show me a man who has acted, and who has not been the victim and slave of his action.
  • The reward of a thing well done is having done it.
  • Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words.
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Silence

  • Good as is discourse, silence is better and shames it.
  • Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.
  • Real action is done in moments of silence.
  • Real action is in silent moments.
  • I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.
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Clarity

  • The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going.
  • Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.
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Enthusiasm and passion

  • Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
  • Every great achievement is the victory of a flaming heart.
  • Passion rebuilds the world for the youth. It makes all things alive and significant.  
  • The world belongs to the energetic.
  • Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.
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Envy

  • Envy is ignorance.
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Falsehood

  • Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society.
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Eloquence

  • Eloquence is the appropriate organ of the highest personal energy.
  • Eloquence is the power to translate a truth into language perfectly intelligible to the person to whom you speak.
  • Eloquence must be grounded on the plainest narrative.
  • Eloquence shows the power and possibility of man.
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Making a new start

  • Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
  • Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn.
  • Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two.
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Art

  • Everything in creation has its appointed painter or poet and remains in bondage like the princess in the fairy tale ’til its appropriate liberator comes to set it free.
  • In art the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can inspire.
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Plan

  • Few people have any next, they live from hand to mouth without a plan, and are always at the end of their line.    
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Affirmation

  • Do not waste yourself in rejection; do not bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.
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Understanding

  • Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.
  • A life in harmony with nature, the love of truth and virtue, will purge the eyes to understanding her text.
  • Every man supposes himself not to be fully understood or appreciated.
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Virtue

  • A life in harmony with nature, the love of truth and virtue, will purge the eyes to understanding her text.
  • The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.
  • Every vice is only an exaggeration of a necessary and virtuous function.  
  • Beauty is the virtue of the body as virtue is the beauty of the soul.
  • The less a man thinks or knows about his virtues, the better we like him.
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Goodness

  • Good is positive. Evil is merely privative, not absolute: it is like cold, which is the privation of heat. All evil is so much death or nonentity. Benevolence is absolute and real. So much benevolence as a man hath, so much life hath he.
  • Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey laws too well.
  • Truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it, else it is none.
  • Wisdom has its root in goodness, not goodness its root in wisdom.
  • The meaning of good and bad, of better and worse, is simply helping or hurting.  
  • The measure of mental health is the disposition to see good everywhere.
  • To make knowledge valuable, you must have the cheerfulness of wisdom. Goodness smiles to the last.
  • As we are, so we associate. The good, by affinity, seek the good; the vile, by affinity, the vile. Thus, of their own volition, souls proceed into Heaven, into Hell.
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Pretending

  • Every man alone is sincere.  At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins.  We parry and fend the approach of our fellow-      man by compliments, by gossip, by amusements, by affairs.  We cover up our thought from him under a hundred folds.
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Practice

  • Skill to do comes of doing.
  • That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.
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Triumph over fate

  • Every jet of chaos which threatens to exterminate us, is convertible by intellect into wholesome force. Fate is unpenetrated causes. The water drowns ship and sailor, like grain of dust. But learn to swim, trim your bark, and the wave which drowned it, will be cloven by it, and carry it, like its own foam, a plume and a power.
  • Fate … is a name for facts not yet passed under the fire of thought–for causes which are unpenetrated.
  • Fate is nothing but the deeds committed in a prior state of existence.
  • If you believe in fate, believe in it, at least, for your good.
  • If you please to plant yourself on the side of Fate, and say, Fate is all; then we say, a part of Fate is the freedom of man. Forever wells up the impulse of choosing and acting in the soul. Intellect annuls Fate.
  • The bitterest tragic element in life to be derived from an intellectual source is the belief in a brute Fate or Destiny.
  • The efforts which we make to escape from our destiny only serve to lead us into it.
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Triumph over misfortune and challenge

  • Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.
  • Challenges are what makes life interesting, overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.
  • We acquire the strength we have overcome.
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Cause and effect

  • Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit, cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end pre-  exists in the means, the fruit in the seed.  You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong.  
  • Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.
  • Scepticism is unbelief in cause and effect.
  • The sower may mistake and sow his peas crookedly: the peas make no mistake, but come up and show his line.
  • Cause and effect are two sides of one fact.
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Patience

  • Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.
  • Patience and fortitude conquer all things.
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Moderation

  • Moderation in all things, especially moderation.
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Prayer

  • Is not prayer a study of truth, a sally of the soul into the unfound infinite? No man ever prayed heartily without learning something.
  • The wise man in the storm prays God not for safety from danger but for deliverance from fear.
  • No man ever prayed heartily without learning something.
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Play

  • It is a happy talent to know how to play.
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Integrity

  • A little integrity is better than any career.
  • Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your mind.
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Humility

  • The less a man thinks or knows about his virtues, the better we like him. 
  • Every man I meet is in some way my superior.
  • Every man in his lifetime needs to thank his faults.
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Peace

  • The god of victory is said to be one-handed, but peace gives victory on both sides.
  • Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.
  • The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war.
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More values

  • Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.
  • Let not the emphasis of hospitality lie in bed and board; but let truth and love and honour and courtesy flow in all thy deeds.
  • The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
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Things that were close to Emerson’s heart

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The wonder and beauty of nature …

  • Everything in Nature contains all the powers of Nature.  Everything is made of one hidden stuff.
  • The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth, becomes part of his daily food. In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows…
  • To the dull mind all nature is leaden. To the enlightened mind the whole world sparkles and burns.
  • He who knows what sweets and virtues are in the ground, the waters, the plants, the heavens, and how to come at these enchantments, is the rich and royal man.
  • How cunningly nature hides every wrinkle of her inconceivable antiquity under roses and violets and morning dew! garden
  • I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.
  • In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth.  
  • In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, – no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me my eyes), which nature cannot repair.
  • Indeed the river is a perpetual gala, and boasts each month a new ornament.
  • Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.
  • Lose yourself in nature and find peace.
  • Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same.
  • Nature is sanative, refining, elevating. How cunningly she hides every wrinkle of her inconceivable antiquity under roses, and violets, and morning dew! Every inch of the mountains is scarred by unimaginable convulsions, yet the new day is purple with the bloom of youth and love.
  • Nature is too thin a screen; the glory of the omnipresent God bursts through everywhere.
  • Nature shows us only surfaces, but she is a million fathoms deep.
  • Plants are the young of the world, vessels of health and vigour; but they grope ever upward towards consciousness; the trees are imperfect men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment, rooted in the ground.
  • Solitary converse with nature; for thence are ejaculated sweet and dreadful words never uttered in libraries. Ah! the spring days, the summer dawns, and October woods!
  • The rich mind lies in the sun and sleeps, and is Nature.
  • To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature.  Most persons do not see the sun.  At least they have a very superficial seeing.  The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and heart of the child.  The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. 
  • I have no hostility to nature, but a child’s love to it. I expand and live in the warm day like corn and melons.
  • Nature always wears the colours of the spirit.
  • We see God face to face every hour, and know the savour of Nature.
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… including flowers

  • Flowers and fruits are always fit presents, –flowers, because they are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty out-values all the utilities of the world.
  • Earth laughs in flowers.
  • Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty out-values all the utilities of the world.
  • The roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God today.  There is no time to them.  There is simply the rose.  It is perfect in every moment of its existence.
  • There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.
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The sky

  • If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.  
  • Look out into the July night, and see the broad belt of silver flame which flashes up the half of heaven, fresh and delicate as the bonfires of the meadow-flies. Yet the powers of numbers cannot compute its enormous age, —lasting as space and time, —embosomed in time and space.
  • The man who has seen the rising moon break out of the clouds at midnight has been present like an archangel at the creation of light and of the world.
  • The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.
  • The Sky is the daily bread of the imagination.
  • To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime.  
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Conversation

  • Conversation is an art in which a man has all mankind for his competitors, for it is that which all are practicing every day while they live.
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Music

  • Music causes us to think eloquently.
  • Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence, and whereto.
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Art

  • Art is a jealous mistress.   
  • Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.
  • Every artist was first an amateur.
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Reading

  • Be a little careful about your library. Do you foresee what you will do with it? Very little to be sure. But the real question is, What it will do with you? You will come here and get books that will open your eyes, and your ears, and your curiosity, and turn you inside out or outside in.
  • If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.
  • In the highest civilization, the book is still the highest delight. He who has once known its satisfactions is provided with a resource against calamity.
  • One must be an inventor to read well. …there is then creative reading as well as creative writing.
  • Some of the sweetest hours in life, in retrospect will be found to have been spent with books.
  • The religion that is afraid of science dishonours God and commits suicide. 
  • Each age, it is found, must write its own books; or rather, each generation for the next succeeding.
  • O Day of days when we can read! The reader and the book, either without the other is naught.
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Quotations

  • Every book is a quotation; and every house is a quotation out of all forests and mines and stone quarries; and every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.  
  • By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote.
  • Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it.
  • I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.
  • Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your reading have been to you like the blast of triumph out of Shakespeare, Seneca, Moses, John and Paul.
  • Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.
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Walking

  • Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humour, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.
  • In the morning, a man walks with his whole body; in the evening, only with his legs.
  • The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet.
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Language and words

  • Language is a city to the building of which every human being brought a stone.
  • Language is the archives of history. 
  • Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are.  
  • Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words.
  • We are students of words: we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and recitation-rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing.
  • We are symbols, and inhabit symbols.
  • Why need I volumes, if one word suffice?
  • Nature is a language and every new fact one learns is a new word; but it is not a language taken to pieces and dead in the dictionary, but the language put together into a most significant and universal sense. I wish to learn this language, not that I may know a new grammar, but that I may read the great book that is written in that tongue.
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Thoughts about …

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Death

  • It is a secret of the world that all things subsist and so not die, but only retire a little from sight and afterwards return again… Nothing is dead; men feign themselves dead, and endure mock funerals and mournful obituaries, and there they stand looking out of the window, sound and well, in some new and strange disguise.
  • The soul comes from without into the human body, as into a temporary abode, and it goes out of it anew it passes into other habitations, for the soul is immortal.” “It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not die, but only retire a little from sight and afterwards return again. Nothing is dead; men feign themselves dead, and endure mock funerals… and there they stand looking out of the window, sound and well, in some strange new disguise.
  • The soul is not born; it does not die; it was not produced from anyone… Unborn, eternal, it is not slain, though the body is slain.
  • Death comes to all, but great achievements build a monument which shall endure until the sun grows cold.
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Religion

  • In the matter of religion, people eagerly fasten their eyes on the difference between their own creed and yours; whilst the charm of the study is in finding the agreements and identities in all the religions of humanity.
  • Religion is as effectually destroyed by bigotry as by indifference.
  • Religion is to do right. It is to love, it is to serve, it is to think, it is to be humble.
  • The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next.
  • Preaching is the expression of the moral sentiment in application to the duties of life.
  • I am more of a Quaker than anything else. I believe in the ‘still, small voice,’ and that voice is Christ within us.
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Science

  • Science corrects the old creeds, sweeps away, with every new perception, our infantile catechisms, and necessitates a faith commensurate with the grander orbits and universal laws which it discloses.
  • Science does not know its debt to imagination.
  • The religion that is afraid of science dishonours God and commits suicide. 
  • Every known fact in natural science was divined by the presentiment of somebody, before it was actually verified.
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God

  • All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen.
  • Beauty is God’s handwriting.
  • God enters by a private door into each individual.
  • God is Unity, but always works in variety.  
  • Nature is too thin a screen; the glory of the omnipresent God bursts through everywhere.
  • The highest revelation is that God is in every man.
  • We live in the lap of immense Intelligence.
  • Evermore in the world is this marvellous balance of beauty and disgust, magnificence and rats.  Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.  For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.
  • We see God face to face every hour, and know the savour of Nature.
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Education

  • The man who can make hard things easy is the educator. 
  • We are students of words: we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and recitation-rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing.
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Debt

  • A man in debt is so far a slave.
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War

  • He who loves the bristle of bayonets only sees in the glitter what beforehand he feels in his heart.  It is avarice and hatred; it is that quivering lip, that cold, hating eye, which built magazines and powder-houses.
  • The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war.
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Illusion

  • The most dangerous thing is illusion.
  • There is an optical illusion about every person we meet.
  • Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion. Life is like a train of moods like a string of beads, and, as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue.
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Perception

  • People only see what they are prepared to see.
  • Nature is the incarnation of thought. The world is the mind precipitated.
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Anger

  • For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.
  • For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.
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Fear

  • Fear always springs from ignorance.  
  • Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.
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Selfishness

  • The selfish man suffers more from his selfishness than he from whom that selfishness withholds some important benefit.
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Money and belongings

  • A man builds a fine house; and now he has a master, and a task for life: he is to furnish, watch, show it, and keep it in repair, the rest of his days.
  • Money often costs too much.
  • A man is usually more careful of his money than he is of his principles.
  • The desire of gold is not for gold. It is for the means of freedom and benefit.
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Facts

  • Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact.
  • A man is the whole encyclopaedia of facts.
  • Every fact is related on one side to sensation, and, on the other, to morals. The game of thought is, on the appearance of one of these two sides, to find the other; given the upper, to find the underside.
  • Fate … is a name for facts not yet passed under the fire of thought–for causes which are unpenetrated.
  • No facts are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker, with no past at my back.  
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Getting old

  • Getting old is a fascination thing. The older you get, the older you want to get.
  • All diseases run into one, old age.  
  • As we grow old, the beauty steals inward.
  • The age of a woman doesn’t mean a thing. The best tunes are played on the oldest fiddles.
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More thoughts

  • I have thought a sufficient measure of civilization is the influence of good women.
  • All promise outruns performance.
  • All the great speakers were bad speakers at first. 
  • The best effort of a fine person is felt after we have left their presence.
  • Big jobs usually go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.
  • Consideration is the soil in which wisdom may be expected to grow, and strength be given to every upspringings plant of duty.
  • Dearer are those who reject us as unworthy, for they add another life; they build a heaven before us whereof we had not dreamed, and thereby supply to us new powers out of the recesses of the spirit, and urge us to new and unattempted performances.
  • Difference of opinion is the one crime which kings never forgive.
  • Do what we can, summer will have its flies.
  • Do you see that kitten chasing so prettily her own tail? If you could look with her eyes, you might see her surrounded with hundreds of figures performing complex dramas, with tragic and comic issues, long conversations, many characters, many ups and downs of fate.
  • For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail?
  • Man is a piece of the universe made alive.  
  • One man’s justice is another’s injustice; one man’s beauty another’s ugliness; one man’s wisdom another’s folly.
  • Only to children children sing, / Only to youth will spring be spring.
  • People only see what they are prepared to see.  
  • Put the argument into a concrete shape, into an image, some hard phrase, round and solid as a ball, which they can see and handle and carry home with them, and the cause is half won.
  • Sunshine cannot bleach the snow, Nor time unmake what poets know.
  • The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.
  • The future belongs to those who prepare for it.
  • The great majority of men are bundles of beginnings.  
  • The martyr cannot be dishonoured. Every lash inflicted is a tongue of fame; every prison a more illustrious abode.
  • The sanity of society is a balance of a thousand insanities.
  • The secret of the world is the tie between person and event. Person makes event and event person.
  • 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.
  • The youth, intoxicated with his admiration of a hero, fails to see, that it is only a projection of his own soul, which he admires.  
  • There is no strong performance without a little fanaticism in the performer.
  • We are a puny and fickle folk. Avarice, hesitation, and following are our diseases.
  • We are as much informed of a writer’s genius by what he selects as by what he originates.
  • We are reformers in the spring and summer, but in autumn we stand by the old. Reformers in the morning, and conservers at night.
  • We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.
  • We find delight in the beauty and happiness of children that makes the heart too big for the body.
  •  Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change.
  • A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.
  • I have lost my mental faculties but am perfectly well.
  • Men are what their mothers made them.
  • The secret of ugliness consists not in irregularity, but in being uninteresting.
  • We are symbols, and inhabit symbols.
  • Who hears me, who understands me, becomes mine, a possession for all time.
  • Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change.
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On a lighter note

  • A man will be eloquent if you give him good wine.
  • We dare not trust our wit for making our house pleasant to our friend, so we buy ice cream.
  • A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.  
  • All diseases run into one, old age.  
  • Every hero becomes a bore at last.
  • It is dainty to be sick, if you have leisure and convenience for it.
  • The Englishman who has lost his fortune is said to have died of a broken heart.
  • The louder he talked of his honour the faster we counted our spoons.
  • There never was a child so lovely, but his mother was glad to get him asleep.
  • We boil at different degrees.
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