Quotes

The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.–Plutarch

Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our great human adventure is the evolution of consciousness. We are in this life to enlarge the soul and light up the brain.–Tom Robbins

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? —The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The mind of man is capable of anything—because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future.–Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

The dominating influence that spawned the arts was the need to impose order on the confusion caused by intelligence. —Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, Edward O. Wilson

All that has been learned empirically about evolution in general and mental process in particular suggests that the brain is a machine assembled not to understand itself, but to survive. Because these two ends are basically different, the mind unaided by factual knowledge from science sees the world only in little pieces. It throws a spotlight on those portions of the world it must know in order to live to the next day, and surrenders the rest to darkness. For thousands of generations people lived and reproduced with no need to know how the machinery of the brain works. Myth and self-deception, tribal identity and ritual, more than objective truth, gave them the adaptive edge.–Consilience: The unity of Knowledge, Edward O. Wilson

Contemplating the immensities of deep time, you face, in a way that is both exquisite and horrifying, the total collapse of your present, compacted to nothingness by the pressures of pasts and futures too extensive to envisage. And it is a physical as well as a cerebral horror, for to acknowledge that the hard rock of a mountain is vulnerable to the attrition of time is of necessity to reflect on the appalling transience of the human body.

Yet there is also something curiously exhilarating about the contemplation of deep time. True, you learn yourself to be a blip in the larger projects of the universe. But you are also rewarded with the realization that you do exist—as unlikely as it may seem, you do exist.–Mountains of the Mind, Robert Macfarlane

To remember is to triumph over loss and death; to forget is to form a partnership with oblivion.–The Business of Memory, Charles Baxter

At any given moment, our brains can process only a tiny slice of the torrent of experience that comes our way; our bodies can carry out only one action of the hundreds possible; our intellects can model only one fragment of reality amidst infinite possibility. There is no point in possessing the marvelous resolving power of our visual and auditory cortex, the vast categorization abilities of our temporal lobes, or the astonishing analytical skill of our parietal lobes, if these mechanisms are applied to trivial ends. A nervous system must always be on the lookout for the most important activities to which to devote itself. This is the ultimate purpose of emotion.–Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy, Robert Jourdain

…let me emphasize that even though mammals have been successful in this evolutionary trend [toward cultural complexity], and primates the most successful of all, not all the other vertebrates, the fish, the amphibians, the reptiles, and the birds should become extinct. Selection, more especially in a complex environment, will find many successful solutions each of which correspond to the available ecological niches. This means that the environment can not only simultaneously support motile and nonmotile organisms, but also ones of different degrees of social existence, different ability to transmit cultural information, and ones of different brain sizes. This co-existence of a variety of different kinds of adaptations is part of the basic fabric of evolutionary biology.–The Evolution of Culture in Animals, John Tyler Bonner

Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice.–A Room with a View, E. M. Forster

Our minds evolved by natural selection to solve problems that were life-and-death matters to our ancestors, not to commune with correctness or to answer any question we are capable of asking. We cannot hold ten thousand words in short-term memory. We cannot see in ultraviolet light. We cannot mentally rotate an object in the fourth dimension. And perhaps we cannot solve conundrums like free will and sentience.–How the Mind Works, Steven Pinker

In a way scientific exploration of human consciousness is just an extension of the arts, theater, literature, and even religion. We are returning to a project that has moved human beings for centuries: to apply the mind to its own understanding. I can imagine nothing more thrilling and ultimately practical.–In the Theater of Consciousness, Bernard J. Baars

You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased it, “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.”–The Astonishing Hypothesis, Francis Crick

Part of the resistance to Darwin and Wallace derives from our difficulty in imagining the passage of millennia, much less the aeons. What does seventy million years mean to beings who live only one-millionth as long? We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.–Carl Sagan

We understand why only those individuals could continue to exist which abhorred certain very noxious influences with all the nervous energy at their command … while with equal vigor aiming at other influences that were important for the preservation of themselves or their kind. In this way we grasp how the intensity and power of our whole affective life developed: pleasure and pain, hate and love, happiness and despair. We cannot rid ourselves of the whole range of our passions any more than we can our bodily illnesses, but on the other hand we learn how to understand and bear them.–Ludwig Boltzmann

To evolve is to surrender choices. To become something new is to accumulate all the things you can no longer be.–Out of Control, Kevin Kelly

The golden sieve of memory simplifies visual information down to bare essentials and records it by association. In effect, it becomes the currency of our minds. Minute by minute, year by year, details fall away as our mental imagery becomes more iconographic. That’s how we see; that’s how we think. Beginning with a very incomplete visual recording of a landscape, our minds reduce it ever further, until as Robert Pirsig wrote in Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, “We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.”–The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography, Galen Rowell

To be human is to be in the tense condition of a death-foreseeing, consciously libidinous animal. No other earthly creature suffers such a capacity for thought, such a complexity of envisioned but frustrated possibilities, such a troubling ability to question the tribal and biological imperatives.–The tried and the treowe, John Updike

Nobody seems to write songs about the pain I mean, the long-standing burden of love, the ever-present epoxy of gratitude for one’s good fortune mixed with this terrible, unwholesome fear of having its source damaged or taken away. … Awake at night, I place my left hand on the delicate fretwork of Gail’s ribcage and feel the slow beating of her heart, wishing I could somehow cup it in my hands and keep it safe. How is it that happiness can include, apparently as a necessary condition, so much potential unhappiness? How is it that love, which brings so much strength, should also entail this enduring vulnerability, this dreadful potential for pain? —In Pursuit of Happiness, Mark Kingwell

All the libraries of Oxford were in a dreadful state… In my small way, I preserved and catalogued, and dipped into the vast ocean of learning that awaited, knowing all the time that the life of one man was insufficient for even the smallest part of the wonders that lay within. It is cruel that we are granted the desire to know, but denied the time to do so properly. We all die frustrated; it is the greatest lesson we have to learn.–An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears

[words of a mother to her son, whose wife has died]: Bodies are temporary. They are not important. Memories are temporary. But Elizabeth is indelible. Her impression will always be with you. You don’t need to worry. This is the way our minds work. The details go—and it is good that they go, otherwise we’d go completely crazy—but the important things linger.–Spilling Clarence, Anne Ursu

In the life of a man, his time is but a moment, his senses a dim rushlight, his body a prey of worms, his soul an unquiet eddy, his fortune dark, and his fame doubtful. In short, all that is of the body is as coursing waters, all that is of the soul as dreams and vapours; life a warfare, a brief sojourning in an alien land; and after repute, oblivion. Where, then, can man find the power to guide and guard his steps? In one thing and one alone: Philosophy.–Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Time remembered is grief forgotten.–Atalanta in Calydon, Charles Algernon Swinburne

And I know that my impulse to write is bound up with my desire to salvage worthy moments from the river of time. Maybe all art is a hedge against loss.–The Country of Language, Scott Russell Sanders

To transmute greed into thrift, violence into argument, murder into litigation, and suicide into philosophy, has been part of the task of civilization. It was a great advance when the strong consented to eat the weak by due process of law.—Will Durant

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *