Category Archives: Quotations

The World Was Built to Develop Character

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsLife is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.

Henry Ford (1863-1947), American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company. Many people mistakenly believe that Ford invented the automobile or that he invented the assembly line. Who invented the automobile does not have an easy answer — there were several inventors who made important contributions: Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot developed the first steam engine (1769) and Robert Anderson developed the first electric carriage (1832). But it was Karl Benz who developed the first gasoline automobile powered by an internal combustion engine in 1885. Ford is credited as “inventor” of the car simply because the Ford Model T revolutionized transportation in America in the early 1900s. By 1918, half of all cars in America were Model Ts. They were cheap — $360 to $825 — and easy to drive.

The assembly line, on the other hand, was invented by Ransom Olds who founded the Olds Gasoline Engine Works in 1895. In order to build the Curved Dash Oldsmobile car quickly and inexpensively, Olds had workers assigned to fixed workstations, using interchangeable parts in repetitive operations, and vendors were set up to deliver the parts to each station. The reason that Ford is given credited for the assembly line, is that he added one important element: a conveyor: by playing the cars on a conveyor, moving from station to station, Ford created the first moving assembly line.

Ironically, when you think of assembly lines, you think of mass production and cheap labor. But, Ford had it the other way around. He introduced the concept of Fordism: mass production of inexpensive goods by workers who were paid high wages. Talk about anachronisms…

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For further reading: The People’s Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century by Steven Watts
They Made America by Harold Evans


Quotes Mistakenly Attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsThere are some notable people from history, who were larger than life — and due to their prolific writings and speeches, over the decades have become magnets for quotations. Martin Luther King, Jr., legendary civil rights activist and recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, is one of those individuals, alongside such luminaries as Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, and Thomas Jefferson. King’s passionate and eloquent “I Have A Dream” speech, delivered to a crowd of more than 250,000 civil rights supporters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963, is perhaps one of the most well-known speeches in American history. It is important for several reasons: it marks the defining moment of the civil rights movement in America and it considered King’s oratory magnum opus — considered by many scholars to be one of the best speeches of the 20th century. The original typewritten speech, easily worth more than $3 million, is owned by George Raveling who was volunteering as a security guard on the day that King delivered the speech. After King waved goodbye to the audience he handed it to Raveling.

There are many wonderful quotable lines from the speech itself, such as: “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.” He wrote those words, and just as important, he said those very same words. But as a quotation magnet, there are a number of quotes that have been attributed to King that he never said, and most likely, never said. Scholars call these types of quotes apocryphal, thus an apocryphal quotation is purported to be true by way of repeated tellings but has never been verified by the person’s corpus or recordings and thus is more likely not be true. But of course, with the Internet, apocryphal quotes spread like wild fire. Here are some of the quotes mistakenly attributed to Martin Luther King:

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
This sentence was written by Theodore Parker, a Unitarian minister and Transcendalist; it is found in Ten Sermons of Religion, published in 1853.

Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.
This was written by another Martin Luther, specifically Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation.

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
This was written by the aforementioned Martin Luther.

Justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.
This line is from the Bible, Amos 5:24.

Peace and justice are goals for man.
This was written by another famous quote magnet, Mahatma Gandhi.

I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
The first sentence was written by Jessica Dovey, a University of Pennsylvania graduate teaching English in Japan, on her Facebook page. She added the next two sentences that were written by King (from Strength to Love); however, she attributed the entire quotation to King.

Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.
(Written by a Usenet user on January 15, 2006)

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelfcommunity by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related post: Why “I Have a Dream” Speech Endures
The Wisdom of Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King and the Suicide Letter
The Gettysburg Address

The Two Most Important Days of Your Life

For further reading: Hemingway Didn’t Say That by Garson O’Toole,_Jr.

Kindness is More Important than Wisdom

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.”

Theodore Isaac Rubin (born 1923), American psychiatrist and author of more than 25 books of nonfiction, including Compassion and Self-Hate: An Alternative to Despair. He is the past president of the American Institute for Psychoanalysis.

The Written Word is the Work of Art Nearest to Life Itself

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsA written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art. It is the work of art nearest to life itself. It may be translated into every language, and not only be read but actually breathed from all human lips; — not be represented on canvas or in marble only, but be carved out of the breath of life itself.

From Walden; or Life in the Woods (1854) by Henry David Thoreau, American poet, essayist, abolitionist, and transcendentalist. Thoreau explains his inspiration for living in a cabin he built near Walden Pond: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived… I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” Mohandas Gandhi considered Thoreau “one of the greatest and most moral men America has produced.” Legendary American poet Robert Frost added, “In one book… [Thoreau] surpasses everything we have had in America.”

Memoirs in Six Words

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsInspired by the urban legend that Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words — to which he submitted: “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” — SMITH magazine invited its readers, several years ago, to submit six-word memoirs. Here are some notable submissions by writers, famous or obscure:

I asked. They answered. I wrote. (Sebastian Junger)

Seventy years, few tears, hairy ears. (Bill Querengesser)

Watching quietly from every door frame. (Nicole Resseguie)

Forest peace, sharing vision, always optimistic. (Jane Goodall)

Catholic school backfired. Sin is in! (Nikki Beland)

The psychic said I would be richer. (Elizabeth Bernstein)

I still make coffee for two. (Zak Nelson)

Oldest of five. Four degress. Broke. (Kaitlin Walsh)

Followed white rabbit. Became black sheep. (Gabrielle Maconi)

Danced in Fields of Infinite Possibilities. (Deepak Chopra)

Mistakes were made, but smarter now. (Christine Triano)

Amazing grace: born naked, clothed others. (Mark Budman)

Followed rules, not dreams. Never again. (Margaret Hellerstein)

Struggled with how the mind works. (Steven Pinker)

I was born; some assembly required. (Eric Jordan)

I recognize red flags faster now. (Barbara Burri)

Afraid of becoming like my mother. (Jocelyn Pearce)

My life’s a bunch of almosts. (Shari Nonnin)

Couldn’t cope so I wrote songs. (Aimee Mann)

Thought I would have more impact. (Kevin Clark)

I lost god. I found myself. (Joe Kimmel)

Still lost on road less traveled. (Joe Quesada)

I couldn’t protect me from myself. (Patrick Eleey)

My life is a beautiful accident. (J. D. Tenuta)

Wandering imagination opens doors to paradise. (Rebecca Perlstein)

It was worth it, I think. (Annette Laitinen)

Came, saw, conquered, had second thoughts. (Harold Ramis)

Saw, interpreted, mourned, hoped, then preacher. (Douglas Rushkoff)

Born at 23, childhood doesn’t count. (Krissy Karol)

Perpetual work in progress, need editor. (Sherry Fuqua-Gilson

Age grows, I’ve finally accepted me. (Kate Mammolito)

Aging late bloomer, yearns for do-over. (Sydney Zvara)

Many hands have kept me afloat. (Nick Flynn)

Saw the world; now where’s home? (Hannah Silverstein)

Traversing Earth together, chasing elusive answers. (Paul Barber)

Always working on the next chaper. (Milan Pham)

Next time — better parents, better hair. (Ruth Romano)

Educated too much, lived too little. (Dan Vance)

Tried everything once, few things twice. (Ed Zevetski)

I’d rather be watching a movie. (Lawrence Levi)

I have done it all. (Aaron Knoll)

Woke up, fell down, exited sideways. (Jim Clupper)

Explained Hitler, Shakespeare. Couldn’t explain self. (Ron Rosenbaum)

It’s like forever, only much shorter. (Pete DeVito)

Still trying to impress my dad. (Shoshana Berger)

Nature, nurture, lost, found, lost, found? (Sarah Saffian)

You must be fifty to understand. (Henri Breitenkam)

Internal age does not match external age. (Carol Smith)

What is your six-word memoir?

Read related posts: The Proust Questionnaire
Doublets: The Value of Wisdom
The Virtue of Wisdom
The Wisdom of Tom Shadyac
The Wisdom of Martin Luther King
The Wisdom of a Grandmother

The Wisdom of the Ancient Greeks
The Wisdom of Steven Wright

For further reading: Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs edited by SMITH Magazine

Best Quotes About New Year’s Eve

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsNew Year’s Eve is a bittersweet holiday — filled with the sadness of having to say goodbye to the past year, with all its memories — the tragic and the joyous. And the holiday is filled with the excitement of the year yet to come — full of hope and promise, as the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke expresses it: “full of things that have never been.”

As one gets older, however, the “bitter” in bittersweet becomes more pronounced. The sadness becomes more poignant because advancing age comforts you with a blanket of nostalgia and sentimentality — it just becomes harder to say goodbye. Moreover, one looks back at the year to remember the people who have passed away, making the world a bit colder and emptier without those individuals. Thus, on a deeper, subconscious level, saying goodbye to the past year is a harbinger of the losses that are yet to come.

Whether more bitter or more sweet, New Year’s Eve always inspires wonderful celebrations as well as deep or mildly intoxicated superficial reflection. Here are some of the best quotes about New Year’s Eve:

Albert Einsten: Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.

Alfred Lord Tennyson: Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, “It will be happier.”

Benjamin Franklin: Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.

Brad Paisley: Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.

C. S. Lewis: You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

Cavett Robert: Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.

Charles Kettering: Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas. 

Charles Lamb: New Year’s Day is every man’s birthday.

Eleanor Roosevelt: With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.

Ellen Goodman: We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.

Euripides: Waste no tears over the grieves of yesterday.

F. Scott Fitzgerald: Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning — So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Hal Borland: Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.

Helen Keller: Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.

Mark Twain: New Year’s Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.

Oprah Winfrey: Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.

Oscar Wilde: Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.

Rainer Maria Rilke: And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.

Seneca: Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

T. S. Eliot: For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice.

Thomas Jefferson: I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.

William Shakespeare: It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.

Read related posts: Best Quotes from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Best Quotes from A Christmas Story
The Meaning of the Great Gatsby Ending

Best Quotes from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

alex atkins bookshelf literatureA Christmas Carol, published by Charles Dickens in 1843, has never been out of print for almost two centuries. The story endures because Dickens masterfully compressed many themes into this short novella about a very reprehensible miser named Scrooge: redemption/transformation, compassion/foregiveness, guilt/blame, poverty/wealth, misanthropy/philanthropy, the impact of personal choices, the importance of family and home, and lost love and love are as relevant today, particularly in a callous Trumpian world, as they were 174 years ago. Scrooge, thanks to the visitation by three ghosts, demonstrates that we can be better human beings if we choose to be, echoing Sartre’s famous adage: “we are our choices.” Here are some of the best and most famous quotes from Dickens’ immortal A Christmas Carol:

Narrator: Marley was dead: to begin with… Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Narrator: Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.

Fred (Scrooge’s nephew): “A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!”
Scrooge: “Bah! Humbug!”
Fred: “Christmas a humbug, uncle! You don’t mean that, I am sure?”
Scrooge: “I do. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”
Fred: “Come, then. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”
Scrooge: “Bah! Humbug. 
Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should! If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Fred: “There are many things from which I might have derived good by which I have not profited, I dare say. Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come round-apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that-as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

Scrooge: “A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!” said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin.”

Scrooge: “Are there no prisons?”

Ghost: “Why do you doubt your senses?”
Scrooge: “Because a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

The Ghost of Jacob Marley: “I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link, and yard by yard.”

The Ghost of Jacob Marley: “No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused.’’

The Ghost of Jacob Marley: “It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death.”

The Ghost of Jacob Marley: “Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

The Ghost of Christmas Past: “The school is not quite deserted. A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.”

Narrator: They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a door at the back of the house. It opened before them, and disclosed a long, bare, melancholy room, made barer still by lines of plain deal forms and desks. At one of these a lonely boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down upon a form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he used to be.

Scrooge: “Why, it’s Ali Baba! It’s dear old honest Ali Baba! Yes, yes, I know! One Christmas time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone, he did come, for the first time, just like that. Poor boy! And Valentine,” said Scrooge, “and his wild brother, Orson; there they go! And what’s his name, who was put down in his drawers, asleep, at the Gate of Damascus; don’t you see him! And the Sultan’s Groom turned upside down by the Genii; there he is upon his head! Serve him right. I’m glad of it. What business had he to be married to the Princess!”

Narrator: To hear Scrooge expending all the earnestness of his nature on such subjects, in a most extraordinary voice between laughing and crying; and to see his heightened and excited face; would have been a surprise to his business friends in the city, indeed.

Belle: “Our contract is an old one. It was made when we were both poor and content to be so, until, in good season, we could improve our worldly fortune by our patient industry. You are changed. When it was made, you were another man.”

Mrs. Cratchit: “A merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!” [To which added Tiny Tim]: “God bless us every one!”

Bob Cratchit: “[Tiny Tim is] as good as gold and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”

The Ghost of Christmas Present: “I see a vacant seat in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved.”
Scrooge: “Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”

The Ghost of Christmas Present: “Man, if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant [“If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”] until you have discovered what the surplus is, and where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be that in the sight of Heaven you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. O God! to hear the insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

The Ghost of Christmas Present: “They are Man’s and they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”

Narrator: It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that, while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.

Scrooge: “Ghost of the Future, I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?”

Scrooge: “Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!”

Scrooge: “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!’ Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. ‘The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh, Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees!”

Scrooge: “I don’t know what to do! I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!”

Narrator: Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

Read related posts:
Life Lessons from Scrooge
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Trivia

The Origin of the Name Scrooge
The Inspiration for Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
Twas the Night Before Christmas
A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life
Best Quotes from A Christmas Story
The Inspiration for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
The Story Behind Scrooge
What is a First Edition of A Christmas Carol Worth?
The Story Behind “The Night Before Christmas”

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