Category Archives: Quotations

The Meaning of Life – Albert Einstein

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsStrange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men — above all for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellowmen, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.

From Living Philosophies (1931) by Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist and poster boy for geniuses and bad hair days. Astute fans of the acclaimed CBS show, Northern Exposure, will recognize that a portion of this quotation was read by Chris in the Morning during his insightful philosophical musings in “Lost and Found” (S3E17). 

Read related posts: The Meaning of Life by Peter Gay
The Meaning of Life by Joseph Campbell
The Meaning of Life by Mortimer Adler
The Meaning of Life by Norman Vincent Peale
Where to Find the Meaning of Life
Life’s Most Important Questions

For further reading:

What Makes Life Meaningful?

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsThe experiences of camp life show that man does have a choice of action… There were enough examples, often of a heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability suppressed. Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress. We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in numbers, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way… It is this spiritual freedom – which cannot be taken away – that makes life meaningful and purposeful.

From Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl (1905-1997), an Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist who founded logotherapy. Frankl was a survivor of the Holocaust, having been imprisoned at the Auschwitz concentration camp, and later Kaufering and Durkheim (both affiliated with the Dachau concentration camp in Upper Bavaria) from October 1944 to April 1945. Having endured unspeakable suffering in the concentration camps, Frankl discovered meaning even in the most horrific, most dehumanizing situations. This belief, that there was meaning even in suffering, became one of the foundational concepts of logotherapy. According to Frankl, the striving to find meaning in life is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force for all humans.

Wisdom From the Journey of Discovery

alex atkins bookshelf quotations[The] best of truths is of no use — as history has shown a thousand times — unless it has become the individual’s most personal inner experience. Every equivocal, so-called “clear” answer mostly remains in the head and only finds its way down to the heart in the very rarest cases. Our need is not to “know” the truth, but to experience it. The great problem is not to have an intellectual view of things, but to find the way to the inner, perhaps inexpressible, irrational experience… It is the duty of everyone who takes a solitary path to share with society what he finds on the journey of discovery.

Swiss psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961) who founded analytical psychology. One of the main principles of analytical psychology is individuation — the lifelong process of self-realization (specifically, the discovery and experience of one’s meaning and purpose in life), that results from the distillation of the personal and collective unconscious (the unconscious experienced by every human being). Many of the concepts of analytical psychology extend well beyond the field of psychology to other fields: anthropology, archaeology, literature, philosophy, and theology.

The Library as Open Door to Wonder and Achievement

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsI received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.

From I. Asimov: A Memoir by Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), prolific science fiction writer (he wrote more than 506 books and more than 90,000 letters during his lifetime), best known for his Foundation, Galactic Empire, and Robot series of novels.

Helping the Less Fortunate

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsPulitzer Prize winning author Pearl Buck once observed, “Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.” [Emphasis added.] It is not often that you read about the privileged or 1-percenters who due to their great fortune (and you can read that one of several ways), realize or experience firsthand that the majority of people work very hard or even struggle — and falter — just to get by in this world. The response to this should not be contempt or indifference (witness, for example, how many governments treat their citizens), but rather, kindness and compassion. For inspiration, we should turn to the Dalai Lama who wisely observed: “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

It is in this context, that one can appreciate the legacy of Princess Diana, known as the “Princess of Hearts” for her passionate philanthropy, who wanted to make sure her children understood that the plight of the less fortunate. In a candid interview with Newsweek magazine, Prince Harry, who is passionate about charity work and has earned a nickname that would make his mum proud (“Prince of Hearts”), shares these insights: “My mother died when I was very young [Harry was 12; Prince William was 15]. I didn’t want to be in the position I was in, but I eventually pulled my head out of the sand, started listening to people and decided to use my role for good. I am now fired up and energized and love charity stuff, meeting people and making them laugh. I sometimes still feel I am living in a goldfish bowl, but I now manage it better.” Harry explains how Princess Diana taught her sons to appreciate an ordinary life and privacy; he elaborates, “My mother took a huge part in showing me an ordinary life, including taking me and my brother to see homeless people. Thank goodness I’m not completely cut off from reality.” [Emphasis added.] Indeed, empathy, is king.

Read related posts: The Measure of Civilization
The Importance of Empathy
The Importance of Reading
The Thirteen Commandments
The Flier that Launched 150,000 Phone Calls

For further reading: Pearl Buck, My Several Worlds: A Personal Record

Amusing Musings on Language

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAs word lover Richard Lederer pointed out in one of his books, the English language is crazy. Lederer observes, “to explore the paradoxes and vagaries of English, we find that hot dogs can be cold, darkrooms can be lit, homework can be done in school, nightmares can take place in broad daylight while morning sickness and daydreaming can take place at night, tomboys are girls and midwives can be men, hours — especially happy hours and rush hours — often last longer than sixty minutes, quicksand works very slowly, boxing rings are square, silverware and glasses can be made of plastic and tablecloths of paper… and most bathrooms don’t have any baths in them.” You get the idea.

Lederer’s book inspired Josh White Jr.’s song “English is Crazy” (most people are familiar with folk singer Pete Seeger’s version, plays on banjo). Of course, Lederer’s waggish observations are not lost on comedians who mine the vast English lexicon for words and phrases that make you scratch your head and utter “WTF.” Two of the most brilliant comedians who placed the English language under the comedy microscope are George Carlin and Stephen Wright. Here are some of the most amusing musings on the English language, many from Carlin and Wright.

Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.

How can a fat chance and slim chance be the same thing?

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, “Where is the self-help section?” She said that if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

If a deaf kid swears, does his mother wash his hands with soap?

If a turtle loses its shell is it naked or homeless?

If con is the opposite of pro, is congress the opposite of progress?

If flying is so safe, why is the airport called ‘terminal’?

If people can have triplets and quadruplets why not singlets and doublets?

If vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat?

I went to a restaurant that “serves breakfast at any time” so I ordered French toast during the Renaissance.

Is Atheism a non-prophet organization?

Is it true that cannibals don’t eat clowns because they taste funny?

Isn’t it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do “practice?”

I saw a sign that said “Coming soon — a 24-hour restaurant.” Why would they open and close it so quickly?

I went to a general store. They wouldn’t let me buy anything specifically.

The reason the mainstream is thought of as a stream is because of its shallowness.

What’s another word for thesaurus?

Where do forest rangers go to “get away from it all?”

Why are there braille signs at the drive-through windows at the bank?

Why is that when stars are out, they’re visible, but when the lights are out, they’re invisible?

Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?

Why are boxing rings square?

Why do we drive on a parkway but park in a driveway?

Why is it that night falls but never breaks and day breaks but never falls?

Why don’t you ever see the headline, “Psychic Wins Lottery”?

Why is “abbreviated” such a long word?

Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavor and dishwashing liquid made with real lemons?

Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?

Why isn’t phonetics spelled phonetically?

Would a fly that loses its wings be called a “walk?”

Read related posts: The English Language is Crazy
The Wisdom of Steven Wright
The Wisdom of George Carlin
Top Ten Puns

For further reading: Brain Droppings by George Carlin
Crazy English: The Ultimate Joy Ride Through Our Languageby Richard Lederer
Lederer on Language: A Celebration of English, Good Grammar, and Wordplay by Richard Lederer

The Great Secret that Old People Share

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsThe great secret that all old people share is that you really haven’t changed in 70 or 80 years. Your body changes, but you don’t change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.

Doris Lessing (1919-2013), British novelist, short story writer, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2007. She is best known for the five novels collectively titled Children of Violence published between 1952 and 1969. The quotation appears in a 2005 calendar titled “Challenging Older People in Manchester” published by the Manchester City Council, Manchester, England.

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