Autodidact: self-taught



by V. L. Craven


Adler, Alfred
01. It is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them.

Aligheri, Dante
01. To describe the Bottom of the Universe is not a task which one undertakes for sport; nor is it for a tongue that cries “mama” or “papa”.


Beckett, Samuel
01. Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.

Bissell, Tom
01. Secrets are nothing if not what we carefully choose to share.

Brother Void
01.  I don’t know what I am doing, but I’m doing it as hard as I possibly can.

Burroughs, John
01. The peace of the hills is about me and upon me and the leisure of the summer clouds is mine.


Calvert, Catherine
01. But at night, when phones have stilled and the children slumber and a tall bed with clean white sheets waits, it’s sweet peace to enjoy the pace of putting oneself to bed.

Chekhov, Anton
01. Any idiot can face a crisis—it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.

Chesterfield, Lord
01. Take care of the minutes for the hours will take care of themselves.

Chocano, Carina
01. What is love, anyway, aside from a liquor-fueled period of psychosis counteracted with a lifetime’s worth of received romantic notions and a tingling sensation in the pants?

Cioran, E.M.
01. My mission is to kill time, and time’s to kill me in its turn. How comfortable one is among murderers.

01. America is the only nation in history that has passed directly from barbarism to decadence, without the usual interval of civilisation.


Dershowitz, Alan
01. If you are not prepared to defend it in public, don’t do it.

01. Go placidly among the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

Dickinson, Emily
01. I…am small, like the wren, and my hair is bold like the chestnut burr; and my eyes like the sherry in the glass that the guest leaves.

Disraeli, Benjamin
01. The secret to success is constancy to purpose.


Eldridge, Paul
01. History is the transformation of tumultuous conquerors into silent footnotes.

Ellis, Albert
01. Neurosis is just a high-class word for whining.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo
01. The great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.


Flaubert, Gustave
01. I have always seen life differently from others, and the result has been that I’ve always isolated myself.


Hammett, Dashiell
01. [This is a quote about Hammett by an unknown source from the introduction to The Lady in the Lake]  There, [Dashiell Hammett] adopted a code that would define his life: Create a barrier between yourself and the rest of the world.

Heifetz, Jascha
01. No matter what side of the argument you are on, you always find people on your side that you wish were on the other.

Huxley, Aldous
01. A belief in hell and the knowledge that every ambition is doomed to frustration at the hands of a skeleton have never prevented the majority of human beings from behaving as though death were no more than an unfounded rumor.
02. An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex.


Isherwood, Christopher
01. [D.H. Lawrence] is the kind of writer who somehow or other creates powerful effects while breaking all the literary rules. [from the Introduction of Great English Short Stories edited by Isherwood]


Jewett, Sarah Orne
01. You must find your own quiet centre of life, and write from that to the world. [written to Willa Cather]

Johnson, Anna
01. Trust in my affection for you. Tho’ I may not display it exactly in the way you like and expect it, it is not therefore less deep and sincere.

Jones, Archilochus
01. Almost all human affairs are tedious. Everything is long. Visits, dinners, concerts, plays, speeches, acts of oral sexual congress, pleading, essays, sermons are too long.


Kaufman, Margo
01. [on bottle redheads] I wish they would round up all these fake redheads. They’re everywhere. I used to be the only redhead in my dance class, but now there are all these women with hair the colour of Ethan Allen furniture. Cherrywood. Mahogany. These fake redheads did not pay their dues. They never got called ‘Freckles’ or ‘Carrot Top.’ They never had to swim with a t-shirt to avoid getting sunburned. They were constantly asked by sleazy men on the street, ‘Where did you get that red hair hon?’ ‘Is it real?’ And now they walk around with this hot-shit attitude, which no real redhead has. Real redheads are incredibly direct and usually very nice. These fake redheads are everywhere. Yesterday my sister called to say she was thinking of dying her hair red. I warned her that it would severely affect our relationship.


L’Engle, Madeleine
01.  All secret places need to be shared occasionally.

Latin Proverb
01.  Keep quiet and people will think you a philosopher.
02. A wise man learns by the mistakes of others, a fool by his own.

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth
01.  The holiest of all holidays are those Kept by ourselves in silence and apart; The secret anniversaries of the heart, …

Lowell, James Russell
01.  Solitude is as needful to the imagination as society is wholesome for the character.
02.  The nurse of full-grown souls is solitude.


Maugham, Somerset
01. It was such a lovely day I thought it was a pity to get up.

Mirren, Dame Helen
01. When you do Shakespeare they think you must be intelligent because they think you understand what you’re saying.


Oppenheimer, Robert
01. We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that, one way or another. –Robert Oppenheimer, Interview about the Trinity explosion  first broadcast as part of the television documentary  The Decision to Drop the Bomb , produced by Fred Freed, NBC White Paper, 1965. Oppenheimer is quoting from the 1944 Vivekananda—Isherwood translation of Bhavagad-Gita. This is a line spoken by Krishna, who is revered in Hindu traditions as one of the major incarnations of Vishnu; some assert that the passage would be better translated, ‘I am become Time, the destroyer of worlds.’
02. When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb. Robert Oppenheimer, Testifying in his defence in his 1954 security hearings (page 81 of the official transcript).
03. Everyone wants rather to be pleasing to women and that desire is not altogether, though it is very largely, a manifestation of vanity. But one cannot aim to be pleasing to women any more than one can aim to have taste, or beauty of expression, or happiness; for these things are not specific aims which one may learn to attain; they are descriptions of the adequacy of one’s living. To try to be happy is to try to build a machine with no other specification than that it shall run noiselessly. [Letter to his brother Frank (14 October 1929), published in Robert Oppenheimer : Letters and Recollections (1995) edited by Alice Kimball Smith, p. 136]
04. There must be no barriers to freedom of enquiry … There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. Our political life is also predicated on openness. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to enquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress. — [As quoted in “J. Robert Oppenheimer” by L. Barnett, in Life, Vol. 7, No. 9, International Edition (24 October 1949), p.58;] sometimes a partial version (the final sentence) is misattributed to Marcel Proust.
05. It’s not that I don’t feel bad about it. It’s just that I don’t feel worse today than what I felt yesterday. [Response to question on his feelings about the atomic bombings, while visiting Japan in 1960.]
06. It is perfectly obvious that the whole world is going to hell. The only possible chance that it might not is that we do not attempt to prevent it from doing so. [As quoted in Play to Live (1982) by Alan Watts]
07. I believe that through discipline, though not through discipline alone, we can achieve serenity, and a certain small but precious measure of the freedom from the accidents of incarnation, and charity, and that detachment which preserves the world which it renounces. I believe that through discipline we can learn to preserve what is essential to our happiness in more and more adverse circumstances, and to abandon with simplicity what would else have seemed to us indispensable; that we come a little to see the world without the gross distortion of personal desire, and in seeing it so, accept more easily our earthly privation and its earthly horror — But because I believe that the reward of discipline is greater than its immediate objective, I would not have you think that discipline without objective is possible: in its nature discipline involves the subjection of the soul to some perhaps minor end; and that end must be real, if the discipline is not to be factitious. Therefore I think that all things which evoke discipline: study, and our duties to men and to the commonwealth, war, and personal hardship, and even the need for subsistence, ought to be greeted by us with profound gratitude, for only through them can we attain to the least detachment; and only so can we know peace. [Letter to his brother Frank (12 March 1932), published in Robert Oppenheimer : Letters and Recollections (1995) edited by Alice Kimball Smith, p. 155]


01. In a crowd, on a journey, at a banquet even, a line of thought can itself provide its own seclusion.


Renard, Jules
01.  There are places and moments in which one is so completely alone that one sees the world entire.


Scott, Sir Walter
01. Having omitted to carry on my diary for two or three days, I lost heart to make it up and left it unfilled for many a month and day. During this period nothing has happened worth particular notice. The same occupations, the same amusements, the same occasional alterations of spirits, gay or depressed, the same absence of all sensible or rational cause for the one or the other—I half grieve to take up my pen and doubt if it is worthwhile to record such an infinite quantity of nothing. But hang it! I hate to be beat so here goes for better behaviour!

Sockman, Ralph W.
01. The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady
01.  It is a settled maxim with me that the existing public sentiment on any subject is wrong.

Strong, Anna Louise
01.  To fall in love is easy, even to remain in it is not difficult; our human loneliness is cause enough. But it is a hard quest worth making to find a comrade through whose steady presence one becomes steadily the person one desires to be.

Syrus, Publilius
01.  He who lives in solitude may make his own laws


Thaxter, Celia
01.  When in these fresh mornings I go into my garden before anyone is awake, I go for the time being into perfect happiness.

Thoreau, Henry David
01.  I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.

Twain, Mark
01.  What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life as led in his head, and is known to none but himself.


01.  Perhaps I know why it is man alone laughs: He alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.


Voltaire (author)
01.  The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude.

von Braun, Wernher
01. Nature does not know extinction, all it knows is transformation.


Wilde, Oscar
01. I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

Williams, Kenneth
01. I think that people who manifest their love for you physically, when they knew your lack of reciprocation, are abominably selfish. Sooner or later, the relationship must suffer, however noble its beginnings. I must be comparably undersexed or something for I have never particularly wanted to make physical love to anybody. All this touching and kissing which seems so popular amount others passes me by. {} Knows I’m virgin, and is always saying that I make up for it by flirting continually. He says I should do something. He can’t believe I could be abnormal. To him, everyone must do something or die. Perhaps I am dead.

Woolf, Virginia
01. … strong feelings, which can be both fine and wrong, must be controlled by reason.
02. ‘Time does not destroy people… but it brushes away the actual personal presence.’ [PN: I can’t find the full quote, but she says that in many way, looking at a person after their death allows you to see them more clearly—without the haze of daily interaction.]
03. …a revelation of some order; it is a token of some real thing behind appearances; and I make it real by putting it into words. It is only by putting it into words that I make it whole; this wholeness means that it has lost its power to hurt me; it gives me, perhaps because by doing so I take away the pain, a great delight to put the severed parts together.
05. There is a luxury in being quiet in the heart of chaos.


Yevtushenko, Yevgeny
01. The truth is replaced by silence and the silence is a lie.

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