Tiny bites of wisdom gleaned along the way

I cherish quotes, they are a great way to connect with the minds of thinkers who influenced me. Here is a selection of quotes I like to go back to. I share the quotes in the language I find them.

Marcus Aurelius


Self-harm, my soul, you are doing self-harm: and you will have no more opportunity for self-respect. Life for each of us is a mere moment, and this life of yours is nearly over, while you still show yourself no honour, but let your own welfare depend on other people's souls.

No wandering. In every impulse, give what is right: in every thought, stick to what is certain.

When circumstances force you to some sort of distress, quickly return to yourself. Do not stay out of rhythm for longer than you must: you will master the harmony the more by constantly going back to it.

Observe the movement of stars as if you were running their courses with them, and let your mind constantly dwell on the changes of the elements into each other. Such imaginings wash away the filth of life on the ground.

All the time you should consider who are these people whose endorsement you wish, and what are the minds that direct them. When you look into the sources of their judgement and impulse, you will not blame their unwitting error, nor will you feel the need of their endorsement.

It is ridiculous not to escape from one's own vices, which is possible, while trying to escape the vices of others, which is impossible.

Accept humbly: let go easily.

Let no one have the chance to accuse you, with any truth, of not being sincere or a good man: make sure that anyone taking this view of you is a liar. This is wholly up to you - who is there to prevent you being good and sincere? You must just decided to live no longer if you won't have these qualities. And reason too abandons the man who won't.

Practice even what you have despaired of mastering. For lack of practice the left hand is awkward for most tasks, but has a stronger grip on the bridle than the right - it is practised in this.

Aurelien Barrau

Sur l'exemplarité du monde académique face à la catastrophe écologique

Il faut précisemment tenter, avec nos moyens infimes, modestement, de contribuer à enchanter une autre manière d'habiter le monde, une autre manière de percevoir le monde, une autre manière de penser le monde, une autre manière de créer des mondes pour le dire comme le philosophe Nelson Goodman.

Conférence au Club 44

De quoi n'ai-je plus besoin dans la distopie que je traverse?

On est dans une barque qui fuit de partout, on peut écoper, on peut mettre des rustines, mais je crois qu'en fait l'urgence c'est d'apprendre à nager.



Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.

With rewards this substantial, be aware that a casual effort is not sufficient.

So make a practice at once of saying to every strong impression: 'An impression is all you are, not the source of the impression.' Then test and assess it with your criteria, but one primilarly: ask, 'Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?' And if it's not one of the things that you control, be ready with the reaction, 'Then it's none of my concern.'

So direct aversion only towards things that are under your control and alien to your nature, and you will not fall victime to any of the things that you dislike.

An ignorant person is inclined to blame others for his own misfortune. To blame oneself is proof of progress. But the wise man never has to blame another or himself.

Don't hope that events will turn out the way you want, welcome events in whichever way they happen: this is the path to peace


Book I

Well, what does Zeus say? 'Epictetus, if it were possible, I would have made your little body and possessions both free and unrestricted. As it is, though, make no mistake: this body does not belong to you, it is only cunningly constructed clay. And since I could not make the body yours, I have given you a portion of myself instead, the power of positive and negative impulse, of desire and aversion - the power, in other words, of making good use of impressions. If you take care of it and identify with it, you will never be blocked or frustrated; you won't have to complain, and never will need to blame or flatter anyone. Is that enough to satisfy you?'
'It's more than enough. Thank you.'

Where is progress, then? If there is anyone who renounces externals and attends instead to their character, cultivating and perfecting it so that it agrees with nature, making it honest and trustworthy, elevated, free, unchecked and undeterred; and if they've learned that whoever desires or avoids things outside their control cannot be free or faithful, but has to shift and fluctuate right along with them, subject to anyone with the power to furnish or deprive them of these externals; and if from the moment they get up in the morning they adhere to their ideals, eating and bathing like a person of integrity, putting their principles into practice in every situation they face - the way a runner does when he applies the principles of running, or a singer those of musicianship - that is where you will see true progress embodied, and find someone who has not wasted their time making the journey here from home.

Viktor E. Frankl

Man's Search for Meaning

As each situation in life represents a challenge to man and presents a problem for him to solve, the question of the meaning of life may actually be reversed. Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible. Thus, logotherapy sees in responsibleness the very essence of human existence.

Donald Knuth

Computer Programming as an Art

The real problem is that programmers have spent far too much time worrying about efficiency in the wrong places and at the wrong times; premature optimization is the root of all evil (or at least most of it) in programming.

Donella Meadows

The Limits To Growth

We have felt it necessary to dwell so long on an analysis of technology here because we have found that technological optimism is the most common and the most dangerous reaction to our findings from the world model. Technology can relieve the symptoms of a problem without affecting the underlying causes. Faith in technology as the ultimate solution to all problems can thus divert our attention from the most fundamental problem - the problem of growth in a finite system - and prevent us from taking effective action to solve it.


La République


On pourrait dire, avec autant de raison, aux vieillards peu riches et chagrins que la pauvreté peut rendre la vieillesse pénible au sage même, mais que sans la sagesse, jamais la fortune ne la rendrait plus douce.

Richard Rorty

Do we Need Ethical Principle

Human beings have reason because they can talk, they don't talk because they are rational.

What makes us human is the hope of justifying our beliefs and our actions to others, the hope of using words rather than blows in our dealings with one another.

Although we always need ethical principles as reminders, we can never use them for reinsurance.


Letters from a Stoic

Letter II

Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man's ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in is own company.

It is not the man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more.

You ask what is the proper limit to a person's wealth? First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough.

Letter VII

You should neither become like the bad because they are many, nor be an enemy of the many because they are unlike you. Retire into yourself as much as you can. Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those whom you are capable of improving.

Letter CVIII

Things tend, in fact, to go wrong; part of the blame lies on the teachers of philosophy, who today teach us how to argue instead of how to live, part on their students, who come to the teachers in the first place with the view to developing not their character but their intellect.

People prone to every fault they denounce are walking advertisments of the uselessness of their training.

Vince Stehle

Don't build a castle; put up a thousand tents.

John Strelecky

The Cafe on the Edge of the World

Yet its in the face of our seeming insignificance, that we find meaning.

A.H. Tammsaare

Truth and Justice - Vargamäe

Wealth is closer to truth than poverty.