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Aphorisms or "Universal Truths"

(171 entries, updated July, 2020)

This is one of the harder collections to describe. What is an aphorism exactly? In simplest terms it is oberservation about life, briefly told, that is true 'more often than not'. It may even be something that is always true, a 'universal' truth. Many aphorisms have that particular feeling of being a fact you can't get away from. A good example is Winston Churchill's statement that "Success is never final" - which, like many proverbs or maxims, both states a truth and gives a warning - one that contestants and combatants of all sorts should pay heed.

As I said, an aphorisms is usually brief or concise (perhaps even 'terse'). Somewhat wordier observations can be found in the Wisdom collection. Aphorisms also frequently 'clever' or humorous. For this reason, you might amusingly observe that it is not such a great leap from aphorism to sarcasm (although the road back might be a long one.


       --Steve


     - A -

  1. It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.
       Aeschylus


  2. We often give our enemies the means of our own destruction.
       Aesop


  3. Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.
       Aesop


  4. Where there is money, there is fighting.
       Marian Anderson


  5. If you don't have time to do it right you must have time to do it over.
       Anonymous


  6. You cannot teach a crab to walk straight.
       Aristophanes


  7. The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold.
       Aristotle


  8. Nature does nothing uselessly.
       Aristotle


  9. A great city is not to be confounded with a populous one.
       Aristotle


  10. Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
       Berthold Auerbach


  11.  - B -

  12. Nostalgia is a seductive liar.
       George W. Ball


  13. The more you judge, the less you love.
       Honore de Balzac


  14. Passion is born deaf and dumb.
       Honore de Balzac


  15. Memory is the greatest of artists, and effaces from your mind what is unnecessary.
        Maurice Baring


  16. Half the work that is done in the world is to make things appear what they are not.
       E.R. Beadle


  17. Good semse about trivialities is better than nonsense about things that matter.
       Max Beerbohm


  18. Brevity is power.
       Josh Billings


  19. The rarest thing a man ever duz iz the best he can. [sic]
       Josh Billings


  20. Love looks through a telescope; envy through a microscope.
       Josh Billings


  21. Advice is like castor oil, easy enough to give but dreadful uneasy to take.
       Josh Billings


  22. What is now proved was once only imagined.
       William Blake


  23. Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.
       Napoleon Bonaparte


  24. What you really value is what you miss, not what you have.
       Jorge Luis Borges


  25. My riches consist not in the extent of my possessions, but in the fewness of my wants.
       J. Brotherton


  26. Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.
       Buddha


  27. The course of true anything does not run smooth.
       Samuel Butler


  28.  - C -

  29. An angry man opens his mouth and shuts his eyes.
       Cato The Elder


  30. We live in a rainbow of Chaos.
       Paul Cezanne


  31. Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.
       Dale Carnegie


  32. In some cases, non-violence requires more militancy than violence.
       Cesar Chavez


  33. When a lot of remedies are suggested for a disease, that means it cannot be cured.
       Anton Chekhov


  34. The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.
      --G. K. Chesterton


  35. A closed mind is like a closed book: just a block of wood.
      --Chinese Proverb


  36. It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.
      --Agatha Christie


  37. Success is never final.
       Winston Churchill


  38. Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
      --Winston Churchill


  39. A bridge has no allegiance to eithr side.
       Les Coleman


  40. By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.
       Confucius


  41. When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it--this is knowledge.
       Confucius


  42. Virtue is not left to stand alone. He who practices it will have neighbors.
       Confucius


  43. History is a vast early warning system.
       Norman Cousins


  44. A good book has no ending.
       R.D. Cumming


  45.  - D -

  46. Youth is a blunder; Manhood a struggle; Old Age a regret.
       Benjamin Disraeli


  47. There is an art of reading, as well as an art of thinking, and an art of writing.
       Isaac Disraeli


  48. Our deeds follow us, and what we have been makes us what we are.
       John Dykes


  49.  - E -

  50. The environment is everything that isn't me.
       Albert Einstein


  51. Imagination is a poor substitute for experience.
       Havelock Ellis


  52. The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.
       Ralph Waldo Emerson


  53. So much of our time is preparation, so much is routine, and so much retrospect, that the path of each man's genius contracts itself to a very few hours.
       Ralph Waldo Emerson


  54. It is impossible for a man to be cheated by anyone but himself.
       Ralph Waldo Emerson


  55. He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare,
    And he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere.
       Ralph Waldo Emerson


  56. The education of the will is the object of our existence.
       Ralph Waldo Emerson


  57. Of all the things which wisdom provides to make us entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship.
       Epicurus


  58. Time will explain it all. He is a talker, and needs no questioning before he speaks.
       Euripides


  59.  - F -

  60. The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.
       William Faulkner


  61. The voice is a second signature.
       R. I. Fitzhenry


  62. The purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one.
       Malcom Forbes


  63. Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.
       Benjamin Franklin


  64. Life's Tragedy is that we get old to soon and wise too late.
       Benjamin Franklin


  65. The simplest questions are the hardest to answer.
       Northrop Frye


  66.  - G -

  67. Yesterday is but today's memory, and tomorrow is today's dream.
       Kahlil Gibran


  68. Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.
       Kahlil Gibran, from The Prophet


  69. The impossible is often the untried.
       Jim Goodwin


  70.  - H -

  71. There is only one way to come into this world; there are too many ways to leave it.
       Donald Harington


  72. Man is a make-believe animal - he is never so truly himself as when he is acting a part.
       William Hazlitt


  73. All good work is done the way ants do things, Little by little.
       Lafcadio Hearn


  74. My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.
       Ernest Hemingway


  75. Nothing endures but change.
       Heraclitus


  76. You must lose a fly to catch a trout.
       George Herbert


  77. Hope is the poor man's bread.
       George Herbert


  78. Great deeds are usually wrought at great risk.
       Herodotus


  79. We know how to speak many falsehoods that resemble real things, but we know, when we will, how to speak true things.
       Hesiod


  80. Fame usually comes to those who are thinking about something else.
       Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.


  81. Hunger is not debatable.
       Harry Hopkins


  82. Multa ferunt anni venientes commoda secum, Multa recedentes adimiunt.
    (The years, as they come, bring many agreeable things with them; as they go, they take many away.)
       Horace, from Ars Poetica


  83. Brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio.
    (When I labor to be brief, I become obscure.)
       Horace, from Ars Poetica


  84. A good scare is worth more to a man than good advice.
       Edgar Watson Howe


  85.  - J -

  86. Deep experience is never peaceful.
       Henry James


  87. There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision.
       William James


  88. Luxury is more deadly than any foe.
       Juvenal


  89.  - K -

  90. From such crooked wood as that which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned.
       Immanuel Kant


  91. A proverb is no proverb to you till life has illustrated it.
       John Keats


  92. My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.
       Clarence Buddinton Kelland


  93. Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.
       Rudyard Kipling


  94. Nothing is more sad than the death of an illusion.
       Arthur Koestler


  95. Often the search proves more profitable than the goal.
       E. L. Konigsburg


  96.  - L -

  97. There is a woman at the begining of all great things.
       Alphonse de Lamartine


  98. People, like nails, lose their effectiveness when they lose direction and begin to bend.
       Walter Savage Landor


  99. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
       Lao Tzu


  100. It is the Vague and Elusive.
  101. Meet it and you will not see its head.
  102. Follow it and you will not see its back.
       Lao Tzu


  103. One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach.
       Anne Morrow Lindbergh


  104. It takes less time to do a thing right, than it does to explain why you did it wrong.
       Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


  105.  - M -

  106. Conceal a flaw, and the world will imagine the worst.
       Martial


  107. The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain.
       Karl Marx


  108. It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.
       Herman Melville


  109. We live, not as we wish to, but as we can.
       Menander


  110. It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.
       H. L. Mencken


  111. That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in the next.
       John Stuart Mill


  112. You don't understand anything until you learn it more than one way.
       Marvin Minsky


  113. How glorious it is -- and also how painful -- to be an exception.
       Alfred de Musset


  114.  - N -

  115. If you don't want to work, you have to work to earn enough money so that you won't have to work.
       Ogden Nash


  116. No one lies so boldly as the man who is indignant.
       Friederich Nietzsche


  117. There are no eternal facts, as there are no absolute truths.
       Friederich Nietzsche


  118. Some people will believe anything if you whisper it to them.
       Louis Nizer
  119. We are near waking when we dream we are dreaming.
       Friedrich Novalis


  120.  - P -

  121. What we obtain too cheap we esteem too little; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.
       Thomas Paine


  122. It is not good to be too free. It is not good to have everything one wants.
       Blaise Pascal


  123. In the field of observation, chance favors the prepared mind.
       Louis Pasteur


  124. Every luxury must be paid for, and everything is a luxury, starting with being in the world.
       Cesare Pavese


  125. The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.
       Edward Phelps


  126. We always think every other man's job is easier than our own. The better he does it, the easier it looks.
       Eden Phillpotts


  127. The days that are still to come are the wisest witnesses.
       Pindar


  128. Not every truth is the better for showing its face undisguised; and often silence is the wisest thing for a man to heed.
       Pindar


  129. People who think money can do anything may very well be suspected of doing anything for money.
       Mary Pettibone Poole


  130. A catherdral, a wave of storm, a dancer's leap, never turn out to be as high as we had hoped.
       Marcel Proust


  131. Things don't change, but by and by our wishes change.
       Marcel Proust


  132.  - Q -

  133. However gradual the course of history, there must always be the day, even an hour and minute, when some significant action is performed for the first or last time.
        Peter Quennell


  134.  - R -

  135. Money is the barometer of a society's virtue.
       Ayn Rand


  136. It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.
       Agnes Repplier


  137. Nothing sways the stupid more than arguments they can't understand.
       Cardinal de Retz


  138. Every man has a rainy corner of his life whence comes foul weather which follows him.
       Jean Paul Richter


  139. We are never so happy or unhappy as we imagine.
       Francois duc la Rochefoucauld


  140. Not all those who know their minds know their hearts as well.
       Francois duc la Rochefoucauld


  141. One form of loneliness is to have a memory and no one to share it with.
       Phyllis Rose


  142. Humor is, I think, the subtlest and chanciest of literary forms. It is surely not accidental that there are a thousand novelists, essayists, poets or journalists for each humorist. It is a long, long time between James Thurbers
       Leo Rosten


  143. Humor is the affectionate communication of insight.
       Leo Rosten


  144. Satire is focused bitterness.
       Leo Rosten


  145. Every writer is a narcissist. This does not mean that he is vain; it only means that he is hopelessly self-absorbed.
       Leo Rosten


  146. The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.
       Theodore Rubin


  147.  - S -

  148. Life is not a spectacle or a feast; it is a predicament.
       George Santayana


  149. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
       George Santayana


  150. Fanatacism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.
       George Santayana


  151. Maturity consists in no longer being taken in by oneself.
       Kajetan von Schlaggenberg


  152. Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world.
       Arthur Schopenhauer


  153. Life is but a moment, death also is but another.
       Dr Robert Schuller


  154. The things hardest to bear are sweetest to remember.
      Seneca

  155. All art is but immitation of nature.
       Seneca


  156. There are many trails up the mountain, but in time, they all reach the top.
       Anya Seton


  157. We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.
       George Bernard Shaw


  158. Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough.
       George Bernard Shaw


  159. A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.
       William Shedd


  160. Sometimes what we call 'memory' and what we call 'imagination' are not so easily distinguished.
       Leslie Marmon Silko


  161. Men of ill judgement oft ignore the good
    That lies within their hands, till they have lost it.
       Sophocles


  162. To him who is in fear everything rustles.
       Sophocles


  163. The mark of a good action is that it appears inevitable in retrospect.
       Robert Louis Stevenson


  164. Fortune is like glass--the brighter the glitter, the more easily broken.
       Publius Syrus


  165. Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.
       Publius Syrus


  166.  - T -

  167. The mountain remains unmoved at seeming defeat by the mist.
       Rabindranath Tagore


  168. Beauty, more than bitterness
    Makes the heart break.
       Sara Teasdale


  169. I am a part of all that I have seen.
       Alfred Lord Tennyson


  170. There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly.
       Terence


  171. Nothing is said that has not been said before.
      --Terence (185-159 B.C.)


  172. Only he is successful in his business who makes that pursuit which affords him the highest pleasure sustain him.
       Henry David Thoreau


  173. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
       Henry David Thoreau


  174. There is no safety in numbers, or in anything else.
      --James Thurber


  175. Change is the process by which the future invades our lives.
      --Alvin Toffler


  176. Not all who wander are lost.
      --J.R.R. Tolkien


  177. Intense feeling too often obscures the truth.
       Harry Truman


  178.  - V -

  179. Long years must pass before the truths we have made for ourselves become our very flesh.
       Paul Valery


  180. In love, as in war, a fortress that parleys is half taken.
       Margaret of Valois


  181. Death twitches my ear. 'Live,' he says, 'I am coming.'
      --Virgil


  182.  - W -

  183. Being on the tightrope is living; everything else is waiting.
      --Karl Wallenda


  184. One is never more on trial than in the moment of excessive good fortune.
       Lew Wallace


  185. And from the discontent of one man
    The world's best progress springs.
       Ella Wheeler Wilcox


  186. Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell the truth.
       Oscar Wilde


  187. There is luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves, we feel no one else has a right to blame us.
       Oscar Wilde


  188.  - Y -

  189. Surrounding yourself with dwarfs does not make you a giant.
       Yiddish Proverb


  190. There is no god like one's stomach: We must sacrifice to it every day.
       Yoruba Saying


  191.  - Z -

  192. There is more stupidity around than hydrogen, and it has a longer shelf life.
       Frank Zappa


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