William James Quotes

william-james-and-the-sick-soul“If this life be not a real fight, in which something is eternally gained for the universe by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from which one may withdraw at will. But it feels like a real fight – as if there were something really wild in the universe which we, with all our idealities and faithfulnesses, are needed to redeem.”

“We carve out order, by leaving the disorderly parts out; and the world is conceived thus after the analogy of a forest or a block of marble from which parks or statutes may be produced by eliminating irrelevant trees or chips of stone.”

“Every man who has reached even his intellectual teens, begins to suspect this; begins to suspect that life is no farce; that it is not a genteel comedy even; that it flowers and fructifies on the contrary out of the profoundest tragic depths, the depths of the essential dearth in which it subject’s roots are plunged. . . ”

“When the mind is morbid only the gloomy images have any vividness. We may try to realize the reverse of the picture, but it won’t bite, and even concentrated reflection will fail often to give it substantiality for us. Then the only thing is to have faith and wait, and resolve whatever happens to be faithful ‘in the outward act’ (as a philosopher says) that is do as if the good were the law of being, even if one can’t for the moment really believe it. The belief will come in its time.”

“If we survey the field of history and ask what features all great periods of revival, of expansion of the human mind, display in common, we shall find, I think, simply this; that each and all of them have said to the human being, ‘the inmost nature of the reality is congenial to powers which you possess.”

“Our strength and our intelligence, our wealth and even our good luck, are things which warm our heart and make us feel ourselves a match for life. But deeper than all such things, and able to suffice unto itself without them, is the sense of the amount of effort which we can put forth. . . He who can make none is but a shadow; he who can make much is a hero.”

“Sow an action, and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and reap a destiny.”

“The intellectual life of man consists almost wholly in his substituting a conceptual order for the perceptual order in which his experience originally comes.”

“Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state. We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone. Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never so little scar.”

“The attitude of unhappiness is not only painful, it is mean and ugly. What can be more base and unworthy then the pining, puling, mumping mood, no matter by what outward ills it may have been engendered? What is more injurious to others? What less helpful as a way out of the difficulty? It but fastens and perpetuates the trouble which occasioned it, and increases the total evil of the situation. At all costs, then, we ought to reduce the sway of that mood; we ought to scout it in ourselves and others, and never show it tolerance.”

“There are men who seem to have started in life with a bottle or two of champagne inscribed to their credit; whilst others seem to have been born close to the pain-threshold, which the slightest irritants faithfully send them over.”

“Mankind is in a position similar to that of a set of people living on a frozen lake, surrounded by cliffs over which there is no escape, yet knowing that little by little the ice is melting, and the inevitable day drawing near when the last film of it will disappear, and to be drowned ignominiously will be the human creature’s portion. The merrier the skating, the warmer and more sparkling the sun by day, and the ruddier the bonfires at night, the more poignant this sadness with which one must take in the meaning of the total situation.”

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