It is the duty of human understanding to understand that there are things
which it cannot understand, and what those things are. Human understanding
has vulgarly occupied itself with nothing but understanding, but if it would
only take the trouble to understand itself at the same time it would simply
have to posit the paradox.
Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard: A Selection
Number 1395, 1854 entry
Edited and Translated by Alexander Dru, 1838
We shall see but little way if we require to understand what we see. How
few things can a man measure with the tape of his understanding! How many
greater things might he be seeing in the meanwhile!
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
14 February 1851
A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die.
Franz Kafka (1883-1924)
The Collected Aphorisms
October 1917 - February 1918
I still understand a few words in life, but I no longer think they make a
Jean Rostand (1894-1977)
Pensees d'un Biologiste, 1939
[see also: HAPPINESS]
Man's unhappiness, as I construe, comes of his greatness; it is because there
is an Infinite in him, which with all his cunning he cannot quite bury under
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
Sartor Resartus, 1833-1834
Book II, Chapter 9
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation
is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate
country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats.
A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called
the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes
after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Chapter 1 "Economy"
The secret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother about whether
you are happy or not. The cure for it is occupation.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Parents and Children, 1914
A person cannot make another happy, but he can make him unhappy. This is
the main reason why there is more unhappiness than happiness in the world.
Thomas Szasz (b.1920)
The Untamed Tongue, 1990
When man tries to imagine Paradise on earth, the immediate result is a very
Paul Claudel (1868-1955)
Conversations dans le Loir-et-Cher, 1929
No utopia can ever give satisfaction to everyone, all the time. As their
material conditions improve, men raise their sights and become discontented
with power and possessions that once would have seemed beyond their wildest
dreams. And even when the external world has granted all it can, there still
remain the searchings of the mind and the longings of the heart.
Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)
Childhood's End, 1953
Part II "The Golden Age"
...technical advance could actually be an impediment to utopia: unlike in
previous centuries, technology in the twentieth century has made necessity
increase rather than diminish.
Cristovam Buarque (b.1944)
Humans had the tools necessary to make the earth all anyone could ever
long for until the distant death of time from heat or cold. And only
human nature stood in the way of near-perfection.
Kathleen Ann Goonan (b.1952)
The Bones of Time, 1996