This is a sampler from my continually growing database of over 4000 quotations. I’ve been collecting these since junior high. These were selected not with a modern sensibility of sensitivity or inclusion, but with a notion of timelessness and truth regardless of the source. Each of these are about the future, even if that future was from a very long time ago.
This all started when I found a packet of 3×5 cards in my dad’s office. Each one had a quotation on it. He explained that quotations were really useful, because you didn’t have time to read everything, so look for ideas worth remembering. If possible, see how others had taken complex ideas and gotten the essence of it in just a few lines. Yeah, my dad was a smart guy.
A few years ago, I published some of my favorites in a small book which I used for audience giveaways and as a thank you for clients. You can find it on Amazon for 99 cents: Worth Remembering: The Future Value of Old Ideas.
1. A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any other invention in human history – with possible exception of handguns and tequila. Mitch Ratliffe
2. When science discovers the center of the universe, a lot of people will be disappointed to find they are not it. Bernard Baily
3. First we thought the PC was a calculator. Then we found out how to turn numbers into letters with ASCII—and we thought it was a typewriter. Then we discovered graphics, and we thought it was a television. With the World Wide Web, we’ve realized it’s a brochure. Douglas Adams
4. The industrialized world has a different kind of poverty, a poverty of loneliness, of being unwanted, a poverty of the spirit. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
5. The surest sign that there’s intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is that they’ve never tried to contact us. Woody Allen
6. The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat. Lily Tomlin
7. The trouble with cheap, specialized education is that you never stop paying for it. Marshall McLuhan
8. We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. Oscar Wilde
9. All great literature is one of two stories: a man goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town. Leo Tolstoy
10. Without books, God is silent, justice dormant, natural science at a stand, philosophy lame, letters dumb, and all things involved in darkness. Thomas Bartholin
11. And the same age saw Learning fall, and Rome. Alexander Pope
12. There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them. Joseph Brodsky
13. Literature is my utopia. Helen Keller
14. I cannot live without books. Thomas Jefferson
15. Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. Elie Wiesel
16. Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us all without words?
17. Only intuition can protect us from the most dangerous individual of all, the articulate incompetent. Robert Bernstein
18. Prediction is difficult, especially about the future. Neils Bohr
19. No one really knows enough to be a pessimist. Norman Cousins
20. Torture numbers and they will confess to anything. Gregg Easterbrook
21. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. C. S. Lewis
22. When liberty becomes license, dictatorship is near. Will Durant
23. Decadence can find agents only when it wears the mask of progress.
George Bernard Shaw
24. You can never get enough of what you really don’t need. Eric Hoffer
25. Where there is no vision, the people perish.Proverbs 29:18
26. Who guards the guardians? Juvenal
27. There is hope for the future because God has a sense of humor and we are funny to God. Bill Cosby
28. If the stars should appear just one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore! Ralph Waldo Emerson
29. This too shall pass. Dante Alighieri
30. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.
II Timothy 4:7
31. Perhaps in time the so-called Dark Ages will be thought of as including our own. Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
32. People change and forget to tell each other. Lillian Hellman
33. To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated.
James P. Carse
34. College isn’t the place to go for ideas. Helen Keller
35. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2
36. You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive. James Baldwin
37. I love little children, and it is not a slight thing when they, who are fresh from God, love us. Charles Dickens
38. I actually think that to become really mature is to return to the age of five, to become able to recapture the capacity for absorption, for learning, the tremendous hunger to master skills that you have at five years. Eric Hoffer
39. Real futurists have children. Bruce Sterling
40. Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now bump, bump, bump on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there is really another way if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. A. A. Milne
41. Play so that you may be serious. Anacharsis
42. God gave us our memories so that we might have roses in December. James M. Barrie
43. Won’t you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you. Richard Brinsley Lord Sheridan
44. It is a great mistake for men to give up paying compliments, for when they give up saying what is charming, they give up thinking what is charming. Oscar Wilde
45. A man of courage flees forward, in the midst of new things.Jacques Maritain
46. The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. Eden Phillpotts
47. How beautiful the leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days. John Burroughs
48. Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars. Henry van Dyke