Will Durant

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In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life. It goes on.
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Will Durant

William James Durant (5 November 1885 - 7 November 1981) American historian, philosopher and writer.

Sourced

  • I felt more keenly than before the need of a philosophy that would do justice to the infinite vitality of nature. In the inexhaustible activity of the atom, in the endless resourcefulness of plants, in the teeming fertility of animals, in the hunger and movement of infants, in the laughter and play of children, in the love and devotion of youth, in the restless ambition of fathers and the lifelong sacrifice of mothers, in the undiscourageable researches of scientists and the sufferings of genius, in the crucifixion of prophets and the martyrdom of saints — in all things I saw the passion of life for growth and greatness, the drama of everlasting creation. I came to think of myself, not as a dance and chaos of molecules, but as a brief and minute portion of that majestic process... I became almost reconciled to mortality, knowing that my spirit would survive me enshrined in a fairer mold... and that my little worth would somehow be preserved in the heritage of men. In a measure the Great Sadness was lifted from me, and, where I had seen omnipresent death, I saw now everywhere the pageant and triumph of life.
    • Transition (1927)
  • Love one another. My final lesson of history is the same as that of Jesus.
    You may think that's a lot of lollipop but just try it. Love is the most practical thing in the world. If you take an attitude of love toward everybody you meet, you'll eventually get along.
    • When asked, at the age of 92, if he could summarize the lessons of history into a single sentence. As quoted in "Durants on History from the Ages, with Love," by Pam Proctor, Parade (6 August 1978) p. 12. Durant is quoting Jesus (from John 13:34) here, and might also be quoting Jiddu Krishnamurti: "Love is the most practical thing in the world. To love, to be kind, not to be greedy, not to be ambitious, not to be influenced by people but to think for yourself — these are all very practical things, and they will bring about a practical, happy society."
In all things I saw the passion of life for growth and greatness, the drama of everlasting creation. I came to think of myself, not as a dance and chaos of molecules, but as a brief and minute portion of that majestic process...

Declaration of Interdependence (1945)

Introduced into the US Congressional Record on October 1, 1945 (PDF Document)

  • Human progress having reached a high level through respect for the liberty and dignity of men, it has become desirable to re-affirm these evident truths:
    • That differences of race, color, and creed are natural, and that diverse groups, institutions, and ideas are stimulating factors in the development of man;
    • That to promote harmony in diversity is a responsible task of religion and statesmanship;
    • That since no individual can express the whole truth, it is essential to treat with understanding and good will those whose views differ from our own;
    • That by the testimony of history intolerance is the door to violence, brutality and dictatorship; and
    • That the realization of human interdependence and solidarity is the best guard of civilization.
  • Rooted in freedom, bonded in the fellowship of danger, sharing everywhere a common human blood, we declare again that all men are brothers, and that mutual tolerance is the price of liberty.

The Story of Civilization

Volume VI, The Reformation

  • I have tried to be impartial, though I know that a man's past always colors his views, and that nothing else is so irritating as impartiality.
    • Preface
  • I feel for all faiths the warm sympathy of one who has come to learn that even the trust in reason is a precarious faith, and that we are all fragments of darkness groping for the sun. I know no more about the ultimates than the simplest urchin in the streets.
    • Preface

With Ariel Durant

  • Power dements even more than it corrupts, lowering the guard of foresight and raising the haste of action.

Attributed

  • A civilization is not conquered from without until it is destroyed from within.
  • Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.
  • Civilization begins with order, grows with liberty, and dies with chaos.
  • Drunkenness was in good repute in England till "Bloody Mary" frowned upon it; it remained popular in Germany. The French drank more stably, not being quite so cold.
  • Education is the transmission of civilization.
  • If man asks for many laws it is only because he is sure that his neighbor needs them; privately he is an unphilosophical anarchist, and thinks laws in his own case superfluous.
  • If you wish to be loved, be modest; if you wish to be admired, be proud; if you wish both, combine external modesty with internal pride.
  • In my youth I stressed freedom, and in my old age I stress order. I have made the great discovery that liberty is a product of order.
  • India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all.
  • India will teach us the tolerance and gentleness of mature mind, understanding spirit and a unifying, pacifying love for all human beings.
  • Inquiry is fatal to certainty.
  • It is a mistake to think that the past is dead. Nothing that has ever happened is quite without influence at this moment. The present is merely the past rolled up and concentrated in this second of time. You, too, are your past; often your face is your autobiography; you are what you are because of what you have been; because of your heredity stretching back into forgotten generations; because of every element of environment that has affected you, every man or woman that has met you, every book that you have read, every experience that you have had; all these are accumulated in your memory, your body, your character, your soul. So with a city, a country, and a race; it is its past, and cannot be understood without it.
  • It may be true that you can't fool all the people all the time, but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.
  • Knowledge is the eye of desire and can become the pilot of the soul.
  • Nature has never read the Declaration of Independence. It continues to make us unequal.
  • Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another.
  • One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do, and always a clever thing to say.
  • One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.
  • Perhaps the cause of our contemporary pessimism is our tendency to view history as a turbulent stream of conflicts — between individuals in economic life, between groups in politics, between creeds in religion, between states in war. This is the more dramatic side of history; it captures the eye of the historian and the interest of the reader. But if we turn from that Mississippi of strife, hot with hate and dark with blood, to look upon the banks of the stream, we find quieter but more inspiring scenes: women rearing children, men building homes, peasants drawing food from the soil, artisans making the conveniences of life, statesmen sometimes organizing peace instead of war, teachers forming savages into citizens, musicians taming our hearts with harmony and rhythm, scientists patiently accumulating knowledge, philosophers groping for truth, saints suggesting the wisdom of love. History has been too often a picture of the bloody stream. The history of civilization is a record of what happened on the banks.
  • Philosophy is harmonized knowledge making a harmonious life; it is the self-discipline which lifts us to serenity and freedom. Knowledge is power, but only wisdom is liberty.
  • Sixty years ago I knew everything; now I know nothing; education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.
  • The ego is willing but the machine cannot go on. It's the last thing a man will admit, that his mind ages.
  • The family is the nucleus of civilization.
  • The future never just happened. It was created.
  • The love we have in our youth is superficial compared to the love that an old man has for his old wife.
  • The most interesting thing in the world is another human being who wonders, suffers and raises the questions that have bothered him to the last day of his life, knowing he will never get the answers.
  • The political machine triumphs because it is a united minority acting against a divided majority.
  • The trouble with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes rather than with their minds.
  • There is nothing in socialism that a little age or a little money will not cure.
  • Tired mothers find that spanking takes less time than reasoning and penetrates sooner to the seat of the memory.
  • To say nothing, especially when speaking, is half the art of diplomacy.
  • To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves. Nothing is often a good thing to do, and always a clever thing to say.
  • Truth always originates in a minority of one, and every custom begins as a broken precedent.
  • We are living in the excesses of freedom. Just take a look at 42nd Street an Broadway.
  • When people ask me to compare the 20th century to older civilizations, I always say the same thing: "The situation is normal."
  • Woe to him who teaches men faster than they can learn.
  • History is always repeating itself, but each time the price goes up.

With Ariel Durant

  • Mozart began his works in childhood and a childlike quality lurked in his compositions until it dawned on him that the Requiem he was writing for a stranger was his own.

External links

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