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compiled by

D.W. B ROWn

2500 Years oƒ Wisdom: Sayings oƒ T he great Masters

introdUCtion A great quotation can deliver the same shot to the heart as a work

of art: an unassailable truth that stings and delights simultaneously, a taste of a world unto itself, but still entirely about this one. Each of these quotations resonated in me that way and, having collected the best of the best over many decades, I felt it my duty to arrange them, perhaps as a naturalist might assemble his specimens, kind with kind. I have attempted to construct a mosaic of concepts, a symphony of thoughts. If a consistent sensibility runs through the work, then I’d like to think its center can be found where all our great philosophies meet... but then, I would think that, wouldn’t I? I’m the one who selected these pithy snippets, after all. I cobbled them together to serve as a manual for myself on this earth; their ability to inspire, challenge, mature, and give solace has admittedly been, as I have said, personal. Our finest minds have historically been attracted to these issues (What is this life, and how are we to conduct ourselves?), and here, among the perhaps less familiar names, stand pillars of recognized genius. We must appreciate the gaps in mankind’s available writings — absent are voices never to be known because they have been lost, destroyed, or repressed, as with female authors through the ages, but there are clearly enduring teachers who have sought to instruct us in how to value this existence and, perhaps, make our way a bit smoother. We would do well to pay attention to them. Or not. It seems that the greatest of our thinkers want little more than to tell us to stop overrating our thinking. Maybe you’ll find in this book simply a collection of beautiful sentiments whose worth is to be found purely in the pleasure of reading them. Maybe these quotations ought not to be used as an excuse to get up in one’s head, but rather, should be enjoyed as a few appealing little gems created from the medium of that natural phenomenon that is the intellect. The truth is, I’m guessing you will read nothing here that you didn’t already know. But how wonderful and how affirming to remember that you already knew it!

2500 Years oƒ Wisdom: Sayings oƒ T he great Masters

Do your work.
~ Plato

Know yourself and nothing too much.
~ Plutarch

Sustain and abstain.
~ Epictetus

See golden days, fruitful of golden deeds, With joy and love triumphing.
~ John Milton

You are younger today than you will ever be again.
~ Anonymous

You’ll break the worry habit the day you decide you can meet and master the worst that can happen to you.
~ Arnold Glasow

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
~ Anonymous

2500 Years oƒ Wisdom: Sayings oƒ T he great Masters

Until death, it is all life.
~ Miguel de Cervantes

To want to be free is to be free.
~ Ludvig Boerne

Great flame follows a tiny spark.
~ Dante Alighieri

Whatever man does he must do first in his mind.
~ Albert Szent-Györgyi

Sow a Thought, Reap an Act, Sow an Act, Reap a Habit, Sow a Habit, Reap a Character, Sow a Character, Reap a Destiny.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Affirmation of life is the spiritual act by which man ceases to live thoughtlessly and begins to devote himself to his life with reverence in order to give it true value. To affirm life is to deepen, to make more inward, and to exalt the will to live.
~ Albert Schweitzer

2500 Years oƒ Wisdom: Sayings oƒ T he great Masters

Here we stand between two eternities of darkness. What are we to do with this glory while it is still ours?
~ Gilbert Murray

Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smoothes there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown upon his work.”
~ Plotinus

You cannot run away from a weakness; you must some time fight it out or perish; and if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?
~ Robert Lewis Stevenson

Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.
~ Thomas Huxley

Do what you have to do, so you can do what you want to do.
~ Anonymous

2500 Years oƒ Wisdom: Sayings oƒ T he great Masters

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face... You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

You will make all kinds of mistakes; but as long as you are generous and true, and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her. She was made to be wooed and won by youth.
~ Winston Churchill

To change one’s life: a. Start immediately b. Do it flamboyantly c. No exceptions Never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted.
~ William James

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.
~ Jim Ryuh

Choose always the way that seems the best, however rough it may be; custom will soon render it easy and agreeable.
~ Pythagoras

2500 Years oƒ Wisdom: Sayings oƒ T he great Masters

Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.
~ Anonymous

Dare to be wrong and to dream.
~ Frederick Schiller

He who has never failed somewhere, that man can not be great.
~ Herman Melville

If you’re never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any chances.
~ Julia Sorel

Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse, and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you woke up breathing, congratulations! You have another chance.
~ Andrea Boydston

2500 Years oƒ Wisdom: Sayings oƒ T he great Masters

In the mountains of truth you will never climb in vain: either you will get up higher today or you will exercise your strength so as to be able to get up higher tomorrow.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

You don’t learn holding your own in the world by standing on guard, but by attacking, and getting well hammered yourself.
~ George Bernard Shaw

Do something everyday for no other reason than you would rather not do it, so that when the hour of dire need draws nigh, it may find you not unnerved and untrained to stand the test.
~ William James

We lose the fear of making decisions, great and small, as we realize that should our choice prove wrong we can, if we will, learn from the experience.
~ Bill W.

2500 Years oƒ Wisdom: Sayings oƒ T he great Masters

Besides the practical knowledge which defeat offers, there are important personality profits to be taken. Defeat strips away false values and makes you realize what you really want.
~ William M. Marston

When he is pushed, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something; he has been put on his wits, on his manhood; he has gained facts; learns his ignorance; is cured of the insanity of conceit; has got moderation and real skill.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Adversity introduces a man to himself.
~ Albert Einstein

He knows not his own strength that hath not met adversity.
~ Ben Johnson

Originality and a feeling of one’s own dignity are achieved only through work and struggle.
~ Fyodor Dostoevsky

There are defeats more triumphant than victories.
~ Michel de Montaigne

2500 Years oƒ Wisdom: Sayings oƒ T he great Masters

Times of general calamity and confusion have ever been productive of the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace.
~ Charles Caleb Colton

If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.
~ J.R. Miller

A man can get discouraged many times, but he is not a failure until he begins to blame somebody else and stops trying.
~ John Burroughs

In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Problems are messages.
~ Shakti Gawain

You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
~ Walt Disney

2500 Years oƒ Wisdom: Sayings oƒ T he great Masters

Much of what we call evil is due entirely to the way men take the phenomenon. It can so often be converted into a bracing and tonic good by a simple change of the sufferer’s inner attitude from one of fear to one of fight; its sting so often departs and turns into a relish when, after vainly seeking to shun it, we agree to face about and bear it cheerfully.
~ William James

Would you still want to be born if you knew ahead of time the cost for this life would be all the inconveniences and discomforts you’re going to have to endure? Almost certainly you would, and the problem is, because you weren’t given that list up front, you find yourself acting as if it was all supposed to be free. But think of the joy you feel handing over your money when you pay for an incredible bargain.
~ D.W. Brown

If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere interesting.
~ Frank A. Clark

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.
~ Winston Churchill

2500 Years oƒ Wisdom: Sayings oƒ T he great Masters

Cultivate the tree which you have found to bear fruit in your soil. Regard not your past failures nor successes. All the past is equally a failure and a success; it is a success in as much as it offers you the present opportunity.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Failures, repeated failures, are sign-posts on the road to achievement. The only time you don’t want to fail is the last time you try something (and it works).
~ Charles F. Kettering

I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.
~ Thomas Edison

Don’t say “Oops.” Say, “Ah, interesting.”
~ Anonymous

Like a plant that starts up in showers and sunshine and does not know which has best helped it to grow, it is difficult to say whether the hard things or the pleasant things did me most good.
~ Lucy Larcom

2500 Years oƒ Wisdom: Sayings oƒ T he great Masters

Forget mistakes. Forget failure. Forget everything except what you’re going to do now and do it. Today is your lucky day.
~ Will Durant

Life is not an exact science, it is an art.
~ Samuel Butler

A day dawns, quite like other days; in it a single hour comes, quite like other hours; but in that day and in that hour the chance of a lifetime faces us.
~ Maltbie Babcock

Be prepared for truth at all hours and in the most fantastic disguises. This is the only safety.
~ Christopher Morley

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most responsive to change.
~ Charles Darwin

Luck never gives; it only lends.
~ Swedish Proverb

2500 Years oƒ Wisdom: Sayings oƒ T he great Masters

Good luck is often with the man who doesn’t include it in his plans.
~ Anonymous

We cannot make it rain, but we can see to it that the rain falls on prepared soil.
~ Henri Nouwen

What helps luck is a habit of watching for opportunities, of having a patient but restless mind, of sacrificing one’s ease or vanity, of uniting a love of detail to foresight, and of passing through hard times bravely whistling the air of ‘Marlbrough.'
~ Charles Victor Cherbuliez

Fortune befriends the bold.
~ John Dryden

Chance favors those in motion.
~ James H. Austin

He that would have the fruit must climb the tree.
~ Thomas Fuller

If you can take the worst, take the risk.
~ Anonymous

About the Author

D.W. BROWN teaches acting at The Joanne Baron/DW Brown Studio (www.baronbrown.com) in Santa Monica, California. His book You Can Act! A Complete Guide for Actors is a definitive publication on acting. He is a writer and director of theater and film (On The Inside), loves dogs, scuba dives, has a purple belt in Gracie JiuJitsu, and sculpts.

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