Some quotations to share, most of them on the theme of knowledge and certainty:
You want if possible – and there is no madder ‘if possible’ – to abolish suffering; and we? – it really does seem that we would rather increase it and make it worse than it had ever been! Well-being as you understand it – that is no goal, that seems to us an end! A state which soon renders man ludicrous and contemptible – which makes it desirable that he should perish! The discipline of suffering, of great suffering – do you not know that it is this discipline alone which had created every elevation of mankind hitherto? That tension of the soul in misfortune which cultivates its strength, its terror at the sight of great destruction, its inventiveness and bravery in undergoing, enduring, interpreting, exploiting misfortune, and whatever depth, mystery, mask, spirit, cunning and greatness has been bestowed upon it – has it not been bestowed through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering? In man, creature and creator are united: in man there is matter, fragment, excess, clay, mud, madness, chaos; but in man there is also creator, sculptor, the hardness of the hammer, the divine spectator and the seventh day – do you understand this antithesis? And that your pity is for the ‘creature in man’, for that which has to be formed, broken, forged, torn, burned, annealed, refined – that which has to suffer and should suffer?
— Friedrich Nietzsche, in “Beyond Good and Evil”, 1886
A man walking the high road sees a great river, its near bank dangerous and frightening, its far bank safe. He collects sticks and foliage, makes a raft, paddles across the river, and reaches the other shore. Now suppose that, after he reaches the other shore, he takes the raft and puts it on his head and walks with it on his head wherever he goes. Would this be using the raft in an appropriate way? No; a reasonable man will realize that the raft has been very useful to him in crossing the river and arriving safely on the other shore, but that once he has arrived, it is proper to leave the raft behind and walk on without it. This is using the raft properly. In the same way, all truths should be used to cross over; the should not be held on to once you have arrived. You should let go of even the most profound insight or the most wholesome teaching; all the more so, unwholesome teachings.
— Siddhartha Gautama, The Buddha
Don’t write that down. If it’s a good idea, stand in it right now, stand in it as something you will do and be right now. You’re only writing that down so as to try to kill it, to turn it into something to “learn” and to avoid living about.
— Joseph Raymond (a therapist I worked with for a couple years, who said this to me when I was taking notes in a session)
My life is my message.
— Mohandas Gandhi (written on a paper bag and handed out the window of a train as it pulled out of station, after being asked by a journalist for an inspirational message to bring back to the villagers of the journalist’s hometown)
[According to] Nietzsche, there can be no such thing as knowing in the Platonic sense. All “knowing” is inventing, and all inventing is lying. But then, there are lies, and there are lies. Inauthentic lying is self-deception. According to Nietzsche, self-deceivers are those who “lie traditionally”, that is, who lie in terms of established traditions. Nietzsche’s recommendation in the face of what appears to be a condemnation to a life of lying is to “lie creatively”, which is to say to invent, or “know” creatively … Language and thought are … main[ly] vehicles of self-deception. According to Nietzsche’s radical account of language (reminiscent of Kierkegaard’s), language functions precisely by lying, that is, by denying real dissimilarities and inventing fictitious similarities. For example, the only way we can classify as “leaves” all the forms of foliage which sprout from trees and shrubs is by ignoring, and indeed suppressing, the fact that no two of these entities are alike, and by asserting an identity among them which does not in fact exist. So language can be, and usually is, a medium of reification and petrification of being. It produces errors which “tyrannize over us as a condition of life.” But the fact that language must lie is also the source of the creative possibilities inherent in language … Is it true that there are only interpretations, are all interpretations equally valid? It is clear that, in spite of his relativism, Nietzsche did not think so. Only those “lie” which affirm life are truly noble lies for him. All other lies are nihilistic and on the side of death.
— Donald Palmer, in “Looking at Philosophy”
The world has rather once again become for us ‘infinite’: insofar as we cannot reject the possibility that it contains in itself infinite interpretations … [but] the falseness of a judgment is to us not necessarily an objection to the judgment … The question is to what extent it is life-advancing, life-preserving, species-preserving, perhaps even species-breeding …
— Friedrich Nietzsche
The great thing then, in all education, is to make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy.
— William James
Below, not a tile to stand on; above, not a tile to cover our heads.
— Adi Shankara, originator of the Hindu Advaita school, in response to the pained confusion of his students as he ripped to shreds all that they thought that they knew to be True.