Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Impossibility

"An infallible way to make your child miserable is to satisfy all his demands. Passion swells by gratification; and the impossibility of satisfying every one of his wishes will oblige you to stop short at last after he has become headstrong." - Henry Home, Lord Kames

"The hatred of the wicked is only roused the more from the impossibility of finding any just grounds on which it rest; and the very consciousness of their own injustice is only a grievance the more against him who is the object of it." - Jean-Jacques Rousseau

"The very impossibility in which I find myself to prove that God is not, discloses to me His existence." - Jean de La Bruyère

"There is nothing more tragic in life than the utter impossibility of changing what you have done." - John Galsworthy

"There is no impossibility to him who stands prepared to conquer every hazard. The fearful are the failing." - Sarah J. Hale, fully Sarah Josepha Buell Hale

"Without risk, faith is an impossibility." - Søren Kierkegaard, fully Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

"The sphere of poetry does not lie outside the world as a fantastic impossibility spawned by a poet’s brain: it desires to be just the opposite, the unvarnished expression of the truth, and must precisely for that reason discard the mendacious finery of that alleged reality of the man of culture. The contrast between this real truth of nature and the lie of culture that poses as if it were the only reality is similar to that between the eternal core of things, the thing-in-itself, and the whole world of appearances." - Friedrich Nietzsche, fully Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

"Not every age finds its great man, and not every great endowment finds its time. There may not exist great men for things that do not exist. In any case, the dominating feeling of our age, the desire of the masses for a higher standard of living, cannot possibly become concentrated in one great figure. What we see before us is a general leveling down, and we might declare the rise of great individuals an impossibility if our prophetic souls did not warn us that the crisis may suddenly pass from the contemptible field of “property and gain” on to quite another and that then the “right man” may appear overnight – and all the world will follow in his train." - Jacob Burckhardt, fully Carl Jacob (or Jakob) Christoph Burckhardt

"Prayer is an impossibility without a living faith in the presence of God within." - Mahatma Gandhi, fully Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, aka Bapu

"Stability and peace in our land will not come from the barrel of a gun, because peace without justice is an impossibility." - Desmond Tutu, fully Desmond Mpilo Tutu

"A likely impossibility is always preferable to an unconvincing possibility." - Aristotle NULL

"The Wright Brothers flew right through the smokescreen of impossibility." -

"The world faces us with the impossibility of knowing it directly ... It is a world whose nature cannot be comprehended by our human powers of mental conception." - Max Planck, fully Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck

"A poet without love were a physical and metaphysical impossibility." - Thomas Carlyle

"When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the "why" for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any "how"." -

"Progress is what happens when impossibility yields to necessity." -

"Progress is what happens when impossibility yields to necessity." -

"Progress is what happens when impossibility yields to necessity." - Arnold Henry Glasgow

"Infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility." -

"This autonomy of man, this attempt of the Ego to understand itself out of itself, is the lie concerning man which we call sin. The truth about man is that his ground is not in himself but in God -- that his essence is not in self sufficient reason but in the Word, in the challenge of God, in responsibility, not in self-sufficiency. The true being of man is realized when he bases himself upon God's Word. Faith is then not an impossibility or a salto mortale [mortal leap], but that which is truly natural; and the real salto mortale (a mortal leap indeed!) is just the assertion of autonomy, self-sufficiency, God-likeness. [It is] through this usurped independence [that] man separates himself from God, and at the same time isolates himself from his fellows. Individualism is the necessary consequence of rational autonomy, just as love is the necessary consequence of faith." - Emil Brunner, fully Heinrich Emil Brunner

"Confronted with the impossibility of remaining faithful to one's beliefs, and the equal impossibility of becoming free of them, one can be driven to the most inhuman excesses. " -

"Confronted with the impossibility of remaining faithful to one's beliefs, and the equal impossibility of becoming free of them, one can be driven to the most inhuman excesses." - James Baldwin, fully James Arthur Baldwin

"Hope is a vigorous principle; it is furnished with light and heat to advise and execute; it sets the head and heart to work, and animates a man to do his utmost. And thus, by perpetually pushing and assurance, it puts a difficulty out of countenance, and makes a seeming impossibility give way." - Jeremy Collier

"The impossibility of penetrating the divine pattern of the universe cannot stop us from planning human patterns, even though we are conscious they are not definitive. " - Jorge Luis Borges

"This was his acknowledgment of the impossibility of changing a man's convictions by words, and his recognition of the possibility of everyone thinking, feeling, and seeing things each from his own point of view. This legitimate peculiarity of each individual which used to excite and irritate Pierre now became a basis of the sympathy he felt for, and the interest he took in, other people. The difference, and sometimes complete contradiction, between men's opinions and their lives, and between one man and another, pleased him and drew from him an amused and gentle smile." - Leo Tolstoy, aka Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy or Tolstoi

"An infallible way to make your child miserable is to satisfy all his demands. Passion swells by gratification; and the impossibility of satisfying every one of his demands will oblige you to stop short at last, after he has become a little headstrong." -

"The worship of god is thus symbolically manifested in a systematic summarization of mythological tradition (Überlieferung) and in obedience of solemn ritual habits ... The holiness (Heiligkeit) of incomprehensible deity is transferred to the holiness of comprehensible symbols ... A work of art has its meaning essentially in itself ... A religious symbol, on the contrary, points always above itself, its value is never exhausted in itself ... a winged angel was considered from ancient times to be the most beautiful symbol of god's servant and messenger. Nowadays we will find among anatomically educated believers some, which are prevented by their scientifically educated imagination from considering such physiological impossibility beautiful, despite their best efforts. This circumstance, however, does not cause the slightes harm to their religious attitudes ... But the overestimation of the importance of religious symbols is threatened still by another – much more serious – danger from the side of the movement of atheists (Gottlosenbewegung). One of the most favorite methods of this movement, aiming at undermining of every genuine religiosity, is to direct its attacks against traditional (alteingebürgerten) religious customs and ridiculing or dishonoring them as obsolete institutions. With such attacks against symbols they hope to hit the religion itself, and they have the easier task (Spiel) the stranger and more striking such views and customs look. Many a religious soul (religiöse Seele) has fallen pray to such a tactics. There is no better defense against such peril than to realize that religious symbol ... does never represent an abolute value but is always only a more or less imperfect reference to something higher which is not directly accessible to our senses." - Max Planck, fully Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck

"The wise and active conquer difficulties by daring to attempt them: sloth and folly shiver and shrink at sight of toil and hazard, and make the impossibility they fear." - Nicolas Rowe

"The existence of life must be considered as an elementary fact that can not be explained, but must be taken as a starting point in biology, in a similar way as the quantum of action, which appears as an irrational element from the point of view of classical mechanical physics, taken together with the existence of elementary particles, forms the foundation of atomic physics. The asserted impossibility of a physical or chemical explanation of the function peculiar to life would in this sense be analogous to the insufficiency of the mechanical analysis for the understanding of the stability of atoms. " - Niels Bohr, fully Neils Henrik David Bohr

"The present state of the system of nature is evidently a consequence of what it was in the preceding moment, and if we conceive of an intelligence that at a given instant comprehends all the relations of the entities of this universe, it could state the respective position, motions, and general effects of all these entities at any time in the past or future. Physical astronomy, the branch of knowledge that does the greatest honor to the human mind, gives us an idea, albeit imperfect, of what such an intelligence would be. The simplicity of the law by which the celestial bodies move, and the relations of their masses and distances, permit analysis to follow their motions up to a certain point; and in order to determine the state of the system of these great bodies in past or future centuries, it suffices for the mathematician that their position and their velocity be given by observation for any moment in time. Man owes that advantage to the power of the instrument he employs, and to the small number of relations that it embraces in its calculations. But ignorance of the different causes involved in the production of events, as well as their complexity, taken together with the imperfection of analysis, prevents our reaching the same certainty about the vast majority of phenomena. Thus there are things that are uncertain for us, things more or less probable, and we seek to compensate for the impossibility of knowing them by determining their different degrees of likelihood. So it was that we owe to the weakness of the human mind one of the most delicate and ingenious of mathematical theories, the science of chance or probability. " - Pierre-Simon Laplace, Compte de Laplace, Marquis de Laplace

"I have frequently pointed out in a variety of contexts that it is far from my intention to cast blame on parents… I have also carefully explained that I do not regard external circumstances as the cause of neurosis but rather the child’s psychological situation – that is, the impossibility of articulating his or her strong feelings caused by traumatic experiences." - Alice Miller, née Rostovski

"One serious consequence of this early adaptation is the impossibility of consciously experiencing certain feelings of his own (such as jealousy, envy, anger, loneliness, impotence, anxiety) either in childhood or later in adulthood. This is all the more tragic since we are here concerned with lively people who are especially capable of differentiated feelings. This is noticeable at those times in their analyses when they describe childhood experiences that were free of conflict. Usually these concern experiences with nature, which they could enjoy without hurting the mother or making her feel insecure, without reducing her power or endangering her equilibrium. But it is remarkable how these attentive, lively, and sensitive children who can, for example, remember exactly how they discovered the sunlight in bright grass at the age of four, yet at eight might be unable to notice anything or to show any curiosity about the pregnant mother or, similarly, were not at all jealous at the birth of a sibling. Again, at the age of two, one of them could be left alone while soldiers had been good, suffering this quietly and without crying. They have all developed the art of not experiencing feelings, for a child can only experience his feeling when there is somebody there who accepts him fully, understands and supports him. If that is missing, if the child must risk losing the mother's love, or that of her substitute, then he cannot experience these feelings secretly just for himself but fails to experience them at all. But nevertheless....something remains. " - Alice Miller, née Rostovski

"A complete sharing between two people is an impossibility and whenever it seems, nevertheless, to exist, it is a narrowing, a mutual agreement which robs either one member or both of his fullest freedom and development. But, once the realization is accepted that, even between the closest human beings, infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky!" - Rainer Maria Rilke, full name René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke

"We are an impossibility in an impossible universe." - Ray Bradbury, fully Ray Douglas Bradbury

"As the poet has expected, the alarms now are sounded, for - and it must be said again - the birth of a poet is always a threat to the existing cultural order, because he attempts to break through the circle of literary castes to reach the center." - Salvatore Quasimodo

"There is no particular teaching or way, but the buddha-nature of all is the same, what we find is the same." - Shunryu Suzuki, also Daisetsu Teitaro or D.T. Suzuki or Suzuki-Roshi

"If anyone has put his trust in him as a man without a human mind, he is wholly bereft of mind, and quite unworthy of salvation. For that which he has not assumed he has not healed; but that which is united to his Godhead is also saved." - Gregory Nazianzen, aka Saint Gregory of Nazianzus or Gregory the Theologian

"Natural historians tend to avoid tendentious preaching in this philosophical mode (although I often fall victim to such temptations in these essays). Our favored style of doubting is empirical: if I wish to question your proposed generality, I will search for a counterexample in flesh and blood. Such counterexamples exist in abundance, for they form a staple in a standard genre of writing in natural history — the wonderment of oddity or strange ways of the beaver tradition." - Stephan Jay Gould

"Each people can do justice to itself only if it does justice to others; but each people can do its part in the world movement for all only if it first does its duty within its own household. The good citizen must be a good citizen of his own country first before he can with advantage be a citizen of the world at large." - Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt

"With the magnificence of eternity before us, let time, with all its fluctuations, dwindle into its own littleness." - Thomas Chalmers

"The universe is the bible of a true Theophilanthropist. It is there that he reads of God. It is there that the proofs of his existence are to be sought and to be found. As to written or printed books, by whatever name they are called, they are the works of man's hands, and carry no evidence in themselves that God is the author of any of them. It must be in something that man could not make, that we must seek evidence for our belief, and that something is the universe; the true bible; the inimitable word, of God." - Thomas Paine

"Strong feelings do not necessarily make a strong character. The strength of a man is to be measured by the power of the feelings he subdues not by the power of those which subdue him." - William Carleton

"Here I became aware of the world’s tenderness, the profound beneficence of all that surrounded me, the blissful bond between me and all of creation, and I realized that the joy I sought in you was not only secreted within you, but breathed around me everywhere, in the speeding street sounds, in the hem of a comically lifted skirt, in the metallic yet tender drone of the wind, in the autumn clouds bloated with rain. I realized that the world does not represent a struggle at all, or a predaceous sequence of chance events, but the shimmering bliss, beneficent trepidation, a gift bestowed upon us and unappreciated." - Vladimir Nabokov, fully Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

"I have wanted to kill myself a hundred times, but somehow I am still in love with life. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our more stupid melancholy propensities, for is there anything more stupid than to be eager to go on carrying a burden which one would gladly throw away, to loathe one’s very being and yet to hold it fast, to fondle the snake that devours us until it has eaten our hearts away?" - Voltaire, pen name of François-Marie Arouet NULL

"The wicked can have only accomplices, the voluptuous have companions in debauchery, self-seekers have associates, the politic assemble the factions, the typical idler has connections, princes have courtiers. Only the virtuous have friends." - Voltaire, pen name of François-Marie Arouet NULL

"A very elementary exercise in psychology, not to be dignified by the name of psycho-analysis, showed me, on looking at my notebook, that the sketch of the angry professor had been made in anger. Anger had snatched my pencil while I dreamt. But what was anger doing there? Interest, confusion, amusement, boredom--all these emotions I could trace and name as they succeeded each other throughout the morning. Had anger, the black snake, been lurking among them? Yes, said the sketch, anger had." - Virginia Woolf, nee Stephen, fully Adeline Virginia Woolf

"Deeply sighed and fell - there was a passion in his gestures that deserves the word - on the bare ground at the foot of the oak. Enjoyed in feeling, in the ephemeral appearance of the summer, the backbone of the earth, saying that this was for him the hard root of the oak, or - the image using the image - it was the back of a great horse he rode , or the deck of a ship in the grip of the waves, everything, in short, as long as solid, as he longed for something which moor his floating heart, the heart that every night in the season, when wandering through the countryside, seemed filled with aromatic and languid feelings of love. The oak tree he tied it." - Virginia Woolf, nee Stephen, fully Adeline Virginia Woolf

"When we are no longer able to change a situation -- we are challenged to change ourselves." - Viktor Frankl, fully Viktor Emil Frankl

"I have never taken myself for a being. A non-citizen, a marginal type, a nothing who exists only by the excess, by the superabundance of his nothingness." - Emil M. Cioran

"Things are never known in their totality; an essential character of our perception of them is that of being inadequate." - Emmanuel Lévinas , originally Emanuelis Lévinas