Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Understand

"Perfection does not exist. To understand it is the triumph of human intelligence; to desire to possess it is the most dangerous kind of madness." -

"Some will never learn anything because they understand everything too soon." -

"The goal of all education, preaching, and instruction is the development of mature individuals who will understand that difficulties in life are Divine-ordained challenges to overcome and opportunities for growth, and not excuses for defeat and self-ruination." - Aaron M. Brafman

"None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free." - Pearl S. Buck, fully Pearl Sydenstricker Buck, also known by her Chinese name Sai Zhenzhu

"If you do not understand a man you cannot crush him. And if you do understand him, very probably you will not." - G. K. Chesterton, fully Gilbert Keith Chesterton

"If your everyday practice is to open to all your emotions, to all the people you meet, to all the situations you encounter, without closing down, trusting that you can do that - then that will take you as far as you can go. And then you’ll understand all the teachings that anyone has ever taught." - Pema Chödrön, born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown

"A modern commentator made the observation that there re those who seek knowledge about everything and understand nothing. It is wonder - not mere curiosity - a sense of enchantment, of respect for the mysteries of love for the other, that is essential to the difference between a knowing that is simply a gathering of information and techniques and a knowing that seeks insight and understanding. It is wonder that reveals how intimate is the relationship between knowledge of the other and knowledge of the self, between inwardness and outwardness." - Seymour Cohen, fully Seymour Jay Cohen

"Everywhere in these days men have, in their mockery, ceased to understand that the true security is to be found in social solidarity rather than in isolated individual effort." - Fyodor Dostoevsky, fully Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoevsky or Feodor Mikhailovich Dostoevski

"By academic freedom I understand the right to search for truth and to publish and teach what one holds to be true. This right implies also a duty: one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true." - Albert Einstein

"Only those who know the supremacy of the intellectual life - the life which has a seed of ennobling thought and purpose within it - can understand the grief of one who falls from the serene activity into the absorbing soul wasting struggle." - George Eliot, pen name of Mary Ann or Marian Evans

"No one can understand unless, holding to his own nature, he respects the free nature of others." - French Student Revolt Graffiti NULL

"I respect the man who knows distinctly what he wishes. The greater part of all the mischief in the world arises from the fact that men do not sufficiently understand their own aims. They have undertaken to build a tower, and spend no more labor on the foundation than would be necessary to erect a hut." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"We can sometimes love what we do not understand, but it is impossible completely to understand what we do not love." - Anna Jameson

"To better understand one another, we should all swap places for a while with each other. Every doctor should have an operation, every policeman and minister spend a number of months in jail and every industrialist become a labor-union member." -

"Life cannot be controlled. It is a mystery inviting us to participate, to risk, to trust fate, to accept the blank rune stone, the unknown. Surrender teaches us not so much to understand as to inhabit the mystery... Once we can accept the larger mystery of Life, we can consciously create within it." - Gloria D. Karpinski

"What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know, except in so far as to a certain understanding must precede every action. The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die." - Søren Kierkegaard, fully Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

"I am here in order to fulfill the designs of my Creator as I understand them and to the best of my ability... Each one of us creates his own picture of the world, tortuously building an ideal in order to try to live in accordance with it. In that sense, there is no difference between a believer and an agnostic, since an ideal is something that, once raised, transcends man. Thus, we are here in order to “hoist our spirit without anchoring it upon anything,” as one of the ancient Chinese philosophers said. We must admit that that foundations are indeed shaky." - Sergei Kovalyov, also spelled Kovalev

"The world is your problem and to comprehend it you must understand yourself... You exist only in relationship; otherwise you are not... Relationship is the mirror in which you can see yourself as you are... Preconception of what relationship should be... prevents the uncovering, the unfoldment of “what is.”" - Jiddu Krishnamurti

"The superstition in which we were brought up never loses its power over us, even after we understand it." - Bruno Lessing, pseudonymn for Randolph Edgar Block

"A good teacher is one who helped you become who you feel yourself to be. A good teacher is also one who says something you won’t understand until 10 years later." - Julius Lester

"When a person is born, he finds the world in a certain organized fashion. As he grows up, he tries to adjust himself to the assumptions that are accepted in the world. He views each event that occurs with the same perspective as the other people of his generation. These perspectives originated in the past and have been handed down from parents to children. These assumptions are taken for granted to such an extent that most people react to the accepted perspective of the world as if they were laws of the universe that cannot be changed. They are accepted as reality and are not challenged. Only a small minority of people obtain the necessary wisdom to look at the world with complete objectivity. They take a critical look at teach and every thing and try to understand everything as it really is instead of accepting the general prevalent outlook. Those who try to investigate the origin of every perspective will perceive everything in a much different light than is commonly accepted." - Yeruchem Levovitz, aka The Mashgiach

"Tolerance is the positive and cordial effort to understand another's beliefs, practices and habits without necessarily sharing or accepting them." - Joshua L. Liebman, fully Joshua Loth Liebman

"Man is in his actions and practice, as well as in his fictions, essentially a story-telling animal. He is not essentially, but becomes through is history, a teller of stories that aspire to truth. But the key question for men is not about their own authorship; I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question, ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’ We enter human society, that is, with one or more imputed characters - roles into which we have been drafted - and we have to learn what they are in order to be able to understand how others respond to us and how our responses to them are a part to be construed... Deprive children of stories and you leave them unscripted, anxious strutters in their actions as in their words. Hence there is no way to give us an understanding of any society, including our own, except through the stock of stories which constitute its initial dramatic resource. Mythology, in its original sense, is at the heart of things. Vico was right and so was Joyce. And so too of course is that moral tradition fro heroic society to its medieval heirs according to which the telling of stories has a key part in educating us into the virtues." - Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre

"Life really doesn’t have much meaning without death. Death gives each moment its value. It makes each instant precious and meaningful. When you understand how valuable each moment is, you begin to act accordingly." - Elle Macpherson

"The meaning of life is to live in balance and harmony with every other living thing in creation. We must all strive to understand the interconnectedness of all living things and accept our individual role in the protection and support of other life forms on earth. We must also understand our own insignificance in the totality of things." - Wilma Mankiller, fully Wilma Pearl Mankiller

"It is more important to listen to questions than to answer them. To listen with full intent, with full openness, with a genuine desire to understand not the question only, but the question behind the question, and to be at one with the questioner - this is an engagement very difficult." - William B. J. Martin

"When a man begins to understand himself he begins to live. When he begins to live he begins to understand his fellow men." -

"The contemplative life has nothing to tell you except to reassure you and say that if you dare to penetrate your own silence and dare to advance without fear into the solitude of your own heart... you will truly recover the light and capacity to understand what is beyond words and beyond explanation because it is too close to be explained." - Thomas Merton

"Here is a wonder: we have many more poets than judges and interpreters of poetry. It is easier to create it than to understand it. On a certain low level it can be judged by precepts and by art. But the good, supreme, divine poetry is above the rules and reason." - Michel de Montaigne, fully Lord Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

"I believe it to be true that dreams are the true interpreters of our inclinations; but there is art required to sort and understand them." - Michel de Montaigne, fully Lord Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

"Laughter, indeed, is God’s therapy... in order that we might understand that at the heart of our mortal existence there lies a mystery, at once unutterably beautiful and hilariously funny." - Madame de Motteville, Françoise Bertaut de Motteville

"Help your children understand that excellence in education cannot be achieved without intellectual and moral integrity coupled by hard work and commitment." - National Commission on Excellence in Education NULL

"Death is a fact in our natural reality - that is, in our sense-given experience of life - and as long as we cannot understand that we apprehend though the senses only a minute part of total existence and reality, we cannot escape from the violent effect of its suggestion." - Maurice Nicoll

"Only when we realise that we have no self can we seek ourselves. Only through a flash of truth can one understand ignorance." - Maurice Nicoll

"By watching yourself in your daily life with alert interest, with the intention to understand rather than to judge, in full acceptance of whatever may emerge, because it is there, you encourage the deep to come to the surface and enrich your life and consciousness with its captive energies. This is the great work of awareness; it removes obstacles and releases energies by understanding the nature of life and mind. Intelligence is the door to freedom and alert attention is the mother of intelligence." - Nisargadatta Maharaj, fully Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, born Maruti Shivrampant Kambli

"If the physician understands things exactly and sees and recognizes all illnesses in the macrocosm outside man, and if he has a clear idea of man and his whole nature, then and only then is he a physician. Then he may approach the inside of man; then he may examine his urine, take his pulse, and understand where each thing belongs. This would not be possible without profound knowledge of the outer man, who is nothing other than heaven and earth." -

"Men understand the worth of blessings only when they have lost them." - Plautus, full name Titus Maccius Plautus NULL

"I believe marriage to be the best and most important relation that can exist between two human beings. If it has not often been realized hitherto, that is chiefly because husband and wife have regarded themselves as each other’s policeman. If marriage is to achieve its possibilities, husbands and wives must learn to understand that whatever the law may say, in their private lives they must be free." -

"The true felicity of life is to be free from anxieties and perturbations; to understand and do our duties to God and man, and to enjoy the present without any serious dependence on the future." -

"It is... most profitable to us in life to make perfect the intellect or reason as far as possible, and in this one thing consists the highest happiness or blessedness of man; for blessedness is nothing but the peace of mind which springs from the intuitive knowledge of God, and to perfect the intellect is nothing but to understand god, together with the attributes and actions of God, which flow from the necessity of His nature. The final aim, therefore, of a man who is guided by reason, that is to say, the chief desire by which he strives to govern all his other desires, is that by which he is led adequately to conceive himself and all things which can be conceived by his intelligence." -

"To act absolutely in conformity with virtue is nothing but acting according to the laws of our own proper nature. But only in so far as we understand do we act. Therefore, to act in conformity with virtue is nothing but acting, living, and preserving our being as reason directs, and doing so from the ground of seeking our own profit." -

"To understand everything makes one very tolerant [indulgent]." -

"People who do not understand themselves have a craving for understanding." - Wilhelm Stekel

"To understand anything is to find in it something which is our own, and it is the discovery of ourselves outside us which makes us glad. This relation of understanding is partial, but the relation of love is complete. In love the sense of difference is obliterated and the human soul fulfills its purpose in perfection, transcending the limits of itself and reaching across the threshold of the infinite." -

"There is natural disposition with us to judge an author’s personal character by the character of his works. We find it difficult to understand the common antithesis of a good writer and a bad man." - Edwin Percy Whipple

"Then still a purpose enclosing all, and over and beneath all, ever since what might be call’d thought, or the budding of thought, fairly began in my youthful mind, I had had a desire to attempt some worthy record of that entire faith and acceptance to justify the ways of God to man... which is the foundation of moral America... to formulate a poem whose every thought or fact should directly or indirectly be or connive at an implicit belief in the wisdom, health, mystery, beauty of every process, every concrete object, every human or other existence, not only consider’d from the point of view of all, but of each. While I can not understand it or argue it out, I fully believe in a clue and purpose in Nature, entire and several; and that invisible spiritual results, just as real and definite as the visible, eventuate all concrete life and all materialism through Time." - Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman

"Whereas speaking distracts, silence and work collect the thoughts and strengthen the spirit. As soon therefore as a person understand what has been said to him for his good, there is no further need to hear or to discuss; but to set himself in earnest to practice what he has learnt with silence and attention, in humility, charity and contempt of self." -

"We never understand how little we need in this world until we know the loss of it." - J.M. Barrie, fully Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet

"I am unable to understand how a man of honor could take a newspaper in his hands without a shudder of disgust." - Charles Pierre Baudelaire

"You define the present in an arbitrary manner as that which is, whereas the present is simply what is being made. Nothing is less than the present moment, if you understand by that the indivisible limit which divides the past from the future. When we think this present as going to be, it exists not yet; and when we think it as existing, it is already past." - Henri Bergson, aka Henri-Louis Bergson