1990-01-01: Quotes

I’ve been collecting quotes for a long time, so the date in this post’s title is irrelevant. There is no order to these, except that when I add a new one, it is at the top of the list. It should go without saying that this post is full of memes, and will always be unfinished.


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For as long as I can remember — and certainly long before I had the term for it — I’ve believed that creativity is combinatorial: Alive and awake to the world, we amass a collection of cross-disciplinary building blocks — knowledge, memories, bits of information, sparks of inspiration, and other existing ideas — that we then combine and recombine, mostly unconsciously, into something “new.” From this vast and cross-disciplinary mental pool of resources beckons the infrastructure of what we call our “own” “original” ideas. The notion, of course, is not new . . .

— Maria Popova

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.

— John Muir

The more a person limits himself, the more resourceful he becomes.

— Kierkegaard

Originality depends on new and striking combinations of ideas. It is obvious therefore that the more a man knows the greater scope he has for arriving at striking combinations. And not only the more he knows about his own subject but the more he knows beyond it of other subjects. It is a fact that has not yet been sufficiently stressed that those persons who have risen to eminence in arts, letters or sciences have frequently possessed considerable knowledge of subjects outside their own sphere of activity. … Success depends on adequate knowledge: that is, it depends on sufficient knowledge of the special subject, and a variety of extraneous knowledge to produce new and original combinations of ideas. Technical skill must be so far developed that it is never a hindrance to the flow of ideas. The thinker does not sit down and say to himself: ‘now I am going to think out the relations between so and so.’ The process is not so much an active as a passive one. In short the thinker dreams over his subject.

— Rosamund E. M. Harding (1942)

There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.

— Thich Nhat Hanh

I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than I can the meals I have eaten. Even so, they have made me.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

SF: As you probably know, recent research has looked at how different parts of the brain recognize and react to jokes. Physically, they are quite distinct. AK: Yes. All creativity is an extended form of a joke. Most creativity is a transition from one context into another where things are more surprising. There’s an element of surprise, and especially in science, there is often laughter that goes along with the “Aha.” Art also has this element. Our job is to remind us that there are more contexts than the one that we’re in—the one that we think is reality.

The truly terrible thing is that everybody has their reasons.

— Jean Renoir (filmmaker)

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

— Scott Adams

Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight turns into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you’d be but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.

— Cmdr. Chris Hadfield (A young boy asked him how to become an astronaut.)
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