Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Ability

"Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation." - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

"A man cannot be consciously good unless he knows evil. No one can appreciate pleasure unless he has tasted bitterness. Good is only the reverse of evil, and pleasure is merely the opposite of anxiety. … And G-d said: ‘There can be no goodness in man while he is alone without an evil impulse within him. I will endow him with the ability to do evil, and it will be as a help-meet to him to enable him to do good, if he masters the evil nature within him.’ Without the evil impulse, man could do no evil; but neither could he do good." - Pinchas Shapiro of Koretz, aka Pinchas or Pinchos of Koretz

"For Posidonius, ouranos, heaven, offers the paradigm for man. The stars teach ethics. The individual who pursues his duties without emotional involvement in them and without the correlative expectation of results, who recognizes honesty as the good and the hallmark of the wise man, and who seeks to honour the higher daimon in himself discovers a fidelity within the soul which is both its overarching oikeiosis and its link to the World-Soul. He sees that the principles of physics can be translated into the laws of psychology from which are derived ethics and the rules of right conduct. Without wavering in his loyalty to the deepest insights of the Stoic tradition, Posidonius exemplified in his own life and thought the ability of the philosopher to penetrate afresh and more precisely the mystery of the kosmos and the less ordered realm in which human beings dwell. His fearlessness of method and the marriage of observation and abstract thought influenced the generations which came immediately after him, and inspired a number of thinkers in the dawn of the European Enlightenment. [paraphrased]" - Posidonius, aka Posidonius of Rhodes or Posidonius of Apameia (meaning "of Poseidon") NULL

"As I think back over my last twenty years' work, in the light of my present understanding, I can find no patient who ability to experience his true feelings was not seriously impaired. Yet, without this basic ability, all our work with the patient's instinctual conflicts is illusory: we might increase his intellectual knowledge, and in some circumstances strengthen his resistance, but we shall not touch the world of his feelings." - Alice Miller, née Rostovski

"Children who become too aware of things are punished for it and internalize the coercion to such an extent that as adults they give up the search for awareness. But because some people cannot renounce this search in spite of coercion, there is justifiable hope that regardless of the ever-increasing application of technology to the field of psychological knowledge, Kafka's vision of the penal colony with its efficient, scientifically minded persecutors and their passive victims is valid only for certain areas of our live and perhaps not forever. For the human soul is virtually indestructible, and its ability to rise from the ashes remains as long as the body draws breath." - Alice Miller, née Rostovski

"It is not the psychologists but the literary writers who are ahead of their time. In the last ten years there has been an increase in the number of autobiographical works being written, and it is apparent that this younger generation of writers is less and less inclined to idealize their parents. There has been a marked increase in the willingness of the postwar generation to seek the truth of their childhood and in their ability to bear the truth once they have discovered it." - Alice Miller, née Rostovski

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. " - Albert Einstein

"Great nations are simply the operating fronts of behind-the-scenes, vastly ambitious individuals who had become so effectively powerful because of their ability to remain invisible while operating behind the national scenery." - Buckminster Fuller, fully Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller

"Intelligence is not the ability to store information, but to know where to find it. " - Albert Einstein

"THE more science searches into the origin of disease, the more it becomes convinced that the root of physical ailments lies in mental disturb- ance. The body, of itself, possesses, we find, all the elements that make for health and strength, and if these were not interfered with, man's life upon earth would be untainted with pain or suffering. Interference with the state of the body usually emanates from the mind. The mind is not a mere organ of the body ; it is the power-house, the source from which all the organs draw their vitality and their ability to function. The influence of the mind over the body is absolute. Every one is familiar with the fact that bashfulness or embarrassment, purely mental sensations, will cause the blood to rush into the face ; while fear, on the other hand, will cause it to recede. Joy expresses itself in bright glances, in a "glow of happiness," worry is readily recognized in the drawn mouth and puckered brow. Anger, sorrow, astonishment, all mental states, in fact, bring forth corresponding physical manifestations. These are but some of the superficial aspects of the control of the mind over the body. Physiologists tell us that joy creates a secretion within the body which stimulates the heart and prompts the individual to greater action, while worry creates a secretion of opposite tendency, which retards the inner processes and impedes the efforts of the individual. " - Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein

"No one would have doubted his ability to reign had he never been emperor." - Tacitus, fully Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus NULL

"Above and before all things, worship GOD! [Honor first the immortal gods, in the manner prescribed, and respect the oath.] Next, honor the reverent heroes and the spirits of the dead by making the traditional sacrifices. Honor your parents and your relatives. As for others, befriend whoever excels in virtue. Yield to kind words and helpful deeds, and do not hate your friend for a trifling fault as you are able. For ability is near to necessity." - Pythagoras, aka Pythagoras of Samos or Pythagoras the Samian NULL

"Most men and women, by birth or nature, lack the means to advance in wealth or power, but all have the ability to advance in knowledge." - Pythagoras, aka Pythagoras of Samos or Pythagoras the Samian NULL

"The first elements of wisdom: you should study to reflect and to lose your ability to chat." - Pythagoras, aka Pythagoras of Samos or Pythagoras the Samian NULL

"The measure of intelligence is the ability to change." - Albert Einstein

"There are many searching questions about God. But it is only fitting and proper that this should be so. Indeed, such questions enhance the greatness of God and show His exaltedness. God is so great and exalted that He is beyond our ability to understand Him. It is obviously impossible for us, with our limited human intelligence, to understand His ways. Inevitably there are things that baffle us, and this is only fitting. If God's ways were in accordance with the limits of our meager understanding, there would be no difference between His understanding and ours, and this is inconceivable." - Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav or Breslov, aka Reb Nachman Breslover or Nachman from Uman NULL

"There will then be new, more exalted levels that will still be hidden from you and beyond your ability to understand. Here again you will have to make the effort to believe. You must always start with faith regarding the levels that are as yet hidden from you, but eventually you will understand them as well. This is an ongoing process. Your faith must be so strong that it spreads to every one of your limbs. This faith will bring you to true wisdom." - Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav or Breslov, aka Reb Nachman Breslover or Nachman from Uman NULL

"There is a fundamental paradox here. The less we are attached to life, the more alive we can become. The less we have preferences about life, the more deeply we can experience and participate in life. This is not to say that I don't prefer raisin toast to blueberry muffins. It is to say that I don't prefer raisin toast so much that I am unwilling to get out of bed unless I can have raisin toast, or that the absence of raisin toast ruins the whole day. Embracing life may be more about tasting than it is about either raisin toast or blueberry muffins. More about trusting one's ability to take joy in the newness of the day and what it may bring. More about adventure than having your own way." - Rachel Naomi Remen

"You will have to write and put away or burn a lot of material before you are comfortable in this medium. You might as well start now and get the necessary work done. For I believe that eventually quantity will make for quality. How so? Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come. All arts, big and small, are the elimination of waste motion in favor of the concise declaration. The artist learns what to leave out. His greatest art will often be what he does not say, what he leaves out, his ability to state simply with clear emotion, the way he wants to go. The artist must work so hard, so long, that a brain develops and lives, all of itself, in his fingers." - Ray Bradbury, fully Ray Douglas Bradbury

"Journalism is the ability to meet the challenge of filling space." - Rebecca West, pen name of Mrs. Cicily Maxwell Andrews, born Fairfield, aka Dame Rebecca West

"The measure of our rationality determines the degree of vividness with which we appreciate the needs of other life, the extent to which we become conscious of the real character of our own motives and impulses, the ability to harmonize conflicting impulses in our own life and in society, and the capacity to choose adequate means for approved ends." - Reinhold Niebuhr, fully Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr

"I have found a new potential inherent in things -- their ability to gradually become something else. This seems to me to be something quite different from a composite object, since there is no break between the two substances." - René Margritte, fully René François Ghislain Magritte

"Retirement can and will be a glorious time in your life. You'll love the freedom and ability to try new things. It's a new phase of life; a chance to be a beginner again." - Richard Carlson

"The ill effects of thought come about when we forget that thought is a function of our consciousness... an ability that we as human beings have. We are the producers of our own thinking." - Richard Carlson

"The need to be right stems from an unhealthy relationship to your own thoughts. Do you believe your thoughts are representative of reality and need to be defended, or do you realize that realities are seen through different eyes? Your answer to this question will determine, to a large extent, your ability to remain in a positive feeling state." - Richard Carlson

"Science boosts its claim to truth by its spectacular ability to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command, and to predict what will happen and when." - Richard Dawkins

"The evolution of the capacity to simulate seems to have culminated in subjective consciousness. Why this should have happened is, to me, the most profound mystery facing modern biology. There is no reason to suppose that electronic computers are conscious when they simulate, although we have to admit that in the future they may become so. Perhaps consciousness arises when the brain's simulation of the world becomes so complete that it must include a model of itself...Whatever the philosophical problems raised by consciousness, for the purpose of this story it can be thought of as the culmination of an evolutionary trend towards the emancipation of survival machines as executive decision-takers from their ultimate masters, the genes. Not only are brains in charge of the day-to-day running of survival machine affairs, they have also acquired the ability to predict the future and act accordingly. They even have the power to rebel against the dictates of their genes, for instance in refusing to have as many children as they are able to. But in this respect man is a very special case, as we shall see." - Richard Dawkins

"There's only any point in believing something if it's not true. And it's not just faith itself: it's the idea that faith is a virtue and the less evidence there is, the more virtuous it is. Things for which there is mere evidence are just too easy, and it's no test of faith. In order to have a test of your faith, you must be asked to believe really daft things like the transubstantiation, you know, the blood of Christ turning into wine, and stuff. That is so manifestly absurd that you've got to be a really great believer in order to believe it. You're actually showing off your believing credentials by the ability to believe something like that. If it were an easy thing to believe, substantiated by facts, then it wouldn't be any great achievement." - Richard Dawkins

"Still, history is the long process of outsourcing human ability in order to leverage more of it." - Richard Powers

"Happiness mainly depends on man's ability to work and the way in which he does it." - Richard L. Evans, fully Richard Louis Evans

"The ever-present expectancy of death is never far removed from any of us - whether we realize it or not. None of us can avoid it. It comes alike to the great and to the unknown; to the righteous and to the unrighteous. Wherein we differ is not in our ability to avert it, but in the preparedness with which we meet it. At such times some question the judgments of God. Some find bitterness because of the circumstances and because of the seeming untimeliness of death." - Richard L. Evans, fully Richard Louis Evans

"Your mind must always go, even while you're shaking hands and going through all the maneuvers. I developed the ability long ago to do one thing while thinking about another." - Richard Nixon, fully Richard Milhous Nixon

"Civilization rests on two things: the discovery that fermentation produces alcohol, and the voluntary ability to inhibit defecation. And I put it to you, where would this splendid civilization be without both?" - Robertson Davies

"Comparatively few people know what a million dollars actually is. To the majority it is a gaseous concept, swelling or decreasing as the occasion suggests. In the minds of politicians, perhaps more than anywhere, the notion of a million dollars has this accordion-like ability to expand or contract; if they are disposing of it, the million is a pleasing sum, reflecting warmly upon themselves; if somebody else wants it, it becomes a figure of inordinate size, not to be compassed by the rational mind." - Robertson Davies

"If there be anything that can be called genius, it consists chiefly in ability to give that attention to a subject which keeps it steadily in the mind, till we have surveyed it accurately on all sides." - Robert Quillen, fully Verni Robert Quillen

"The highest genius is willingness and ability to do hard work. Any other conception of genius makes it a doubtful, if not a dangerous possession." - Robert S. MacArthur

"The Founders, in particular Thomas Jefferson, were aware that, to make the fledgling republic successful, the populace had to be educated, to give them the tools to differentiate between rational forms of argumentation and antidemocratic logical fallacies and other illegitimate means of persuasion. But setting up an educational system is not enough -- especially when "education" is more and more apt to be defined by the ability to pass a cut-and-dried multiple-choice test. (Odd - conservatives favor these too.) We have to become able to distinguish a real argument from a fallacious one." - Robin Lakoff, fully Robin Tolmach Lakoff

"It may be that we should stop putting so much emphasis in our own minds on the monetary value of a college education and put more emphasis on the intangible social and cultural values to be derived from learning. The time may be coming when we will have to start accepting the idea that education is life, not merely a preparation for it." - Seymour E. Harris

"Saying that spiritual practices train our minds, shape our consciousness and mold our character can sum this up. We undertake spiritual practice in order to change in some way, even if it is only a change of perspective. In more traditional language we undertake spiritual practices because they bring us closer to God’s will. How does this work? Spiritual practices including meditation (whether the object of attention is set at the breath, bodily sensations, a visualization, a mantra, a prayer or at floating open attention), and mitzvoth like Shabbat, Kashrut, and Torah study, and conscious non-harming speech share a similar technology. One commits to a particular action as the focus of one’s energy, attention, time, and behavior. One articulates this intention. Then one waits. Soon, the obstacles appear. In a sitting meditation practice we may intend to follow each in breath and each out breath. No sooner do we begin then thoughts rush in or we find ourselves nodding sleepily or in a state of anxiety regarding the pain in our knee or lower back. Or we have decided to observe the Sabbath and an invitation comes our way that is irresistible. Or we promise ourselves to observe kashruth and a strong desire arises to taste the forbidden. Often rationalizing thoughts obscuring the clarity of the original intention surround these temptations. The training occurs in the next step, the step of renunciation or returning. We see the temptation. We acknowledge it in a non-judgmental and non-personal way realizing that we are seeing forgetfulness in the human mind. As we bring attention to the temptation we see that it has no substance. Each time we do this, the ability to choose is strengthened. Each time we return from distraction or obstacle, the power of habit and unconsciousness is weakened. In this process we begin to see the nature of our minds and the nature of reality itself. We increase our ability to pay attention. And what do we begin to notice? We observe the arising and passing away of thoughts, sensations, sounds, desires, feelings, and moods just as daylight passes and evening comes. We see the consequences of various forms of contraction in the mind or body like fear, desire, suppression, judgment, anger, and aggression. We see the consequences of various forms of expansion like, trust, ease, relaxation, acceptance, generosity and gratitude." - Sheila Peltz Weinberg

"The kinds of spiritual practices we can undertake are limitless. However, ultimately the form is less important than these factors: the commitment to practice, the ability to keep returning to the intention, the attitude one brings to the uncontrollable and the ability to transfer the benefits of the practice into how we live our lives, how we relate to ourselves and others, how free we become to embody the values and ideals we embrace in our minds, how we deal with temptations of all sorts. In other words we practice to live with the wisdom and compassion, which we already possess. We practice to actualize the pure soul, which God has planted with us." - Sheila Peltz Weinberg

"Dear God, Open the blocked passageways to you, The congealed places. Roll away the heavy stone from the well as your servant Jacob did when he beheld his beloved Rachel Help us open the doors of trust that have been jammed with hurt and rejection. As you open the blossoms in spring, Even as you open the heavens in storm. open us – to feel your great, awesome, wonderful presence." - Sheila Peltz Weinberg

"America has begun a spiritual reawakening. Faith and hope are being restored. Americans are turning back to God. Church attendance is up. Audiences for religious books and broadcasts are growing. And I do believe that he has begun to heal our blessed land." - Ronald Reagan, fully Ronald Wilson Reagan

"The politics of inclusion are not faint-hearted efforts at making everybody happy enough. Inclusion means more than taking people’s views into account in defining the problem. Inclusion may mean challenging people, hard and steadily, to face new perspectives on familiar problems, to let go of old ideas and ways of life long held sacred." - Ronald A. Heifetz

"Each morning puts a man on trial and each evening passes judgment." - Roy L. Smith, aka Mr. Methodist

"The man who cannot believe in himself cannot believe in anything else. The basis of all integrity and character is whatever faith we have in our own integrity." - Roy L. Smith, aka Mr. Methodist

"Man does not see reality as it is, but only as he perceives it, and his perception may be mistaken or biased." - Rudolf Driekurs

"I met a hydrocephalic child who was different in many respects from the rest of his family. Why was he a hydrocephalic? Because the council of higher powers together with Lucifer had decreed that that particular individuality should be born in a particular place and his parents were the best available for him. But he was unable to work rightly into the ancestral line so he could create what would result in the appropriate substance in order that his head might harden in the right way. Only during his lifetime would he be able to adapt his brain to its general structure. Such an individuality did not find the right conditions enabling him to influence his ancestry so that his head could harden in the appropriate way." - Rudolf Steiner, fully Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner

"The twentieth-century conservative is concerned, first of all, for the regeneration of the spirit and character – with the perennial problem of the inner order of the soul, the restoration of the ethical understanding, and the religious sanction upon which any life worth living is founded. This is conservatism at its highest." - Russell Kirk

"As friends go it is less important to live." - Rutherford B. Hayes, fully Rutherford Birchard Hayes