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Quotations about the Mind


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'Tis the great art of life to manage well
The restless mind...
~John Armstrong (1709–1779), The Art of Preserving Health, 1744  [Armstrong, a physician, was known as "The Poet of Health." —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]


Nothing but a devouring flame of thought—
But a naked, eternally restless mind!
~Matthew Arnold (1822–1888), "Empedocles on Etna"


The mind is the most capricious of insects — flitting, fluttering. ~Virginia Woolf


All sorts of bodily diseases are produced by half used minds; for it is the mind that makes the body: that is my secret, and the secret of all the true healers. ~Bernard Shaw


Are the waves of the brain drawn like tides of the ocean by some psychic moon, as yet unexplored? ~Barbara Webster Shenton


The human mind is Nature's keyboard, on which her harmonies and discords are sounded by the touch of invisible fingers. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), "Mind and its Mysteries," Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882


It's hard to make up your bed while you're still sleeping in it. Hard to make up your mind for the same reason. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


A philosophic mind is not haunted by the ghosts of tradition or superstition, neither does it shrink from the most profound contemplation of the future. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882


An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. ~Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition, 1973


[T]o‑day you are a great writer, a great philosopher, a great poet; a fibre of your brain breaks, and in vain they will bleed you or put ice on your head, to‑morrow you will be only a poor madman. ~Claude Tillier (1801–1844), My Uncle Benjamin: A Humorous, Satirical, and Philosophical Novel, 1843, translated from the French by Benjamin R. Tucker, 1890


The mind is like a trunk: if well-packed, it holds almost every thing; if ill-packed, next to nothing. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827


A thought often makes us hotter than a fire. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882), "Drift Wood, A Collection of Essays: Table-Talk," Prose Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1857


Active minds that think and study,
Like Swift Brooks are seldom Muddy.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Brooks," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924


The mind, as you age,
Is an artist, it seems.
Monet paints your mem'ries,
Picasso your dreams.
~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


No, no, the mind I love must still have wild places, a tangled orchard where dark damsons drop in the heavy grass, an overgrown little wood, the chance of a snake or two (real snakes), a pool that nobody's fathomed the depth of — and paths threaded with those little flowers planted by the mind. It must also have real hiding places, not artificial ones — not gazebos and mazes. And I have never yet met the cultivated mind that has not had its shrubbery. ~Katherine Mansfield


From Diamond-Dust the Diamond Lustre gains,
And Brains are polished bright by Other Brains.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Education," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924


Perhaps God gives us a physical body so that every time we change our mind, we won't be someone else. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


The Brain – is wider than the Sky –
For – put them side by side –
The one the other will contain
With ease – and You – beside –
The Brain is deeper than the sea –
For – hold them – Blue to Blue –
The one the other will absorb –
As Sponges – Buckets – do –
The Brain is just the weight of God –
For – Heft them – Pound for Pound –
And they will differ – if they do –
As Syllable from Sound –
~Emily Dickinson


I have too much brain for my head; it cannot play at ease in its case. ~Joseph Joubert (1754–1824), translated from French by George H. Calvert, 1866


What a sink of madness is man's mind! ~Octave Mirbeau, "The Mission," The Torture Garden, 1899, translated from the French by Alvah C. Bessie, 1931


What monstrosities would walk the streets were some people's faces as unfinished as their minds. ~Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition, 1973


Even at eighteen, a mentally voracious young woman cannot live entirely upon scenery. ~Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth, 1933


The mind of man is often like a house of which he is the landlord; bad tenants are more easily admitted than removed. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882


Few minds are sunlike, sources of light in themselves and to others: many more are moons that shine with a borrowed radiance. One may easily distinguish the two: the former are always full; the latter only now and then, when their suns are shining full upon them. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827


Webs of strange patterns we weave (each owns)
From colour and soul; and like unto these,
Soul has its tones and semitones,
Mind has its major and minor keys.
~Amy Levy, "In a Minor Key (An Echo from a Larger Lyre)," c.1884


Formerly, whenever I went a-fishing in my head for thoughts or fancies, I always caught something; now the fish no longer come like that. They are beginning to be petrified upon the bottom, and I am obliged to hew them out. Occasionally I can only extract them in fragments, like fossil remains, and patch something or other together from them. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), "The Character of a Person of my Acquaintance"  [Lichtenberg's unfinished "autopsychography" (Norman Alliston, 1908). —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]


Pain of mind is worse than pain of body. ~Latin proverb


My thoughts seemed to whirl with lightning rapidity, and in a few seconds a whole process of reasoning became formulated. ~Bram Stoker, The Jewel of Seven Stars, 1903


One of the habits of the mind is the invention of horrible imaginings. ~Jorge Luis Borges, "La Biblioteca Total (The Total Library)," 1939


Let mind prevail where muscles fail. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897


Aspatria's mind was sensitive and observing; it lived very well on its own ideas. ~Amelia E. Huddleston Barr, A Rose of a Hundred Leaves: A Love Story, 1891  #infj


According to Madam Pomfrey, thoughts could leave deeper scarring than almost anything else... ~J.K. Rowling, "The Second War Begins," Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, 2003


Indeed, to me the charm of an encyclopaedia is that it knows, and I needn't. My mental lee-scuppers are often awash in facts: I want to reef not only from the blasts of boredom which are inevitable sometimes, but from the gales of new and interesting knowledge: only thus can I keep close-hauled on my mark. One often sees craft with too much canvas: sluggish in helm and liable to upset: modern life is strewn with their wreckage. In short, the place for facts is books, and I shall expect this new Britannica to enable me to forget rather than to remember. I shall expect it to air and elevate my mind, while keeping for me in a convenient place all that mass of exact information which we must carry, either in brain or bookcase. ~Francis Yeats-Brown, "The New Encyclopaedia Britannica," in The Spectator, 1929 September 21st  [What beautiful old-time phrasing for "You don't have to know everything; you just need to know where to find it," even if it was a thinly veiled advertisement. And as well, how interesting that some people actually suffered from information overload that long ago. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]


Imagine the brain, that shiny mound of being, that mouse-gray parliament of cells, that dream factory, that petit tyrant inside a ball of bone, that huddle of neurons calling all the plays, that little everywhere, that fickle pleasuredrome, that wrinkled wardrobe of selves stuffed into the skull like too many clothes into a gym bag.... We take for granted the ridiculous-sounding yet undeniable fact that each person carries around atop the body a complete universe in which trillions of sensations, thoughts, and desires stream.... It's where catchy tunes snag, and cravings keep tugging. ~Diane Ackerman, An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain


Perhaps already I am dead,
      And these perhaps are phantoms vain;—
      These motley phantasies that pass
      At night through my disordered brain.
Perhaps with ancient heathen shapes,
      Old faded gods, this brain is full;
      Who, for their most unholy rites,
      Have chosen a dead poet's skull...
~Heinrich Heine, translated from German


There are no chaste minds. Minds copulate wherever they meet. ~Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition, 1973


I am extremely superstitious, but I am not in the least ashamed of it — any more than I am ashamed of believing that the earth does not move. It is the substance of my philosophy, and I only thank God that He has given me a soul able to correct the tendency. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), "The Character of a Person of my Acquaintance"  [Lichtenberg's unfinished "autopsychography" (Norman Alliston, 1908). —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]


      Dementia, that stealthy thief of identity, had bleached her vibrant self almost to indistinctness, like a photograph long exposed to sunlight.
      It is said that God gave us memory so we could have roses in winter: Dementia is an ever-deepening advance of wintery whiteness, a protracted paring away of personality. It inflicts on victims the terror of attenuated personhood, challenging philosophical and theological attempts to make death a clean, intelligible and bearable demarcation.
      Is death the soul taking flight after the body has failed? That sequence — the physical extinguished, the spiritual not — serves our notion of human dignity. However, mental disintegration mocks that comforting schema by taking the spirit first. In the very elderly the mind can come and go, a wanderer in time, and a disintegrating personality can acquire angers and jagged edges that are, perhaps, protests against a growing lightness of being. No one has come back from deep in that foreign country to report on life there. However, it must be frightening to feel one's self become light as a feather, with inner gales rising. ~George Will, "A Mother's Love, Clarified," The Washington Post, 2006 July 13th


Sweet are the thoughts that savour of content:
The quiet mind is richer than a crown...
Such sweet content, such minds, such sleep, such bliss,
Beggars enjoy, when princes oft do miss...
Obscurèd life sets down a type of bliss;
A mind content both crown and kingdom is.
~Robert Greene, c.1587


Ever wonder what crime you committed that you are confined to a small enclosure above your sinuses, under permanent skull arrest? ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


Quickness of examination and treatment are just as necessary in illness of the mind as in illness of the body. The plain fact is that no brain trouble is really minor: it may be kept so by early and effective care. Don't brush off recurring mental upsets as being just "nervousness." Don't try to ignore emotional upheavals that leave you feeling ragged and worn. There is nothing more damaging to the attainment of mental health than the idea that mental illness is incurable. That view may have been justified a half century ago, but it is not true today. ~Author unknown, c.1948


Thus still the Potter sang, and still,
By some unconscious act of will,
The melody and even the words
Were intermingled with my thought,
As bits of colored thread are caught
And woven into nests of birds.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Kéramos"


The power of the mind is your power. Use it. Don't let it use you. ~Terri Guillemets


Oh, dear Father God, I come—
      As I always come to Thee—
      And, with all my love, I bring
      My wholehearted, earnest plea.
Not for wealth nor jewels, rare,
      Do I ask of Thee each day,
      But for that which I so need
      I do ask of Thee; and, pray,
Give Thy richest gift to me:
      Give, oh, give me peace of mind!
      Nothing else can take its place…
      Peace, sweet peace, Lord, let me find!
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, "Peace of Mind" (1940s)


I suppose my childish days are over, aren't yours? I've got it all together now, don't you? I must admit though, there are some days I practice positive thinking, and other days I'm not positive I am thinking. ~John M. Eades, The 7th Floor Ain't Too High for Angels to Fly: A Collection of Stories on Relationships & Self-Understanding, "The Boy in the Mirror," 1995


We can seek,
we can find,
if we open our minds.
~Terri Guillemets


Here, in your mind, you have complete privacy. Here there's no difference between what is and what could be. ~Chuck Palahniuk, Choke, 2001


In what is called 'circular insanity,' phases of melancholy succeed phases of mania, with no outward cause that we can discover; and often enough to one and the same well person life will present incarnate radiance to‑day and incarnate dreariness to‑morrow, according to the fluctuations of what the older medical books used to call "the concoction of the humors." ~William James, "Is Life Worth Living?," address to the Young Men's Christian Association of Harvard University, May 1895


The toughest battle is Mind. ~Terri Guillemets


There are so many things I do not know,
      As over the pathway of life I go!
      And the sun rides high and the waters flow,
      And I'm still in doubt, for I do not know!
There are so many things to confuse my mind,
      As I struggle on through the daily grind!
      But I feel that, sometime, I'll surely find
      The perfect answer that will ease my mind!
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham (1880–1971), "So Many Things"


In the unhealthy-minded is bred a general sense that things are not as they should be with himself. In the healthy-minded there are no fears, and the sensations that pour in only help to swell the general vital sense of security and readiness for anything that may turn up. ~William James, "The Gospel of Relaxation," 1899  [a little altered –tg]


Lovely flowers have overgrown my mind — trying to crowd out the ugly world with beauty. ~Terri Guillemets, "Rewrite the world in a breath," 2002


Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real? ~J.K. Rowling, "King's Cross," Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 2007  [Albus Dumbledore —tg]


Some minds are made of blotting-paper: you can write nothing on them distinctly. They swallow the ink, and you find a large spot. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827


The desire in our minds is as real as the thirst in our throats. ~Terri Guillemets


When people will not weed their own minds, they are apt to be overrun by nettles. ~Horace Walpole, letter to the Countess of Ailesbury, 1779 July 10th


Weeds are pulled up by the roots to clear the fields for the growing grain. Why should not mental weeds be pulled up by the roots also, and the mind cleared for growth? ~Horace Fletcher, Menticulture, 1895


We must weed our own minds as we would weed our gardens — of overgrown fears, strangling emotions, noxious thoughts, leeching habits, and poisonous beliefs. ~Terri Guillemets


A flowerless conscience, drooping amid the ripened weeds of neglect! ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897


...certain it is that minds, like bodies, will often fall into a pimpled ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort, and like them, are often successfully cured by remedies in themselves very nauseous and unpalatable. ~Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge


Sometimes it's harder to attain inner silence than outer silence. The dog stopped barking and the kids have gone to bed, but your mind has a lot to talk about and it knows you can't pretend you're not at home. ~Terri Guillemets


I've concluded, after many years, that my mind works by process of elimination. Problem is, it hasn't eliminated anything yet. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


Channels are blocked in the mind, from the day. Lie down in blackness of night, forgotten remnants rush to the mind, or creeping slowly appear in the dreams. ~Terri Guillemets



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