It is really true what philosophy tells us, that life must be understood backwards. But with this, one forgets the second proposition, that it must be lived forwards.
—Soren Kierkegaard (1813–55) Danish Philosopher, Theologian
Yesterday I lived, today I suffer, tomorrow I die; but I still think fondly, today and tomorrow, of yesterday.
—Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–81) German Writer, Philosopher
Think twice before you speak, or act once, and you will speak or act the more wisely for it.
—Benjamin Franklin (1706–90) American Political Leader, Inventor, Diplomat
Deliberation. The act of examining one’s bread to determine which side it is buttered on.
—Ambrose Bierce (1842–1913) American Short-story Writer, Journalist
The ages of seven to eleven is a huge chunk of life, full of dulling and forgetting. It is fabled that we slowly lose the gift of speech with animals, that birds no longer visit our windowsills to converse. As our eyes grow accustomed to sight they armour themselves against wonder.
—Leonard Cohen (1934–2016) Canadian Singer, Songwriter, Poet, Novelist
That past which is so presumptuously brought forward as a precedent for the present, was itself founded on some past that went before it.
—Anne Louise Germaine de Stael (1766–1817) French Woman of Letters
One must be thrust out of a finished cycle in life, and that leap is the most difficult to make—to part with one’s faith, one’s love, when one would prefer to renew the faith and recreate the passion.
—Anais Nin (1903–77) French-American Essayist
I’m not convinced that the world is in any worse shape than it ever was. It’s just that in this age of almost instantaneous communication, we bear the weight of problems our forefathers only read about after they were solved.
—Burton Hillis (William E. Vaughan) (1915–77) American Columnist, Author
Everybody is like a magnet. You attract to yourself reflections of that which you are. If you’re friendly then everybody else seems to be friendly too.
—David R. Hawkins (1927–2012) American Physician, Author
We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4am of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.
—Joan Didion (1934–2021) American Essayist, Novelist, Memoirist
A little reflection will enable any person to detect in himself that setness in trifles which is the result of the unwatched instinct of self-will and to establish over himself a jealous guardianship.
—Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–96) American Abolitionist, Author
Our ignorance of history makes us libel to our own times. People have always been like this.
—Gustave Flaubert (1821–80) French Novelist, Playwright, Short Story Writer
Here lies my past, Goodbye I have kissed it; Thank you kids, I wouldn’t have missed it.
—Ogden Nash (1902–71) American Writer of Sophisticated Light Verse
Reflection makes men cowards.
—William Hazlitt (1778–1830) English Essayist
A soul without reflection, like a pile without inhabitant, to ruin runs.
—Edward Young (1683–1765) English Poet
The past is never dead, it is not even past.
—William Faulkner (1897–1962) American Novelist
Only by much searching and mining are gold and diamonds obtained, and man can find every truth connected with his being if he will dig deep into the mine of his soul.
—James Allen (1864–1912) British Philosophical Writer
The first recipe for happiness is: Avoid too lengthy meditations on the past.
—Andre Maurois (1885–1967) French Novelist, Biographer
Be harsh with yourself at times.
—Seneca the Younger (Lucius Annaeus Seneca) (c.4 BCE–65 CE) Roman Stoic Philosopher, Statesman, Tragedian
The past is our very being.
—David Ben-Gurion (1886–1973) Russian-born Israeli Head of State
Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.
—John Wayne (1907–79) American Actor, Director, Producer
That sign of old age, extolling the past at the expense of the present.
—Sydney Smith (1771–1845) English Clergyman, Essayist, Wit
We are told, “Let not the sun go down in your wrath,” but I would add, never act or write till it has done so. This rule has saved me from many an act of folly. It is wonderful what a different view we take of the same event four-and-twenty hours after it has happened.
—Sydney Smith (1771–1845) English Clergyman, Essayist, Wit
There is one art of which every man should be a master—the art of reflection.—If you are not a thinking man, to what purpose are you a man at all?
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) English Poet, Literary Critic, Philosopher
Most people’s lives are a direct reflection of their peer groups.
—Tony Robbins (b.1960) American Self-Help Author, Entrepreneur
Each had his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart; and his friends could only read the title, James Spalding, or Charles Budgeon, and the passengers going the opposite way could read nothing at all—save “a man with a red moustache,” “a young man in gray smoking a pipe.”
—Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) English Novelist
They only babble who practise not reflection.—I shall think; and thought is silence.
—Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816) Irish-born British Playwright, Poet, Elected Rep
I look back on my life like a good day’s work; it is done and I am satisfied with it.
—Grandma Moses (1860–1961) American Painter, Artist
The past with its pleasures, its rewards, its foolishness, its punishments, is there for each of us forever, and it should be.
—Lillian Hellman (1905–84) American Dramatist, Memoirist
Every man deeply engaged in business, if all regard to another state be not extinguished, must have the conviction, if not the resolution of one who, being asked whether he retired from the army in disgust, answered, “that he laid down his commission for no other reason, but because there ought to be some time for sober reflection between the life of a soldier and his death.”
—Samuel Johnson (1709–84) British Essayist