Life isn’t some narcissistic game you play online. It all matters—every sin, every regret, every affliction. –Steve Almond, in the introduction to Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar 

The most terrible and beautiful and interesting things happen in a life. For some of you, those things have already happened. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will. –Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar 

Nobody’s going to do your life for you. You have to do it yourself, whether you’re rich or poor, out of money or raking it in, the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice. And you have to do it no matter what is true. No matter what is hard. No matter what unjust, sad, sucky things have befallen you. Self-pity is a dead-end road. You make the choice to drive down it. It’s up to you to decide to stay parked there or to turn around and drive out. –ditto

Life is everywhere, life is in us ourselves, not outside. There will be people by my side, and to be a human being among people and to remain one forever, no matter in what circumstances, not to grow despondent and not to lose heart—that’s what life is all about, that’s its task. I have come to recognize that. –a letter from Fyodor Dostoyevsky to his brother Mikhail, in Complete Letters: 1832-1859

Life is a gift, life is happiness, each moment could have been an eternity of happiness. Si jeunesse savait! [If youth knew!] –an 1849 letter from Fyodor Dostoyevsky, spotted at, “Dostoyevsky On His Execution And The Meaning of Life”

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could. –Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

Challenging the meaning of life is the truest expression of the state of being human. –Viktor Frankl, A Man’s Search for Meaning

For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment. –ditto

Live as if you were living a second time, and as though you had acted wrongly the first time. –ditto

Living is knitting according to the intentions of others. But as we do it, our thoughts are free and all the enchanted princes can stroll through their parks between the instants when the hooked ivory needle sinks into the yarn. –Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Life, ultimately, is in itself one grand insomnia, and there is a lucid disorientation in everything we think and do. –ditto

The happiness of all these men who don’t know they are wretched irritates me. Their human lives are filled with things that would be anguishing experiences for a real sensibility. But since their real lives are vegetative, whatever they suffer passes through them without touching their souls … –ditto

There is nothing worse than the contrast between the natural splendor of interior life, with its natural Indies and its unknown lands, and the sordidness, even if it truly is not sordid, of the dailiness of life. Ennui weighs more when it doesn’t have the excuse of inertia. –ditto

... you should never do what’s expected of you; there’s always another path through life than the one before you. –Ófeigur Sigurðsson, Öræfi: The Wasteland

How strange life is, what joy it can give, suddenly, generously, in the most difficult moment, when it seems that life is becoming unbearable. –Natalia Uskova, journal, 28 January 1942

I want all of it—all the things to do with living—and I want them to keep feeling messy and confusing and even sometimes boring. The carpool line and the backpacks and light that fills the room in the building where I wait while the kids take piano lesons. Dr. Cavanaugh sitting on my bedside looking me in the eyes and admitting she’s scared. The sound of my extended family laughing downstairs. My chemo hair growing in suddenly in thick, wild chunks.
      Light sabers cracking Christmas ornaments. A science fair project taking shape in some distant room. The drenched backyard full of runoff, and tiny, slimy, uncertain yard critters who had expected to remain buried in months of hard mud, peeking their heads out into the balmy New Year’s air, asking, Wait, what?
–Nina Riggs, The Bright Hour (Her doctor had just told her to make a bucket list and her husband suggested a “fuck-it” list instead, where she would list all the things she didn’t want to bother with anymore. Her response was that there weren’t many things she didn’t want to bother with anymore.)

… in this moment we’re feeling the exact same thing: the sad kind of bliss where you realize, suddenly, how perfect your life really has been all along. So perfect it hurts, and you could let yourself weep if you wanted. So perfect that even though everything you know is ending, you truly believe life will continue to be beautiful, even—or maybe especially—in those pure moments of loss. –Emily Henry, The Love That Split the World

Sometimes the most beautiful moments in our lives are things that hurt badly at the time. We only see them for what they really were when we stand at the very end and look back. –ditto

I don’t fear it—not death. But I have never lived. I have always been timid and wretched and afraid—afraid to speak—and I’ve almost wished for suffering and misery or anything rather than to be stupid and dumb and dead, the way I’ve always been. I’ve never dared to tell anyone what I was, what I wanted. I’ve been afraid all my life, but I’m not afraid now. I have never lived; I have never been happy; and now we must die together! –Frank L. Pollack, “Finis” (the character was about to die from an ultra-hot star slowly frying Earth)

Because the tragedy of life is not that we die, but rather what dies within us while we still live. –Thomas F. Monteleone, in the afterward to “Yesterday’s Child”

So much to do today:
kill memory, kill pain,
turn heart into a stone,
and yet prepare to live again.
–Anna Akmatova, “Requiem”

Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried. –Megan Devine (

Rough as life can be, I know in my bones we are supposed to stick around and play our part. Even if that part is coughing to death from cigarettes, or being blown up young in a house with your mother watching. And even if it’s to be that mother. Someone down the line might need to know you got through it. Or maybe someone you won’t see coming will need you. ... And it might be you never know the part you played, what it meant to someone to watch you make your way each day. Maybe someone or something is watching us all make our way. I don’t think we get to know why. –Bill Clegg, Did You Ever Have a Family

... I don’t like this life; but I do it. Like a good girl. –Sylvia Plath, in an October 7, 1956 letter to Ted Hughes

... life is a series of trap doors, and you fall through them, one by one, tumbling down and down and down, one hole to the next. –Ben H. Winters, World of Trouble

It won’t end—that dumb animal instinct to live, to keep going. It doesn’t end. –ditto

What hasty preparations we make for our future. Think of it: it seems almost tragic, the things we’re sure we ought to bring along. We pack too heavy with what we hope we’ll use, and too light of what we must. We thus go forward misladen, ill equipped for the dawn. –Chang-Rae Lee, On Such a Full Sea

It’s nice when you reach the point in your life where the only person you really need to worry about liking you is you. –Aarib Trauster, “What He’s Really Thankful For,” in the November 2013 issue of Redbook

What a blessed if painful thing, this business of being alive. –Joe Hill, NOS4A2

A double life is exhausting and ultimately tragic, because you can’t ever be loved if you can never be known. –Jennifer Finney Boylan, quoted in Andrew Soloman’s Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity

It’s your duty to use what you’ve got and not just put yourself to sleep like a robot. It doesn’t matter what job you do. To wake up in the morning and actually find the day exciting is the biggest victory you can have. –Björk, in the Fall/Winter 1996 issue of Bust

I think what I’ve finally come to terms with is that if you learn to live with things that aren’t pleasant, then, suddenly, sometimes, they are. –Bobbe Evans, quoted in Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity

Life holds its miracles, good erupting from darkness chief among them. –John Patrick Shanley, “The Darkness of an Irish Morning,” in the March 8, 2013, issue of The New York Times

Remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted. When you feel that this may be the good-bye, the last time, it hits you harder. –Sylvia Plath, in a letter to Eddie Cohen

It was possible, he understood, for a person’s life to become just a long series of mistakes, and that the end, when it came, was just one more instance in a chain of bad choices. The thing was, most of these mistakes were actually borrowed from other people. You took their bad ideas and, for whatever reason, made them your own. –Justin Cronin, The Passage

Life, we determined, is not about avoiding mistakes. If we had chosen to stay put and stifle our urge to change, we would have done so out of worry and fear. And these were not the stars we wanted as our guides. –Frances de Pontes Peebles, “The Great Escape”

Life’s sloppy. You think you know how tomorrow is going to be, you’ve made your plans, everything is set in place, and then the unimaginable happens. Life catches you by surprise. It always does. But there’s good mixed in with the bad. It’s there. You just have to recognize it. –Susan Beth Pfeffer, This World We Live In

All the hardest, coldest people you meet were once as soft as water. And that’s the tragedy of living. –Iain S. Thomas, “The View on the Way Down”

We’re on a cliff, all of us, and surviving isn’t about who’s the best or the brightest. It’s about holding on as long as we can, and trying, and failing, and trying again until we’ve inched a little closer to getting through this. –Megan Crewe, The Way We Fall

I am tired of anticipating some future moment in my life, where everything will come together and my life will miraculously be perfect based purely on my age. I am tired of people telling me to look forward to the future instead of encouraging me to find ways to appreciate the present. I think I have found the key to happiness, and for me, it’s actually working on myself in the now. The things I am doing—working to get myself into school, working to lose weight, working to maintain friendships and make new ones, working on my emotional maturity and thinking about what I really want from life—are making me happy, finally. Life is happening for me now. Life doesn’t begin until my 30s, or 40s, or whenever? Bullshit. –RC, on the PostSecret Community message boards

The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. –Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

In the end what matters most is
How well did you live
How well did you love
How well did you learn to let go.


Live your life, and that’s heroism. Live your life, try and do the right thing. Try and be the best person that you can be. That is heroism. That is super-heroism. Don’t hang around waiting, standing near a big rack of chemicals waiting for the lightning bolt, because that’s not going to happen. And if it did, it wouldn’t make any difference; you wouldn’t be any happier. In fact you’d probably be electrocuted and dead. That’s my guess anyway. –Alan Moore, in an interview in The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore

It’s like life’s this slippery slope and we’re never really in control and sometimes it seems like running into a tree is the worst thing that could ever happen, when really it’s what stops us from going over the cliff. –Brian Strause, Maybe a Miracle

A life without a quiet center easily becomes destructive. –Henri JM Nouwen

It’s a rare gift to understand that your life is wondrous, and that it won’t last forever. –Steven Galloway, The Cellist of Sarajevo

This is how she now believes life happens. One small thing at a time. A series of inconsequential junctions, any or none of which can lead to salvation or disaster. There are no grand moments where a person does or does not perform the act that defines their humanity. There are only moments that appear, briefly, to be this way. –ditto

In Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, Emily cries out in Act III, “I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes too fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed.” … Piano practice. Breakfast. Clutter. School. Work. Answering machines. Unfinished projects. Unspoken fears. Unmet expectations. Pain and beauty, the extraordinary and the commonplace. Life. And no one really notices. The rhythms and grace notes that underscore everyday life grow too subtle, pass unmarked, end uncelebrated. –from

Today it seems to me that my whole life was nothing but a string of those small near misses: a race whose result we know beforehand but in which we fail to bet on the winner. –Jean-Dominique Bauby, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

... we cannot possibly know what will manifest in our lives. We live and have experiences and leave people we love and get left by them. People we thought would be with us forever aren’t and people we didn’t know would come into our lives do. Our work here is to keep faith with that, to put it in a box and wait. To trust that someday we will know what it means ... –Dear Sugar, August 4, 2011

I’d love to see more men and women take a little time to live, to gain some perspective before making big decisions, and at the same time, I have always done what I wanted, made impulsive decisions. Some of them worked out well, some of them crashed and burned. I own every bit of it. I have no regret. There are a few things I would like to say I’d do differently, but if I were actually faced with that time control remote, I’d take out the batteries and dash it under a bus. –enemypoet, in the comments section of the June 24, 2011, Dear Sugar column

I’m here to tell you it’s okay to travel by foot. In fact, I recommend it. There is so much ahead that’s worth seeing; so much behind you can’t identify at top speed. –Dear Sugar, May 5, 2011

People can lead quietly amazing lives, you know. –Bel Mooney, in the June 22, 2012, issue of the Daily Mail

Life is a concentration camp. You’re stuck here and there’s no way out. You can only rage impotently against your persecutors. –Woody Allen, quoted in Frank Rich’s “Woody Allen Wipes the Smile Off His Face” in the May 1977 issue of Esquire

And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything...affects everything. –Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why

You bumped stupidly ahead through life, and you couldn’t know if starring in a play, or sleeping with someone, or marrying someone, or picking a particular college, or even taking a walk down a street, was going to lead to happiness or sorrow. How could you know? –Meg Wolitzer, The Uncoupling

Wasn’t one of the goals of life to be comfortable in your own skin and in your own bed and on your own land? But as soon as you achieved it, you felt an immense sadness, and then you wanted to wreck everything around you, just because you could. Comfort was the best thing, and maybe the worst. –ditto

It must have been then I first came to realize that for most people life was not a joy to be embraced with a full heart but a miserable charade to be endured with a false smile, a narrow path of lies, punishment, and repression. –Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence

My life has always felt like an unanswered question. A string of days and nights waiting for something to happen. –Michael C. Hall, in Dexter

Of course, life is messy, as likely to be selfish and stupid as expansive and wise … –Eric G. Wilson, Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck: Why We Can’t Look Away

And she was suddenly overwhelmed by unhappiness, by a sense of life as some vast cold junkpile—deluminum slag, if you liked—that was always looming over you, always waiting to fall, cutting you to screaming ribbons even before it crushed the life out of you. –Stephen King, “Luckey Quarter”

Days and weeks slip by easily enough; one doesn’t necessarily notice that one’s life isn’t moving forward, isn’t progressing, isn’t becoming what you’d always dreamed it would be. –Robert J. Sawyer, Flashforward

Life doesn’t care what we think, it keeps calm and carries on without us ... –Andres Lokko, “To Manage as a Man...The Break-up”

Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose. –Alan Moore, Watchmen

Life’s so fragile, a successful virus clinging to a speck of mud, suspended in endless nothing. –ditto

Everything is endured, disgrace, humiliation, poverty, war, crime, ennui—in the belief that overnight something will occur, a miracle, which will render life tolerable. And all the while a meter is running inside and there is no hand that can reach in there and shut it off. … And out of the endless torment and misery no miracle comes forth, no microscopic vestige even of relief. –Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

I wish that life should not be cheap, but sacred. I wish the days to be as centuries, loaded, fragrant. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life

This is how the entire course of a life can be changed—by doing nothing. –Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach

Now, miraculously, I had been granted a second chance to live. It was not the life I wanted or expected, but I understood that it was my duty now to live that life as richly and as hopefully as I could. I vowed to try. I would live with passion and curiosity. I would open myself to the possibilities of life. I would savor every moment, and I would try, every day, to become more human and more alive. –Nando Parrado, Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home

All the lines that held me to my life were sliced apart in swift cuts, like clipping the strings to a bunch of balloons. Everything that made me who I was ... disconnected from me in that second—snip, snip, snip—and floated up to space. –Stephenie Meyer, Breaking Dawn

I say embrace the total geek in yourself and just enjoy it. Life is too short to be cool. –Shirley Manson

If we live our lives the right way, then everything we do can become a work of art. –Lauren Ambrose, in Six Feet Under

Life is wasted on the living. –Richard Jenkins, in Six Feet Under

What is life? we ask, knowing that the answer will come not as a headline but as an aggregate. Life is dewclaws and corsages and dust mites and alligator skin and feathers and whale’s whiskers (as mammals, whales do have hair) and tree-frog serenades and foreskins and blue hydrangeas and banana slugs and war dances and cedar chips and bombardier beetles. Whenever we encounter something that is rare, we mentally add it to the seemingly endless list of forms that life can take. We smile in amazement as we discover yet another variation on an ancient theme. To hear the melody, we must hear all the notes. –Diane Ackerman, The Rarest of the Rare

When you consider something like death, after which (there being no news flash to the contrary) we may well go out like a candle flame, then it probably doesn’t matter if we try too hard, are awkward sometimes, care for one another too deeply, are excessively curious about nature, are too open to experience, enjoy a nonstop expense of the senses in an effort to know life intimately and lovingly. It probably doesn’t matter if, while trying to be modest and eager watchers of life’s many spectacles, we sometimes look clumsy or get dirty or ask stupid questions or reveal our ignorance or say the wrong thing or light up with wonder like the children we all are. It probably doesn’t matter if a passerby sees us dipping a finger into the moist pouches of dozens of lady’s slippers to find out what bugs tend to fall into them, and thinks us a bit eccentric. Or a neighbor, fetching her mail, sees us standing in the cold with our own letters in one hand and a seismically red autumn leaf in the other, its color hitting our sense like a blow from a stun gun, as we stand with a huge grin, too paralyzed by the intricately veined gaudiness of the leaf to move. –Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses

The trick is to assume your life is going to work out. Of course, it never does, so you do the next best thing: you take it one disaster at a time. –Fisher Stevens, in Early Edition

I think depression and despair are reasonable reactions to the nature of life. Life has its ups and downs. It is unreliable and conditional and provisional. It can be, as we used to say in my youth, a real bummer. Failure, disease, death: standard life events. Is it any surprise if some of the time, some of us feel like hell? –Chase Twichell, “Toys in the Attic”

Life is not just a diurnal property of large interesting vertebrates; it is also nocturnal, anaerobic, cannibalistic, microscopic, digestive, fermentative: cooking away in the warm dark. Life is well maintained at a four-mile ocean depth, is waiting and sustained on a frozen rock wall, is clinging and nourished in hundred-degree desert temperatures. And there is a world of nature on the decay side, a world of beings who do rot and decay in the shade. –Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild

Once you stop pretending that everything’s shitty and you can’t wait to get out of it, which is the story I’d been telling myself for a while, then it gets more painful, not less. Telling yourself life is shit is like an anesthetic, and when you stop taking the Advil, then you really can tell how much it hurts, and where, and it’s not like that kind of pain does anyone a whole lot of good. –Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down

… sometimes it’s moments like that, real complicated moments, absorbing moments, that make you realize that even hard times have things in them that make you feel alive. –ditto

There is a life which is magnificent, tortured, and full of tragedy. And then there’s work, which is well paid. For which you create a different, more distinct, tragedy-free, harmonious life. On paper. –Sergei Dovlatov, The Compromise

It is beautiful,
how, as we live,
we grow old in the living.
–Jane Hirshfield, “Ode to Time”

Will someday split you open
Even if your life is now a cage …
–Hafiz, “In a Tree House”

Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life. –Mark Twain, Notebook

Life: we laugh and laugh, then cry and cry, then feebler laugh, then die. –ditto

Life is at best a dream and at worst a nightmare from which you cannot escape. –Mark Twain, Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts

But such is human life. Here today and gone tomorrow. A dream—a shadow—a ripple on the water—a thing for invisible gods to sport with for a season and then toss idly by—idly by. It is rough. –Mark Twain, “Closed Out” sketch, included in a letter to Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, January 28, 1866

Life was a fever-dream made up of joys embittered by sorrows, pleasure poisoned by pain; a dream that was a nightmare-confusion of spasmodic and fleeting delights, ecstasies, exultations, happinesses, interspersed with long-drawn miseries, griefs, perils, horrors, disappointments, defeats, humiliations, and despairs—the heaviest curse devisable by divine ingenuity… –Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth

Life is purgatory at all times, & a swindle & a crime—yesterday it was hell. –Mark Twain, in a letter to WD Howells, September 24, 1902

Life was what happened when all the what-ifs didn’t, when what you dreamed or hoped or … feared might come to pass passed by instead. –Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes

Life’s a series of blows. What is born a drum is beaten till death. –Carlo Gébler, Life of a Drum

You struggle with money. You struggle without money. You struggle with love. You struggle without love. But it’s how you manage. You have to keep laughing, you have to be fun to be with, and you have to live with style—not fancy-schmancy, but in a way which is present and meaningful and has some beauty to it. –Pierce Brosnan, in an interview in Parade, June 15, 2008

Epiphanies like these are so much more likely to occur for me in grocery stores and laundromats, rather than in the more traditional places of reverence and prayer. They are moments in which the baseline about what is good and important in my life changes. Often they come just when it feels like life has played another rotten trick on me and nothing in my life is ever going to go as I expect. Through these hardships comes the realization that it is in the most ordinary aspects of my life—the ones in which everything can, and does, go wrong—that I am offered glimpses of the extraordinary. In these flashes of insight, I understand for a moment that one of the great dividends of darkness is an increased sensitivity to light. And in these rare and expansive moments, I am called to delight. –Martha Manning, Undercurrents: A Life Beneath the Surface

When my mother didn’t come back I realized that any moment could be the last. Nothing in life should simply be a passage from one place to another. Each walk should be taken as if it is the only thing you have left. –Peter Høeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow

When you are washing the dishes, washing the dishes must be the most important thing in your life. Just as when you are drinking tea, drinking tea must be the most important thing in your life. Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the whole world revolves—slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this actual moment is life. –Thich Nhat Hanh

Each man must look to himself to teach him the meaning of life. It is not something discovered: it is something molded. –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand, and Stars

The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware. –Henry Miller, The Wisdom of the Heart

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable. Helen Keller, Let Us Have Faith

The secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is—to live dangerously! –Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Life is perhaps most wisely regarded as a bad dream between two awakenings, and every day is a life in miniature. –Eugene O’Neill, Marco Millions

Life is a disease; and the only difference between one man and another is the stage of the disease at which he lives. You are always at the crisis: I am always in the convalescent stage. I enjoy convalescence. It is the part that makes illness worthwhile. –George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methusaleh

When you’re young, you always feel that life hasn’t yet begun—that “life” is always scheduled to begin next week, next month, next year, after the holidays—whenever. But then suddenly you’re old and the scheduled life didn’t arrive. You find yourself asking, “Well then, exactly what was it I was having—that interlude—the scrambly madness—all that time I had before?” –Douglas Coupland, Life After God

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man under Socialism”

I still don’t know why I didn’t manage to keep a better footing on the slippery path called life, why some people go through it straight down the main road while others wander endlessly around dim alleyways. –Einar Mar Gudmundsson, Angels of the Universe

Life without ... examination is not worth living. Plato, quoting Socrates in Apology 38a

To keep on living an empty life
takes patience from an empty person.
–Vivienne Loomis, “la faim”

’Tis a queer life, and the only humor proper to it seems quiet astonishment. Others laugh, weep, sell, or proselyte. I admire. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, in a letter to Mary Moody Emerson, August 1, 1826

Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you. ... Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute? –Thornton Wilder, Our Town

Our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. –Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory

Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life. –Eleanor Roosevelt, The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt

Life does not consist mainly—or even largely—of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thoughts that is forever blowing through one’s head. –Mark Twain, Autobiography

Living is like working out a long addition sum, and if you make a mistake in the first two totals you will never find the right answer. It means involving oneself in a complicated chain of circumstances. –Cesare Pavese, journal, May 5, 1936

Living is an illness to which sleep provides relief every sixteen hours. It’s a palliative. The remedy is death. –Nicolas-Sébastien Chamfort, Maximes et Pensées

We are all of us resigned to death: it’s life we aren’t resigned to. –Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter

Fairness is the exception to the rule in life. –MK Wren, A Gift Upon the Shore

Still, the dark and amazing adventure of life is beckoning. I’ll stick around, out of curiosity and because I enjoy breathing and stretching my healthy limbs. –Anonymous, A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City

I have an ordinary life—and though some might think this is dull, I tell you it is sweet. Ordinary life is a miraculous thing. –Tracy Thompson, The Beast: A Reckoning with Depression

Look. This is your world! You can’t not look. There is no other world. This is your world; it is your feast. You inherited this; you inherited these eyeballs; you inherited this world of color. Look at the greatness of the whole thing. Look! Don’t hesitate. Open your eyes. Don’t blink. –Chogyam Trungpa

My grandfather always said that living is like licking honey off a thorn. –Louis Adamic

I promise to make you so alive that the fall of dust on furniture will deafen you. –Nina Cassian

The soul moves in circles, said Plotinus. Hence our lives are not moving straight ahead; instead, hovering, wavering, returning, renewing, repeating. –James Hillman

The art of living is the art of knowing how to believe lies. –Cesare Pavese

The only sensible way to regard life is that it is a privilege you are willing to pay for. –Robert Henri

The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced. –Aart van der Leeuw

It’s like putting a horse on top of a horse and then climbing on and trying to ride. Riding a horse is hard enough. Why add another horse? Then it’s impossible. –Suzuki Roshi, re: questioning one’s life and purpose

Life is so meaningless we might as well try to make ourselves extraordinary. –Francis Bacon

There it is. I don’t believe in anything, but I’m always glad to wake up in the morning. It doesn’t depress me. I’m never depressed. My basic nervous system is filled with this optimism. It’s mad, I know, because it’s optimism about nothing. I think of life as meaningless and yet it excites me. I always think something marvelous is about to happen. –ditto

As for the meaning of life, I do not believe that it has any. I do not ask what it is, but I suspect it has none and this is a source of great comfort to me. We make of it what we can and that is all there is about it. –Isaiah Berlin

We labor under a number of delusions, one of which is that life makes sense; ie, that we are sane. We persist in this view despite massive evidence to the contrary. We live fragmented, compartmentalized lives in which contradictions are carefully sealed off from each other. We have been taught to think linearly rather than comprehensively. –Edward Hall

If I could only remember that the days were not bricks to be laid row on row, to be built into a solid house, where one might dwell in safety and peace, but only food for the fires of the heart, the fires which keep the poet alive as the citizen never lives, which burn all the roofs of security. –Edmund Wilson

Very occasionally, if you really pay attention, life doesn’t suck. –Joss Whedon, in the liner notes to the Once More, with Feeling soundtrack

It was life, often unsatisfying, frequently cruel, usually boring, sometimes beautiful, once in a while exhilarating. –Stephen King, Insomnia

Our lives are quiet. We like to be disturbed by delight. –Sophia Grojsman

You could catalog the thousand ways people shrink from life, as if chance and change are by their nature toxic, disfiguring. –Gregory Maguire, Son of a Witch

… even free people are eternally enslaved by the processes of living. –Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

People don’t really start to live until death comes knocking on their door. When will I start to live? –Hallgrímur Helgason, 101 Reykjavík

How swiftly the solid bottom of one’s life can go. –John Haines, The Snow, the Stars, the Fire

Life as we live it is unaccompanied by signposts. –Holly Hickler, “A Teacher’s Viewpoint,” in Vivienne: The Life and Suicide of an Adolescent Girl

This life has been a test. If this had been an actual life, you would have received instructions on where to go and what to do. –Claire Danes, in My So-Called Life

Life’s like an hourglass glued to the table. –Anna Nalick, “Breathe (2am)”

We begin to live when we have conceived life as a tragedy. –William Butler Yeats, in his autobiography

Living fully doesn’t necessarily mean that you cram your day full of activity or go climb Everest or become the next Mother Teresa. It could just mean taking pleasure in who you are at this moment, making full use of all of your senses. Just breathe. Stretch. Notice beauty and laughter. Feed yourself—figuratively and literally—because you’re hungry for life again and because, well, who doesn’t love to eat? –Mary D. Esselman and Elizabeth Ash Vélez, The Hell with Love: Poems to Mend a Broken Heart

I hadn’t gotten old enough yet to realize that living sends a person not into the future but back into the past, to childhood and before birth, finally, to commune with the dead. You get older, you puff on the stairs, you enter the body of your father. From there it’s only a quick jump to your grandparents, and then before you know it you’re time-traveling. In this life we grow backwards. –Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

She thought that a lifetime was just like a day of watching television. In the early hours there was a sequence—nursery programmes followed by school serials. After that it became a jumble—a comedy half-hour and then a drama full of sex or murder; a boring stretch that seemed to go on for ever in which people did nothing but talk nonsense; an interlude of romance; more mayhem, more boredom, then nothing. –Clare Boylan, Beloved Stranger

Life is just a dream on the way to death. –Mia Kirshner

There was nothing to erase the stink of being alive. –Rebecca Wells, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

I really haven’t had that exciting of a life. There are a lot of things I wish I would have done, instead of just sitting around and complaining about having a boring life. –Kurt Cobain

Life is so only-once, so single-chanceish! It all depends on your arranging and synchronizing it so that when opportunity knocks you’re right there waiting with your hand on the doorknob. –Sylvia Plath, journal, January 10, 1953

Life is messy. Wonderfully messy. Relish it. –Frédéric Fekkai

Oh, the wild joys of living! –Robert Browning, “Saul”

Life is just one damn thing after another. –Elbert Hubbard, The Roycroft Dictionary and Book of Epigrams (Note: The quote has also been attributed to Frank Ward O’Malley)

It is not true that life is one damned thing after another—it is one damn thing over and over. –Edna St. Vincent Millay, in a letter, October 24, 1930

Life is an abnormal business. –Eugene Ionesco, Rhinoceros

There is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in a war and some men are wounded, and some men never leave the country … Life is unfair. –John F. Kennedy

Life is one long struggle in the dark. –Lucretius, De Rerum Natura

The value in life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them; a man may live long yet live very little. –Michel de Montaigne, Essays

Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. –Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire

To burn with this hard gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. –Walter Pater, Studies in the History of The Renaissance

There must be more to life than having everything! –Maurice Sendak, Higglety Pigglety Pop!

Our life is what our thoughts make it. –Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Life is a wonderful thing to talk about, or to read about in history books—but it is terrible when one has to live it. –Jean Anouilh, Time Remembered

It’s like every time Fate gets nauseous, my life is the bucket. –Joe Regalbuto, in Murphy Brown

So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and a striving after wind. –Eccles. 2.16-17

You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now. –Joan Baez

Imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life. –Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace

There’s something I would like to understand. And I don’t think anyone can explain it ... There’s your life. You begin it, feeling that it’s something so precious and rare, so beautiful that it’s like a sacred treasure. Now it’s over, and it doesn’t make any difference to anyone, and it isn’t that they are indifferent, it’s just that they don’t know, they don’t know what it means, that treasure of mine, and there’s something about it that they should understand. I don’t understand it myself, but there’s something that should be understood by all of us. Only what is it? What? –Ayn Rand, We the Living

Human life is mainly a process of filling in time until the arrival of death or Santa Claus. –Eric Berne, Games People Play

I wanted a perfect ending ... Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what is going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity. –Gilda Radner

Life is a swirling eddy of despair in an ever-blackening universe. –anonymous

Life is something to do when you can’t get to sleep. –Fran Leibowitz, Metropolitan Life

[Life:] You fall out of your mother’s womb, you crawl across open country under fire, and drop into your grave. –Quentin Crisp

Life was something unpleasant that happened to me on the way to the grave. –(?)

Life—the way it really is—is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse. –Joseph Brodsky

Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It’s a good life. Enjoy it. –Jim Henson

Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways. –Stephen Vincent Benet

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, pee in it, and serve it to the people that piss you off. –Jack Handey

Life is like a B-Grade movie. You don’t want to leave in the middle, but you don’t want to see it again. –Ted Turner

The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us. –Bill Watterson

Life swings like a pendulum backward and forward between pain and boredom. –Arthur Schopenhauer

... not appreciating the weirdness of life is a punishment of its own. –Rachel Ellen Sherman

Human life begins on the other side of despair. –Jean-Paul Sartre, “Les Mouches”

Anyone who says he is not emotional is not getting what he should out of life. –Ezer Weizman

Life may have no meaning. Or even worse, it may have a meaning of which I disapprove. –Ashleigh Brilliant

Perhaps we are looking at this from a wrong perspective, this search for the truth, the meaning of life, the reason of God. We all have this mindset that the answers are so complex and so vast that it is almost impossible to comprehend. I think, on the contrary, that the answers are so simple; so simple that it is staring us straight in the face, screaming its lungs out, and yet we fail to notice it. We’re looking through a telescope, searching the stars for the answer, when the answer is actually a speck of dirt on the telescope’s lens. –Jason Q.

However mean your life is, meet it and live it: do not shun it and call it hard names. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Things do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts. –Henry David Thoreau

Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is. –Mary Anne Hershey

These are the bad facts: Men have much easier lives than women. Men have the advantage. So do white people. So do rich people. So do beautiful people. These are the bad facts. You’re born, you take a look at yourself; if you’re a black woman instead of a white man your life is ten times harder. –Fran Lebowitz

Life does not cease to be funny when people die anymore than it ceases to be serious when people laugh. –George Bernard Shaw

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness, weakness. –Henry David Thoreau

Life is not so bad if you have plenty of luck, a good physique, and not too much imagination. –Christopher Isherwood

Life is one long process of getting tired. –Samuel Butler

Life is not a spectacle or a feast; it is a predicament. –George Santayana

Life is a predicament which precedes death. –Henry James

Human life is a flash of occasional enjoyments lighting up a mass of pain and misery … –Alfred North Whitehead

We are all serving a life sentence in the dungeon of life. –Cyril Connolly

Life is a constant oscillation between the sharp horns of a dilemma. –HL Mencken

Life is a dead-end street. –ditto

Life is like an onion: you peel off layer after layer and then you find there is nothing in it. –James Gibbons Huneker

Life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. –Woody Allen, in Annie Hall

That’s essentially how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly. –ditto

Life can little else supply
But a few good fucks and then we die.
–John Wilkes

Life is a Goddamned, stinking, treacherous game and nine hundred and ninety-nine men out of a thousand are bastards. –Theodore Dreiser

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. – Mahatma Gandhi

… begin to think multidimensionally, to glory in the mystery and paradoxes of life … to appreciate the fact that life is complex. –M. Scott Peck

The art of contentment is the recognition that the most satisfying and the most dependably refreshing experiences of life lie not in great things but in little. The rarity of happiness among those who achieved much is evidence that achievement is not in itself the assurance of a happy life. The great, like the humble, may have to find their satisfaction in the same plain things. –Edgar A. Collard

If you mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
This is the best season of your life.

There is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection. To round itself out, life calls not for perfection but for completeness. –(?)

Life is like a box of chocolates. It’s a cheap thoughtless perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable because all you ever get back is another box of chocolates, so you’re stuck with unidentifiable whipped mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there’s nothing left to eat. Sure, once in a while there’s a peanut butter cup or an English toffee, but they’re gone too fast and the taste is fleeting. So you end up with nothing but broken bits with hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts. If you’re desperate enough to eat that, all you have left is an empty box filled with useless brown paper wrappings. –(?)

The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives. –Albert Schweitzer

Life mocks me even in death. –Griffin Dunne, in An American Werewolf in London

Merely to exist is not enough. –Rabindranath Tagore

This business of living—it’s confusing, exhausting. –Ed Flanders, in St. Elsewhere

To live is to feel oneself lost. –Ortega Y. Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses

My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right? –Charles M. Schultz

Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact. –William James

What I look forward to is continued immaturity followed by death. –Dave Barry, on life

Is there life before death? –Belfast graffiti

I hate life, I hate death, and everything in between just doesn’t interest me. –Chris Rapier

Life is a terminal condition—whatever you do, you die eventually. –comment in Derdriu’s philosophy class [seen on Isca BBS]