"I hate quotation. Tell me what you know." Thus the American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson warns us against using quotation as a substitute for self-expression. Yet, centuries before him, the French writer Michel de Montaigne fully understood that many preceding writers had already said what he knew, and wrote "I do not speak the minds of others except to speak my own mind better."
"Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made." When the German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote this in the 1780s, he was being cautious about the Enlightenment idea that constitutions would straighten out tyrants and their governments. However, Kant's metaphor applies to any aspect of human life, because anything human beings accomplish will always exhibit human imperfection.
"All generalizations are false, including this one," said Mark Twain. Yes, he contradicts himself, and he does it on purpose. The paradox he created with this statement is a shining example of the contradiction inherent in any generalization, if only people cared to look deeply enough for it.
“To die for a religion is easier than to live it absolutely.” The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges spoke these words through one of his characters, pointing out the lifelong difficulty of adhering to any belief, religious or otherwise. Faced with a life of discipline and hardship, Borges warns us, it may be tempting to take the easy way out by sacrificing oneself for one's beliefs.