Human Life Quotes (31 quotes)
Almost daily we shudder as prophets of doom announce the impending end of civilization and universe. We are being asphyxiated, they say, by the smoke of the industry; we are suffocating in the ever growing mountain of rubbish. Every new project depicts its measureable effects and is denounced by protesters screaming about catastrophe, the upsetting of the land, the assault on nature. If we accepted this new mythology we would have to stop pushing roads through the forest, harnessing rivers to produce the electricity, breaking grounds to extract metals, enriching the soil with chemicals, killing insects, combating viruses … But progress—basically, an effort to organise a corner of land and make it more favourable for human life—cannot be baited. Without the science of pomiculture, for example, trees will bear fruits that are small, bitter, hard, indigestible, and sour. Progress is desirable.
As an adolescent I aspired to lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life—so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls.
But, as we consider the totality of similarly broad and fundamental aspects of life, we cannot defend division by two as a natural principle of objective order. Indeed, the ‘stuff’ of the universe often strikes our senses as complex and shaded continua, admittedly with faster and slower moments, and bigger and smaller steps, along the way. Nature does not dictate dualities, trinities, quarterings, or any ‘objective’ basis for human taxonomies; most of our chosen schemes, and our designated numbers of categories, record human choices from a cornucopia of possibilities offered by natural variation from place to place, and permitted by the flexibility of our mental capacities. How many seasons (if we wish to divide by seasons at all) does a year contain? How many stages shall we recognize in a human life?
Concerning the gods, I have no means of knowing either that they exist or that they do not exist, nor what sort of form they may have; there are many reasons why knowledge on this subject is not possible, owing to the lack of evidence and the shortness of human life.
Darwin grasped the philosophical bleakness with his characteristic courage. He argued that hope and morality cannot, and should not, be passively read in the construction of nature. Aesthetic and moral truths, as human concepts, must be shaped in human terms, not ‘discovered’ in nature. We must formulate these answers for ourselves and then approach nature as a partner who can answer other kinds of questions for us–questions about the factual state of the universe, not about the meaning of human life. If we grant nature the independence of her own domain–her answers unframed in human terms–then we can grasp her exquisite beauty in a free and humble way. For then we become liberated to approach nature without the burden of an inappropriate and impossible quest for moral messages to assuage our hopes and fears. We can pay our proper respect to nature’s independence and read her own ways as beauty or inspiration in our different terms.
Each human life is unique, born of a miracle that reaches beyond laboratory science.
He who appropriates land to himself by his labor, does not lessen but increases the common stock of mankind. For the provisions serving to the support of human life, produced by one acre of inclosed and cultivated land, are … ten times more than those which are yielded by an acre of land, of an equal richness lying waste in common. And therefore he that incloses land and has a greater plenty of the conveniences of life from ten acres than he could have from a hundred left to nature, may truly be said to give ninety acres to mankind.
Human life is proverbially uncertain; few things are more certain than the solvency of a life-insurance company.
I ask myself whether the huge national commitment of technical talent to human spaceflight and the ever-present potential for the loss of precious human life are really justifiable.
I never pick up an item without thinking of how I might improve it. I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others. I want to save and advance human life, not destroy it. I am proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill. The dove is my emblem.
I now think the answer is very simple: it’s true. God did create the universe about 13.7 billion years ago, and of necessity has involved Himself with His creation ever since. The purpose of this universe is something that only God knows for sure, but it is increasingly clear to modern science that the universe was exquisitely fine-tuned to enable human life.
I suspect that the changes that have taken place during the last century in the average man's fundamental beliefs, in his philosophy, in his concept of religion. in his whole world outlook, are greater than the changes that occurred during the preceding four thousand years all put together. ... because of science and its applications to human life, for these have bloomed in my time as no one in history had had ever dreamed could be possible.
Into every tidy scheme for arranging the pattern of human life, it is necessary to inject a certain dose of anarchism.
It is almost irresistible for humans to believe that we have some special relation to the universe, that human life is not just a more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents reaching back to the first three minutes, but that we were somehow built in from the beginning.
One of the gladdest moments of human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of habit, the leaden weight of routine, the cloak of many cares and the slavery of home, man feel once more happy.
One summer night, out on a flat headland, all but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space. Millions of stars blazed in darkness, and on the far shore a few lights burned in cottages. Otherwise there was no reminder of human life. My companion and I were alone with the stars: the misty river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky, the patterns of the constellations standing out bright and clear, a blazing planet low on the horizon. It occurred to me that if this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century, this little headland would be thronged with spectators. But it can be seen many scores of nights in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they never will.
Phenomena unfold on their own appropriate scales of space and time and may be invisible in our myopic world of dimensions assessed by comparison with human height and times metered by human lifespans. So much of accumulating importance at earthly scales ... is invisible by the measuring rod of a human life. So much that matters to particles in the microscopic world of molecules ... either averages out to stability at our scale or simply stands below our limits of perception.
The exterior appearance of human life is but the material embodiment, the substantial expression, of thought—the hieroglyphic writing of the soul.
The fact that astronomies change while the stars abide is a true analogy of every realm of human life and thought, religion not least of all.
The fact that human life can be prolonged with fewer physical problems requires that we give increasing attention to improving the quality of life. As the poet Edwin Markham stated: “We are all fools until we know that in the common plan, nothing is worth the building if it does not build the man; why build these temples glorious, if man unbuilded goes?”
The game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it so as to become habits ready on all occasions.
The inexperienced and presumptuous band of medical tyros let loose upon the world destroys more of human life in one year than all the Robin Hoods, Cartouches, and Macheaths do in a century.
The pursuit of knowledge is but a course between two ignorances, as human life is itself only a wayfaring from grave to grave.
The really important questions in human life are hardly touched upon by psychologists. Do liars come to believe their own lies? Is pleasure the same as happiness? Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved, or not to be able to love?
The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the State but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling.
Then followed months of intense thought in order to find out what the bewildering chaos of scattered observations meant until one day all of a sudden the whole became as clear and comprehensible as if it were illuminated with a flash of light … There are not many joys in human life equal to the joy of the sudden birth of a generalisation illuminating the mind after a long period of patient research.”
There is no “pure” science itself divorced from human values. The importance of science to the humanities and the humanities to science in their complementary contribution to the variety of human life grows daily. The need for men familiar with both is imperative.
Two contrary laws seem to be wrestling with each other nowadays: the one, a law of blood and of death, ever imagining new means of destruction and forcing nations to be constantly ready for the battlefield—the other, a law of peace, work and health, ever evolving new means for delivering man from he scourges which beset him. The one seeks violent conquests, the other the relief of humanity. The latter places one human life above any victory: while the former would sacrifice hundreds and thousands of lives to the ambition of one.
What is the meaning of human life, or for that matter, of the life of any creature? To know an answer to this question means to be religious. Does it make any sense, then, to pose this question? I answer: The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life.
What is the meaning of human life, or of organic life altogether? To answer this question at all implies a religion. Is there any sense then, you ask, in putting it? I answer, the man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.
When we have to do with an art whose end is the saving of human life, any neglect to make ourselves thorough masters of it becomes a crime.