Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Society tends to label forgetting as something bad but a more wise view may be seeing it as a useful tool.

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Quotes (78)

“Just as a snake sheds its skin, we must shed our past over and over again.”

Buddha गौतम बुद्ध 563 – 483 BCE
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
Awakened Truth
from Dhammapada धम्मपद

Themes: Forget Memory

18. The Sick Society

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"

“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

Aeschylus Αἰσχύλος 525 – 455 BCE via Robert F. Kennedy
The Father of Tragedy

“They will say I have no sense of what befits my age but they will be wrong. It's a happy thing to forget one's age. The gods have drawn no distinction between young and old, which should dance and which should not.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE via Philip Gabriel, Shan Dao
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today
from Bacchae Βάκχαι

“when there is excellence of character, physical appearance is forgotten. When people do not forget what to forget, but forget what not to forget, this is really forgetting.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE via Thomas Cleary

Themes: Memory Forget

“Who is more fortunate, the man who loses his memory and forgets all his worries or the one who doesn’t forget and suffers his worries all the time?”

Lie Yukou 列圄寇/列禦寇/列子 1 via Zhang Zhan (370 CE) / Eva Wong / Shan Dao
(Liè Yǔkòu, Liezi)
from Liezi "True Classic of Simplicity and Perfect Emptiness”

Themes: Memory Forget

“The first to apologize is the bravest, the first to forgive is the strongest, the first to forget is the happiest.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

“No day shall erase you from the memory of time

Virgil 70 – 19 BCE
(Publius Vergilius Maro)
from Aeneid

Themes: Forget Memory

“I am like one of those old books that ends up moldering for lack of having been read. There's nothing to do but spin out the thread of memory and—from time to time—wipe away the dust building up there.”

Seneca ˈsɛnɪkə 4 BCE – 65 CE
(Lucius Annaeus)

Themes: Memory Forget

“if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE via Saint Mark
from New Testament Διαθήκη

Themes: Forget Punishment

“The memory of most men is an abandoned cemetery where lie, unsung and unhonored, the dead whom they have ceased to cherish. Any lasting grief is reproof to their neglect.”

Hadrian 76 – 180 CE

Themes: Memory Forget

“unless students can forget the teacher, their vision will be obscured.”

Xuanzong 武隆基 685 – 756 CE
(Hsuan-Tsung or Wu Longji)

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“Forgetfulness of self is remembrance of God.”

Abu Yazid al-Bisṭāmī بایزید بسطامی‎‎ 804 – 874 CE

“When you forget about merit, your position is fulfilled… transmitting is merit but having transmitted, is not your own merit.”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺 1091 – 1157 CE via Dan Leighton
from Cultivating the Emplty Field

Themes: Success Forget

“To study the Way is to study the Self. To study the Self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe. To be enlightened by all things of the universe is to cast off the body and mind of the self as well as those of others.”

Dōgen Zenji 道元禅師 1200 – 1253 CE

49. No Set Mind

“But O ye lovers, bathed in bliss always, recall the griefs gone by of other days… forgetting not that ye have felt yourselves Love’s power to displease, lest ye might win Love’s prize with too great ease.”

Geoffrey Chaucer 1343 – 1400 CE via George Philip Krapp
“Father of English literature”
from Troilus and Cressida

“Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it.”

Montaigne 1533 – 1592 CE
Grandfather of the Enlightenment

Themes: Memory Forget

“This verse explains how sages forget about words, embody the Tao, and change with the seasons.”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE

Themes: Forget

23. Nothing and Not

“Once we forget form, our self becomes empty. Once our self is empty, nothing can harm us. Once there is no self, there is no life. How then could there be any death?”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE

Themes: Forget Memory

50. Claws and Swords

“Remember to forget. The things we remember best are those better forgotten… Very often the only remedy for the trouble is to forget it, and all we forget is the remedy.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE

Themes: Forget Memory

79. No Demands

“Good-nature and good-sense must ever join;
To err is human, to forgive divine.”

Alexander Pope 1688 – 1744 CE
Second most quoted English writer
from In An Essay on Criticism, 1749

Themes: Forget

“You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one!”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE

“Every man has his dignity. I'm willing to forget mine, but at my own discretion and not when someone else tells me to.”

Diderot 1713 – 1784 CE

Themes: Integrity Forget

“I forget most of what I read, just as I do most of what I have eaten, but I know that both contribute no less to the conservation of my mind and my body on that account.”

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg 1742 – 1799 CE
One of history’s best aphorists

Themes: Forget Memory

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.”

William Wordsworth 1770 – 1850 CE

“Fish don't drown in water, snow lions don't freeze in snow... so forget your worries and future plans.”

Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol ཞབས་དཀར་ཚོགས་དྲུག་རང་གྲོལ། 1781 – 1851 CE via Shan Dao
from Journey to Enlightenment

Themes: Forget

72. Helpful Fear

“Life cannot go on without a great deal of forgetting.”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)

Themes: Forget Memory

“we are in danger of forgetting the language which all things and events speak without metaphor… No method nor discipline can supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

70. Inscrutable

“The happiest women—like the happiest nations—have no history.”

George Eliot 1819 – 1880 CE
(Mary Anne Evans)
Pioneering literary outsider

from The Mill on the Floss (1860)​

Themes: History Forget

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.”

George Eliot 1819 – 1880 CE
(Mary Anne Evans)
Pioneering literary outsider

Themes: Forget

“there is nothing higher or stronger and more wholesome and useful for life in after years than some good memory, especially a memory connected with childhood, with home... if we have only one good memory left in our hearts, even that may sometime be the means of saving us.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE via Constance Garnett
from Brothers Karamatzov

Themes: Memory Forget

“You meet people who forget you. You forget people you meet. But sometimes you meet those people you can't forget. Those are your 'friends.'”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author

35. The Power of Goodness

“To live is to remember and to remember is to live. To die is to forget and to forget is to die.”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Note-Books (1912)

Themes: Memory Forget

“In the practical use of our intellect, forgetting is as important as remembering.”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”
from Principles of Psychology, 1890

Themes: Memory Forget

“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”

Themes: Wisdom Forget

“A retentive memory may be a good thing, but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE

Themes: Memory Forget

79. No Demands

“Nothing can be brought to an end in the unconscious; nothing is past or forgotten.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE
from The Interpretation of Dreams (1900)

Themes: Memory Forget

“Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.”

Santayana, George 1863 – 1952 CE
(Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
Powerfully influential, true-to-himself philosopher/poet
from The Life of Reason

“Voluntary memory—the memory of the intellect and the eyes—[gives] us only imprecise facsimiles of the past which no more resemble it than pictures of bad painters resemble the spring... So we don't believe that life is beautiful because we don't recall it”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from In Search of Lost Time

Themes: Memory Forget

“We soon forget whatever we have not thought about deeply, whatever is inspired by imitation or the passions of the moment which change and thereby modify our memory... society people remember almost nothing.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE via Justin O'Brien
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from The Maxims of Marcel Proust

Themes: Forget

“Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE

Themes: Health Memory Forget

“All other memories of travels, people, and my surroundings have paled beside these interior happenings... Recollection of the outward events of my life has largely faded or disappeared... bouts with the unconscious are indelibly engraved upon my memory; everything else has lost importance”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Themes: Memory Travel Forget

“He is resolved to forget that the desperate clinging to the self, and the desperate clinging to life are the surest way to eternal death.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE
from Steppenwolf

Themes: Memory Karma Forget

“There is no possibility of remembering what has been found and understood… It disappears as a dream disappears. Perhaps it is all nothing but a dream.”

Ouspensky Пётр Демья́нович Успе́нский 1878 – 1947 CE
(Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii)

Themes: Dream Memory Forget

“The ability to forget the past enables people to free themselves gradually from the pain they once suffered; but it also often makes them repeat the mistakes of their predecessors.”

Lǔ Xùn 鲁迅 1881 – 1936 CE
(Zhou Shuren; Lusin)
Insightful satirist representing the "Literature of Revolt"

from Epigrams of Lusin

Themes: Forget Memory

“It takes a minute to have a crush on someone, an hour to like someone, and a day to love someone... but it takes a lifetime to forget someone.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

Themes: Forget Memory

20. Unconventional Mind
79. No Demands

“More than wine or love, more underhandedly than ideas, art is able to entice man and make him forget. Art takes the place of duty; it fights to convert the ephemeral into the eternal and to transubstantiate man's suffering into beauty... Art makes us scorn the petty everyday concern for food, and even for justice; we forget that this is the root which nourishes the immortal flower.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE via P. A. Bien
from Report to Greco

Themes: Memory Forget

“regret is the beclouding of the mind”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

Themes: Forget

“Forget mistakes. Forget failure. Forget everything except what you're going to do now and do it.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE

13. Honor and Disgrace

“New material no longer seems to find room, and recent impressions fade as rapidly as a politician's promises, or the public's memory of them... The ability to learn decreases with each decade of our lives, as if the association fibers of the brain were accumulated and overlaid in inflexible patterns.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Fallen Leaves

Themes: Memory Forget

“We die to each other daily. What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them. And they have changed since then. To pretend that they and we are the same is a useful and convenient social convention which must sometimes be broken. We must also remember that at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.”

T. S. Eliot 1888 – 1965 CE
from The Cocktail Party

Themes: Memory Forget

“You forget to pay attention to what's happening. And that's the same as not being here and now.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Island

“Children understand… All grown-ups were once children but only few of them remember it… I have lived a great deal among grown-ups. I have seen them intimately, close at hand. And that hasn’t much improved my opinion of them… Only the children know what they are looking for.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 1900 – 1944 CE

Themes: Simplicity Forget

76. The Soft and Flexible

“The reason a writer writes a book is to forget and the reason a reader reads one is to remember.”

Thomas Wolfe 1900 – 1938 CE
(Thomas Clayton Wolfe)
Father of autobiographical fiction

“When we forget ourselves, we are the true activity of reality itself and there is no problem whatsoever in this world.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE
from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Themes: Memory Forget

“We should forget, day by day, what we have done; this is true non-attachment. And we should do something new.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE
from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Themes: Forget

“Politically, the weakness of the argument has always been that those who choose the lesser evil forget very quickly that they chose evil.”

Hannah Arendt 1906 – 1975 CE
Fearless researcher into the darker reaches of the human psyche

Themes: Forget

“Most people, when they reach a certain age, let down and talk about what they used to do. Well, who gives a damn about what you used to do? It's what you're doing now.”

Jack LaLanne 1914 – 2011 CE

Themes: Memory Forget

“don't hate me because I can't remember some person immediately. Especially when they look like everybody else, and talk and dress and act like everybody else.”

J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010 CE via Franny
from Franny and Zooey

Themes: Memory Forget

“There are three side effects of LSD: enhanced long-term memory, decreased short-term memory, and I forget the third.”

Timothy Leary 1920 – 1996 CE
Pioneering psychonaut, performing philosopher, and counter-cultural hero

Themes: Memory Forget

“a good student is careful not to forget what he studied until after the test is taken”

John Holt 1923 – 1985 CE
from Teach Your Own

Themes: Forget

3. Weak Wishes, Strong Bones

“To gain your own voice you have to forget about having it heard.”

Allen Ginsberg 1926 – 1997 CE

Themes: Forget Memory

44. Fame and Fortune

“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”

Gabriel García Márquez 1927 – 2014 CE
(Gabo, Gabito)
The greatest Colombian

Themes: Memory Forget

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou 1928 – 2014 CE

“At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don't need someone to share it with or tell it to.”

Toni Morrison 1931 – 2019 CE
(Chloe Ardelia Wofford)
Story-telling voice of American wisdom
from Tar Baby (1981)​​

“Immortality is the state of forgetting that we have forgotten... serious and in no way playful... a state of unrelieved theatricality... the supreme example of the contradictoriness of finite play. It is a life one cannot live.”

James P. Carse 1932 – 2020 CE
Thought-proving, influential, deep thinker
from Finite and Infinite Games

“How can I begin anything new with all of yesterday in me?”

Leonard Cohen 1934 – 2016 CE
from Beautiful Losers

Themes: Forget Memory

“Sometimes I wish I could forget more things. I have to make a conscious effort to free my mind, open it again, because memory can be tremendously rapacious.”

Jim Harrison 1937 – 2016 CE
"untrammeled renegade genius”
from Paris Review, 1988​

Themes: Memory Forget

“If you have a knot in your past that stops the flow of your life, it’s a psychic impediment. Your memories enlarge in ways proportionally to how willing you are to allow them to enlarge.”

Jim Harrison 1937 – 2016 CE
"untrammeled renegade genius”
from Paris Review, 1988​​

Themes: Memory Forget

“Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you. Forget the dead you've left, they will not follow you... Strike another match, go start anew.”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –
from Bringing it all Back Home

Themes: Creativity Forget

“Forget your troubles and dance! Forget your sorrows and dance! Forget your sickness and dance! Forget your weakness and dance!”

Bob Marley 1945 – 1981 CE

Themes: Suffering Forget

“The ones who did it always rationalize their actions and even forget what they did… But the surviving victims can never forget… That’s what the world is, after all: an endless battle of contrasting memories.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel
from 1Q84

Themes: Memory Forget

53. Shameless Thieves

“People can forget what they should remember, and remember what by all rights and purposes they should forget. Especially when death approaches.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE –
from Killing Commendatore

Themes: Forget

“Memories and thoughts age, just as people do. But certain thoughts can never age, and certain memories can never fade”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Jay Rubin
from Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Themes: Memory Forget

“...forgetting is vastly underrated as a mental operation.”

Michael Pollan 1955 CE –
Champion for Sustainable Agriculture

Themes: Forget

“The most attractive are not those who allow us to kiss them at once [we soon feel ungrateful] or those who never allow us to kiss them [we soon forget them], but those who coyly lead us between the two extremes.”

Alain de Botton 1969 CE –
Philosophic link between ancient wisdom and modern challenge
from On Love

Themes: Middle Way Forget

“Reality erases itself as it re-records... Time is the Great Forgetter”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Utopia Avenue

Themes: Forget

“Stop thinking about that shit. Some thoughts are poison. You can think them, but only when you've got the strength—or therapy... 'Til then? Right now? Close it off. Focus on right here and now.”

N. K. Jemisin 1972 CE –
from The City We Became (2020)

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