“Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.”
"We stand, as it were, on the shore, and see multitudes of our fellow beings struggling in the water, stretching forth their arms, sinking, drowning, and we are powerless to assist them."
"The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven."
"All the arguments to prove man's superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: in suffering the animals are our equals"
“It is not true that suffering ennobles the character; happiness does that sometimes, but suffering, for the most part, makes men petty and vindictive”
William Somerset Maugham
“Suffering is permanent, obscure and dark, And shares the nature of infinity”
“Life is suffering.”
Gautama Siddharta [Buddha]
"There is no point in being overwhelmed by the appalling total of human sufferring;
such a total does not exist. Neither poverty nor pain is accumulable."
Jorge Luis Borges
"The worst part a man can suffer is to have insight into much and power over nothing."
“If you are able to explain suffering, a man once told him, you weren't really there.”
"Reason may cure illusions, but not suffering."
Alfred de Musset
"We have all sufficient strength to endure the misfortunes of others"
François de la Rochefoucauld
"I cannot stand being awake, the pain is too much."
"When there is pain, there are no words. All pain is the same."
"Depend upon it that if a man talks of his misfortunes there is something in them that is not disagreeable to him."
Doctor Samuel Johnson
“No sorrow is deeper than the remembrance of happiness when in misery.”
"Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels."
“Most successes are unhappy. That's why they are successes - they have to reassure themselves about themselves by achieving something that the world will notice.”
"...when we finally know we are dying, and all other sentient beings are dying with us, we start to have a burning, almost heartbreaking sense of the fragility and preciousness of each moment and each being, and from this can grow a deep, clear, limitless compassion for all beings."
"The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain."
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind."
Henry David Thoreau
“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.”
"I cannot believe that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering; surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy!"
"One of the really exciting prospects for genetic engineering, morally speaking, is its potential to reduce the capacity for pain. If, for example, it becomes possible to produce people and animals without reduced painience then this should be welcomed. What a revolution this will be! Ultimately there is the prospect of a painless future! Of course, there will be dangers. The trick will be to produce individuals who are largely analgesic but who are of no danger to themselves or others. So they will have to learn how to avoid being harmed even if they can feel no (severe) pain. They will, one hopes, still be able to feel joy and compassion and to show a moral concern for others. This will be a great challenge for science and for those ethical and democratic structures that control science."
"If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"Pain hardens, and great pain hardens greatly, whatever the comforters say, and suffering does not ennoble, though it may occasionally lend a certain rigid dignity of manner to the suffering frame."
Antonia S. Byatt
"Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering - and it's all over much too soon.”
"Three passions simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life; the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.”
"One does not love a place the less for having suffered
in it unless it has all been suffering, nothing but suffering."
"We are never so defensless against suffering as when we love."
"Mysteriously and in ways that are totally remote from natural experience, the gray drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain.”
“Time heals griefs and quarrels, for we change and are no longer the same persons.”
"All violence is the result of people tricking themselves into believing that their pain
derives from other people and that consequently those people deserve to be punished."
"The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain."
"Often it is just lack of imagination that keeps a man from suffering very much."
"Suffering by nature or chance never seems so painful as suffering inflicted on us by the arbitrary will of another."
“Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?”
"In the central cases of physical pain, then, it appears that at least part of what is bad about our condition is the way it makes us feel. Here there seem to be no problems with a purely mental state account, no counterpart to the experience machine that could bring us to think that we are being deceived by mere appearances. [...] If I am suffering physical pain then I can be quite wrong about the organic cause of my affliction, or even about whether it has one, without that error diminishing in the slightest either the reality of my pain or its impact on the quality of my life."
(Welfare, Happiness, and Ethics, p. 100)
"But mortal bliss will never come sincere; Pleasure may lead, but grief blow brings up the rear"
Anon. (Greek proverb)
"There is only one cause of unhappiness: the false beliefs you have in your head, beliefs so widespread, so commonly held, that it never occurs to you to question them.”
Anthony de Mello
"Whoever is spared personal pain must feel himself called to help in diminishing the pain of others. We must all carry our share of the misery which lies upon the world.”
"The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves."
"We are threatened with suffering from three directions: from our own body, which is doomed to decay and dissolution and which cannot even do without pain and anxiety as warning signals; from the external world, which may rage against us with overwhelming and merciless forces of destruction; and finally from our relations to other men. The suffering which comes from this last source is perhaps more painful than any other."
"There is not much sense in suffering, since drugs can be given for pain, itching, and other discomforts. The belief has long died that suffering here on earth will be rewarded in heaven. Suffering has lost its meaning."
"Happiness and misery depend not on how high up or low down you are - they depend not upon these, but on the direction in which you are tending”
"My own experience and development deepen everyday my conviction that our moral progress may be measured by the degree in which we sympathize with individual suffering and individual joy"
“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.”
William S. Burroughs
"Man can only endure a certain degree of unhappiness; what is beyond that either annihilates him or passes by him and leaves him apathetic”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
"All that a pacifist can undertake - but it is a very great deal - is to refuse to kill, injure or otherwise cause suffering to another human creature."
"The hysterical find too much significance in things. The depressed find too little."
"The smallest pain in our little finger gives us more concern than the destruction of millions of our fellow beings."
"Those who do not feel pain seldom think that it is felt."
Dr Samuel Johnson
"In separateness lies the world's great misery, in compassion lies the world's true strength.”
Gautama Siddharta [Buddha]
"People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar."
Thich Nhat Hanh
“Despair is the damp of hell, as joy is the serenity of heaven”
"One must really have suffered oneself to help others."
"True happiness is exotic; its birthplace is in heaven; unhappiness is of native growth."
"Ah, to think how thin the veil that lies
Between the pain of hell and Paradise."
George William Russell
(used pseudonym "AE")
"It is a glorious thing to be indifferent to suffering, but only to one's own suffering."
"What really raises one's indignation against suffering is not suffering intrinsically, but the senselessness of suffering."
"Suffering is by no means a privilege, a sign of nobility, a reminder of God. Suffering is a fierce, bestial thing, commonplace, uncalled for, natural as air. It is intangible; no one can grasp it or fight against it; it dwells in time -- is the same thing as time; if it comes in fits and starts, that is only so as to leave the sufferer more defenseless during the moments that follow, those long moments when one relives the last bout of torture and waits for the next."
"Narcotics cannot still the tooth
That Nibbles at the soul”
"I think most artists create out of despair. The very nature of creation is not a performing glory on the outside, it's a painful, difficult search within."
"Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise."
"It is true that ‘I seem to see a table’ does not entail ‘I see a table’; but ‘I seem to feel a pain’ does entail ‘I feel a pain’. So scepticism loses its force - cannot open up its characteristic gap - with regard to that which ultimately most concerns us, pleasure and pain."
"Don't look forward to the day you stop suffering, because when it comes you'll know you're dead."
"Nothing begins, and nothing ends, That is not paid with moan; For we are born in others pain And perish in our own."
"When we are flat on our backs there is no way to look but up."
Roger W. Babson
“We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell."
"Hell is oneself; Hell is alone, the other figures in it merely projections. There is nothing to escape from and nothing to escape to. One is always alone."
T. S. Eliot
"Is there no pity sitting in the clouds, That sees into the bottom of my grief?"
"Our sympathy is cold to the relation of distant misery."
"When men are unhappy, they do not imagine they can ever cease to be so; and when some calamity has fallen on them, they do not see how they can get rid of it. Nevertheless, both arrive; and the gods have ordered it so, in the end men seek it from the gods"
"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places."
"The least pain in our little finger gives us more concern and uneasiness than the destruction of millions of our fellow-beings."
"A moment of Time may make us unhappy for ever."
"Familiarity with evil breeds not contempt but acceptance."
"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."
"If suffer we must, let's suffer on the heights."
"There is no wisdonm to be found in useless and hopeless sorrow."
“The evil men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones.”
“In depression . . . faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come -- not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. . . . It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul.”
"Of all misfortune, the worst kind of fate is to have been happy."
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
"For frequent tears have run;
The colours from my life."
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
“No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.”
"Is there another Life? Shall I awake and find all this a dream? There must be we cannot be created for this sort of suffering."
"I have suffered too much in this world not to hope for another."
Darwin and Slavery
The End of Suffering
Quotations on Utopia
Quotations about Paradise
Quotations about Happiness
Better Never To Have Been?
The End of Suffering (2022, pdf)
Abolitionism: a definition of terms
The Abolitionist Project (podcast; 15.3MB)