Quotes on the Human Condition

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Quotes on the Human Condition

THC Editorial Team May 3, 2022
Peonies, ca. 1910, Wilton Lockwood, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (article on the human condition quotes)
Peonies, ca. 1910, Wilton Lockwood, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Contents

Our human experience, with all of its challenges and glories, has been described throughout history by artists, scholars, and the like. The following collection of quotes on the human condition offers a window to the essence of this experience.

Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the superman – a rope over an abyss.

— Friedrich Nietzche
Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Human actions can never… be accounted for by reason, but recommend themselves entirely to the sentiments.

— David Hume
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Psychological and spiritual work—both necessary for full human realization—are meant to proceed both separately and simultaneously as life unfolds.

— David Richo
How to Be an Adult: A Handbook on Psychological and Spiritual Integration

If we don’t face the consequences of unconscious motivation—through a practice or discipline that opens us to the unconscious—then that motivation will secretly influence our decisions all through our lives.

— Thomas Keating
The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation

The unconscious needs to be respected and approached with prudence.

— Thomas Keating
The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation

The contemplative journey, because it involves the purification of the unconscious, is not a magic carpet to bliss. It is an exercise of letting go of the false self, a humbling process, because it is the only self we know.

— Thomas Keating
The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation

God approaches us from many different perspectives: illness, misfortune, bankruptcy, divorce proceedings, rejection, inner trials. God has not promised to take away our trials, but to help us to change our attitudes toward them. That is what holiness really is. In this life, happiness is rooted in our basic attitude toward reality.

— Thomas Keating
The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation

Sometimes a sense of failure is a great means to true humility, which is what God most looks for in us.

— Thomas Keating
The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation

If psychologists and psychiatrists would be in dialogue with the insights of St. John of the Cross and those who experience the dark nights, there could be a marvelous symbiosis of treatment. We are not sick just because of some physiological pathology. It is not just a question of sin either; it is a question of the human condition, for which none of us is initially responsible but, on becoming adults, we are now called to be responsible.

— Thomas Keating
The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation

If we are talking about the health of a human being, we are not just talking about the body or even the emotions; we are talking about the whole range of human potential, including spiritual health. These all have to be treated at once if we want to get well. This is what contemplative prayer does. But it doesn’t act alone. Its fruits need to be worked into daily life.

— Thomas Keating
The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation

Daily life, if one is alert to the dynamics of the unconscious, brings us to new levels of realization not only about where we are but who we are.

— Thomas Keating
The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation

It is not feelings that are the problem, but what we do with them that matters. The freedom to deal with them and to confront them with reason and faith is what makes us fully human.

— Thomas Keating
The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation

The human being is not something to be overcome, but undergone.

— Simon Critchley
Dominique Janicaud - On the Human Condition

A humanity that stopped wondering about itself would cease to be free.

— Dominique Janicaud
As cited in Dominique Janicaud - On the Human Condition

Man must learn again to go out from himself, to understand himself from Being, and no longer solely from his own subjectivity.

— Simon Critchley
Dominique Janicaud - On the Human Condition

The human condition is defined by the feelings and emotions associated with our existence, our “conscious” experience of past and future, cognizance of the passage of time, and our vexed awareness of our mortality.

— Robert Bednarik
The Human Condition

The human condition… has led to a plethora of metaphysical questions and doubts, concerning the purpose of our existence, or that of the universe, to what happens to us upon death.

— Robert Bednarik
The Human Condition

…there is luck only from the limited and fallible human point of view.

— John Kekes
The Human Condition

… such is the disorder and confusion in human affairs, that no perfect or regular distribution of happiness and misery is ever, in this life, to be expected.

— David Hume
As cited in The Human Condition by John Kekes

We must accept life for what it actually is—a challenge to our quality without which we should never know of what stuff we are made, or grow to our full stature.

— Ida Wylie
As cited in The Big Book of ACT Metaphors

…the social nature of the human being as the source of our uniquely creative intellectual capacities as well as our capacity for anxiety.

— Rollo May
The Meaning of Anxiety

In… anxiety, what is felt to be wrong may be simply some aspect of human destiny which every person must accept as part of the human condition.

— Rollo May
The Meaning of Anxiety

The constructive way of dealing with anxiety… consists of learning to live with it, accepting it as a “teacher,” to borrow Kierkegaard’s phrase, to school us in confronting our human destiny.

— Rollo May
The Meaning of Anxiety

The yearning to give form to life arises out of our human anxiety about our own death.

— Rollo May
The Meaning of Anxiety

To be human is to remember that this being human is an experiment without a goal or destination, but with a plan that includes learning about love at its center.

— Sheryl Paul
The Wisdom of Anxiety

To be human is to grow toward an acceptance of paradox and widen our capacity to tolerate uncertainty until we say “I don’t know” more often than “I know.”

— Sheryl Paul
The Wisdom of Anxiety

To be human is to struggle… But when we accept the fact that anxiety, depression, loneliness, powerlessness, grief, joy, and exhilaration are all part of the design, we step out into the rain and perhaps even dance a little.

— Sheryl Paul
The Wisdom of Anxiety

To be human is to experience times of ease and flow alternating with times of struggle. When we identify too closely with the struggle, we fall into despair. When we attach too deeply into ease, we slip into hubris. Just as a raft navigates the still waters and the rapids, so we float and fight along this river of life.

— Sheryl Paul
The Wisdom of Anxiety

To be human is to have hidden caverns inside the labyrinth of psyche, shadowlands that you cannot see or know until you’re cracked open. From the fissure, the light floods in and illuminates the shadow, causing what lives below to fly up into consciousness.

— Sheryl Paul
The Wisdom of Anxiety

To be human is to have blind spots. No matter how much we delve into the interior realms, there will always be places we cannot see ourselves. This is why the most honest and courageous question we can ask a trusted loved one is, “What am I not seeing?” And when the blind spots are illuminated, we sing a song of gratitude that another veil of illusion and mis-seeing has been lifted.

— Sheryl Paul
The Wisdom of Anxiety

To be human is to age. The fine lines in your thirties will deepen to creases in your forties and fifties and beyond. Because we live in a culture that tries to erase the lines, we’re forgetting that our lines tell the stories of our lives: “Look, that’s when I laughed so hard, I cried. Look, that’s when I cried so hard, I crumpled into silence.” And where are the silver-haired women? They’re being dyed out of the culture, so fierce is our fight against time. What we don’t often see is that with aging comes wisdom, with time comes acceptance, and with the shortening of days comes the lengthening of gratitude.

— Sheryl Paul
The Wisdom of Anxiety

To be human is to love and be loved as best we can, and to remove the barriers that prevent us from loving fully and freely so that we can bring our love into the world that so desperately needs us.

— Sheryl Paul
The Wisdom of Anxiety

To be human is to know that we are imperfect and whole: we will hurt and be hurt; we will feel disappointed and will disappoint; we will stumble and fall and get back up again.

— Sheryl Paul
The Wisdom of Anxiety

Life can be a lonely journey. In fact, loneliness is part of the human experience, for it’s an undeniable fact that nobody, no matter how close they may come to our hearts, is living inside of our bodies and seeing life through our lens.

— Sheryl Paul
The Wisdom of Anxiety

One of the great challenges of parenting is that we inevitably pass on our unhealed places to our kids, and we all have unhealed places, because we’re all human.

— Sheryl Paul
The Wisdom of Anxiety

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.

— C. G. Jung
Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Transformation is a study of the evolution of consciousness through its three main levels of development… Tradition indicates that three levels of consciousness are available to us: simple consciousness, not often seen in our modern technological world; complex consciousness, the usual state of educated Western man; and an enlightened state of consciousness, known only to a very few individuals, which is the culmination of human evolution and can be attained only by highly motivated people after much work and training.

— Robert A. Johnson
Transformation: Understanding the Three Levels of Masculine Consciousness

Amongst all of the existential angst of modern life there is a blossoming of spirit arising within the collective psyche of humanity.

— Adyashanti
The Deep Heart: Our Portal to Presence

To navigate the spirit of the modern psyche is no small matter. We need guides who at once have their feet firmly rooted in the ground and wisdom of our spiritual ancestors, while also embodying a deep understanding of the modern human condition. For the call of spirit today is to both awaken to our true spiritual identity and to embody that awakened consciousness in our humanity and daily lives.

— Adyashanti
The Deep Heart: Our Portal to Presence

Discovering the heart of who we really are is the essential human quest.

— John J. Prendergast
The Deep Heart: Our Portal to Presence

The heart area is central to human experience. It is where we feel most affected and touched, both emotionally and spiritually. Our sense of meaning springs from the heart, as does our sense of oneness or communion with the whole of life.

— John J. Prendergast
The Deep Heart: Our Portal to Presence

The psychologist Rollo May wrote, “One does not become fully human painlessly.” It is through inhabiting, often painfully, our emotions that we are able to become fully human.

— Joanne Cacciatore
Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief

Seeking only the “good” emotions and avoiding the “bad” emotions is problematic… Cutting ourselves off from any genuine feeling in order to pursue or manufacture another feeling denies our humanity. When we reclaim what belongs to us… then we need no longer feel acrimony toward it, and we need no longer expend our valuable energy trying to be rid of that which we wish were not ours. We can let it be.

— Joanne Cacciatore
Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief

While traditional spiritual cultures of the East have specialized in illuminating the… “heaven” side of human nature — Western psychology has focused on the earthly half… We need a new vision that embraces all…. domains of human existence….

— John Welwood
Toward a Psychology of Awakening

That the silent presence of your death Would call your life to attention, Wake you up to how scarce your time is And to the urgency to become free And equal to the call of your destiny.

— John O’Donohue
To Bless the Space Between Us

To truly encounter the human condition means to experience great happiness, but it also means to touch immeasurable pain, the power of fear, the sorrow of loneliness, the angst of death, and all else that comes from the depths of experience related to the tenderness of the “heart.”

— Robyn D. Walser
Mindfulness, Acceptance, and Positive Psychology

When we truly see the human condition, we come to know that we are not really alone…. we understand, in a place that is beyond words, that pain and fear are shared.

— Robyn D. Walser
Mindfulness, Acceptance, and Positive Psychology

Your sense of inner peace depends on spending some of your life energy in silence to recharge your battery, remove tension and anxiety, reacquaint you with the joy of knowing God, and feel closer to all of humanity.

— Dr. Wayne Dyer
You Are What You Think

Whenever animals in the forest are wounded, they rest. They look for a very quiet place and just stay there without moving for many days. They know it’s the best way for their body to heal. During this time they may not even eat or drink. The wisdom of stopping and healing is still alive in animals, but we human beings have lost the capacity to rest.

— Thich Nhat Hanh
How to Relax

Compassion is a response to suffering, the inevitable adversity all human beings will meet in their lives, whether it is the pain embedded in the fabric of ageing, sickness and death or the psychological and emotional afflictions that debilitate the mind. Compassion is the acknowledgment that not all pain can be ‘fixed’ or ‘solved’ but all suffering is made more approachable in a landscape of compassion.

— Christina Feldman and Willem Kuyken
Compassion in the Landscape of Suffering

It is a strange quirk of the human condition that the living tend to take life for granted.

— Jeremy David Engels
The Art of Gratitude

The practice of gratitude saves us from our painful human storyline, for it requires us to look deeper into our lives and the people around us.

— Dr. Wayne Dyer
Gratitude: A Way of Life

Our troubles arise from the fact that we do not know what we are and cannot agree on what we want to be. The primary cause of this intellectual failure is ignorance of our origins. We did not arrive on this planet as aliens. Humanity is part of nature, a species that evolved among other species. The more closely we identify ourselves with the rest of life, the more quickly we will be able to discover the sources of human sensibility and acquire the knowledge on which an enduring ethic, a sense of preferred direction, can be built.

— Edward O. Wilson
As cited in The Origins and Nature of Compassion Focused Therapy

… humans have great potentials for being helpful but also for being very destructive to ourselves and others.

— Paul Gilbert
As cited in The Origins and Nature of Compassion Focused Therapy

There is nothing wrong with anxiety. Although we cannot control God’s time, it is part of the human condition to want to receive the thing we are waiting for as quickly as possible.

— Paulo Coelho
Manuscript Found in Accra

One who can practice five things wherever he may be is a man of humanity…earnestness, liberality, truthfulness, diligence, and generosity.

— Confucius
The Analects

Man’s inhumanity to man Makes countless thousands mourn!

— Robert Burns
Man was Made to Mourn

Human life begins on the far side of despair.

— Jean-Paul Sartre
The Flies, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature…and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions?

— Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Brothers Karamazov

The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

— Alexander Solzhenitsyn
The Gulag Archipelago

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

— Alexander Pope
An Essay on Criticism, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

Providence has given human wisdom the choice between two fates: either hope and agitation, or hopelessness and calm.

— Yevgeny Baratynsky
Two Fates, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

Subdue your appetites my dears, and you’ve conquered human nature.

— Charles Dickens
Nicholas Nickleby

Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.

— Aldous Huxley
Themes and Variations, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

It is part of human nature to hate the man you have hurt.

— Tacitus
Agricola

Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake; he wanted it only because it was forbidden.

— Mark Twain
Pudd'nhead Wilson, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

By nature men are alike. Through practice they have become far apart.

— Confucius
The Analects

If we find the answer to that [why it is that we and the universe exist], it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we would know the mind of God.

— Stephen Hawking
A Brief History of Time

The crown of life is neither happiness nor annihilation; it is understanding.

— Winifred Holtby
Testament of Friendship, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.

— G. K. Chesterton
The Innocence of Father Brown, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

What we do see depends mainly on what we look for.

— John Lubbock
The Beauties of Nature, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Le Petit Prince

The only true voyage of discovery…would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes.

— Marcel Proust
La Prisonnière, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

He—in whose nature, is the ugly disposition

Sees not the peacock,—only his ugly foot.

— Saadi
The Bustan, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

Life continues…it goes on. In these three words I can sum up everything I have learned in my 80 years about life, it goes on.

— Attributed to Robert Frost

All that matters is love and work.

— Attributed to Sigmund Freud

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.

— Jacobus Johannes van der Leeuw
The Conquest of Illusion, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

Human subtlety…will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does Nature, because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.

— Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci's Notebooks, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

All human wisdom is contained in these two words, Wait and Hope.

— Alexandre Dumas
The Count of Monte Cristo, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

The strongest of all warriors are these two—time and patience.

— Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace

Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.

— Henry James
Henry James: A Life, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

Human diversity makes tolerance more than a virtue, it makes it a requirement for survival.

— René Dubos
Celebrations of Life, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.

— Helen Keller
Optimism: an essay, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever.

— Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Critical Issues in the History of Spaceflight, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

The whole human way of life has been destroyed and ruined. All that’s left is the bare, shivering human soul, stripped to the last shred, the naked force of the human psyche for which nothing has changed because it was always cold and shivering and reaching out to its nearest neighbour, as cold and lonely as itself.

— Boris Pasternak
Doctor Zhivago, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

Only connect!…Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height.

— E. M. Forster
Howards End, as cited in Oxford Essential Quotations

You will realize what that means for a man who thinks he is the only one who suffers from his particular ailment and feels responsible for it. When he hears that it is a general problem, he is comforted, at once it puts him back into the lap of humanity; he knows that many people are having the same experience, and he can talk to them and is not isolated. Before, he didn’t dare speak about it; now he knows that everyone understands.

— C. G. Jung
Dream Analysis: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1928–1930, as cited in The Quotable Jung

The apparently unendurable conflict is proof of the rightness of your life. A life without inner contradiction is either only half a life or else a life in the Beyond, which is destined only for angels. But God loves human beings more than the angels.

— C. G. Jung
Letter to Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn, Bollingen, as cited in The Quotable Jung

Not as my sorrow, but as the sorrow of the world; not a personal isolating pain, but a pain without bitterness that unites all humanity.

— C. G. Jung
The Structure of the Psyche, as cited in The Quotable Jung

Joy at the smallest things comes to you only when you have accepted death… Therefore I behold death, since it teaches me how to live.

— C. G. Jung
The Red Book, as cited in The Quotable Jung

Brief is this existence, like a brief visit in a strange house. The path to be pursued is poorly lit by a flickering consciousness whose center is the limiting and separating “I.” . . . When a group of individuals becomes a “we,” a harmonious whole, they have reached as high as humans can reach.

— Albert Einstein
Einstein Archives, as cited in The Quotable Einstein

We have to do the best we are capable of. This is our sacred human responsibility.

— Albert Einstein
Einstein Archives, as cited in The Quotable Einstein

Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life.

— Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein, Einstein on Politics, as cited in The Quotable Einstein

[A man] must learn to understand the motives of human beings, their illusions, and their sufferings in order to acquire a proper relationship to individual fellow-men and to the community.

— Albert Einstein
Einstein Archives, as cited in The Quotable Einstein

Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

— Albert Einstein
Einstein on Politics, as cited in The Quotable Einstein

Everything is determined . . . by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust—we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.

— Albert Einstein
What Life Means to Einstein, as cited in The Quotable Einstein

To reduplicate is to be what one says. Human beings are therefore infinitely better served by someone who does not speak in all-too-lofty tones but who is what he says.

— Søren Kierkegaard
Kierkegaard’s Journals and Notebooks, as cited in The Quotable Kierkegaard

Alas, why were nine months in the womb enough to make me an old man! Alas, why was I not swaddled in joy? Why was I born not only in pain but to pain? Why were my eyes opened not to what is happy but only to peer into that kingdom of sighs and to be unable to tear myself away from it?

— Søren Kierkegaard
As cited in The Quotable Kierkegaard

Man, then, is a synthesis of psyche and body, but he is also a synthesis of the temporal and the eternal.

— Søren Kierkegaard
As cited in The Quotable Kierkegaard

There is nothing of which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of.

— Søren Kierkegaard
As cited in The Quotable Kierkegaard

A human being is spirit. But what is spirit? Spirit is the self. But what is the self? The self is a relation that relates itself to itself or is the relation’s relating itself to itself in the relation; the self is not the relation but is the relation’s relating itself to itself.

— Søren Kierkegaard
As cited in The Quotable Kierkegaard

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