Wisdom and Ignorance

“That would indeed be shocking, and then I might really with justice be summoned to court for not believing in the gods, and disobeying the oracle, and being afraid of death, and thinking that I am wise when I am not. For let me tell you, gentlemen, that to be afraid of death is only another form of thinking that one is wise when one is not; it is to think that one knows what one does not know. No one knows with regard to death whether it is not really the greatest blessing that can happen to a man; but people dread it as though they were certain that it is the greatest evil; and this is ignorance, which thinks that it knows what it does not, must surely be ignorance most culpable.”

– The Last Days of Socrates by Plato.

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The Days Pile Up.

“Down in her soul, the while, she was waiting for something to happen. Like a shipwrecked sailor, she perused her solitary world with hopeless eyes, searching for some white sail far away where the horizon turns to mist. She didn’t know what her luck might bring, what wind would blow it her way, what shore it would take her to, whether it was a sloop or a three-mastered schooner, laden with anguish or crammed to the portholes with happiness. But, every morning, when she awoke, she hoped it would happen that day, and she listened to every sound, jumping to her feet, surprised when nothing came; then, as the day came to its end, with an ever greater sadness, she was longing for the morrow.”

 – Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Their Sins Were His Own.

“There are times when it appeared to Dorian Gray that the whole of history was merely the record of his own life, not as he has lived it in act and circumstance, but as his imagination had created it for him, as it had been in his brain and in his passions. He felt that he had known them all, those strange, terrible figures that had across the stage of the world made sin so marvelous and evil so full of subtlety. It seemed to him that in some mysterious way their lives had been his own.”

– The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Not for all the gold in their possession.

And I to him: “Master, among this kind I certainly hope to recognize some who have been bespattered by these crimes.”
And he to me: “That thought of yours is empty: the undiscerning life that made them filthy now renders them unrecognizable. For all eternity they will come to blow: these here will rise up from their sepulchers with fists clenched tight; and these, with hair cropped close. Ill giving and ill keeping have robbed both of the fair world and set them to this fracas – what that is like my words need not embellish. Now you can see, my son, how brief’s the sport of all those goods that are in Fortune’s care, for which the tribe of men contend and brawl; for all the gold that is or ever was beneath the moon could never offer rest to even one of these exhausted spirits.”

– Inferno (The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri) translated by Allen Mandelbaum.