Quotes I like

You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.

-Patch Adams as portrayed by Robin Williams in the namesake movie

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Nullius in verba; quaerite veritatem.

-The Royal Society (mostly)1

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

-Various attributions exist, but perhaps the earliest appearance, in a slightly different form, is from page 218 of William Lonsdale Watkinson’s 1907 work The Supreme Conquest: and Other Sermons Preached in America.

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

-Shakespeare, Lord Polonius in Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.

-Robin Williams

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

If you take the path toward clarity, I guarantee that you will occasionally find people who will disparage you. They may seek to undermine you, find ways to marginalize you, and try to incriminate you. They may come from directions that surprise you. Powerful ideas often attract attacks that focus more on individuals than ideas. If you raise inconvenient truths or voice uncomfortable opinions, particularly if they threaten someone’s comfortable status quo, then you will discover much about the character of those with whom you disagree. But always take the high road, engage in dialogue about ideas and evidence, and be motivated by the opportunity to best serve patients and the public. You will not regret it.

-Harlan Krumholz

Science may provide the most useful way to organize empirical, reproducible data, but its power to do so is predicated on its inability to grasp the most central aspects of human life: hope, fear, love, hate, beauty, envy, honor, weakness, striving, suffering, virtue.

-Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

-Robin Williams as John Keating, Dead Poets Society

Before operating on a patient’s brain, I realized, I must first understand his mind: his identity, his values, what makes his life worth living, and what devastation makes it reasonable to let that life end. The cost of my dedication to succeed was high, and the ineluctable failures brought me nearly unbearable guilt. Those burdens are what make medicine holy and wholly impossible: in taking up another’s cross, one must sometimes get crushed by the weight.

-Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.

-Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

I have more, but I’ll stop here … for now.

  1. This roughly translates to:

    “On the word of no one; seek the truth.”


    “Don’t take anybody’s word for it; seek the truth.”

    I consider this one of my life mantras (I have several by which I try to live). “Nullius in verba” is the motto for the Royal Society, and I added “quaerite veritatem” to be explicit about what seems to follow from their motto. In addition to deserving credit for their original motto, they also deserve credit for the essence of my addition (hence “mostly” in parentheses). ↩︎