Here is a list of 93 adages that intrigue and amuse me. I present them ordered by votes, post time, then source. Press when you find one enlightening, and when one makes you want to leave this site.

You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.
Source: Harari, Yuval Noah (2011). Sapiens
We tend to speak about our having a limited amount of time. But it might make more sense, from Heidegger’s strange perspective, to say that we are a limited amount of time.
Source: Burkeman, Oliver (2021). Four Thousand Weeks
One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic.
Source: Stalin, Joseph
Yet in fact modernity is a surprisingly simple deal. The entire contract can be summarised in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power.
Source: Harari, Yuval Noah (2015). Homo Deus
the more firmly you believe it ought to be possible to find time for everything, the less pressure you’ll feel to ask whether any given activity is the best use for a portion of your time
Source: Burkeman, Oliver (2021). Four Thousand Weeks
There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings
Source: Dostoevsky
“Is that the way of it? A man may have wits, or a bit of meat between his legs, but not both?”
Source: Martin, George R. R. (2000). A Storm of Swords
every blessing ignored becomes a curse
Source: Coelho, Paulo (1988). The Alchemist
Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.
Source: Coelho, Paulo (1988). The Alchemist
While our bodies need food, water, shelter, and safety, all that our souls need is to be confident that our bodies will get what they need.
Source: Epicurus (c. 300 BC)
Three cups only do I propose for sensible men, one for health, the second for love and pleasure and the third for sleep; when this has been drunk up, wise guests make for home. The fourth cup is mine no longer, but belongs to hubris; the fifth to shouting; the sixth to revel; the seventh to black eyes; the eighth to summonses; the ninth to bile; and the tenth to madness and people tossing the furniture about.
Source: Euripides (375 BC). Bacchae
Even in the third century AD, the Roman emperor Valerian (253–260 AD), defeated at the Battle of Edessa, was captured and spent the last years of his life as the footstool that the Sassanian emperor Shapur I used to mount his horse.
Source: Graeber, David (2011). Debt
honor is surplus dignity
Source: Graeber, David (2011). Debt
When something has meaning, it becomes work. When something is meaningless, it becomes play.
Source: Gupta, Kapil (2016). Atmamun
In the new capitalist creed, the first and most sacred commandment is: ‘The profits of production must be reinvested in increasing production.’
Source: Harari, Yuval Noah (2011). Sapiens
I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative
Source: John Stuart Mill (1866)
“Lord Bolton, he used to say a naked man has few secrets, but a flayed man’s got none.”
Source: Martin, George R. R. (1998). A Clash of Kings
truth is revealed by wine and children
Source: Plato (c. 380 BC). Symposium
We live well enough to have the luxury to get ourselves sick with purely social, psychological stress. Just like these baboons.
Source: Sapolsky, Robert M. (2001). A Primate's Memoir
It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.
Source: Seneca (c. 65). Moral Letters to Lucilius
A heuristic on whether you have control of your life: can you take naps?
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
You never win an argument until they attack your person.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
Bureaucracy is a construction designed to maximize the distance between a decision-maker and the risks of the decision.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
The opposite of success isn’t failure; it is name-dropping.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
Someone who says “I am busy” is either declaring incompetence (and lack of control of his life) or trying to get rid of you.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
There is no God, and don't tell that to my servant, lest he murder me at night
Source: Voltaire (c. 1700)
In another area of New Guinea, it has been customary to gouge out pigs’ eyes, so that they cannot even see where they’re going.
Source: Harari, Yuval Noah (2011). Sapiens
When conflicted between two choices, take neither.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
His blunt diagnosis was that most people wasted several hours each day, especially in the evenings; they told themselves they were tired when they could just as easily pull up their socks and get on with all the life-enriching activities they claimed they never had time for. “What I suggest,” wrote Bennett, “is that at six o’clock you look facts in the face and admit that you are not tired (because you are not, you know).”
Source: Burkeman, Oliver (2021). Four Thousand Weeks
‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.’
Source: Fitzgerald, F. Scott (1925). The Great Gatsby
In fact, the English “please” is short for “if you please,” “if it pleases you to do this”—it is the same in most European languages (French si il vous plait, Spanish por favor). Its literal meaning is “You are under no obligation to do this.”
Source: Graeber, David (2011). Debt
Greek source describes Celtic festivals where rival nobles would alternate between jousts and contests of generosity, presenting their enemies with magnificent gold and silver treasures. Occasionally this could lead to a kind of checkmate; someone would be faced with a present so magnificent that he could not possibly match it. In this case, the only honorable response was for him to cut his own throat, thus allowing his wealth to be distributed to his followers.
Source: Graeber, David (2011). Debt
The French merci is even more graphic: it derives from “mercy,” as in begging for mercy; by saying it you are symbolically placing yourself in your benefactor’s power—since a debtor is, after all, a criminal.
Source: Graeber, David (2011). Debt
The surest way to know that one is in the presence of communistic relations is that not only are no accounts taken, but it would be considered offensive, or simply bizarre, to even consider doing so.
Source: Graeber, David (2011). Debt
normalcy is nothing more than a democratic madness
Source: Gupta, Kapil (2016). Atmamun
This is the essence of the Agricultural Revolution: the ability to keep more people alive under worse conditions.
Source: Harari, Yuval Noah (2011). Sapiens
For the first time in history, more people die today from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals combined.
Source: Harari, Yuval Noah (2015). Homo Deus
It is often said that God helps those who help themselves. This is a roundabout way of saying that God doesn’t exist, but if our belief in Him inspires us to do something ourselves – it helps.
Source: Harari, Yuval Noah (2015). Homo Deus
Government has become mere administration. It manages the country, but it no longer leads it. Government ensures that teachers are paid on time and sewage systems don’t overflow, but it has no idea where the country will be in twenty years.
Source: Harari, Yuval Noah (2015). Homo Deus
People usually compare themselves to their more fortunate contemporaries rather than to their ill-fated ancestors.
Source: Harari, Yuval Noah (2015). Homo Deus
According to evolutionary humanists, anyone arguing that all human experiences are equally valuable is either an imbecile or a coward.
Source: Harari, Yuval Noah (2015). Homo Deus
There are no longer natural famines in the world; there are only political famines. If people in Syria, Sudan or Somalia starve to death, it is because some politician wants them to.
Source: Harari, Yuval Noah (2015). Homo Deus
Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures.
Source: Johnson, Samuel (1759). The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia
He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man
Source: Johnson, Samuel (maybe)
When software behavior is mysterious, get more organized.
Source: Kocienda, Ken (2018). Creative Selection
Taste is developing a refined sense of judgment and finding the balance that produces a pleasing and integrated whole.
Source: Kocienda, Ken (2018). Creative Selection
To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.
Source: Martel, Yann (2001). Life of Pi
“A man who sees nothing has no use for his eyes,” the Mountain declared. “Cut them out and give them to your next outrider. Tell him you hope that four eyes might see better than two … and if not, the man after him will have six.”
Source: Martin, George R. R. (1996). A Game of Thrones
“Sorcery is the sauce fools spoon over failure to hide the flavor of their own incompetence.”
Source: Martin, George R. R. (1998). A Clash of Kings
Have you ever considered that too many answers are the same as no answer at all?
Source: Martin, George R. R. (1998). A Clash of Kings
“Only a fool humbles himself when the world is so full of men eager to do that job for him.”
Source: Martin, George R. R. (1998). A Clash of Kings
Theon swept his cloak off its peg and over his shoulders. “Fathers are like that,” he admitted as he pinned the folds with a silver clasp. “Tell him he should be pleased. As many times as I’ve fucked you, you’re likely with child. It’s not every man who has the honor of raising a king’s bastard.” She looked at him stupidly, so he left her there.
Source: Martin, George R. R. (1998). A Clash of Kings
“When I was smuggling, I learned that some men believe everything and some nothing.”
Source: Martin, George R. R. (1998). A Clash of Kings
“It was not for murder that the gods cursed him,” Old Nan said, “nor for serving the Andal king his son in a pie. A man has a right to vengeance. But he slew a guest beneath his roof, and that the gods cannot forgive.”
Source: Martin, George R. R. (2000). A Storm of Swords
“A queen must listen to all,” she reminded him. “The highborn and the low, the strong and the weak, the noble and the venal. One voice may speak you false, but in many there is always truth to be found.”
Source: Martin, George R. R. (2000). A Storm of Swords
There are old sellswords and bold sellswords, but no old bold sellswords.
Source: Martin, George R. R. (2000). A Storm of Swords
Fat men take a cushion with them wherever they go.
Source: Martin, George R. R. (2011). A Feast for Crows
[A human life is] a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness
Source: Nabokov, Vladimir (1951). Speak, Memory
He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.
Source: Nietzche
One geometry can not be more true than another; it can only be more convenient.
Source: Pirsig, Robert M (1974). Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process. That is fairly well understood, at least in the arts. Mark Twain’s experience comes to mind, in which, after he had mastered the analytic knowledge needed to pilot the Mississippi River, he discovered the river had lost its beauty.
Source: Pirsig, Robert M (1974). Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
You always suppress momentary anger at something you deeply and permanently hate.
Source: Pirsig, Robert M (1974). Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with emphasis on “good” rather than “time” and when you make that shift in emphasis the whole approach changes.
Source: Pirsig, Robert M (1974). Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
I’ve come to appreciate that when we take these plants into our bodies and let them change our minds, we are engaging/seneca with nature in one of the most profound ways possible.
Source: Pollan, Michael (2021). This is Your Mind on Plants
When male baboons who are getting along well run into each other and want to say howdy, they yank on each other’s penises.
Source: Sapolsky, Robert M. (2001). A Primate's Memoir
No man can have a peaceful life who thinks too much about lengthening it, or believes that living through many consulships is a great blessing.
Source: Seneca (c. 65). Moral Letters to Lucilius
We are bad men living among bad men; and only one thing can calm us—we must agree to go easy on one another
Source: Seneca (c. 65). Moral Letters to Lucilius
Nothing, Lucilius, is ours, except time. We were entrusted by nature with the ownership of this single thing, so fleeting and slippery that anyone who will can oust us from possession.
Source: Seneca (c. 65). Moral Letters to Lucilius
For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. Whatever years be behind us are in death's hands.
Source: Seneca (c. 65). Moral Letters to Lucilius
Just as we shake hands to show that we are not carrying a physical weapon, communal intoxication allows us to cognitively disarm in the presence of others.
Source: Slingerland, Edward (2021). Drunk
Beauty is the promise of happiness.
Source: Stendhal (1822). On Love
A nerd is simply someone who thinks exceedingly inside the box.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2007). The Black Swan
Pharmaceutical companies are better at inventing diseases that match existing drugs, rather than inventing drugs to match existing diseases.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
For social mobility to work, it needs to be a two-way highway, with a large number of pre-rich and an almost as large one of post-rich.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
If you know, in the morning, what your day looks like with any precision, you are a little bit dead—the more precision, the more dead you are.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
Charm is the ability to insult people without offending them; nerdiness the reverse.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
It is not possible to have fun when you try.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
The ultimate freedom lies in not having to explain why you did something.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
The most painful moments are not those we spend with uninteresting people; rather, they are those spent with uninteresting people trying hard to be interesting.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
The characteristic feature of the loser is to bemoan, in general terms, mankind’s flaws, biases, contradictions, and irrationality—without exploiting them for fun and profit.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
In the past, only some of the males, but all of the females, were able to procreate. Equality is more natural for females.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
Anyone who likes meetings should be banned from attending meetings.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
To understand how something works, figure out how to break it.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
Your brain is most intelligent when you don’t instruct it on what to do—something people who take showers discover on occasion.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
Wisdom in the young is as unattractive as frivolity in the elderly.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
True humility is when you can surprise yourself more than others; the rest is either shyness or good marketing.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
If we are the only animal with a sense of justice, it would clearly be because we also are about the only animal with a sense of cruelty.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
Most people fear being without audiovisual stimulation because they are too repetitive when they think and imagine things on their own.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
Men destroy each other during war; themselves during peacetime.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
The rational heuristic is to avoid any market commentary from anyone who has to work for a living.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Bed of Procrustes
He who does not have a past has no future.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2012). Antifragile
The modus operandi in every venture is to remain as robust as possible to changes in theories.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2012). Antifragile
For the perishable, every additional day in its life translates into a shorter additional life expectancy. For the nonperishable, every additional day may imply a longer life expectancy.
Source: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2012). Antifragile