I love paradoxes, koans, fables, teaching stories, and aphorisms.
Now, what is an “aphorism?” An aphorism is a short statement that contains a large truth about human nature. Because they’re sharp and brief, they’re grand generalizations, and by saying little, they manage to suggest more.
Unlike a proverb, which is a form of folk wisdom, an aphorism is attributed to a particular person.
I’m writing my own collection of aphorisms, and I also collect my favorites written by other people.
For instance, one of my favorite aphorists is Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, who wrote: “The bitterest reproach is bearable so long as you feel it comes from someone who would prefer to praise.”
Steven Wright is a comedian who’s famous for his deadpan style of commenting on the mundane reality of day-to-day life.
Many of his surreal one-liners are also aphorisms that shed a hilarious light on human nature.
- Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.
- A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
- Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
- The sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to catch up.
- Half the people you know are below average.
- Every morning I get up and make instant coffee and I drink it so I have the energy to make real coffee.
- I’m going to get a tattoo over my whole body of me but taller.
Here’s another of his lines – it’s not really an aphorism, but it makes me laugh every time, so I can’t resist including it:
I went to a place to eat. It said “Breakfast at any time.” So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.