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The Midnight Library book cover

The Midnight Library Quotes

The only way to learn is to live.
If you aim to be something you are not, you will always fail. Aim to be you. Aim to look and act and think like you. Aim to be the truest version of you. Embrace that you-ness. Endorse it. Love it. Work hard at it. And don't give a second thought when people mock it or ridicule it. Most gossip is envy in disguise.
Never underestimate the big importance of small things.
We only need to be one person. We only need to feel one existence. We don't have to do everything in order to be everything, because we are already infinite. While we are alive we always contain a future of multifarious possibility.
As Thoreau wrote, ‘It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
You don’t have to understand life. You just have to live it.
You’re overthinking it.’ ‘I have anxiety. I have no other type of thinking available.
And that sadness is intrinsically part of the fabric of happiness. You can’t have one without the other. Of course, they come in different degrees and quantities. But there is no life where you can be in a state of sheer happiness for ever. And imagining there is just breeds more unhappiness in the life you’re in.
Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices… Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?.
Sometimes just to say your own truth out loud is enough to find others like you.
Want,’ she told her, in a measured tone, ‘is an interesting word. It means lack. Sometimes if we fill that lack with something else the original want disappears entirely.
You see, doing one thing differently is very often the same as doing everything differently.
And even if you were a pawn - maybe we all are - then you should remember that a pawn is the most magical piece of all. It might look small and ordinary but it isn't. because a pawn is never just a pawn. A pawn is a queen-in-waiting. All you need to do is find a way to keep moving forward. One square after another. And you can get to the other side and unlock all kinds of power.
The thing that looks the most ordinary might end up being the thing that leads you to victory.
Regrets don’t leave. They weren’t mosquito bites. They itch for ever.
It is quite a revelation to discover that the place you wanted to escape to is the exact same place you escaped from. That the prison wasn't the place, but the perspective.
Maybe that's what all lives were, though. Maybe even the most seemingly perfectly intense or worthwhile lives ultimately felt the same. Acres of disappointment and monotony and hurts and rivalries but with flashes of wonder and beauty. Maybe that was the only meaning that mattered. To be the world, witnessing itself.
It was interesting, she mused to herself, how life sometimes simply gave you a whole new perspective by waiting around long enough for you to see it.
She realised that you could be as honest as possible in life, but people only see the truth if it is close enough to their reality.
The lonely mind in the busy city yearns for connection because it thinks human-to-human connection is the point of everything. But amid pure nature...solitude took on a different character. It became in itself a kind of connection. A connection between herself and the world. And between her and herself.
Sometimes regrets aren't based on fact at all.
That was how she had felt most of her life. Caught in the middle. Struggling, flailing, just trying to survive while not knowing which way to go. Which path to commit to without regret.
When you stay too long in a place, you forget just how big an expanse the world is. You get no sense of the length of those longitudes and latitudes. Just as, she supposed, it is hard to have a sense of the vastness inside any one person. But once you sense that vastness, once something reveals it, hope emerges, whether you want it to or not, and it clings to you as stubbornly as lichen clings to rock.
Regrets ignore chronology. They float around.
Librarians have knowledge. They guide you to the right books. The right worlds. They find the best places. Like soul-enhanced search engines.
Is happiness the aim?" "I don't know. I suppose I want my life to mean something. I want to do something good,.
To be human was to continually dumb the world down into an understandable story that keeps things simple.
That the prison wasn’t the place, but the perspective.
Fear was when you wandered into a cellar and worried that the door would close shut. Despair was when the door closed and locked behind you.
Why want another universe if this one has dogs?.
Nora wanted to live in a world where no cruelty existed, but the only worlds she had available to her were worlds with humans in them.
You can have everything and feel nothing.
She realised that she hadn’t tried to end her life because she was miserable, but because she had managed to convince herself that there was no way out of her misery.
It is not the lives we regret not living that are the real problem. It is the regret itself. It’s the regret that makes us shrivel and wither and feel like our own and other people’s worst enemy. We can’t tell if any of those other versions would have been better or worse. Those lives are happening, it is true, but you are happening as well, and that is the happening we have to focus on.
Sometimes regrets aren’t based on fact at all. Sometimes regrets are just . . .’ She searched for the appropriate term and found it. ‘A load of bullshit.
Every second of every day we are entering a new universe. And we spend so much time wishing our lives were different, comparing ourselves to other people and to other versions of ourselves, when really most lives contain degrees of good and degrees of bad.
At the beginning of a game, there are no variations. There is only one way to set up a board. There are nine million variations after the first six moves. And after eight moves there are two hundred and eighty-eight billion different positions. And those possibilities keep growing. There are more possible ways to play a game of chess than the amount of atoms in the observable universe. So it gets very messy. And there is no right way to play; there are many ways. In chess, as in life, possibility is the basis of everything. Every hope, every dream, every regret, every moment of living.
So long as there are still books on the shelves, you are never trapped. Every book is a potential escape.
Love and laughter and fear and pain are universal currencies.
Life is frightening, and it is frightening for a reason, and the reason is that it doesn’t matter which branch of a life we get to live, we are always the same rotten tree. I wanted to be many things in my life. All kinds of things. But if your life is rotten, it will be rotten no matter what you do. The damp rots the whole useless thing...
She had thought, in her nocturnal and suicidal hours, that solitude was the problem. But that was because it hadn't been true solitude. The lonely mind in the busy city yearns for connection because it thinks human-to-human connection is the point of everything. But amid pure nature (or the 'tonic of wildness' as Thoreau called it) solitude took on a different character. It became in itself a kind of connection. A connection between herself and the world. And between her and herself.
So let’s be kind to the people in our own existence. Let’s occasionally look up from the spot in which we are because, wherever we happen to be standing, the sky above goes on for ever. Yesterday I knew I had no future, and that it was impossible for me to accept my life as it is now. And yet today, that same messy life seems full of hope. Potential. The impossible, I suppose, happens via living. Will my life be miraculously free from pain, despair, grief, heartbreak, hardship, loneliness, depression? No. But do I want to live? Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes.
Compassion is the basis of morality,’ the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer had written, in one of his softer moments. Maybe it was the basis of life too.
She was a waterfall of apologies. She was drowning in herself.
Because, Nora, sometimes the only way to learn is to live.
Every life contains many millions of decisions. Some big, some small. But every time one decision is taken over another, the outcomes differ. An irreversible variation occurs, which in turn leads to further variations.
Pressure makes us, though. You start off as coal and the pressure makes you a diamond.’ She didn’t correct his knowledge of diamonds. She didn’t tell him that while coal and diamonds are both carbon, coal is too impure to be able, under whatever pressure, to become a diamond. According to science, you start off as coal and you end up as coal. Maybe that was the real-life lesson.
The rook is my favourite piece,’ she said. ‘It’s the one that you think you don’t have to watch out for. It is straightforward. You keep your eye on the queen, and the knights, and the bishop, because they are the sneaky ones. But it’s the rook that often gets you. The straightforward is never quite what it seems.
Never trust someone who is willingly rude to low-paid service staff –.
She imagined, now, what it would be like to accept herself completely. Every mistake she had ever made. Every mark on her body. Every dream she hadn’t reached or pain she had felt. Every lust or longing she had suppressed. She imagined accepting it all. The way she accepted nature. The way she accepted a glacier or a puffin or the breach of a whale. She imagined seeing herself as just another brilliant freak of nature. Just another sentient animal, trying their best. And in doing so, she imagined what it was like to be free.
It seems impossible to live without hurting people.' 'That's because it is.' 'So why live at all?' 'Well, in fairness, dying hurts people too.
Equidistant. Not aligned to one bank or the other...caught in the middle. Struggling, flailing, just trying to survive while not knowing which way to go. Which path to commit to without regret.
To be part of nature was to be part of the will to live.
what we consider to be the most successful route for us to take, actually isn’t. Because too often our view of success is about some external bullshit idea of achievement – an Olympic medal, the ideal husband, a good salary. And we have all these metrics that we try and reach. When really success isn’t something you measure, and life isn’t a race you can win. It’s all . . . bollocks, actually . ..
That’s why everyone hates each other nowadays,’ he reckoned. ‘Because they are overloaded with non-friends friends. Ever heard about Dunbar’s number?’ And then he had told her about a man called Roger Dunbar at Oxford University, who had discovered that human beings were wired to know only a hundred and fifty people, as that was the average size of hunter-gatherer communities.
I don’t think your problem was stage fright. Or wedding fright. I think your problem was life fright.
She realised that she hadn’t tried to end her life because she was miserable, but because she had managed to convince herself that there was no way out of her misery. That, she supposed, was the basis of depression as well as the difference between fear and despair. Fear was when you wandered into a cellar and worried that the door would close shut. Despair was when the door closed and locked behind you.
One life of sadness was enough. What is the point of risking more?.
Never underestimate the big importance of small things,’ Mrs Elm said. ‘You must always remember that.
But you will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life,.
I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. Sylvia Plath.
There is no rejection, there is only redirection.
The sky grows dark The black over blue Yet the stars still dare To shine for you.
I’m having a pretty shit time too, if we’re doing the Misery Olympics.
You could eat in the finest restaurants, you could partake in every sensual pleasure, you could sing on stage in São Paulo to twenty thousand people, you could soak up whole thunderstorms of applause, you could travel to the ends of the Earth, you could be followed by millions on the internet, you could win Olympic medals, but this was all meaningless without love.
Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.
She knew that everything humans see is a simplification. A human sees the world in three dimensions. That is a simplification. Humans are fundamentally limited, generalising creatures, living on auto-pilot, who straighten out curved streets in their minds, which explains why they get lost all the time.
There was an old musician’s cliché, about how there were no wrong notes on a piano.