You’ll find quotations on impermanence, the reality that everything changes and nothing lasts forever. Impermanence recognizes the reality of decay and ending. How does this idea that all is in flux influence the way we think about the world and our lives? Find out what some authors have said on the topic.

We see daily that our lives are terrible and little, without continuity, buyable and salable at any moment, mere blips on a screen, that this is the way we live now. Memory marketed as nostalgia; terror reduced to mere suspense, to melodrama.

— Adrienne Rich

Why love if losing hurts so much? We love to know that we are not alone.

— C. S. Lewis

I love my past. I love my present. I’m not ashamed of what I’ve had, and I’m not sad because I have it no longer.

— Colette

Because I could not stop for Death —
He kindly stopped for me —
The Carriage held but just Ourselves —
And Immortality.

We slowly drove — He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility?

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess — in the Ring —
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain —
We passed the Setting Sun —

Or rather — He passed Us —
The Dews drew quivering and chill —
For only Gossamer, my Gown —
My Tippet — only Tulle —

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground —
The Roof was scarcely visible —
The Cornice — in the Ground —

Since then — ‘tis Centuries — and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity —

— Emily Dickinson

All is flux; nothing stays still.

— Heraclitus

You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing in.

— Heraclitus

In the face of impermanence and death, it takes courage to love the things of this world and to believe that praising them is our noblest calling.

— Joanna Macy

In laying hands upon the sacred ark of absolute permanency, in treating the forms that had been regarded as types of fixity and perfection as originating and passing away, the Origin of Species introduced a mode of thinking that in the end was bound to transform the logic of knowledge, and hence the treatment of morals, politics, and religion.

— John Dewey

Exquisite beauty is often hidden in life’s fragile, fleeting moments.

— John Mark Green, Taste the Wild Wonder: Poems

Listen to the Exhortation of the Dawn!
Look to this Day!
For it is Life, the very Life of Life.
In its brief course lie all the
Verities and Realities of your Existence;
The Bliss of Growth,
The Glory of Action,
The Splendor of Beauty;
For Yesterday is but a Dream,
And Tomorrow is only a Vision;
But Today well lived makes every
Yesterday a Dream of Happiness, and every
Tomorrow a Vision of Hope.
Look well therefore to this Day!
Such is the Salutation of the Dawn.

— Kalidasa, from the Sanskrit

Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you wish, but you only spend it once.

— Lillian Dickson

Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.

— Marcus Aurelius

There is a stream of things entering into being, and time is a raging torrent; for no sooner does each thing enter our sight than it has been swept away, and another is passing in its place, and that too will be swept away.

— Marcus Aurelius

All things are meltable, and replaceable. Not at this moment, but soon enough, we are lambs and we are leaves, and we are stars, and the shining, mysterious pond water itself.

— Mary Oliver

Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality.

— Pema Chödrön

Impermanence becomes vivid in the present moment; so do compassion and wonder and courage.

— Pema Chödrön

Ozymandias
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

— Percy Bysshe Shelley

The pain passes, but the beauty remains.

— Pierre Auguste Renoir

Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.

— Robert Frost

Injustice never rules forever.

— Seneca

You may wonder, ‘How can I leave it all behind if I am just coming back to it? How can I make a new beginning if I simply return to the old?’ The answer lies in the return. You will not come back to the ‘same old thing.’ What you return to has changed because you have changed. Your perceptions will be altered. You will not incorporate into the same body, status, or world you left behind. The river has been flowing while you were gone. Now it does not look like the same river.

— Steven Foster, The Book of the Vision Quest

We are uncomfortable because everything in our life keeps changing — our inner moods, our bodies, our work, the people we love, the world we live in. We can’t hold on to anything — a beautiful sunset, a sweet taste, an intimate moment with a lover, our very existence as the body/mind we call self — because all things come and go. Lacking any permanent satisfaction, we continuously need another injection of fuel, stimulation, reassurance from loved ones, medicine, exercise, and meditation. We are continually driven to become something more, to experience something else.

— Tara Brach

Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.

— W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor

The universal human yearning for something permanent, enduring, without shadow of change.

— Willa Cather

Oh, this is the joy of the rose: / That it blows, / And goes.

— Willa Cather
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