(CNN)"Keep calm and carry on." "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." "Don't worry, be happy."
Inspirational quotes to get us through the coronavirus shutdown
This essay is part of a column called The Wisdom Project by David Allan, editorial director of CNN Features. The series is on applying to one's life the wisdom and philosophy found everywhere, from ancient texts to pop culture. You can follow David at @davidgallan. Don't miss another Wisdom Project column; subscribe here.
These are the kinds of pithy, inspiring phrases and quotes that, historically speaking, have the power to steady us through challenging times. War. Depression. The 1980s.
Call them mantras, maxims or even memes -- they get repeated and recycled over the years, sometimes over the millennia, because they contain powerful jolts of easily accessible truth, insight and perspective.
"Aphorisms live because they contain human truth," Adam Gopnick wrote in The New Yorker magazine last summer, "and reach across barriers of class and era."
I've been collecting such fun-size, self-contained wisdom for decades now. I started a list of found quotes on looseleaf sheets in high school, a notebook that is now more than 160 pages long. I have used them in my writing and consulted with them in personally difficult times, such as heartbreak, work stress and the death of others.