"Nature has not so mingled the intelligence with the composition of the body, as not to have allowed thee the power of circumscribing thyself and of bringing under subjection to thyself all that is thy own; for it is very possible to be a divine man and to be recognized as such by no one. Always bear this in mind; and another thing too, that very little indeed is necessary for living a happy life."
"As in political, so in literary action, a man wins friends for himself mostly by the passion of his prejudices and by the consistent narrowness of his outlook...In order to move others deeply we must deliberately allow ourselves to be carried away beyond the bounds of our normal sensibility...But the danger lies in the writer becoming the victim of his own exaggeration, losing the exact notion of sincerity, and in the end coming to despise truth itself as something too cold, too blunt for his purpose -- as, in fact, not good enough for his insistent emotion. From laughter and tears the descent is easy to snivelling and giggles."
"It is useful to know something...of different nations, that we may be enabled to form a more correct judgment regarding our own, and be prevented from thinking that everything contrary to our customs is ridiculous and irrational, -- a conclusion usually come to by those whose experience has been limited to their own country."
"Direct political action through voting and lobbying can help bring modest and temporary changes, but are more effective as psychological balm for those who engage in them than as agencies of lasting and significant change, because the very focus upon politics in a narrow sense takes the existing institutional framework for granted and so reinforces it."
"I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause. The example of great and pure individuals is the only thing that can lead us to noble thoughts and deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and irresistibly invites abuse. Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus, or Gandhi armed with the money-bags of Carnegie?"
"I hate this shallow Americanism which hopes to get rich by credit, to get knowledge by raps on midnight tables, to learn the economy of the mind by phrenology, or skill without study, or mastery without apprenticeship...or power through making believe you are powerful...or wealth by fraud...We countenance each other in this life of show, puffing, advertisement and manufacture of public opinion; and excellence is lost sight of in the hunger for sudden performance and praise."
What is a modern Poet's fate?
To write his thoughts upon a slate --
The Critic spits on what is done,
Gives it a wipe -- and all is gone.
"There are already certain American cities in which the number of divorces is equal to the number of marriages. In a few years, no doubt, marriage licenses will be sold like dog licenses, good for a period of twelve months, with no law against changing dogs or keeping more than one animal at a time. As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase. And the dictator (unless he needs cannon fodder and families with which to colonize empty or conquered territories) will do well to encourage that freedom. In conjunction with the freedom to daydream under the influence of dope and movies and the radio, it will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate."
"We must learn to feel addressed by a book, by the human being behind it, as if a person spoke directly to us. A good book or essay or poem is not primarily an object to be put to use, or an object of experience: it is the voice of You speaking to me, requiring a response."
"Why do we accept, why do we follow? We follow another's authority, another's experience and then doubt it; this search for authority and its sequel, disillusionment, is a painful process for most of us. We blame or criticize the once accepted authority, the leader, the teacher, but we do not examine our own craving for an authority who can direct our conduct. Once we understand this craving we shall comprehend the significance of doubt."
"There is no more right to deceive than there is a right to swindle, to cheat, or to pick pockets...when genuine debate is lacking, freedom of speech does not work as it is meant to work. It has lost the principle which regulates it and justifies it -- that is to say, dialectic conducted according to logic and the rules of evidence. If there is no effective debate, the unrestricted right to speak will unloose so many propagandists, procurers, and panderers upon the public that sooner or later in self-defense the people will turn to the censors to protect them."
"It is...rather an over-simplified idea that 'to succeed' is to bear fruit, and therefore to give proof of the fact that psychologically and morally you are not a failure. This is a very old illusion, already denounced by Socrates: mistaking external success, which depends on a great many ingredients extraneous to ethical life -- good connections, cleverness, good luck, ruthlessness, and so forth -- for genuine 'success' in the metaphysical sense... which...consists in having, as Socrates said, a 'good and beautiful soul'."
"Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don't really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests is like handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the earth's atmosphere to a company as a monopoly."
"I will call no being good who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures; and if such a creature can sentence me to hell for not so calling him, to hell I will go."
"The most deadly criticism one could make of modern civilization is that apart from its man-made crises and catastrophes, it is not humanly interesting...In the end, such a civilization can produce only a mass man: incapable of choice, incapable of spontaneous, self-directed activities: at best patient, docile, disciplined to monotonous work to an almost pathetic degree...the ideal type desired, if never quite achieved, by the advertising agency and the sales organization of modern business...The handsomest encomium for such creatures is: 'They do not make trouble.' Their highest virtue is: 'They do not stick their necks out.'"
"The whole visible world is only an imperceptible atom in the ample bosom of nature. No idea approaches it. We may enlarge our conceptions beyond all imaginable space; we only produce atoms in comparison with the reality of things. It is an infinite sphere, the center of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere."
My heart rebels against my generation,
That talks of freedom and is slave to riches.
"Now with regard to great minds, it is quite natural for these real teachers of the entire human race to feel as little inclined to frequent association with others as for schoolmasters to join in the games of the boisterous and noisy crowds of children who surround them. They have come into the world to lead mankind across the sea of error into the haven of truth and to draw it from the dark abyss of its coarseness and vulgarity up into the light of culture and refinement...they must live among men and women without, however, really belonging to them."
"The first common mistake to get rid of is that mankind consists of a great mass of religious people and a few eccentric atheists. It consists of a huge mass of worldly people, and a small percentage of persons deeply interested in religion and concerned about their own souls and other peoples'; and this section consists mostly of those who are passionately affirming the established religion and those who are passionately attacking it, the genuine philosophers being very few. Thus you never have a nation of millions of Wesleys and one Tom Paine. You have a million Mr. Worldly Wisemans, one Wesley, with his small congregation, and one Tom Paine, with his smaller congregation. The passionately religious are a people apart...Unless a religious turn in ourselves has led us to seek the little Societies to which these rare birds belong, we pass our lives among people who...hunger and thirst, not for righteousness, but for rich feeding and comfort and social position and attractive mates and ease and pleasure and respect and consideration: in short, for love and money."
"Each person, withdrawn into himself, behaves as though he is a stranger to the destiny of all the others. His children and his good friends constitute for him the whole of the human species. As for his transactions with his fellow citizens, he may mix among them, but he sees them not; he touches them, but does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone. And if on these terms there remains in his mind a sense of family, there no longer remains a sense of society."
"...our age is one of frustration, anxiety, agitation, and addiction to 'dope.' Somehow we must grab what we can while we can and drown out the realization that the whole thing is futile and meaningless. This 'dope' we call our high standard of living, a violent and complex stimulation of the senses, which makes them progressively less sensitive and thus in need of yet more violent stimulation. We crave distraction -- a panorama of sights, sounds, thrills, and titillations into which as much as possible must be crowded in the shortest possible time."