The sick in soul insist that it is humanity that is sick, and they are the surgeons to operate on it. They want to turn the world into a sickroom. And once they get humanity strapped to the operating table, they operate on it with an ax.
The individual's most vital need is to prove his worth, and this usually means an insatiable hunger for action. For it is only the few who can acquire a sense of worth by developing and employing their capacities and talents. The majority prove their worth by keeping busy.
It is the individual only who is timeless. Societies, cultures, and civilizations -- past and present -- are often incomprehensible to outsiders, but the individual's hungers, anxieties, dreams, and preoccupations have remained unchanged through the millenia."
You cannot gauge the intelligence of an American by talking with him; you must work with him. The American polishes and refines his way of doing things-even the most commonplace-the way the French of the 17th century polished their maxims.
Absolute power corrupts even when exercised for humane purposes. The benevolent despot who sees himself as a shepherd of the people still demands from others the submissiveness of sheep. The taint inherent in absolute power is not its inhumanity but its anti-humanity.
The untalented are more at ease in a society that gives them valid alibis for not achieving than in one where opportunities are abundant. In an affluent society, the alienated who clamor for power are largely untalented people who cannot make use of the unprecedented opportunities for self-realization, and cannot escape the confrontation with an ineffectual self.
A free society is as much a threat to the intellectual's sense of worth as an automated economy is to the workingman's sense of worth. Any social order that can function with a minimum of leadership will be anathema to the intellectual.
The remarkable thing is that we really love our neighbor as ourselves: we do unto others as we do unto ourselves. We hate others when we hate ourselves. We are tolerant toward others when we tolerate ourselves. We forgive others when we forgive ourselves. We are prone to sacrifice others when we are ready to sacrifice ourselves.
Our credulity is greatest concerning the things we know least about. And since we know least about ourselves, we are ready to believe all that is said about us. Hence the mysterious power of both flattery and calumny.
Intolerance is the ''Do Not Touch'' sign on something that cannot bear touching. We do not mind having our hair ruffled, but we will not tolerate any familiarity with the toupee which covers our baldness.
Collective unity is not the result of the brotherly love of the faithful for each other. The loyalty of the true believer is to the whole the church, party, nation and not to his fellow true believer. True loyalty between individuals is possible only in a loose and relatively free society .
The effectiveness of a doctrine does not come from its meaning but from its certitude. No doctrine however profound and sublime will be effective unless it is presented as the embodiment of the one and only truth
There is in even the most selfish passion a large element of self-abnegation. It is startling to realize that what we call extreme self-seeking is actually self-renunciation. The miser, health addict, glory chaser and their like are not far behind the selfless in the exercise of self-sacrifice.
The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; it should produce not learned but learning people. The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents, and children are students together.
The birth of the new constitutes a crisis, and its mastery calls for a crude and simple cast of mind -- the mind of a fighter -- in which the virtues of tribal cohesion and fierceness and infantile credulity and malleability are paramount. Thus every new beginning recapitulates in some degree man's first beginning.
One is not quite certain that creativeness in the arts, literature, and science functions best in an environment of absolute freedom. Chances are that a relatively mild tyranny stimulates creativeness.
Actual creativeness is a matter of moments. One has to piece together the minute grains to make a lump. And it is so easy to miss the momentary flashes, it is like sluicing in placer mining. He who lets the flakes float by has nothing to show for his trouble.
The impulse to think, to philosophize and spin beauty and brilliance out of mind and soul, is somehow the offspring of resistance of an effort to overcome an apparently insurmountable obstacle. Hence cultural creativeness is more likely to flourish in an atmosphere of restriction, of an imposed pattern of thought and behavior, than in one of total freedom.
There are similarities between absolute power and absolute faith: a demand for absolute obedience, a readiness to attempt the impossible, a bias for simple solutionsto cut the knot rather than unravel it, the viewing of compromise as surrender. Both absolute power and absolute faith are instruments of dehumanization. Hence, absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power.
People unfit for freedom - who cannot do much with it - are hungry for power. The desire for freedom is an attribute of a "have" type of self. It says: leave me alone and I shall grow, learn, and realize my capacities. The desire for power is basically an attribute of a "have not" type of self.
Perhaps our originality manifests itself most strikingly in what we do with that which we did not originate. To discover something wholly new can be a matter of chance, of idle tinkering, or even of the chronic dissatisfaction of the untalented.
We can never really be prepared for that which is wholly new. We have to adjust ourselves, and every radical adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem: we undergo a test, we have to prove ourselves. It needs subordinate self-confidence to face drastic change without inner trembling.
Perhaps a modern society can remain stable only by eliminating adolescence, by giving its young, from the age of ten, the skills, responsibilities, and rewards of grownups, and opportunities for action in all spheres of life. Adolescence should be a time of useful action, while book learning and scholarship should be a preoccupation of adults.
It is the stretched soul that makes music, and souls are stretched by the pull of opposites-opposite bents, tastes, yearnings, loyalties. Where there is no polarity-where energies flow smoothly in one direction-there will be much doing but no music.
Every era has a currency that buys souls. In some the currency is pride, in others it is hope, in still others it is a holy cause. There are of course times when hard cash will buy souls, and the remarkable thing is that such times are marked by civility, tolerance, and the smooth working of everyday life.
Faith in humanity, in posterity, in the destiny of one's religion, nation, race, party or family-what is it but the visualization of that eternal something to which we attach the self that is about to be annihilated?
...the differences between the conservative and the radical seem to spring mainly from their attitude toward the future. Fear of the future causes us to lean against and cling to the present, while faith in the future renders us receptive to change.
We never say so much as when we do not quite know what we want to say. We need few words when we have something to say, but all the words in all the dictionaries will not suffice when we have nothing to say and want desperately to say it.
When hopes and dreams are loose in the streets, it is well for the timid to lock doors, shutter windows and lie low until the wrath has passed. For there is often a monstrous incongruity between the hopes, however noble and tender, and the action which follows them. It is as if ivied maidens and garlanded youths were to herald the four horsemen of the apocalypse .
The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else--we are the busiest people in the world.
The capacity for getting along with our neighbor depends to a large extent on the capacity for getting along with ourselves. The self-respecting individual will try to be as tolerant of his neighbor's shortcomings as he is of his own.
Laughter to begin with was probably glee at the misfortunes of others. The baring of the teeth in laughter hints at its savage ancestry. Animals have no malice, hence also no laughter. They never savor the sudden glory of Schadenfreude. It was its infectious quality that made of laughter a medium of mutuality.
Our present addiction to pollsters and forecasters is a symptom of our chronic uncertainty about the future... We watch our experts read the entrails of statistical tables and graphs the way the ancients watched their soothsayers read the entrails of a chicken.
I could never figure out or probably did not take the trouble to figure out what the great philosophical problems are about. The momentous statements I come across are at best a storm in a teacup. There are quite a number of people who have a vested interest in the stuff, make a noble living out of it, and they conspire with one another to keep it alive.
People haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both.
Language was invented to ask questions. Answers may be given by grunts and gestures, but questions must be spoken. Humanness came of age when man asked the first question. Social stagnation results not from a lack of answers but from the absence of the impulse to ask questions.
The most effective way to silence our guilty conscience is to convince ourselves and others that those we have sinned against are indeed depraved creatures, deserving every punishment, even extermination. We cannot pity those we have wronged, nor can we be indifferent toward them. We must hate and persecute them or else leave the door open to self-contempt.
Fair play with others is primarily the practice of not blaming them for anything that is wrong with us. We tend to rub our guilty conscience against others the way we wipe dirty fingers on a rag. This is as evil a misuse of others as the practice of exploitation.
In the alchemy of man's soul almost all noble attributes- courage, honor, love, hope, faith, duty, loyalty, and so on - can be transmuted into ruthlessness. Compassion alone stands apart from the continuous traffic between good and evil proceeding within us. Compassion is the antitoxin of the soul: where there is compassion, even the most poisonous impulses remain relatively harmless.
The impression somehow prevails that the true believer, particularly the religious individual, is a humble person. The truth is that the surrendering and humbling of the self breeds pride and arrogance.
The chief burden of the frustrated is the consciousness of a blemished, ineffectual self, and their chief desire is to slough off the unwanted self and begin a new life. They try to realize this desire either by finding a new identity or by blurring and camouflaging their individual distinctness; and both these ends are reached by imitation.
The education explosion is producing a vast number of people who want to live significant, important lives but lack the ability to satisfy this craving for importance by individual achievement. The country is being swamped with nobodies who want to be somebodies.
What merit there is in my thinking is derived from two peculiarities: (1) My inability to be familiar with anything. I simply can't take things for granted. (2) My endless patience. I assume that the only way to find an answer is to hang on long enough and keep groping.
They who lack talent expect things to happen without effort. They ascribe failure to a lack of inspiration or ability, or to misfortune, rather than to insufficient application. At the core of every true talent there is an awareness of the difficulties inherent in any achievement, and the confidence that by persistence and patience something worthwhile will be realized. Thus talent is a species of vigor.
We find it hard to apply the knowledge of ourselves to our judgment of others. The fact that we are never of one kind, that we never love without reservations and never hate with all our being cannot prevent us from seeing others as wholly black or white.
It is probably true that business corrupts everything it touches. It corrupts politics, sports, literature, art, labor unions and so on. But business also corrupts and undermines monolithic totalitarianism. Capitalism is at its liberating best in a noncapitalist environment.
The remarkable thing is that it is the crowded life that is most easily remembered. A life full of turns, achievements, disappointments, surprises, and crises is a life full of landmarks. The empty life has even its few details blurred, and cannot be remembered with certainty.
Nature attains perfection, but man never does. There is a perfect ant, a perfect bee, but man is perpetually unfinished. He is both an unfinished animal and an unfinished man. It is this incurable unfinishedness which sets man apart from other living things. For, in the attempt to finish himself, man becomes a creator. Moreover, the incurable unfinishedness keeps man perpetually immature, perpetually capable of learning and growing.
No totalitarian censor can approach the implacability of the censor who controls the line of communication between the outer world and our consciousness. Nothing is allowed to reach us which might weaken our confidence and lower our morale. To most of us nothing is so invisible as an unpleasant truth.
Modern man is weighed down more by the burden of responsibility than by the burden of sin . We think him more a savior who shoulders our responsibilities than him who shoulders our sins. If instead of making decisions we have but to obey and do our duty, we feel it as a sort of salvation.
Universities are an example of organizations dominated wholly by intellectuals; yet, outside pure science, they have not been an optimal milieu for the unfolding of creative talents. In neither art, music, literature, technology and social theory, nor planning have the Universities figured as originators or as seedbeds of new talents and energies.
We know that words cannot move mountains, but they can move the multitude; and men are more ready to fight and die for a word than for anything else. Words shape thought, stir feeling, and beget action; they kill and revive, corrupt and cure. The "men-of-words"- priests, prophets, intellectuals- have played a more decisive role in history than military leaders, statesmen, and businessmen.
One wonders whether a generation that demands instant satisfaction of all its needs and instant solution of the world's problems will produce anything of lasting value. Such a generation, even when equipped with the most modern technology, will be essentially primitive it will stand in awe of nature, and submit to the tutelage of medicine men.
To overestimate the originality of one's thoughts is perhaps a less serious defect than being unaware of their newness. There is a more pronounced lack of sensitivity in underestimating (ourselves and others) than in overestimating.
It is the individual only who is timeless. Societies, cultures, and civilizations -- past and present -- are often incomprehensible to outsiders, but the individual's hungers, anxieties, dreams, and preoccupations have remained unchanged through the millenia.
A doctrine insulates the devout not only against the realities around them but also against their own selves. The fanatical believer is not conscious of his envy, malice, pettiness and dishonesty. There is a wall of words between his consciousness and his real self.
There is no reason why the profoundest thoughts should not make easy and exciting reading. A profound thought is an exciting thing as exciting as a detective's deductions or hunches. The simpler the words in which a thought is expressed the more stimulating its effect.
Proselytizing is more a passionate search for something not yet found than a desire to bestow upon the world something we already have. It is a search for a final and irrefutable demonstration that our absolute truth is indeed the one and only truth. The proselytizing fanatic strengthens his own faith by converting others.
There is nothing more explosive than a skilled population condemned to inaction. Such a population is likely to become a hotbed of extremism and intolerance, and be receptive to any proselytizing ideology, however absurd and vicious, which promises vast action.
No matter what our achievements might be, we think well of ourselves only in rare moments. We need people to bear witness against our inner judge, who keeps book on our shortcomings and transgressions. We need people to convince us that we are not as bad as we think we are.
People whose lives are barren and insecure seem to show a greater willingness to obey than people who are self-sufficient and self-confident. To the frustrated, freedom from responsibility is more attractive than freedom from restraint.
Unlike the pattern which seems to prevail in the rest of life, in the human species the weak not only survive but often triumph over the strong. The self-hatred inherent in the weak unlocks energies far more formidable then those mobilized by an ordinary struggle for existence.
Nature is a self-made machine, more perfectly automated than any automated machine. To create something in the image of nature is to create a machine, and it was by learning the inner working of nature that man became a builder of machines.
Man is eminently a storyteller. His search for a purpose, a cause, an ideal, a mission and the like is largely a search for a plot and a pattern in the development of his life story - a story that is basically without meaning or pattern.
The devil personifies not the nature that is around us but the nature that is within us- the infinitely ferocious and cunning prehuman creature that is still within us, sealed in the subconscious cellars of the psyche.
How terribly hard and almost impossible it is to tell the truth. More than anything else, the artist in us prevents us from telling aught as it really happened. We deal with the truth as the cook deals with meat and vegetables.
All mass movements strive, therefore, to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth nor certitude outside it. The facts on which the true believer bases his conclusions must not be derived from his experience or observation but from holy writ.
How rare it is to come across a piece of writing that is unambiguous, unqualified, and also unblurred by understatements or subtleties, and yet at the same time urbane and tolerant. It is a vice of the scientific method when applied to human affairs that it fosters hemming and hawing and a scrupulousness that easily degenerates into obscurity and meaninglessness.
It is a talent of the weak to persuade themselves that they suffer for something when they suffer from something; that they are showing the way when they are running away; that they see the light when they feel the heat; that they are chosen when they are shunned.
It seems that when we are oppressed by the knowledge of our worthlessness we do not see ourselves as lower than some and higher than others, but as lower than the lowest of mankind. We hate then the whole world, and we would pour our wrath upon the whole of creation.