On The Influence Of Books

It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon, but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept.

On The Process Of Civilization

Civilization came through two things chiefly: the home, which developed those social dispositions that form the psychological cement of society; and agriculture, which took man from his wandering life as hunter, herder, and killer, and settled him long enough in one place to let him build homes, schools, churches, colleges, universities, civilization. But it was woman who gave man agriculture and the home; she domesticated man as she had domesticated the sheep and the pig. Man is woman's last domestic animal, and perhaps he is the last creature that will be civilized by woman. The task is just begun.

On Death

What if it is for life's sake that we must die? In truth we are not individuals; and it is because we think ourselves such that death seems unforgivable. We are temporary organs of the race, cells in the body of life; we die and drop away that life may remain young and strong. If we were to live forever, growth would be stifled, and youth would find no room on earth. Death, like style, is the removal of rubbish, the circumcision of the superfluous. In the midst of death life renews itself immortally.

Democracy, And The Decay Of Art

Democracy had to pay the price of popular sovereignty in art as well as in politics. The taste of innumerable average men became the guide of the manufacturer, the dramatist, the scenario writer, the novelist, at last of the painter, the sculptor, and the architect; cost and size became norms of value, and a bizarre novelty replaced beauty and workmanship as the goals of art.

On The Meaning Of Education

Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology; it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual; and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding.

On The Value Of The Ego

Nature inoculates us with egotism that we may consent to live. Who could bear to see himself "in the light of eternity?"

Food For Thought

If you wish to be loved, be modest; if you wish to be admired, be proud; if you wish both, combine external modesty with internal pride.

The Mystery Of Life

Life is in its basis a mystery, a river flowing from an unseen source; and in its development an infinite subtlety too complex for thought, much more so for utterance. And yet the thirst for unity draws us on. To chart this wilderness of experience and history, to force into focus on the future the unsteady light of the past, to bring into significance and purpose the chaos of sensation and desire, to discover the direction of life's stream and thereby in some measure to control its flow: this insatiable metaphysical lust is one of the nobler aspects of our questionable race.

On Love

All things must die, but love alone eludes mortality. It overleaps the tombs and bridges the chasm of death with generation. How brief it seems in the bitterness of disillusion; and yet how perennial it is in the perspective of mankind -- how in the end it saves a bit of us from decay and enshrines our life anew in the youth and vigor of the child! Our wealth is a weariness, and our wisdom is a little light that chills; but love warms the heart with unspeakable solace, even more when it is given than when it is received.

On The Value Of Love

Youth, if it were wise, would cherish love beyond all things else, keeping body and soul clear for its coming, lengthening its days with months of betrothal, sanctioning it with a marriage of solemn ritual, making all things subordinate to it resolutely. Wisdom, if it were young, would cherish love, nursing it with devotion, deepening it with sacrifice, vitalizing it with parentage. Even though love consumes us in its service and overwhelms us with tragedy, even though it breaks us down with its passing and weighs us down with separations, let it be first.

On The Value Of Great Men

Great men are not so much creators as midwives: they help to bring forth that which is already in the womb of time ... Great men may not be the causes of the events usually featured in history -- wars, elections, migrations, etc,; but they bring forth the inventions and discoveries demanded by the age. In this sense the growth of knowledge is the essence of history.

On Originality

Nothing is new except arrangement

Nature And Politics

Nature cares little about laws and states; her passion is for the family and the child. If she can preserve these she is indifferent to governments and dynasties and smiles at those who busy themselves with transferring constitutions.

Religion And Civilization

A certain tension between religion and society marks the highest stages of every civilization. Religion begins by offering magical aid to harassed and bewildered men; it culminates by giving to a people that unity of morals and belief which seems so favorable to statesmanship and art; it ends by fighting suicidally in the lost cause of the past. For as knowledge grows or alters continually, it clashes with mythology and theology, which change with geological leisureliness. Priestly control of arts and letters is then felt as a galling shackle or hateful barrier, and intellectual history takes on the character of a "conflict between science and religion" Institutions which were at first in the hands of the clergy, like law and punishment, education and morals, marriage and divorce, tend to escape from ecclesiastical control and become secular, perhaps profane. The intellectual classes abandon the ancient theology and -- after some hesitation -- the moral code allied with it; literature and philosophy become anticlerical. The movement of liberation rises to an exuberant worship of reason, and falls to a paralyzing disillusionment with every dogma and every idea. Conduct, deprived of its religious supports, deteriorates into epicurean chaos; and life itself, shorn of consoling faith, becomes a burden alike, to conscious poverty and to weary wealth. In the end, a society and its religion tend to fall together, like body and soul, in a harmonious death. Meanwhile, among the oppressed, another myth arises, gives new form to human hope, new courage to human effort, and after centuries of chaos builds another civilization.

On Religion And Human Longing

These church steeples, everywhere pointing upward, ignoring despair and lifting hope, these lofty city spires, or simple chapels in the hills -- they rise at every step from the earth toward the sky; in every village of every nation they challenge doubt and invite weary hearts to consolation. Is it all a vain delusion? Is there nothing beyond life but death, and nothing beyond death but decay? We cannot know. But as long as man suffers, these steeples will remain.

On The War Of The Sexes

If you wish to learn which sex is the more intelligent, watch any man in relation with any woman, and see which of the two will twist the other around her finger.

The Wise Man And Experience

A wise man can learn from another man's experience; a fool cannot learn even from his own.

On Women Over Forty

Once a woman of forty was old, decrepit, and trustworthy; today there is nothing more dangerous.

Writers Should Keep Their Fame In Perspective

Literary immortality is a moment in geological time

On Writing History

I want to see history written as a whole; I want to see all these activities of men and women in one age woven into unity, shown in their correlations, their interdependence, their mutual influences; I want the past presented as it was -- all together.

On Wronging Another

Never put a man in the wrong; he will hold it against you forever.