Sydney J. Harris

Sydney J.

American Journalist and Syndicated Columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times

Author Quotes

Why do so many people yearn for an eternal life when they don't even know what to do with themselves in this brief one?

Agreement makes us soft and complacent; disagreement brings out our strength. Our real enemies are the people who make us feel so good that we are slowly, but inexorably, pulled down into the quicksand of smugness and self-satisfaction.

One of the things that is manifestly wrong with our school system is our thoughtless practice of hiring and assigning the youngest and the least experienced teachers for the lowest classes, when it should be quite the other way around.

You may be certain that when a man begins to call himself a realist, he is preparing to do something he is secretly ashamed of.

All significant achievement comes from daring, from experiment, from the willingness to risk failure.

Parents should live for their children, but not through them; the parents whose satisfactions are wholly reflections of their children's achievements are as much monsters as the parents who neglect their offspring. Nothing can deform a personality so much as the burden of a love that is utterly self-sacrificing.

American parents, on the whole, do not want their sons to be artisans or craftsmen, but business or professional people. As a result, millions of youngsters are being prepared for careers they have little aptitude for - and little interest in except for dubious prestige.

People far prefer happiness to wisdom, but that is like wanting to be immortal without getting older.

Any creed whose basic doctrines do not include respect for the creeds of others, is simply power politics masquerading as philosophy.

People who are running frantically after happiness remind me of those who are peering everywhere for the spectacles that are perched on their foreheads.

People who won't help others in trouble "because they got into trouble through their own fault" would probably not throw a lifeline to a drowning man until they learned whether he fell in through his own fault or not.

The greatest enemy of progress is not stagnation, but false progress.

This is the beauty of doing work you enjoy, so that while it is a chore in one respect, it is a pleasure in another.

Perseverance is the most overrated of traits, if it is unaccompanied by talent; beating your head against a wall is more likely to produce a concussion in the head than a hole in the wall.

The lusts of the flesh can be gratified anywhere; it is not this sort of licence that distinguishes New York. It is, rather, a lust of the total ego for recognition, even for eminence. More than elsewhere, everybody here wants to be Somebody.

Those obsessed with health are not healthy; the first requisite of good health is a certain calculated carelessness about oneself.

Self-discipline without talent can often achieve astounding results, whereas talent without self-discipline inevitably dooms itself to failure.

The most important tactic in an argument, next to being right, is to leave an escape hatch for your opponent, so that he can gracefully swing over to your side without an embarrassing loss of face.

Usually, if we hate, it is the shadow of the person that we hate, rather than the substance. We may hate a person because he reminds us of someone we feared and disliked when younger; or because we see in him some gross caricature of what we find repugnant in ourself; or because he symbolizes an attitude that seems to threaten us.

Somebody who never got over the embarrassing fact that he was born in bed with a lady.

The most worthwhile form of education is the kind that puts the educator inside you, as it were, so that the appetite for learning persists long after the external pressure for grades and degrees has vanished. Otherwise you are not educated; you are merely trained.

We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until... we have stopped saying "It got lost," and say "I lost it."

Sometimes the best, and only effective, way to kill an idea is to put it into practice.

The pessimist sees only the tunnel; the optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel; the realist sees the tunnel and the light - and the next tunnel.

We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until we move from the passive voice to the active voice--that is, until we have stopped saying It got lost, and say, I lost it.

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Sydney J.
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American Journalist and Syndicated Columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times