Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.


"How often do we sigh for opportunities of doing good, whist we neglect the openings of Providence in little things, which would frequently lead to the accomplishment of most important usefulness!... Good is done by degrees. However small in proportion the benefits which follow individual attempts to do good, a great deal may thus be accomplished by perseverance, even in the midst of discouragements and disappointments." - George Crabbe

"The search for static security - in the law and elsewhere - is misguided. The fact is security can only be achieved through constant change, through discarding old ideas that have outlived their usefulness and adapting others to current facts." -

"Be unselfish. That is the first and final commandment for those who would be useful, and happy in their usefulness. If you think of yourself only, you cannot develop because you are choking the source of development, which is spiritual expansion through thought for others." - Charles W. Eliot

"The usefulness of historical knowledge in philosophy, here as elsewhere, is that the prejudices of our own period may lose their grip on us if we imaginatively enter into another period, when people’s prejudices were different." - Peter Geach, fully Peter Thomas Geach

"[Suicide note] - Human life consists in mutual service. No grief, pain, misfortune, or 'broken heart' is excuse for cutting off one's life while any power of service remains. But when all usefulness is over, when one is assured of an unavoidable and imminent death, it is the simplest of human rights to choose a quick and easy death in place of a slow and horrible one." - Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a.k.a. Charlotte Anna (nee Perkins), Charlotte Perkins Stetson

"Success can corrupt; usefulness can only exalt." - Dmitri Mitropoulos

"Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives, the cumulative experience of many masters of craftsmanship. Quality also marks the search for an ideal after necessity has been satisfied and mere usefulness achieved." -

"Just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the usefulness of what is not." -

"Esteem is the harvest of a whole life spent in usefulness; but reputation is often bestowed upon a chance action, and depends most on success." - George Augustus Sala, fully George Augustus Henry Sala

"Friendship is the only thing in the world concerning the usefulness of which all mankind are agreed." -

"Men, like nails, lose their usefulness when they lose direction and begin to bend. " - Walter Savage Landor

"We pierce doors and windows to make a house; and it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the house depends. Therefore just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the usefulness of what is not." - Lao Tzu, ne Li Urh, also Laotse, Lao Tse, Lao Tse, Lao Zi, Laozi, Lao Zi, La-tsze

"Young men have strong passions, and tend to gratify them indiscriminately... They have as yet met with few disappointments. Their lives are mainly spent not in memory but in expectation; for expectation refers to the future, memory to the past, and youth has a long future before it and a short past behind it: on the first day of one’s life one has nothing at all to remember, and can only look forward... They would always rather do noble deeds than useful ones: their lives are regulated more by moral feeling than by reasoning; and whereas reasoning leads us to choose what is useful, moral goodness leads us to choose what is noble. They are fonder of their friends, intimates, and companions than older men are, because they like spending their days in the company of others, and have not yet come to value either their friends or anything else by their usefulness to themselves. All their mistakes are in the direction of doing things excessively and vehemently. They disobey Chilon’s precept by overdoing everything; they love too much and hate too much, and the same thing with everything else. They think they know everything, and are always quite sure about it." - Aristotle NULL

"A happy marriage is a new beginning of life, a new starting-point for happiness and usefulness." - Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, known as Dean Stanley

"The purest pleasures lie within the circle of useful occupation. Mere pleasure, sought outside of usefulness, is fraught with poison." - Henry Ward Beecher

"The purest pleasures lie within the circle of useful occupation. Mere pleasure, sought outside of usefulness, is fraught with poison." - Henry Ward Beecher

"Those who are completely satisfied with their accomplishments have outlived their usefulness." - John A. Marshall, fully John Aloysius Marshall

"Consider the postage stamp my son: Its usefulness consists in its ability to stick to one thing until it gets there" - Josh Billings, pen name for Henry Wheeler Shaw, aka Uncle Esek

"We are a spectacular manifestation of life. We have language... We have affection. We have genes for usefulness, and usefulness is about as close to a "common goal" of nature as I can guess at. And finally, and perhaps best of all, we have music." - Lewis Thomas

"A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner; neither do uninterrupted prosperity and success qualify men for usefulness and happiness." - Robert Burton

"Nothing in this world is so good as usefulness. It binds your fellow-creatures to you, and you to them; it tends to the improvement of your own character; and it gives you a real importance in society, much beyond what any artificial station can bestow." - Benjamin Collins Brodie, fully Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie, 1st Baronet

"It is attention, more than any difference between minds and men.—In this is the source of poetic genius, and of the genius of discovery in science.—It was this that led Newton to the invention of fluxions, and the discovery of gravitation, and Harvey to find out the circulation of the blood, and Davy to those views which laid the foundation of modern chemistry." - Benjamin Collins Brodie, fully Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie, 1st Baronet

"A man's usefulness depends upon his living up to his ideals insofar as he can. It is hard to fail but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. All daring and courage, all iron endurance of misfortune, make for a finer, nobler type of manhood. Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die, and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of the life and the duty of life." - Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt

"It must be for truth's sake, and not for the sake of its usefulness to humanity, that the scientific man studies Nature. The application of science to the useful arts requires other abilities, other qualities, other tools than his; and therefore I say that the man of science who follows his studies into their practical application is false to his calling. The practical man stands ever ready to take up the work where the scientific man leaves it, and adapt it to the material wants and uses of daily life." - Louis Agassiz, fully Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz

"Does man exist for the sake of society? The ultimate worth of a person would then be determined by his usefulness to others, by the efficiency of his social work.... Such service does not claim all of one’s life and can therefore not be the ultimate answer to his quest for the meaning of life as a whole. Man has more to give than what other men are able or willing to accept. Man’s quest for a meaning of existence is essentially a quest for lasting... The way to the lasting does not lie on the other side of life; it does not begin where time breaks off. The lasting begins not beyond but within time, within the moment, within the concrete... The days of our lives are representatives of eternity rather than fugitives, and we must live as if the fate of all time would totally depend on a single moment." - Abraham Joshua Heschel

"Behold the complacent salesman retailing the Good and True. One can even buy a so-called Religion, which is really but common morality sanctified with flowers and music. Rob the Church of her accessories and what remains behind? Yet the trusts thrive marvelously, for the prices are absurdly cheap,--a prayer for a ticket to heaven, a diploma for an honorable citizenship.Hide yourself under a bushel quickly, for if your real usefulness were known to the world you would soon be knocked down to the highest bidder by the public auctioneer." -

"Just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the usefulness of what is not. " - Lao Tzu, ne Li Urh, also Laotse, Lao Tse, Lao Tse, Lao Zi, Laozi, Lao Zi, La-tsze

"We are a spectacular, splendid manifestation of life. We have language. . . . We have affection. We have genes for usefulness, and usefulness is about as close to a 'common goal' of nature as I can guess at. " - Lewis Thomas

"Friendship is the only thing in the world concerning the usefulness of which all mankind are agreed. " - Cicero, fully Marcus Tullius Cicero, anglicized as Tully NULL

"Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you. And in this materialistic age, a great many of us are possessed by our possessions. " - Peace Pilgrim, born Mildred Lisette Norman Ryder

"A success that has outlived its usefulness may, in the end, be more damaging than failure." - Peter F. Drucker, fully Peter Ferdinand Drucker

"Yesterday contains all the battlefields in which freedom was gradually wrought out from many threads all dipped in blood. Yesterday contains the experiment and the failure of all despotisms. Yesterday con tains the onset and defeat of every form of sin and vice. Yesterday holds the ashes of all beauty, and of all life except that of the soul with God. Yesterday is full of past usefulness and of its ways and means, full of tears and their causes and cures. In that shadowy domain there stands the cross, and there is the Saviour dying for the vast myriads of a race. God has not without reason thrown such an immense history behind His children of to-day. It must be that out of the world that has been there is always flowing down to those who are living a stream of wisdom and character that bears onward to a sacred destiny. " - David Swing, aka Professor Swing

"A public man must never forget that he loses his usefulness when he as an individual, rather than his policy, becomes the issue." - Richard Nixon, fully Richard Milhous Nixon

"Thus, authoritative action will tend to reduce stress, while inaction will increase it. This may be true regardless of the content of the action." - Ronald A. Heifetz

"The interval between a cold expectation and a warm desire may be filled by expectations of varying degrees of warmth or by desires of varying degrees of coldness." - Samuel Alexander

"Anyone who emerges in the midst of mankind as a herald who knows how to employ the gift of poetry to inspire the human mind with enthusiasm for all that is pure and true and godly, anyone who knows how to make man proud to be human and to enable him to recognize his God in every breath of his existence, anyone who can snatch man from the dust to have him stand upright in all his dignity and nobility, is, in the view of Judaism, a messenger of God on earth." - Samson Raphael Hirsch

"Class is no assurance of genius, ability or wisdom. No man is fit to control the lives of his fellows. The trade unions are the agencies through which wage-earners are working out their destinies and interposing a check upon the arbitrary power in industry." - Samuel Gompers

"Can he explained that certain individuals, who do not even know how to swim, try to jump from the top of a bridge to save someone who is drowning? These individuals simply move to a magical force pulses, a force impels them before they have time to realize is foolishly reckless, and just like that, without thinking, without conscious thought, I kept to that unfortunate from the living Casino game lobby and from the lobby to the terrace." - Stefan Zweig

"Above all, in this speech, as in so many others, he taught a lesson in wise kindliness and charity; an indispensable lesson to us of to-day, for if we approach the work of reform in a spirit of vindictiveness-in a spirit of reckless disregard for the rights of others, or of hatred for men because they are better off than ourselves—we are sure in the end to do not good but damage to all mankind, and especially to those whose especial champions we pro-fess ourselves to be." - Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt

"Fundamentally, our chief problem may be summed up as the effort to make men as nearly as they can be made, both free and equal; the freedom and equality necessarily resting on a basis of justice and brotherhood. It is not possible, with the imperfections of mankind, ever wholly to achieve such an ideal, if only for the reason that the shortcomings of men are such that complete and unrestricted individual liberty would mean the negation of even approximate equality, while a rigid and absolute equality would imply the destruction of every shred of liberty. Our business is to secure a practical working combination between the two. This combination should aim, on the one hand to secure to each man the largest measure of individual liberty that is compatible with his fellows getting from life a just share of the good things to which they are legitimately entitled; while, on the other hand, it should aim to bring about among well-behaved, hardworking people a measure of equality which shall be substantial, and which shall yet permit to the individual the personal liberty of achievement and reward without which life would not be worth living, without which all progress would stop, and civilization ?rst stagnate and then go backwards. Such a combination cannot be completely realized. It can be realized at all only by the application of the spirit of fraternity, the spirit of brotherhood. This spirit demands that each man shall learn and apply the principle that his liberty must be used not only for his own bene?t but for the interest of the community as a whole, while the community in its turn, acting as a whole, shall understand that while it must insist on its own rights as against the individual, it must also scrupulously safeguard these same rights of the individual." - Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt

"Our country has been populated by pioneers, and therefore it has in it more energy, more enterprise, more expansive power than any other in the wide world... They have shown the qualities of daring, endurance, and far-sightedness, of eager desire for victory and stubborn refusal to accept defeat, which go to make up the essential manliness of the American character. Above all, they have recognized in practical form the fundamental law of success in American life—the law of worthy work, the law of high, resolute endeavor. We have but little room among our people for the timid, the irresolute, and the idle; and it is no less true that there is scant room in the world at large for the nation with mighty thews that dares not to be great." - Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt

"Businesses, are, in reality, quasi-religious sects. When you go to work in one, you embrace A New Faith. And if they are really big businesses, you progress from faith to a kind of mystique. Belief in the product, preaching the product, in the end the product becomes the focus of a transcendental experience. Through “the product” one communes with the vast forces of life, nature, and history that are expressed in business." - Thomas Merton

"The various systems of doctrine that have held dominion over man have been demonstrated to be true beyond all question by rationalists of such power—to name only a few—as Aquinas and Calvin and Hegel and Marx. Guided by these master hands the intellect has shown itself more deadly than cholera or bubonic plague and far more cruel. The incompatibility with one another of all the great systems of doctrine might surely be have expected to provoke some curiosity about their nature." - Wilfred Trotter, fully Wilfred Batten Lewis Trotter

"What fearful shapes and shadows beset his path, amidst the dim and ghastly glare of a snowy night! With what wistful look did he eye every trembling ray of light streaming across the waste fields from some distant window! How often was he appalled by some shrub covered with snow, which, like a sheeted specter, beset his very path! How often did he shrink with curdling awe at the sound of his own steps on the frosty crust beneath his feet; and dread to look over his shoulder, lest he should behold some uncouth being tramping close behind him! and how often was he thrown into complete dismay by some rushing blast, howling among the trees, in the idea that it was the Galloping Hessian on one of his nightly scouring!" - Washington Irving

"He had nothing he could do with is life's work now except leave it to a man who thought nothing of it." - Wendell Berry

"No wonder so many sermons are devoted exclusively to spiritual subjects. If one is living by the tithes of history's most destructive economy, then the disembodiment of the soul becomes the chief of worldly conveniences." - Wendell Berry

"Now what is the effect on a man or a nation when it comes passionately to believe such an extraordinary dictum as this? That nations are coming to believe it is manifest daily. Wave on wave, each with increasing virulence, is dashing this new religion of whiteness on the shores of our time. Its first effects are funny: the strut of the Southerner, the arrogance of the Englishman amuck, the whoop of the hoodlum who vicariously leads your mob." - W. E. B. Du Bois, fully William Edward Burghardt Du Bois

"By declaring that man is responsible and must actualize the potential meaning of his life, I wish to stress that the true meaning of life is to be discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche, as though it were a closed system. I have termed this constitutive characteristic the self-transcendence of human existence. It denotes the fact that being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself--be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself--by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love--the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself. What is called self-actualization is not an attainable aim at all, for the simple reason that the more one would strive for it, the more he would miss it. In other words, self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence." - Viktor Frankl, fully Viktor Emil Frankl

"The object of punishment is three­fold: for just retribution; for the protection of society; for the reformation of the offender." - Tryon Edwards