Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Brooks Atkinson, fully Justin Brooks Atkinson

American Dramatic Critic, Essayist

"Bureaucracies are designed to perform public business. But as soon as a bureaucracy is established, it develops an autonomous spiritual life and comes to regard the public as its enemy."

"In the ideal sense nothing is uninteresting; there are only uninterested people."

"In every age 'the good old days' were a myth. No one every thought they were good at the time. For every age has consisted of crises that seemed intolerable to the people who lived through them."

"People everywhere enjoy believing things that they know are not true. It spares them the ordeal of thinking for themselves and taking responsibility for what they know."

"It takes most men five years to recover from a college education, and to learn that poetry is as vital to thinking as knowledge."

"Materialism is decadent and degenerate only if the spirit of the nation has withered and if individual people are so unimaginative that they wallow in it."

"Real art is illumination. It gives a man an idea he never had before or lights up eas that were formless or only lurking in the shadows of the mind. It adds stature to life."

"The evil that men do lives on the front pages of greedy newspapers, but the good is oft interred apathetically inside."

"The humorous man recognizes that absolute purity, absolute justice, absolute logic and perfection are beyond human achievement and that men have been able to live happily for thousands of years in a state of genial frailty."

"The most fatal illusion is the settled point of view. Since life is growth and motion, a fixed pint of view kills anybody who has one."

"There is a calculated risk in everything."

"We tolerate differences of opinion in people who are familiar to us. But differences of opinion in people we do not know sounds like heresy or plots."

"Tomorrow comes to us untarnished by human living. No human eyes have seen it and no one can tell what it is going to be. The Chinese word for tomorrow (mingtien) means "bright day." There is the wisdom of sages and the rapture of the poets in that image."

"Bureaucracies are the same the world over – slow, complicated, timid, unimaginative, routine and inhuman. The perfect bureaucrat everywhere is the man who manages to make no decisions and escapes all responsibility. "

"Everyone in daily life carries such a heavy, mixed burden on his own conscience that he is reluctant to penalize those who have been caught. "

"Life is seldom as unendurable as, to judge by the facts, it logically ought to be. "

"“God” is a convenient way of expressing our wonder in the vast splendor of the universe, and our humility over the modesty of man’s achievements."

"Poverty is not wholly a personal failure. It also represents the failure of an economic system. And the remedy is not wholly one of charity, but of political and economic action. Poverty is a reflection also no those who are not poor."

"I have no objections to churches so long as they do not interfere with God's work."

"We cheerfully assume that in some mystic way love conquers all, that good outweighs evil in the just balances of the universe and at the 11th hour something gloriously triumphant will prevent the worst before it happens."