Lewis Mumford (1895-1990)

“Today, the degradation of the inner life is symbolized by the fact that the only place sacred from interruption is the private toilet.”

“Every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers.”

“One of the functions of intelligence is to take account of the dangers that come from trusting solely to the intelligence.”

“The city is a fact in nature, like a cave, a run of mackerel or an ant-heap. But it is also a conscious work of art, and it holds within its communal framework many simpler and more personal forms of art. Mind takes form in the city; and in turn, urban forms condition mind.”

“However far modern science and techniques have fallen short of their inherent possibilities, they have taught mankind at least one lesson: Nothing is impossible.”

“A man of courage never needs weapons, but he may need bail.”

“A certain amount of opposition is a great help to a man. Kites rise against, not with, the wind.”

“Traditionalists are pessimists about the future and optimists about the past.”

“The artist does not illustrate science (but) he frequently responds to the same interests that a scientist does.”

“New York is the perfect model of a city, not the model of a perfect city.”

“Forget the damned motor car and build the cities for lovers and friends.”

“Life is the only art that we are required to practice without preparation, and without being allowed the preliminary trials, the failures and botches, that are essential for training.”

“Restore human legs as a means of travel. Pedestrians rely on food for fuel and need no special parking facilities.”

“A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search of truth or perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life.”

“Nothing is unthinkable, nothing impossible to the balanced person, provided it comes out of the needs of life and is dedicated to life’s further development.”

“By his very success in inventing labor-saving devices modern man has manufactured an abyss of boredom that only the privileged classes in earlier civilizations have ever fathomed.”

“Every new baby is a blind desperate vote for survival: people who find themselves unable to register an effective political protest against extermination do so by a biological act.”

“The way people in democracies think of the government as something different from themselves is a real handicap. And, of course, sometimes the government confirms their opinion.”

“The earth is the Lord’s fullness thereof: this is no longer a hollow dictum of religion, but a directive for economic action toward human brotherhood.”

“Western society has accepted as unquestionable a technological imperative that is quite as arbitrary as the most primitive taboo: not merely the duty to foster invention and constantly to create technological novelties, but equally the duty to surrender to these novelties unconditionally, just because they are offered, without respect to their human consequences.”

“We have created an industrial order geared to automatism, where feeble-mindedness, native or acquired, is necessary for docile productivity in the factory; and where a pervasive neurosis is the final gift of the meaningless life that issues forth at the other end.”

“Our national flower is the concrete cloverleaf.”

“The cities and mansions that people dream of are those in which they finally live.”

“The chief function of the city is to convert power into form, energy into culture, dead matter into the living symbols of art, biological reproduction into social creativity.”

“It has not been for nothing that the word has remained man’s principal toy and tool: without the meanings and values it sustains, all man’s other tools would be worthless.”

“What was once called the objective world is a sort of Rorschach ink blot, into which each culture, each system of science and religion, each type of personality, reads a meaning only remotely derived from the shape and color of the blot itself.”

“Don’t take the will for the deed; get the deed.”

“To curb the machine and limit art to handicraft is a denial of opportunity.”

“I would die happy if I knew that on my tombstone could be written these words, “This man was an absolute fool. None of the disastrous things that he reluctantly predicted ever came to pass!””

“War is the supreme drama of a completely mechanized society.”

“Today, the notion of progress in a single line without goal or limit seems perhaps the most parochial notion of a very parochial century.”

“The vast material displacements the machine has made in our physical environment are perhaps in the long run less important than its spiritual contributions to our culture.”

“The cycle of the machine is now coming to an end. Man has learned much in the hard discipline and the shrewd, unflinching grasp of practical possibilities that the machine has provided in the last three centuries: but we can no more continue to live in the world of the machine than we could live successfully on the barren surface of the moon.”

“The settlement of America had its origins in the unsettlement of Europe. America came into existence when the European was already so distant from the ancient ideas and ways of his birthplace that the whole span of the Atlantic did not widen the gulf.”

“Sport in the sense of a mass-spectacle, with death to add to the underlying excitement, comes into existence when a population has been drilled and regimented and depressed to such an extent that it needs at least a vicarious participation in difficult feats of strength or skill or heroism in order to sustain its waning life-sense.”

“Without fullness of experience, length of days is nothing. When fullness of life has been achieved, shortness of days is nothing. That is perhaps why the young have usually so little fear of death; they live by intensities that the elderly have forgotten.”

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