Allen Wheelis Quotes
“One theft, however, does not make a thief . . Action which defines a man, describes his character, is action which has been repeated over and over and so has come in time to be a coherent and relatively independent mode of behavior. At first it may have been fumbling and uncertain, may have required attention, effort, will - as when first drives a car, first makes love, first robs a bank, first stands up against injustice.
If one perseveres on any such course it comes in time to require less effort, less attention, begins to function smoothly; its small component behaviors become integrated within a larger pattern which has an ongoing dynamism and cohesiveness, carries its own authority. Such a mode then pervades the entire person, permeates other modes, colors other qualities, in some sense is living and operative even when the action is not being performed, or even considered. . . .
Such a mode of action tends to maintain itself, to resist change. A thief is one who steals; stealing extends and reinforces the identity of a thief, which generates further thefts, which further strengthen and deepen the identity. So long as one lives, change is possible; but the longer such behavior is continued the more force and authority it acquires, the more it permeates other constant bodes, subordinates other conflicting modes; changing back becomes steadily more difficult; settling down to an honest job, living on one's earnings becomes ever more unlikely. And what is said here of stealing applies equally to courage, cowardice, creativity . . . or any other of the myriad ways of behaving, and hence of being.”
“I remember a spring night in a school auditorium, during the rehearsal of a play. I am thirteen. I am weary of the farce, weary of the silliness of the cast, of our endless horseplay, mindlessness. A scene in which I have no part is being rehearsed; I stand in an open door at the rear of the dark and empty hall. A storm is under way. The door is on the lee of the building, and I step out under the overhang. The rain swirls and beats. Lightning reveals a familiar schoolyard in a ghostly light. I feel a sudden poignancy. Images strike my mind. The wind is the scream of a lost spirit, searching the earth and finding no good, recalling old bereavements, lashing the land with tears. Consciousness leaves my body, moves out in time and space. I undergo an expanding awareness of self, of separateness, of time flowing through me, bearing me on, knowing I have a chance, the one chance all of us have, the chance of a life, knowing a time will come when nothing lies ahead and everything lies behind, and hoping I can then look back and feel it well spent. How, in the light of fixed stars, should one live?”
“Matter would have the universe a uniform dispersion, motionless, complete. Spirit would have an earth, a heaven and a hell, whirl and conflict, an incandescent sun to drive away the dark, to illuminate good and evil, would have thought, memory, desire, would build a stairway of forms increasing in complexity, inclusiveness, to a heaven ever receding above, changing always in configuration, becoming when reached but the way to more distant heavens, the last . . . but there is no last, for spirit tends upward without end, wanders, spirals, dips, but tends ever upward, ruthlessly using lower forms to create higher forms, moving toward ever greater inwardness, consciousness, spontaneity, to an ever greater freedom.”
“People may indeed be treated as objects and may be profoundly affected thereby. Kick a dog often enough and he will become cowardly or vicious. People who are kicked undergo similar changes; their view of the world and of themselves is transformed. . . People may indeed be brainwashed, for benign or exploitative reasons. . .
If one's destiny is shaped by manipulation one has become more of an object, less of a subject, has lost freedom. . .
If, however, one's destiny is shaped from within then one has become more of a creator, has gained freedom. This is self-transcendence, a process of change that originates in one's heart and expands outward. . . begins with a vision of freedom, with an "I want to become...", with a sense of the potentiality to become what one is not. One gropes toward this vision in the dark, with no guide, no map, and no guarantee. Here one acts as subject, author, creator.”
“A free man is not a slave who has escaped his master; such a man is but a runaway slave who may be caught and returned to servitude. A free man, though he may be overpowered, may be killed, cannot be reduced to servitude; something in him asserts freedom as an inviolable right.
It is not negotiable.
He does not *ask* that others respect his right, he *requires* it; and it is ultimately his willingness to die for this freedom which forms the basis of his demand that others respect it.”
“A man in chains need not be a slave. If he has pride and self-respect he is a free man though a prisoner, and a constant danger to his jailers. Conversely, a slave who escapes is not a free man, but a runaway slave who may be caught and returned to servitude. A slave is one who accepts the identity ascribed to him by a master: "You are an inferior and unworthy person and so will remain, and therefore must serve me with obedience and humility.”
“Neurotic suffering indicates inner conflict. Each side of the conflict is likely to be a composite of many partial forces, each one of which has been structured into behavior, attitude, perception, value. Each component asserts itself, claims priority, insists that something else yield, accommodates. The conflict therefore is fixed, stubborn, enduring. It may be impugned and dismissed without effect, imprecations and remorse are of no avail, strenuous acts of will may be futile; it causes - yet survives and continues to cause - the most intense suffering, humiliation, rending of flesh.
Such a conflict is not to be uprooted or excised. It is not an ailment, it is the patient himself. The suffering will not disappear without a change in the conflict, and a change in the conflict amounts to a change in what one is and how one lives, feels, reacts.”
“We must affirm freedom and responsibility without denying that we are the product of circumstance, and must affirm that we are the product of circumstance without denying that we have the freedom to transcend that causality to become something which could not even have been provisioned from the circumstances which shaped us.”
“In a condition of struggle and of failure we must be able to say "I must try harder" or "I must try differently." Both views are essential . . . A change in either makes for a change in outcome.
When we say "I must try harder" we mean that the most relevant variable is something within us - intention, will, determination, "meaning it" . .
When we say "I must try differently" we mean that the most relevant variable lies in the situation within which intention is being exerted, that we should look to the environment, to the ways it pushes and pulls at us, and in this study find the means to alter that interaction.”
“Dirty old men are dirty because they are hanging on to life. Sex is the life force, and the nearer they come to death, the more urgent their desire. Thus it comes about that the drive becomes most insistent at the time when the ability to gratify it is disappearing. So they augment a waning potency by reaching down into the dirt, adding lust and aggression to hold aloft an impulse that once soared effortlessly on wings of love alone.”