I consider anybody a twerp who hasn't read 'Democracy in America' by Alexis de Tocqueville. There can never be a better book than that one on the strengths and vulnerabilities inherent in our form of government.
What troubles me most about my lovely country is that its children are seldom taught that American freedom will vanish, if, when they grow up, and in the exercise of their duties as citizens, they insist that our courts and policemen and prisons be guided by divine or natural law.
It was very lucky for me as a writer that I studied the physical sciences rather than English. I wrote for my own amusement. There was no kindly English professor to tell me for my own good how awful my writing really was. And there was no professor with the power to order me what to read, either.
I was not an anthropology student prior to the war. I took it up as part of a personal readjustment following some bewildering experiences as an infantryman and later as a prisoner of war in Dresden, Germany. The science of the Study of Man has been extremely satisfactory from that personal standpoint.
I think a lot of people, including me, clammed up when a civilian asked about battle, about war. It was fashionable. One of the most impressive ways to tell your war story is to refuse to tell it, you know. Civilians would then have to imagine all kinds of deeds of derring-do.
I get up at 7:30 and work four hours a day. Nine to twelve in the morning, five to six in the evening. Businessmen would achieve better results if they studied human metabolism. No one works well eight hours a day. No one ought to work more than four hours.
Science sent the Hubble telescope out into space, so it could capture light and the absence thereof, from the very beginning of time. And the telescope really did that. So now we know that there was once absolutely nothing, such a perfect nothing that there wasn't even nothing or once.
Human beings will be happier - not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's my utopia.
Still and all, why bother? Here's my answer. Many people need desperately to receive this message: I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.
One of the things that I tell beginning writers is this: If you describe a landscape, or a cityscape, or a seascape, always be sure to put a human figure somewhere in the scene. Why? Because readers are human beings, mostly interested in human beings. People are humanists. Most of them are humanists, that is.
I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee. I have also told them not to work for companies which make massacre machinery, and to express contempt for people who think we need machinery like that.
I do not say that children at war do not die like men, if they have to die. To their everlasting honor and our everlasting shame, they do die like men, thus making possible the manly jubilation of patriotic holidays. But they are murdered children all the same.
After the thing went off, after it was a sure thing that America could wipe out a city with just one bomb, a scientist turned to Father and said, 'Science has now known sin.' And do you know what Father said? He said, 'What is sin?
I do not say that children at war do not die like men, if they have to die. To their everlasting honor and our everlasting shame they do die like men, thus making possible the manly jubilation of patriotic holidays. But they are murdered children all the same.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom always to tell the difference.'Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future.
Because, I said, the japanese were as responsible as the Germans for turning Americans into a bunch of bankrupt militaristic fuckups - after we'd done such a good job of being sincere war-haters after the First World War.
On the eighth day, the forty-year-old hobo said to Billy: This ain't bad. I can be comfortable anywhere.You can? said Billy.On the ninth day the hobo died. So it goes. His last words were: You think this is bad? This ain't bad.
As long as they killed people with conventional rather than nuclear weapons, they were praised as humanitarian statesmen. As long as they did not use nuclear weapons, it appeared, nobody was going to give the right name to all the killing that had been going on since the end of the Second World War, which was surely World War Three.
Five German soldiers and a police dog on a leash were looking down into the bed of the creek. The soldiers' blue eyes were filled with a bleary civilian curiosity as to why one American would try to murder another one so far from home, and why the victim should laugh.
I saw the destruction of Dresden. I saw the city before and then came out of an air-raid shelter and saw it afterward, and certainly one response was laughter. God knows, that's the soul seeking some relief.
No more apologies! So we're poor! All right, we're poor! This is America! And America is one place in this sorry world where people Shouldn't have to apologize for being poor. The question in America should be, 'Is this guy a good citizen? Is he honest? Does he pull his own weight?
It couldn't have been gonorrhea, which never stops eating you up of its own accord. Why should it ever stop of its own accord? It's having such a nice time. Why call off the party? Look how healthy and happy the kids are.
Drawn crudely in the dust of three window-panes were a swastika, a hammer and sickle, and the Stars and Stripes. I had drawn the three symbols weeks before, at the conclusion of an argument about patriotism with Kraft. I had given a hearty cheer for each symbol, demonstrating to Kraft the meaning of patriotism to, respectively, a Nazi, a Communist, and an American"Hooray, hooray, hooray," I'd said.
There i was in late middle age, cut loose in a thoroughly looted, bankrupt nation whose assets had been sold off to foreigners, a nation swamped by unchecked plagues and superstition and illiteracy and hypnotic tv, with virtually no health services for the poor. where to go? what to do?
I like to think we were man and wife. Life itself can be sacramental. The supposition was that we would be leaving the Garden of Eden together, and would cleave to one another in the wilderness through thick and think.
Jonah-John-if I had been a Sam, I would have been a Jonah still-not because I have been unlucky for others, but because somebody or something has compelled me to be certain places, at certain times, without fail. Conveyances and motives, both conventional and bizarre, have been provided. And, according to plan, at each appointed second, at each appointed place this Jonah was there.
Ben understood at last that money was one big dragon, with a billion dollars for a head, and a penny on the tip of its tail. It had as many voices as there were men and women, and it captured all who were fools enough to listen to it all the time."
Future civilizations - better civilizations than this one - are going to judge all men by the extent to which they've been artists. You and I, if some future archaeologist finds our works miraculously preserved in some city dump, will be judged by the quality of our creations. Nothing else about us will matter."
The Contessa was surely way ahead of her time, too, in believing that men were not only usless and idiotic, but downright dangerous. That idea wouldn't catch on big in her native country until the last three years of the Vietnam War."
It is a tragedy, perhaps, that human beings can get so much energy and enthusiasm from hate. If you want to feel ten feet tall and as though you could run a hundred miles without stopping, hate beats pure cocaine any day. Hitler resurrected a beaten, bankrupt, half-starved nation with hatred and nothing more. Imagine that."
Early in 1968, a group of optometrists, with Billy among them, chartered an airplane to fly them from Ilium to an international convention of optometrists in Montreal. The plane crashed on top of Sugarbush Mountain, in Vermont. Everybody was killed but Billy. So it goes. While Billy was recuperating in a hospital in Vermont, his wife died accidentally of carbon-monoxide poisoning. So it goes."
The proper ending for any story about people it seems to me, since life is now a polymer in which the Earth is wrapped so tightly, should be the same abbreviation, which I now write large because I feel like it, which is this one: ETC.
Because we grew up surrounded by big dramatic story arcs in books and movies, we think our lives are supposed to be filled with huge ups and downs. So people pretend there is drama where there is none.
Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not. So I will throw Veterans' Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things. What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance. And all music is.
Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.
Vietnam was an exercise in mistaken idealism Iraq in cynical money-making. And there's no optimism or idealism now -- Americans are tired of knowledge. Our leaders, the C-students from Yale, know this. We're proud of being ignorant that leaves virtue at our core. We aren't frazzled by knowledge like foreigners, so we can be trusted.
If what Billy Pilgrim learned from the Tralfamadorians is true, that we will all live forever, no matter how dead we may sometimes seem to be, I am not overjoyed. Still--if I am going to spend eternity visiting this moment and that, I'm grateful that so many of those moments are nice.
On Tralfamadore, says Billy Pilgrim, there isn't much interest in Jesus Christ. The Earthling figure who is most engaging to the Tralfamadorian mind, he says, is Charles Darwin - who taught that those who die are meant to die, that corpses are improvements. So it goes.
Someday, someday, this crazy world will have to end, And our God will take things back that He to us did lend. And if, on that sad day, you want to scold our God, Why just go ahead and scold Him. He'll just smile and nod.
The words were a paraphrase of the suggestion of Jesus: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's." Bokonon's paraphrase was this: "Pay no attention to Caesar. Caesar doesn't have the slightest idea what's really going on.
They were lovebirds. They entertained each other endlessly with little gifts: sights worth seeing out the plane window, amusing or instructive bits from things they read, random recollections of times gone by. They were, I think, a flawless example of what Bokonon calls a duprass, which is a karass composed of only two persons.
Sometimes I think it is a great mistake to have matter that can think and feel. It complains so. By the same token, though, I suppose that boulders and mountains and moons could be accused of being a little too phlegmatic.
People took such awful chances with chemicals and their bodies because they wanted the quality of their lives to improve. They lived in ugly places where there were only ugly things to do. They didn't own doodley-squat, so they couldn't improve their surroundings. so they did their best to make their insides beautiful instead.
So, in the interests of survival, they trained themselves to be agreeing machines instead of thinking machines. All their minds had to do was to discover what other people were thinking, and then they thought that, too.
I'm an old guy, and I was protesting during the Vietnam War. We killed fifty Asians for every loyal American. Every artist worth a damn in this country was terribly opposed to that war, finally, when it became evident what a fiasco and meaningless butchery it was.
I think William Shakespeare was the wisest human being I ever heard of. To be perfectly frank, though, that's not saying much. We are impossibly conceited animals, and actually dumb as heck. Ask any teacher. You don't even have to ask a teacher. Ask anybody. Dogs and cats are smarter than we are.
Oh, a lion hunter in the jungle dark, And a sleeping drunkard up in central park, and a Chinese dentist and a British queen All fit together in the same machine. Nice, nice, such very different people in the same device!
The sermon was based on what he claimed was a well-known fact, that there were no Atheists in foxholes. I asked Jack what he thought of the sermon afterwards, and he said, "There's a Chaplain who never visited the front.
Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
I paraphrase Aristotle: If you want to be comical, write about people to whom the audience can feel superior; if you want to be tragical, write about at least one person to whom the audience is bound to feel inferior, and no fair having human problems solved by dumb luck or heavenly intervention.
I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d'etat imaginable.
When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away - even if it's only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.
They were adored by the Germans, who thought they were exactly what Englishmen ought to be. They made war look stylish and reasonable, and fun... They were dressed half for battle, half for tennis or croquet.
Son--they say there isn't any royalty in this country, but do you want me to tell you how to be king of the United States of America? Just fall through the hole in a privy and come out smelling like a rose.
There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters.
We don't make bicycles anymore. It's all human relations now. The eggheads sit around trying to figure out new ways for everyone to be happy. Nobody can get fired, no matter what; and if somebody does accidentally make a bicycle, the union accuses us of cruel and inhuman practices and the government confiscates the bicycle for back taxes and gives it to a blind man in Afghanistan.
If a person survives an ordinary span of sixty years or more, there is every chance that his or her life as a shapely story has ended and all that remains to be experienced is epilogue. Life is not over, but the story is.
A book is an arrangement of twenty-six phonetic symbols, ten numerals, and about eight punctuation marks, and people can cast their eyes over these and envision the eruption of Mount Vesuvius or the Battle of Waterloo.
I'd like to teach Iraq about Democracy because we're so experienced with it. First they should know that after 100 years they should free their slaves. Then after 150 years they should give their women the right to vote. Oh, and of course when they start it all they should begin with some genocide and ethnic cleansing.
The Great Depression was going on, so that the station and the streets teemed with homeless people, just as they do today. The newspapers were full of stories of worker layoffs and farm foreclosures and bank failures, just as they are today. All that has changed, in my opinion, is that, thanks to television, we can hide a Great Depression. We may even be hiding a Third World War.
Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.
...we took the 10 machines we agreed were the most beguiling, and we put them on permanent exhibit in the foyer of this library underneath a sign whose words can surely be applied to this whole ruined planet nowadays: THE COMPLICATED FUTILITY OF IGNORANCE
Ideas on earth were badges of friendship or enimity. Their content did not matter. Friends agreed with friends, in order to express friendliness. Enemies disagreed with enemies, in order to express enimity.
He wanted to talk to them, if he could, to discover whether they had truths about life which he had never heard before. Here is what he hoped new truths might do for him: enable him to laugh at his troubles, to go on living, and to keep out of the North Wing of the Midland County General Hospital, which was for lunatics.
The German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, who had syphilis, said that only a person of deep faith could afford the luxury of religious skepticism. Humanists, by and large educated, comfortably middle-class persons with rewarding lives like mine, find rapture enough in secular knowledge and hope. Most people can't.
The dog, who had sounded so ferocious in the winter distances, was a female German Shepherd. She was shivering. Her tail was between her legs. She had been borrowed that morning from a farmer. She had never been to war before. She had no idea what game was being played. Her name was Princess.
Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.
Moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world's champions.
Where do I get my ideas from? You might as well have asked that of Beethoven. He was goofing around in Germany like everybody else, and all of a sudden this stuff came gushing out of him. It was music. I was goofing around like everybody else in Indiana, and all of a sudden stuff came gushing out. It was disgust with civilization.
bergeron's epitaph for the planet, i remember, which he said should be carved in big letters in a wall of the grand canyon for the flying-saucer people to find was this: WE COULD HAVE SAVED IT, BUT WE WERE TOO DOGGONE CHEAP. only he didn't say "doggone.
When the last living thing Has died on account of us, How poetical it would be If Earth could say, In a voice floating up Perhaps From the floor Of the Grand Canyon, "It is done." People did not like it here.
Kilgore Trout once wrote a short story which was a dialogue between two pieces of yeast. They were discussing the possible purposes of life as they ate sugar and suffocated in their own excrement. Because of their limited intelligence, they never came close to guessing that they were making champagne.
The painting was framed in a misty view of sky, sea, and valley. Newt's painting was small, black, and warty. It consisted of scratches made in a black, gummy impasto. The scratches formed a sort of spider's web, and I wondered if they might not be the sticky nets of human futility hung up on a moonless night to dry.
The polls demonstrate that 50 percent of Americans who get their news from TV think Saddam Hussein was behind the Twin Towers attack. Man, have they got ways for getting half-truths out right away now, thanks to TV! I think TV is a calamity in a democracy.
I am beguiled by your physical beauty, and I am moved by how head-over-heels in love with books you are. And nowhere else have I found such thoughtful and literate reportage on the state of the American soul, as that soul makes itself known in the books we write.
I had a friend who was a heavy drinker. If somebody asked him if he'd been drunk the night before, he would always answer offhandedly, 'Oh, I imagine.' I've always liked that answer. It acknowledges life as a dream.
Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round & wet & crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies-God damn it, you've got to be kind.
. . . hummings and clickings could be heard-the sounds attendant to the flow of electrons, now augmenting one maze of electromagnetic crises to a condition that was translatable from electrical qualities and quantities to a high grade of truth.
I have been a writer since 1949. I am self-taught. I have no theories about writing that might help others. When I write, I simply become what I seemingly must become. I am six feet two and weigh nearly two hundred pounds and am badly coordinated, except when I swim. All that borrowed meat does the writing. In the water I am beautiful.
I apologize because of the terrible mess the planet is in. But it has always been a mess. There have never been any 'Good Old Days,' there have just been days. And as I say to my grandchildren, 'Don't look at me. I just got here myself.'
1492. As children we were taught to memorize this year with pride and joy as the year people began living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America. Actually, people had been living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America for hundreds of years before that. 1492 was simply the year sea pirates began to rob, cheat, and kill them.
Indianapolis, Indiana is the first place in the United States of America where a white man was hanged for the murder of an Indian. The kind of people who'll hang a white man for murdering an Indian--that's the kind of people for me.
I went to high school in Indianapolis I learned how to walk around looking tough because everybody had to do that. I go out there occasionally and they're still doing it, walking around looking very tough because something might happen.
One thing I learned, with permission of the school committee of Indianapolis, was that when a tyrant or a government gets in trouble it wonders what to do. Declare war! Then nothing else matters. It's like chess; when in doubt, castle.
Comedians and jazz musicians have been more comforting and enlightening to me than preachers or politicians or philosophers or poets or painters or novelists of my time. Historians in the future, in my opinion, will congratulate us on very little other than our clowning and our jazz.
World War II made war reputable because it was a just war. I wouldn't have missed it for anything. You know how many other just wars there have been? Not many. And the guys I served with became my brothers. If it weren't for World War II, I'd now be the garden editor of The Indianapolis Star. I wouldn't have moved away.
Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before. He is full of murderous resentment of people who are ignorant without having come by their ignorance the hard way.
One thing I found out was that we need extended families. We need gangs. And, of course, if they're tribes and clans and so forth have been dispersed by the industrial revolution by people looking for work wherever they can find it. And a nuclear family, a man, a woman and kids and a dog and cat is no survival scheme at all. Horribly vulnerable.
There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.
It is so short and jumbled and jangled, Sam, because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre. Everybody is supposed to be dead, to never say anything or want anything ever again. Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds. And what do the birds say? All there is to say about a massacre, things like "Poo-tee-weet?
Einstein's E=mc2 is an extraordinary concept. So radical: matter and energy are two phases of the same sort of general stuff. There's only one other idea that radical: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
The two real political parties in America are the Winners and the Losers. The people don't acknowledge this. They claim membership in two imaginary parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, instead.
This is what i find most encouraging about the writing trades: they allow mediocre people who are patient and industrious to revise their stupidity, to edit themselves into something like intelligence. They also allow lunatics to seem saner than sane.
I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.
We'd been apart so long--I'd been dead so long," she said in English. "I thought surely you'd built a new life, with no room in it for me. I'd hoped that." "My life is nothing but room for you." I said. "It could never be filled by anyone but you.
I have this disease late at night sometimes, involving alcohol and the telephone. I get drunk, and I drive my wife away with a breath like mustard gas and roses. And then, speaking gravely and elegantly into the telephone, I ask the telephone operators to connect me with this friend or that one, from whom I have not heard in years.
Perhaps some people really are born unhappy. I surely hope not. Speaking for my sister and myself: We were born with the capacity and determination to be utterly happy all the time. Perhaps even in this we were freaks. Hi ho.
And what is literature, Rabo," he said, "but an insider's newsletter about affairs relating to molecules, of no importance to anything in the universe but a few molecules who have the disease called 'thought'.
All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let's get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States - and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!
In 1844, Karl Marx said, "Religion is the opiate of the masses." He said this at a time when opium and opium derivatives were the only painkillers. And he said it helped a little. He might as well have said, "Religion is the aspirin of the people."
A first grader should understand that her or his culture isn't a rational invention; that there are thousands of other cultures and they all work pretty well; that all cultures function on faith rather than truth; that there are lots of alternatives to our own society...Cultural relativity is defensible, attractive. It's a source of hope. It means we don't have to continue this way if we don't like it.
What's going to happen is, very soon, we're going to run out of petroleum, and everything depends on petroleum. And there go the school buses. There go the fire engines. The food trucks will come to a halt. This is the end of the world.
I've often thought there ought to be a manual to hand to little kids, telling them what kind of planet they're on, why they don't fall off it, how much time they've probably got here, how to avoid poison ivy, and so on.
Is there nothing I have done which will outlive me, other than the opprobrium of my first wife and sons and grandchildren? Do I care? Doesn't everybody? Poor me. Poor practically everybody, with so little durable good to leave behind!
Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler. What can be said to our young people, now that psychopathic personalities, which is to say persons without consciences, without senses of pity or shame, have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and corporations, and made it all their own?
What war has always been is a puberty ceremony. It's a very rough one, but you went away a boy and came back a man, maybe with an eye missing or whatever but godammit you were a man and people had to call you a man thereafter.
So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.
You have never seen greatness in a Presidency; I have. It was a rich kid who you would think had every reason to be a horse's ass - Franklin Roosevelt. He was humane and wise and resourceful. He was called a traitor to his class.
Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.
People are lying all the time as to what a murderous nation we are. So let it be known. We're behaving abominably. It's like having a relative go absolutely nuts. Somebody has to say, "I think Uncle Charlie's off his rocker." We are behaving in a bizarre manner.
Early in 1968, a group of optometrists, with Billy among them, chartered an airplane to fly them from Ilium to an international convention of optometrists in Montreal. The plane crashed on top of Sugarbush Mountain, in Vermont. Everybody was killed but Billy. So it goes. While Billy was recuperating in a hospital in Vermont, his wife died accidentally of carbon-monoxide poisoning. So it goes.
As an old, old man, Trout would be asked by Dr. Thor Lembrig, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, if he feared the future. He would give this reply: 'Mr. Secretary-General, it is the past which scares the bejesus out of me.
I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, 'The Beatles did.
The Fourteenth Book is entitled, "What can a Thoughtful Man Hope for Mankind on Earth, Given the Experience of the Past Million Years?" It doesn't take long to read The Fourteenth Book. It consists of one word and a period. This is it: "Nothing.
Oh, a sleeping drunkard Up in Central Park, And a lion-hunter In the jungle dark, And a Chinese dentist,And a British queen--All fit togetherIn the same machine.Nice, nice, very nice;Nice, nice, very nice; Nice, nice, very nice--So many different peopleIn the same device.
We're doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That's what it is to be alive. It's pretty dense kids who haven't figured that out by the time they're ten.... Most kids can't afford to go to Harvard and be misinformed.
Aside from battles, the history of nations seemed to consist of nothing but powerless old poops like myself, heavily medicated and vaguely beloved in the long ago, coming to kiss the boots of young psychopaths.
And, if you'll investigate the history of science, my dear boy, I think you'll find that most of the really big ideas have come from intelligent playfulness. All the sober, thin-lipped concentration is really just a matter of tidying up around the fringes of the big ideas.
So what indeed! The lesson I myself learned over and over again when teaching at the college and then the prison was the uselessness of information to most people, except as entertainment. If facts weren't funny or scary, or couldn't make you rich, the heck with them.
I learned the joke at the core of American self-improvement: knowledge was so much junk to be processed one way or another at great universities. The real treasure the great universities offered was a lifelong membership in a respected artificial extended family.
I will say further, as an officer of an enormous international conglomerate, that nobody who is doing well in this economy ever even wonders waht is really going on.We are chimpanzees. We are orangutans.
The fortifications have never been attacked, nor has any sane man ever proposed any reason why they should be attacked. They have never defended anything. Fourteen hundred persons are said to have died while building them. Of these fourteen hundred, about half are said to have been executed in public for substandard zeal.
Pretty, was she?""Pretty?" he echoed. "Mister, when I see my first lady angel, if God ever sees fit to show me one, it'll be her wings and not her face that'll make my mouth fall open. I've already seen the prettiest face that ever could be.
This much I knew and know: I was making myself hideously uncomfortable by not narrowing my attention to details of life which were immediately important, and by refusing to believe what my neighbors believed.
I concluded that the best thing for me and for those around me was to want nothing, to be enthusiastic about nothing, to be as unmotivated as possible, in fact, so that I would never again hurt anyone.
What he meant, of course, was that there would always be wars, that they were as easy to stop as glaciers. I believe that, too.And even if wars didn't keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain old death.
Mankind flung its advance agents ever outward, ever outward. Eventually it flung them out into space, into the colorless, tasteless, weightless sea of outwardness without end. It flung them like stones.
Your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.
Any man who would change the World in a significant way must have showmanship, a genial willingness to shed other people's blood, and a plausible new religion to introduce during the brief period of repentance and horror that usually follows bloodshed.
So many people think that practicing an art is a good way to make a living. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. I'm talking about singing in the shower, I'm talking about dancing to the radio, I'm talking about writing a poem to a friend.
The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again. There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.
Socialism" is no more an evil word than "Christianity." Socialism no more prescribed Joseph Stalin and his secret police and shuttered churches than Christianity prescribed the Spanish Inquisition. Christianity and socialism alike, in fact, prescribe a society dedicated to the proposition that all men, women, and children are created equal and shall not starve.
Being American is to eat a lot of beef steak, and boy, we've got a lot more beef steak than any other country, and that's why you ought to be glad you're an American. And people have started looking at these big hunks of bloody meat on their plates, you know, and wondering what on earth they think they're doing.
I'm simply interested in what is going to happen next. I don't think I can control my life or my writing. Every other writer I know feels he is steering himself, and I don't have that feeling. I don't have that sort of control. I'm simply becoming. I'm startled that I became a writer.
Sometimes I wonder if he wasn't born dead. I never met a man who was less interested in the living. Sometimes I think that's the trouble with the world: too many people in high places who are stone-cold dead.
I didn't know then what a sperm was, and so wouldn't understand his answer for several years. "My boy," he said, "you are descended from a long line of determined, resourceful, microscopic tadpoles-- champions every one.
What geography can give all Middle Westerners, along with the fresh water and topsoil, if they let it, is awe for an Edenic continent stretching forever in all directions. Makes you religious. Takes your breath away.
Where men had once howled and hacked at one another, and fought nip-and-tuck with nature as well, the machines hummed and whirred and clicked, and made parts for baby carriages and bottle caps, motorcycles and refrigerators, television sets and tricycles-the fruits of peace.
The Bible may be the Greatest Story Ever Told, but the most popular story you can ever tell is about a good-looking couple having a really swell time copulating outside wedlock, and having to quit for one reason or another while doing it is still a novelty.
Where is home? I've wondered where home is, and I realized, it's not Mars or someplace like that, it's Indianapolis when I was nine years old. I had a brother and a sister, a cat and a dog, and a mother and a father and uncles and aunts. And there's no way I can get there again.
Don't put one foot in your job and the other in your dream, Ed. Go ahead and quit, or resign yourself to this life. It's just too much of a temptation for fate to split you right up the middle before you've made up your mind which way to go.
If you make people laugh or cry about little black marks on sheets of white paper, what is that but a practical joke? All the great story lines are great practical jokes that people fall for over and over again.
- Why me? - That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber? - Yes. - Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.
I am honorary President of the American Humanist Society, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that utterly functionless capacity. We Humanists behave as well as we can, without any rewards or punishments in an Afterlife.
It is a big temptation to me, when I create a character for a novel, to say that he is what he is because of faulty wiring, or because of microscopic amounts of chemicals which he ate or failed to eat on that particular day.
Evolution can go to hell as far as I am concerned. What a mistake we are. We have mortally wounded this sweet life-supporting planet - the only one in the whole Milky Way - with a century of transportation whoopee.
Actually, to be an effective person politically in this country, I think you have to be thirty or over, and also you have to be rich, well-placed, you have to be close to power. And I don't think that young people, because they look young, can do much, as I think they are counterproductive.