Thursday, June 19, 2008

Specialization is for Insects.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

So I was searching for some epigraph quotes for my new novel. I’ve decided on a Cure song - which is something I’ve done in all of my novels. The Cure is my favorite band, besides the Police; but The Cure is especially conducive to my creative process. I always listen to The Cure when I’m writing… it’s part of my whole process and I feel it necessary to pay tribute to Robert Smith whenever I can.

But I digress…

My protagonist, Sully, is an expert outdoorsman with a degree in English Literature and he tends to throw out a quote here and there during the course of the novel as appropriate. At one point, when commenting on the nature of man, he quotes someone who I consider to be one of the greatest minds humanity has ever produced.

I’m talking about Robert A. Heinlein.

Someday – when our society is sufficiently evolved and the narrow-minded, stupid, sexually repressed bigots have been either bred out of our genes or unceremoniously taken behind the house and summarily executed… the world will recognize Heinlein for his prophetic genius.

No other modern writer has so brilliantly or so sensibly explained the human condition ever. Which leads me to today’s post… it’s a series of some of the best of Heinlein’s quotes and quotes that lead me down the path I’ve taken with my life.

This is a tribute to the man’s singular genius…

Everything I’ve Ever Needed to Know, I’ve Learned from Robert A. Heinlein

On Writing…

"There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized or even cured. The only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private and where food can be poked in to him with a stick."

"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards."

"A "critic" is a man who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men. There is logic in this; he is unbiased — he hates all creative people equally."

"A poet who reads his verse in public may have other nasty habits."

"If you happen to be one of the fretful minority who can do creative work, never force an idea; you'll abort it if you do. Be patient and you'll give birth to it when the time is ripe. Learn to wait."

Dealing with others…

"You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity."

"An armed society is a polite society."

"The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed."

"TANSTAAFL. (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch)"

Approach to life…

"Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks."

"Get a shot off fast. This upsets him long enough to let you make your second shot perfect."

"If tempted by something that feels "altruistic," examine your motives and root out that self-deception. Then, if you still want to do it, wallow in it!"

"It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a live lion. And usually easier."

"Never appeal to a man's "better nature." He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage."

"Never underestimate the power of human stupidity."

"Place your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark."

"There is no such thing as "social gambling." Either you are there to cut the other bloke's heart out and eat it — or you're a sucker. If you don't like this choice — don't gamble."

"When the need arises — and it does — you must be able to shoot your own dog. Don't farm it out — that doesn't make it nicer, it makes it worse."

"Geniuses and supergeniuses always make their own rules on sex as on everything else; they do not accept the monkey customs of their lessers."

"There is nothing wrong with being scared... as long as you don't let it affect you until the danger is over. Being hysterical is okay, too... afterwards and in private. Tears are not unmanly... in the bathroom with the door locked. The difference between a coward and a brave man is mostly a matter of timing."

Dealing with the fairer sex…
"If the universe has any purpose more important than topping a woman you love and making a baby with her hearty help, I've never heard of it."

"Men are more sentimental than women. It blurs their thinking."

"Rub her feet."

"What a wonderful world it is that has girls in it!"

Sex and Morality…

"Darling, a true lady takes off her dignity with her clothes and does her whorish best. At other times you can be as modest and dignified as your persona requires."

"Of all the strange "crimes" that human beings have legislated out of nothing, "blasphemy"is the most amazing — with "obscenity" and "indecent exposure" fighting it out for second and third place."

"Sin lies only in hurting others unnecessarily. All other "sins" are invented nonsense."


"History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it."

"One man's theology is another man's belly laugh."

"A religion is sometime a source of happiness, and I would not deprive anyone of happiness. But it is a comfort appropriate for the weak, not for the strong. The great trouble with religion - any religion - is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak certainty of reason- but one cannot have both."

Science, Logic, and Reason…

"Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house."

"Delusions are often functional. A mother's opinions about her children's beauty, intelligence, goodness, et cetera ad nauseam, keep her from drowning them at birth."

"If it can't be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion. It has long been known that one horse can run faster than another — but which one? Differences are crucial."

Dealing with the stupid…

"Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation. Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can't help being stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity."

On Freedom and Governments…

"A society that gets rid of all its troublemakers goes downhill."

"Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How's that again? I missed something.Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let's play that over again, too. Who decides?"

"Does history record any case in which the majority was right?"

"When a place gets crowded enough to require ID's, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere."

Do you Grokk, water friend?

1 comment:

Phronk said...

Some brilliant nuggets in there. I especially like the one about not forcing creative work. It's something that's so true, and so baffling, about creating anything.