Humanity on its raft. The raft on the endless ocean. From his present dissatisfaction man reasons that there was some catastrophic wreck in the past, before which he was happy; some golden age, some Garden of Eden. He also reasons that somewhere ahead lies a promised land, a land without conflict. Meanwhile, he is miserably en passage; this myth lies deeper than religious faith.
A god who revealed his will, who 'heard' us, who answered our prayers, who was propitiable, the kind of god simple people like to imagine would be desirable: such a god would destroy all our hazard, all our purpose and all our happiness.
What we call suffering, death, disaster, misfortune, tragedy, we should call the price of freedom.
If there had been a creator, his second act would have been to disappear.
If there were any end toward which evolution was tending, then you and I would be slaves of a pharoah, a builder of pyramids.
We, because we are a form of matter, are contingent; and this terrifying contingency allows our freedom.
The more absolute death seems, the more authentic life becomes.
The driver of a high-explosives truck who does not believe in a life after death drives more carfully than one who does.
The consciousness is a mirror reflecting a mirror reflecting a mirror; anything that enters this room can be endlessly reflected and its reflections reflected. But when the room is demolished, no mirrors, no reflections; nothing.
The old religions and philosophies were refuges, kind to man in a world that his ignorance of science and technology made unkind . . . It is cold and bare outside, says the mother; but one day the child goes out. This age is still our first day out, and we feel ourselves alone; more free and more alone.
Nobody wants to be a nobody. All our acts are partly devised to fill or to mask the emptiness we feel at the core.
All our judgements of right and wrong are absolutely and evolutionally meaningless. But we are like a judge who is compelled to judge. Our function is to judge, to choose between good and evil. If we refuse to do so, we cease to be human beings and revert to our basic state, of being matter.
The good action (and from 'good action' I am here excluding all those actions whose real motive is public esteem) is the most convincing proof we shall ever have that we do possess a relative freedom of will.
There is no redemption, no remission; a sin has no price. It cannot be bought back till time itself is bought back.
We all drift on the same raft. There is only one question. What sort of shipwrecked man shall I be?
Scientifically we know more of one another, and yet, like the receding galaxies, we seem to become each lonelier, remoter. So most of us concentrate, in an apparently meaningless and only too evidently precarious universe, on extracting as much pleasure for ourselves as we can. We act as if we were born into the death cell; condemned to a dangerous age, to an inevitable holocaust; to a being whose only significant aspects are that it is ludicrously brief and ends in a total extinction of the power to enjoy. What hollows us operates, like an awl, in two directions simultaneously. We have not only an exasperating inability to get all that we want but also the excoriating countercutting fear that what we want to get is, in terms of a dimly glimpsed but far richer human reality, worthless. Never were there so many hollow people in the world, like a huge and mounting shore of empty cockleshells.
Art is a human shorthand of knowledge, a crucible, an algebra, a tremendous condensing of galaxies of thoughts, facts, memories, emotions, events, experiences, to ten lines in Macbeth, to six bars in Bach, to a square foot of canvas in a Rembrandt.
All serious scientists and artists want the same: a truth that no one will need to change.
Both in the creator and the spectator, art is the attempt to transcend time.
The great artists who have gone to the dark poles have been driven there. They are always looking back towards the light. They have fallen. Their imitators did not fall; they jumped down.
The discovery of new techniques and materials is an act of genius in itself, regardless of the fact that all true genius has been driven to such discoveries by the need to express some new content.
Literature, in particular poetry, is the most essential and the most valuable [of the great arts] . . . The word is inherent in every artistic situation, if for no other reason than that we can analyse our feelings about the other arts only in words. This is because the word is man's most precise and inclusive tool.
The better poet disproves the worse.
The noblest relationship is marriage, that is, love. Its nobility resides in its altruism, the desire to serve another . . . It is this giving without return, this helping without reward, this surplus of pure good . . . This is the quintessence the great alchemy of sex is for; and every adultery adulterates it, every infidelity betrays it, every cruelty clouds it.
But if Eve had the intelligence to trick Adam out of his foolish dream in the Garden of Eden, she had also the kindness to stick by him afterwards.
If death is absolute, life is absolute; life is sacred; kindness to other life is essential; today is more than tomorrow; noon conquers night.