If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Lev Grossman – The Magicians (2009)

“Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it: there’s nothing else. It’s here, and you’d better decide to enjoy it or you’re going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever.”

“You can’t just decide to be happy.”

“No, you can’t. But you can sure as hell decide to be miserable. Is that what you want? … Because that’s who you are right now.”

On one hand, a satisfying quote. On the other, this is absolutely moronic. You don’t shame someone out of depression.

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Lev Grossman – The Magicians (2009)

“…It makes perfect political sense. We have reached the point where ignorance and neglect are the best we can hope for in a ruler.”

the guide Fen, of Fillory

Lev Grossman – The Magicians (2009)

To make matters worse, some of the books had actually become migratory.

Robin McKinley – Dragonhaven (2007)

And how I feel, here, in a cavern full of dragons, is that it’s all so interesting. Which maybe you’re thinking is an anticlimax, but in that case I feel sorry for you because that just means you don’t really know about interesting. Interesting is as good as it gets…

Robin McKinley – Dragonhaven (2007)

If you wake up and find yourself chained to a wall in a dungeon and there are a lot of spiky-looking iron things hanging by the fire, you’re relieved there isn’t anyone looking at you thoughtfully while he’s holding the spikiest in the fire, but that you’re alone isn’t much comfort.

Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan – Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992)

The family tree of each of us is graced by all those great inventors: the beings who first tried out self-replication, the manufacture of protein machine tools, the cell, cooperation, predation, symbiosis, photosynthesis, breathing oxygen, sex, hormones, brains, and all the rest–inventions we use, some of them, minute-by-minute without ever wondering who devised them and how much we owe to these unknown benefactors, in a chain 100 billion links long.

Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan – Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992)

…There we can also find friendship, altruism, love, fidelity, courage, intelligence, invention, curiosity, forethought, and a host of other characteristics that we humans should be glad to have in greater measure. Those who deny or decry our “animal” natures underestimate what those natures are.

Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan – Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992)

We go to great lengths to deny our animal heritage, and not just in scientific and philosophical discourse. … The common primate practice of pseudosexual mounting of males by males to express dominance is not widespread in humans, and some have taken comfort from this fact. But the most potent form of verbal abuse in English and many other languages is “Fuck you,” with the pronoun “I” implicit at the beginning. The speaker is vividly asserting his claim to higher status, and his contempt for those he considers subordinate. Characteristically, humans have converted a postural image into a linguistic one with barely a change in nuance. The phrase is uttered millions of times each day, all over the planet, with hardly anyone stopping to think what it means. Often, it escapes our lips unbidden. It is satisfying to say. It serves its purpose. It is a badge of the primate order, revealing something of our nature despite all our denials and pretensions.

Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan – Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992)

Learning by doing is–in science and technology, as in many other human activities–much more effective than learning by rote. Knowing … that a problem exists and can be solved with the tools at hand is most of the battle.

Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan – Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992)

If we have not much peered into the hearts and minds of other species and have not even studied them carefully, we may impute to them virtues and strengths as well as vices and deficiencies that in fact they lack. Consider this bit of verse by the poet Walt Whitman:

I think I could turn and live with animals, they’re so
      placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania
      of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived
      thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

On the basis of the evidence presented in this book, we doubt if any of Whitman’s six purported differences between other animals and humans is true–at least given a little poetic license; that is, in the spirit if not the letter of the poem.