In social institutions, the whole is always less than the sum of its parts. There will never be a state as good as its people, or a church worthy of its congregation, or a university equal to its faculty and students.
We are kindred all of us, killer and victim, predator and prey, me and the sly coyote, the soaring buzzard, the elegant gopher snake, and trembling cottontail, the foul worms that feed on our entrails; all of them, all of us. Long live diversity, long live the earth!
The axiom of conditioned repetition, like the binomial theorem, is nothing but a piece of insolence.
I love America because it is a confused, chaotic mess -- and I hope we can keep it this way for at least another thousand years. The permissive society is the free society.
Wealth should come like manna from heaven, unearned and uncalled for. Money should be like grace -- a gift. It is not worth sweating and scheming for.
How strange and wonderful is our home, our earth, with its swirling vaporous atmosphere, its flowing and frozen liquids, its trembling plants, its creeping, crawling, climbing creatures, the croaking things with wings that hang on rocks and soar through the fog, the furry grass, the scaly seas.
If industrial man continues to multiply his numbers and expand his operations he will succeed in his apparent intention, to seal himself off from the natural and isolate himself within a synthetic prison of his own making.
We live in a time of twin credulities: the hunger for the miraculous combined with a servile awe of science. The mating of the two gives us superstition plus scientism -- a Mongoloid metaphysic.
The ever-rising cost of living: Someday soon, the corporate technicians will be locking meters on our noses and charging us a royalty on the air we breathe.
The best American writers have come from the hinterlands -- Mark Twain, Theodore Dreiser, Jack London, Hemingway, Faulkner, Wolfe, Steinbeck. Most of them never even went to college.
One can imagine a sane, healthy, cheerful human society based on no more than the principles of common sense, as validated each day by work, play, and living experience. But this remains the most utopian and fantastic of ideals.
Why is it that the destruction of something created by humans is called vandalism, yet the destruction of something created by God is called development?
England has never enjoyed a genuine social revolution. Maybe that's what's wrong with that dear, tepid, vapid, insipid, stuffy, little country.
Why the critics, like a flock of ducks, always move in perfect unison: Their authority with the public depends upon an appearance of unanimous agreement. One dissenting voice would shatter the whole fragile structure.
A leader leads from in front, by the power of example. A ruler pushes from behind, by means of the club, the whip, the power of fear.
In this respect the differences between the USA and the USSR are those of evangelical dinosaurs competing for domination on one small planet: the first deifies Jesus Christ, the other Karl Marx. Neither has much practical interest in what those two sincere and hard-working fellows actually preached.
I have found through trial and error that I work best under duress. In fact I work only under duress.
I wait. Now the night flows back, the mighty stillness embraces and includes me; I can see the stars again and the world of starlight. I am twenty miles or more from the nearest fellow human, but instead of loneliness I feel loveliness. Loveliness and a quiet exultation.
I would never betray a friend to serve a cause. Never reject a friend to help an institution. Great nations may fall in ruin before I would sell a friend to save them.
Most of what we call the classics of world literature suggest artifacts in a wax museum. We have to hire and pay professors to get them read and talked about.
I hate and fear violence myself, have always avoided barroom brawls, and tho' I'm a bit of a gun-nut, and a member of the NRA, I never shoot at anything but beer cans and mule deer. (In season.) And seldom hit either, except by accident.
When guns are outlawed, only the Government will have guns. The Government -- and a few outlaws. If that happens, you can count me among the outlaws.
Whenever I see a photograph of some sportsman grinning over his kill, I am always impressed by the striking moral and esthetic superiority of the dead animal to the live one.
I am delighted, one more time, by the daring of my species and the audacity of our flying machines. There is poetry and music in our technology, a beauty as touching as that of eagle, moss campion, raven or yonder limestone boulder shining under the Arctic sun.
One thing more dangerous than getting between a grizzly sow and her cub is getting between a businessman and a dollar bill.
If people persist in trespassing upon the grizzlies' territory, we must accept the fact that the grizzlies, from time to time, will harvest a few trespassers.
I had discovered that I am the kind of person who cannot live comfortably, tolerably, on all-flat terrain. For the sake of inner equilibrium there has to be at least one mountain range on at least one of the four quarters of my horizon -- and not more than a day's walk away.
Baseball is a slow, sluggish game, with frequent and trivial interruptions, offering the spectator many opportunities to reflect at leisure upon the situation on the field: This is what a fan loves most about the game.
The city itself swung slowly toward us silent as a dream. No sign of life but puffs of steam from skyscraper chimneys, the motion of the traffic. The mighty towers stood like tombstones in a graveyard, leaning against the sky and waiting for -- for what? Someday we'll know.
There is this to be said for walking: it is the one method of human locomotion by which a man or woman proceeds erect, upright, proud and independent, not squatting on the haunches like a frog.
Little boys love machines. Grown-up mean and women like to walk.
It's all still there in heart and soul. The walk, the hills, the sky, the solitary pain and pleasure -- they will grow larger, sweeter, lovelier in the days and years to come.
Walking takes longer... than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed.
I choose to listen to the river for a while, thinking river thoughts, before joining the night and the stars.
What we need now are heroes and heroines, about a million of them, one brave deed is worth a thousand books. Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.
Quantum mechanics provides us with an approximate, plausible, conjectural explanation of what actually is, or was, or may be taking place inside a cyclotron during a dark night in February.
If it's knowledge and wisdom you want, then seek out the company of those who do real work for an honest purpose.
I am convinced now that the desert has no heart, that it presents a riddle which has no answer, and that the riddle itself is an illusion created by some limitation or exaggeration of the displaced human consciousness.
Noontime here is like a drug. The light is psychedelic, the dry electric air narcotic. To me the desert is stimulating, exciting, exacting.
I would not sacrifice a single living mesquite tree for any book ever written. One square mile of living desert is worth a hundred 'great books' -- and one brave deed is worth a thousand.
The extreme clarity of the desert light is equaled by the extreme individuation of desert life forms. Love flowers best in openness and freedom.
The industrial way of life leads to the industrial way of death. From Shiloh to Dachau, from Antietam to Stalingrad, from Hiroshima to Vietnam and Afghanistan, the great specialty of industry and technology has been the mass production of human corpses.
Nearly all of Latin America, from Chile to Mexico, is one long rack of torture. Financed, equipped, and refined by the U.S. government.
The basic science is not physics or mathematics but biology -- the study of life. We must learn to think both logically and bio-logically.
I thought of the wilderness we had left behind us, open to sea and sky, joyous in its plenitude and simplicity, perfect yet vulnerable, unaware of what is coming, defended by nothing, guarded by no one.
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Shakespeare wrote great poetry and preposterous plays. Who really cares, for example, which petty tyrant rules Milan? Or who succeeds to the throne of Denmark? Or why the barons ganged up on Richard II?
One of the pleasant things about small town life is that everyone, whether rich or poor, liked or disliked, has some kind of a role and place in the community. I never felt that living in a city -- as I once did for a couple of years.
I am happy to be a regional writer. My region is the American West, old Mexico, West Virginia, New York, Europe, Australia, the human heart, and the male groin.
One day in Dipstick, Nebraska, or Landfill, Oklahoma, is worth more to me than an eternity in Dante's plastic Paradiso, or Yeats's gold-plated Byzantium.
Alaska is our biggest, buggiest, boggiest state. Texas remains our largest unfrozen state. But mountainous Utah, if ironed out flat, would take up more space on a map than either.
How to Avoid Pleurisy: Never make love to a girl named Candy on the tailgate of a half-ton Ford pickup during a chill rain in April out on Grandview Point in San Juan County, Utah.
Ah yes, the head is full of books. The hard part is to force them down through the bloodstream and out through the fingers.
Narrow-minded provincialism: Sad to say but true -- I am more interested in the mountain lions of Utah, the wild pigs of Arizona, than I am in the fate of all the Arabs of Araby, all the Wogs of Hindustan, all the Ethiopes of Abyssinia.
No man-made structure in all of American history has been hated so much, by so many, for so long, with such good reason, as that Glen Canyon Dam at Page, Arizona, Shithead Capital of Coconino County.
Page, Arizona, Shithead Capital of Coconino County: any town with thirteen churches and only four bars has got an incipient social problem. That town is looking for trouble.
What ideal, immutable Platonic cloud could equal the beauty and perfection of any ordinary everyday cloud floating over, say, Tuba City, Arizona, on a hot day in June?
There is a certain animal vitality in most of us which carries us through any trouble but the absolutely overwhelming. Only a fool has no sorrow, only an idiot has no grief -- but then only a fool and an idiot will let grief and sorrow ride him down into the grave.
We are preoccupied with time. If we could learn to love space as deeply as we are now obsessed with time, we might discover a new meaning in the phrase 'to live like men.
Water, water, water... There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount...unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.
Water, water, water.... There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount , a perfect ratio of water to rock, water to sand, insuring that wide free open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation. There is no lack of water here unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.
The missionaries go forth to Christianize the savages -- as if the savages weren't dangerous enough already.
Abolition of a woman's right to abortion, when and if she wants it, amounts to compulsory maternity: a form of rape by the State.
Climbing K2 or floating the Grand Canyon in an inner tube; there are some things one would rather have done than do.
That which today calls itself science gives us more and more information, and indigestible glut of information, and less and less understanding.
Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others.
Civilization is a youth with a molotov cocktail in his hand. Culture is the Soviet tank or L.A. cop that guns him down.
One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain't nothin' can beat teamwork.
There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.
Too many American authors have a servile streak where their backbone should be. Where's our latest Nobel laureate? More than likely you'll find him in the Rose Garden kissing the First Lady's foot.
What is the purpose of the giant sequoia tree? The purpose of the giant sequoia tree is to provide shade for the tiny titmouse.