Stanisław Lem Stanisław Lem > Quotes


Stanisław Lem quotes (showing 1-30 of 121)

“On the surface, I was calm: in secret, without really admitting it, I was waiting for something. Her return? How could I have been waiting for that? We all know that we are material creatures, subject to the laws of physiology and physics, and not even the power of all our feelings combined can defeat those laws. All we can do is detest them. The age-old faith of lovers and poets in the power of love, stronger than death, that finis vitae sed non amoris, is a lie, useless and not even funny. So must one be resigned to being a clock that measures the passage of time, now out of order, now repaired, and whose mechanism generates despair and love as soon as its maker sets it going?

Must I go on living here then, among the objects we both had touched, in the air she had breathed? In the name of what? In the hope of her return? I hoped for nothing. And yet I lived in expectation. Since she had gone, that was all that remained. I did not know what achievements, what mockery, even what tortures still awaited me. I knew nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past.”
Stanisław Lem
“Faith is, at one and the same time, absolutely necessary and altogether impossible.”
Stanisław Lem
“Good books tell the truth, even when they're about things that never have been and never will be. They're truthful in a different way”
Stanisław Lem
“We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors. We don't know what to do with other worlds. A single world, our own, suffices us; but we can't accept it for what it is.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“Man has gone out to explore other worlds and other civilizations without having explored his own labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers, and without finding what lies behind doorways that he himself has sealed.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“We take off into the cosmos, ready for anything: for solitude, for hardship, for exhaustion, death. Modesty forbids us to say so, but there are times when we think pretty well of ourselves. And yet, if we examine it more closely, our enthusiasm turns out to be all a sham. We don't want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos. For us, such and such a planet is as arid as the Sahara, another as frozen as the North Pole, yet another as lush as the Amazon basin. We are humanitarian and chivalrous; we don't want to enslave other races, we simply want to bequeath them our values and take over their heritage in exchange. We think of ourselves as the Knights of the Holy Contact. This is another lie. We are only seeking Man. We have no need of other worlds. A single world, our own, suffices us; but we can't accept it for what it is. We are searching for an ideal image of our own world: we go in quest of a planet, a civilization superior to our own but developed on the basis of a prototype of our primeval past. At the same time, there is something inside us which we don't like to face up to, from which we try to protect ourselves, but which nevertheless remains, since we don't leave Earth in a state of primal innocence. We arrive here as we are in reality, and when the page is turned and that reality is revealed to us - that part of our reality which we would prefer to pass over in silence - then we don't like it anymore.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“I hadn't known there were so many idiots in the world until I started using the Internet.”
Stanisław Lem
“What gave you this idea of an imperfect god?'

'I don't know. It seems quite feasible to me. That is the only god I could imagine believing in, a god whose passion is not a redemption, who saves nothing, fulfills no purpose--a god who simply is.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“I felt myself being invaded through and through, I crumbled, disintegrated, and only emptiness remained.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris by Stanislaw Lem | Summary & Study Guide
“When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy.”
Stanisław Lem
“We don't want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“Tell me something. Do you believe in God?'

Snow darted an apprehensive glance in my direction. 'What? Who still believes nowadays?'

'It isn't that simple. I don't mean the traditional God of Earth religion. I'm no expert in the history of religions, and perhaps this is nothing new--do you happen to know if there was ever a belief in an...imperfect God?'

'What do you mean by imperfect?' Snow frowned. 'In a way all the gods of the old religions were imperfect, considered that their attributes were amplified human ones. The God of the Old Testament, for instance, required humble submission and sacrifices, and and was jealous of other gods. The Greek gods had fits of sulks and family quarrels, and they were just as imperfect as mortals...'

'No,' I interrupted. 'I'm not thinking of a god whose imperfection arises out of the candor of his human creators, but one whose imperfection represents his essential characteristic: a god limited in his omniscience and power, fallible, incapable of foreseeing the consequences of his acts, and creating things that lead to horror. He is a...sick god, whose ambitions exceed his powers and who does not realize it at first. A god who has created clocks, but not the time they measure. He has created systems or mechanisms that serves specific ends but have now overstepped and betrayed them. And he has created eternity, which was to have measured his power, and which measures his unending defeat.'

Snow hesitated, but his attitude no longer showed any of the wary reserve of recent weeks:

'There was Manicheanism...'

'Nothing at all to do with the principles of Good and Evil,' I broke in immediately. 'This god has no existence outside of matter. He would like to free himself from matter, but he cannot...'

Snow pondered for a while:

'I don't know of any religion that answers your description. That kind of religion has never been...necessary. If i understand you, and I'm afraid I do, what you have in mind is an evolving god, who develops in the course of time, grows, and keeps increasing in power while remaining aware of his powerlessness. For your god, the divine condition is a situation without a goal. And understanding that, he despairs. But isn't this despairing god of yours mankind, Kelvin? Is it man you are talking about, and that is a fallacy, not just philosophically but also mystically speaking.'

I kept on:

'No, it's nothing to do with man. man may correspond to my provisional definition from some point of view, but that is because the definition has a lot of gaps. Man does not create gods, in spite of appearances. The times, the age, impose them on him. Man can serve is age or rebel against it, but the target of his cooperation or rebellion comes to him from outside. If there was only a since human being in existence, he would apparently be able to attempt the experiment of creating his own goals in complete freedom--apparently, because a man not brought up among other human beings cannot become a man. And the being--the being I have in mind--cannot exist in the plural, you see? ...Perhaps he has already been born somewhere, in some corner of the galaxy, and soon he will have some childish enthusiasm that will set him putting out one star and lighting another. We will notice him after a while...'

'We already have,' Snow said sarcastically. 'Novas and supernovas. According to you they are candles on his altar.'

'If you're going to take what I say literally...'

...Snow asked abruptly:

'What gave you this idea of an imperfect god?'

'I don't know. It seems quite feasible to me. That is the only god I could imagine believing in, a god whose passion is not a redemption, who saves nothing, fulfills no purpose--a god who simply is.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“The only writers who have any peace are the ones who don't write. And there are some like that. They wallow in a sea of possibilities. To express a thought, you first have to limit it, and that means kill it. Every word I speak robs me of a thousand others, and every line I write means giving up another.”
Stanisław Lem, Hospital of the Transfiguration
“If a man who can’t count finds a four leaf clover, is he lucky?”
Stanisław Lem
“How do you expect to communicate with the ocean, when you can’t even understand one another?”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“I had no hope. Yet expectation lived on in me, the last thing she had left behind. What further consummations, mockeries, torments did I still anticipate? I had no idea as I abided in the unshaken belief that the time of cruel wonders was not yet over.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“Every stink that fights the ventilator thinks it is Don Quixote.”
Stanisław Lem
“A writer should not run around with a mirror for his countrymen; he should tell his society and his times things no one ever thought before.”
Stanisław Lem
“Each of us is aware he's a material being, subject to the laws of physiology and physics, and that the strength of all our emotions combined cannot counteract those laws. It can only hate them. The eternal belief of lovers and poets in the power of love which is more enduring that death, the finis vitae sed non amoris that has pursued us through the centuries is a lie. But this lie is not ridiculous, it's simply futile. To be a clock on the other hand, measuring the passage of time, one that is smashed and rebuilt over and again, one in whose mechanism despair and love are set in motion by the watchmaker along with the first movements of the cogs. To know one is a repeater of suffering felt ever more deeply as it becomes increasingly comical through a multiple repetitions. To replay human existence - fine. But to replay it in the way a drunk replays a corny tune pushing coins over and over into the jukebox?”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“For moral reasons ... the world appears to me to be put together in such a painful way that I prefer to believe that it was not created ... intentionally.”
Stanisław Lem
“The fate of a single man can be rich with significance, that of a few hundred less so, but the history of thousands and millions of men does not mean anything at all, in any adequate sense of the word.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“And yet we knew, for a certainty, that when first emissaries of Earth went walking among the planets, Earth's other sons would be dreaming not about such expeditions but about a piece of bread.”
Stanisław Lem, His Master's Voice
“No one reads; if someone does read, he doesn't understand; if he understands, he immediately forgets.”
Stanisław Lem
“Of the two powers, the two categories that take possession of us when we enter the world, space is by far the less mysterious. . . . Space is, after all, solid, monolithic. . . . Time, on the other hand, is a hostile element, truly treacherous, I would say even against human nature.”
Stanisław Lem, Highcastle: A Remembrance
tags: space, time
“Is a mountain only a huge stone? Is a planet an enormous mountain?”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“For what are myths if not the imposing of order on phenomena that do not possess order in themselves? And all myths, however they differ from philosophical systems and scientific theories, share this with them, that they negate the principle of randomness in the world.”
Stanisław Lem, Highcastle: A Remembrance
“But what am I going to see?

I don't know. In a certain sense, it depends on you.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“We take off into the cosmos, ready for anything: for solitude, for hardship, for exhaustion, death. Modesty forbids us to say so, but there are times when we think pretty well of ourselves. And yet, if we examine it more closely, our enthusiasm turns out to be all sham. We don't want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos....

We are humanitarian and chivalrous; we don't want to enslave other races, we simply want to bequeath them our values and take over their heritage in exchange. We think of ourselves as the Knights of the Holy Contact. This is another lie. We are only seeking Man. We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors. (1970 English translation)”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“I see a poem as a multi-coloured strip behind peeling plaster, in separate, shining fragments.”
Stanisław Lem, Hospital of the Transfiguration
“There are friends with whom we share neither interests nor any particular experiences, friends with whom we never correspond, whom we seldom meet and then only by chance, but whose existence nonetheless has for us a special if uncanny meaning. For me the Eiffel Tower is just such a friend, and not merely because it happens to be the symbol of a city, for Paris leaves me neither hot nor cold. I first became aware of this attachment of mine when reading in the paper about plans for its demolition, the mere thought of which filled me with alarm.”
Stanisław Lem

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