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Loren Eiseley quotes (showing 1-30 of 57)

“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
"It made a difference for that one.”
Loren Eiseley
“While wandering a deserted beach at dawn, stagnant in my work, I saw a man in the distance bending and throwing as he walked the endless stretch toward me. As he came near, I could see that he was throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea. When he was close enough I asked him why he was working so hard at this strange task. He said that the sun would dry the starfish and they would die. I said to him that I thought he was foolish. there were thousands of starfish on miles and miles of beach. One man alone could never make a difference. He smiled as he picked up the next starfish. Hurling it far into the sea he said, "It makes a difference for this one." I abandoned my writing and spent the morning throwing starfish.”
Loren Eiseley
“Perhaps a creature of so much ingenuity and deep memory is almost bound to grow alienated from his world, his fellows, and the objects around him. He suffers from a nostalgia for which there is no remedy upon earth except as it is to be found in the enlightenment of the spirit--some ability to have a perceptive rather than an exploitive relationship with his fellow creatures.”
Loren Eiseley
“Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war.”
Loren Eiseley, The Unexpected Universe
“To have dragons one must have change; that is the first principle of dragon lore.”
Loren Eiseley, The Night Country
tags: myth
“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”
Loren Eiseley
“One does not meet oneself until one catches the reflection from an eye other than human.”
Loren Eiseley
“I love forms beyond my own, and regret the borders between us”
Loren Eiseley
“It is a commonplace of all religious thought, even the most primitive, that the man seeking visions and insight must go apart from his fellows and love for a time in the wilderness.”
Loren Eiseley
“The need is not really for more brains, the need is now for a gentler, a more tolerant people than those who won for us against the ice, the tiger and the bear. The hand that hefted the ax, out of some old blind allegiance to the past fondles the machine gun as lovingly. It is a habit man will have to break to survive, but the roots go very deep.”
Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturalist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature
“The journey is difficult, immense. We will travel as far as we can, but we cannot in one lifetime see all that we would like to see or to learn all that we hunger to know.”
Loren Eiseley
“If it should turn out that we have mishandled our own lives as several civilizations before us have done, it seems a pity that we should involve the violet and the tree frog in our departure.”
Loren Eiseley
“I am what I am and cannot be otherwise because of the shadows.”
Loren Eiseley, The Unexpected Universe
“Since the first human eye saw a leaf in Devonian sandstone and a puzzled finger
reached to touch it, sadness has lain over the heart of man. By this tenuous
thread of living protoplasm, stretching backward into time, we are linked forever to lost beaches whose sands have long since hardened into stone. The stars that caught our blind
amphibian stare have shifted far or vanished in their courses, but still that naked, glistening thread winds onward. No one knows the secret of its beginning or its end. Its
forms are phantoms. The thread alone is real; the thread is life.”
Loren Eiseley, The Firmament of Time
“Once, on ancient Earth, there was a human boy walking along a beach. There had just been a storm, and starfish had been scattered along the sands. The boy knew the fish would die, so he began to fling the fish to the sea. But every time he threw a starfish, another would wash ashore. "An old Earth man happened along and saw what the child was doing. He called out, 'Boy, what are you doing?' " 'Saving the starfish!' replied the boy. " 'But your attempts are useless, child! Every time you save one, another one returns, often the same one! You can't save them all, so why bother trying? Why does it matter, anyway?' called the old man. "The boy thought about this for a while, a starfish in his hand; he answered, "Well, it matters to this one." And then he flung the starfish into the welcoming sea.”
Loren Eiseley, The Star Thrower
“When man becomes greater than nature, nature, which gave us birth, will respond.”
Loren Eiseley
“This is the most enormous extension of vision of which life is capable: the projection of itself into other lives. This is the lonely, magnificent power of humanity. It is . . . the supreme epitome of the reaching out.”
Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturalist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature
“Though men in the mass forget the origins of their need, they still bring wolfhounds into city apartments, where dog and man both sit brooding in wistful discomfort.

The magic that gleams an instant between Argos and Odysseus is both the recognition of diversity and the need for affection across the illusions of form. It is nature's cry to homeless, far-wandering, insatiable man: "Do not forget your brethren, nor the green wood from which you sprang. To do so is to invite disaster.”
Loren Eiseley, The Unexpected Universe
“In the days of the frost seek an minor sun.”
Loren Eiseley, The Star Thrower
“As we passed under a streetlamp I noticed, beside my own bobbing shadow, another great, leaping grotesquerie that had an uncanny suggestion of the frog world about it . . . judging from the shadow, it was soaring higher and more gaily than myself.
'Very well,' you will say, 'Why didn’t you turn around. That would be the scientific thing to do.'
But let me tell you it is not done ― not on an empty road at midnight.”
Loren Eiseley, The Star Thrower
“The truth is, however, that there is nothing very “normal” about nature. Once upon a time there were no flowers at all.”
Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturalist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature
“We are one of many appearances of the thing called Life; we are not its perfect image, for it has no perfect image except Life, and life is multitudinous and emergent in the stream of time.”
Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturalist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature
“I was a shadow among shadows brooding over the fate of other shadows that I alone strove to summon up out of the all-pervading dusk.”
Loren Eiseley
“Out of the choked Devonian waters emerged sight and sound and the music that rolls invisible through the composer's brain. They are there still in the ooze along the tideline, though no one notices. The world is fixed, we say: fish in the sea, birds in the air. But in the mangrove swamps by the Niger, fish climb trees and ogle uneasy naturalists who try unsuccessfully to chase them back to the water. There are things still coming ashore. ”
Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturalist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature
“For the first time in four billion years a living creature had contemplated himself and heard with a sudden, unaccountable loneliness, the whisper of the wind in the night reeds.”
Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturalist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature
“We have joined the caravan, you might say, at a certain point; we will travel as far as we can, but we cannot in a lifetime see all that we would like to see or learn all that we hunger to know.”
Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturalist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature
“Lights come and go in the night sky. Men, troubled at last by the things they build, may toss in their sleep and dream bad dreams, or lie awake while the meteors whisper greenly overhead. But nowhere in all space or on a thousand worlds will there be men to share our loneliness.”
Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturalist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature
tags: space
“I am sure now that life is not what it is purported to be and that nature, in the canny words of the Scotch theologue, 'is not as natural as it looks.”
Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturalist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature
“Primitives of our own species, even today are historically shallow in their knowledge of the past. Only the poet who writes speaks his message across the millennia to other hearts.”
Loren Eiseley, The Star Thrower
“Man would not be man if his dreams did not exceed his grasp. ... Like John Donne, man lies in a close prison, yet it is dear to him. Like Donne's, his thoughts at times overleap the sun and pace beyond the body. If I term humanity a slime mold organism it is because our present environment suggest it. If I remember the sunflower forest it is because from its hidden reaches man arose. The green world is his sacred center. In moments of sanity he must still seek refuge there. ... If I dream by contrast of the eventual drift of the star voyagers through the dilated time of the universe, it is because I have seen thistledown off to new worlds and am at heart a voyager who, in this modern time, still yearns for the lost country of his birth.”
Loren Eiseley, The Invisible Pyramid

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