"The villagers sit close together, everyone touching someone else, steeped in a contentment that seems, at this moment, perpetual. It occurs to the wr...more"The villagers sit close together, everyone touching someone else, steeped in a contentment that seems, at this moment, perpetual. It occurs to the writer that the secret way to happiness is in knowing a lot of dead people." pg 150
"Billeh's been lent a Kalashnikov, sand-blasted smooth and dull like those of the other two, each with a thirty-shot clip that may or may not be full, they refuse to say, and also Lion carries a sort of rocket, or grenade, that screws down onto the muzzle of his Kalashnikov and appears not to bear experimenting with. Lion produces from his waistband, for the writer's use, a 1917 model U.S. Army .45 caliber six-shooter, probably a Colt. It's got three forty-five automatic rounds in its cylinders, which are chambered for the long .45s, not the shorter automatic rounds. "One for each of you, if we're attacked, and one for me," the writer jokes-- they laugh like hell for twenty seconds, then shut down tight and inform him seriously that Muslims don't do suicide, it's banned by the Koran. He assures them the Bible's against it too, and everybody's comforted."pg 152
"When logic and utility fall from grace, the mystical authority of subtler concerns rises up like an intoxicating incense, and everything is done for reasons no one understands." pg 155
"Another night under a strange sky in a different realm. I listen to the reports on the shortwave of bombings, attacks, plagues, even witch-burnings (seventy elderly women burned in South Africa in the last ten months) and I feel I'm living in a world where such things are all there is... I've got a pocket New Testament, but I can't read much of it- because I'm living in the Bible's world right now, the world of cripples and monsters and desperate hope in a mad God, world of exile and impotence and the waiting, the waiting, the waiting. A world of miracles and deliverance, too. Add the invention of the Kalashnikov in 1947 into the mix, and life gets exciting." pg 157
"Some begin complaining about the Marines, and others point with pride to the water trucks and big guns stolen from the U.N., to the blown-up troop trucks upended and wheelless in the streets, and the corner, a monument now, where eighteen U.S. Rangers died fighting Somali militia. The U.N.- What did it accomplish? The tons of food and medicine, it's all forgotten. Only the police effort and the bossing stays fresh in the minds of Mogadishu. The outfit that saved, by it's own count, 150,000 here seems almost universally derided and resented." pg 161
"When the ill-timed efforts of nation-states to impose their idea of stability unbalances the tribal powers, the return to balance is violent." pg 161
"The journalist from America has decided to cling to the notion that out there, in the countryside he passed through to reach this crazy city, the people know what they're doing. Their leaders don't, and we don't. But they know. All this destruction is shaping tomorrow- a tomorrow without a lot of Idaho White Boy ideas in it." pg 169
"But the nation-state, the twentieth-century geopolitical entity held together by the government's monopoly on the use of force- it's finished. The Kalashnikov rifle and the Stinger missile, and the world-wide dissemination of these weapons during the proxy conflicts of the Cold War, have changed things as much as the invention of gunpowder did in the thirteenth century. A determined Third-World people can now hold out against the greatest powers- witness Vietnam- and even a loose coalition of determined clans or factions can drive away the strongest armies- witness Afghanistan- and now in Somalia and the former Yugoslavia it's been made plain that even factions at war with one another can, with their left hand, as it were, stalemate the U.N. in its efforts to stop the fighting among them." pg 170
"Whatever we cannot easily understand we call God; this saves much wear and tear on the brain tissues."
"Belief in God? An afterlife? I believe in rock...more"Whatever we cannot easily understand we call God; this saves much wear and tear on the brain tissues."
"Belief in God? An afterlife? I believe in rock: this apodictic rock beneath my feet."
"From the point of view of a tapeworm, man was created by God to serve the appetite of the tapeworm."
"Proverbs save us the trouble of thinking. What we call folk wisdom is often no more than a kind of expedient stupidity."
"Appearance versus reality? Appearance is reality, God damn it!"
"Fantastic doctrines (like Christianity or Islam or Marxism) require unanimity of belief. One dissenter casts doubt on the creed of millions. Thus the fear and the hate; thus the torture champber, the iron stake, the gallows, the labor camp, the psychiatric ward."
"God is Love? Not bloody likely."
"Belief? What do I believe in? I believe in sun. In rock. In the dogma of the sun and the doctrine of the rock. I believe in blood, fire, woman, rivers, eagles, storm, drums, flutes, banjos, and broom-tailed horses..."
"In metaphysics, the notion that earth and all that's on it is a mental construct is the product of people who spend their lives inside rooms. It is an indoor philosophy."
"Belief in the supernatural reflects a failure of the imagination."
"Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion."
"We live in a time of twin credulities: the hunger for the miraculous combine with a servile awe of science. The mating of the two gives the superstition plus scientism-- a Mongoloid metaphysic."
"No tyranny is so irksome as petty tyranny: the officious demands of policemen, government clerks, and electromechanical gadgets."
"All revolutions have failed? Perhaps. But rebellion for good cause is self-justifying-- a good in itself. Rebellion transforms slaves into human beings, if only for an hour."
"Men love their ideas more than their lives. And the more preposterous the idea, the more eager they are to die for it. And to kill for it."
"If America could be, once again, a nation of self-reliant farmers, craftsmen, hunters, ranchers, and artists, then the rich would have little power to dominate others. Neither to serve nor to rule: That was the American dream."
"There has never been an original sin: each is quite banal."
"The ready availability of suicide, like sex and alcohol, is one of life's basic consolations."
"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time."
"We live in a kind of world where courage is the most essential of virtues; without courage, the other virtues are useless."
"In the modern technoindustrial culture, it is possible to proceed from infancy into senility without ever knowing manhood."
"Once upon a time, I dreamed of becoming a great man. Later, a good man. Now, finally, I find it difficult enough and honor enough to be-- a man."
"Those who fear death most are those who enjoy life least."
"To the intelligent man or woman, life appears infinitely mysterious. But the stupid have an answer for every question."
"Art, science, philosophy, religion-- each offers at best only a crude simplification of actual living experience."
"I find more and more, as I grow older, that I prefer women to men, children to adults, animals to humans... And rocks to living things? No, I'm not that old yet."
"There is something suicidal, and more sinister than that, in this quest for easy wealth and easy answers, for it proposes goals that are dead ends, t...more"There is something suicidal, and more sinister than that, in this quest for easy wealth and easy answers, for it proposes goals that are dead ends, that imagination and desire do not go beyond.Once the precious vein of silver has been found, once the speculation in land or mineral or timber has paid off, then our human work will be over; we will have escaped forever the drudgery of the plow or the office. But if we have destroyed in ourselves the capacity to enjoy work- and we do this inevitably by working toward the goal of escape from work- then how can we possibly enjoy leisure?"
"...though I am here in body, my mind and my nerves too are not yet altogether here. We seem to grant to our high-speed roads and our airlines the rather thoughtless assumption that people can change places as rapidly as their bodies can be transported. That, as my own experience keeps proving me, is not true."
"Our senses, after all, were developed to function at foot speeds; and the transition from foot travel to motor travel, in terms of evolutionary time, has been abrupt. The faster one goes, the more strain there is on the senses, the more they fail to take in, the more confusion they must tolerate or gloss over- and the longer it takes to bring the mind to a stop in the presence of anything."
"...the man who walks into the wilderness is naked indeed. He leaves behind his work, his household, his duties, his comforts- even, if he comes alone, his words. He immerses himself in what he is not. It is a kind of death."
"Even here where the economy of life is really an economy- where the creation is yet fully alive and continuous and self-enriching, where whatever dies enters directly into the life of the living- even here one cannot fully escape the sense of an impending human catastrophe. One cannot come here without the awareness that this is an island surrounded by the machinery and the workings of an insane, greed, hungering for the world's end- that ours is a "civilization" of which the work of no builder or artist is symbol, nor the life of any good person, but rather the bulldozer, the poison spray, the hugging fire of napalm, the cloud of Hiroshima."
"...it has seemed to me for years now that the doings of men no longer occur within nature, but that the natural places which the human economy has so far spared now survive almost accidentally within the doings of men."
"I thought of it then as a strange place, a place strange to me. The presumptuousness of that, it now occurs to me, is probably a key to the destructiveness that has characterized the whole history of the white man's relation to the American wilderness. For it is presumptuous, entirely so, to enter a place for the first time and pronounce it strange. Strange to whom? Certainly to its own creatures- to the birds and animals and insects and fish and snakes, to the human family I know that lives knowingly and lovingly there- it is not strange. To them as to the Indians who once lived in its caves and in the bottomlands near it's creek mouths, it is daily reality, regular stuff."
"To call a place strange in the presence of its natives is bad manners at best. At worst, it partakes of the fateful arrogance of those explorers who familiarize the "strange" places they come to by planting in them the alien flag of the place they have left, and who have been followed, always, by the machinery of conquest and exploitation and destruction."(less)