The Log from the Sea of Cortez Quotes

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The Log from the Sea of Cortez The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck
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The Log from the Sea of Cortez Quotes (showing 1-30 of 36)
“Men really do need sea-monsters in their personal oceans”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“It would be good to live in a perpetual state of leave-taking, never to go nor to stay, but to remain suspended in that golden emotion of love and longing; to be loved without satiety.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“[...] it is a strange thing that most of the feeling we call religious, most of the mystical outcrying which is one of the most prized and used and desired reactions of our species, is really the understanding and the attempt to say that man is related to the whole thing, related inextricably to all reality, known and unknowable. This is a simple thing to say, but the profound feeling of it made a Jesus, a St. Augustine, a St. Francis, a Roger Bacon, a Charles Darwin, and an Einstein. Each of them in his own tempo and with his own voice discovered and reaffirmed with astonishment the knowledge that all things are one thing and that one thing is all things—plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“Adults, in their dealing with children, are insane," he [Ed Ricketts] said. "And children know it too. Adults lay down rules they would not think of following, speak truths they do not believe. And yet they expect children to obey the rules, believe the truths, and admire and respect their parents for this nonsense. Children must be very wise and secret to tolerate adults at all. And the greatest nonsense of all that adults expect children to believe is that people learn by experience. No greater lie was ever revered. And its falseness is immediately discerned by children since their parents obviously have not learned anything by experience. Far from learning, adults simply become set in a maze of prejudices and dreams and sets of rules whose origins they do not know and would not dare inspect for fear the whole structure might topple over on them. I think children instinctively know this," Ed said. "Intelligent children learn to conceal their knowledge and keep free of this howling mania.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“There is a strange duality in the human which makes for an ethical paradox. We have definitions of good qualities and of bad; not changing things, but generally considered good and bad throughout the ages and throughout the species. Of the good, we think always of wisdom, tolerance, kindliness, generosity, humility; and the qualities of cruelty, greed, self-interest, graspingness, and rapacity are universally considered undesirable. And yet in our structure of society, the so-called and considered good qualities are invariable concomitants of failure, while the bad ones are the cornerstones of success…Perhaps no other animal is so torn between alternatives. Man might be described fairly adequately, if simply, as a two-legged paradox.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“We have never understood why men mount the heads of animals and hang them up to look down on their conquerors. Possibly it feels good to these men to be superior to animals, but it does seem that if they were sure of it they would not have to prove it. Often a man who is afraid must constantly demonstrate his courage and, in the case of the hunter, must keep a tangible record of his courage. For ourselves, we have had mounted in a small hardwood plaque one perfect borrego [bighorn sheep] dropping. And where another man can say, "There was an animal, but because I am greater than he, he is dead and I am alive, and there is his head to prove it," we can say, "There was an animal, and for all we know there still is and here is proof of it. He was very healthy when we last heard of him.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“[Man] is the only animal who lives outside of himself, whose drive is in external things—property, houses, money, concepts of power. He lives in his cities and his factories, in his business and job and art. But having projected himself into these external complexities, he is them. His house, his automobile are a part of him and a large part of him. This is beautifully demonstrated by a thing doctors know—that when a man loses his possessions a very common result is sexual impotence.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“Once Ed said to me, "For a very long time I didn't like myself." It was not said in self-pity but simply as an unfortunate fact. "It was a very difficult time," he said, "and very painful. I did not like myself for a number of reasons, some of them valid and some of them pure fancy. I would hate to have to go back to that. Then gradually," he said, "I discovered with surprise and pleasure that a number of people did like me. And I thought, if they can like me, why cannot I like myself? Just thinking it did not do it, but slowly I learned to like myself and then it was all right." This was not said in self-love in its bad connotation but in self-knowledge. He meant literally that he had learned to accept and like the person "Ed" as he liked other people. It gave him a great advantage. Most people do not like themselves at all. They distrust themselves, put on masks and pomposities. They quarrel and boast and pretend and are jealous because they do not like themselves. But mostly they do not even know themselves well enough to form a true liking. They cannot see themselves well enough to form a true liking, and since we automatically fear and dislike strangers, we fear and dislike our stranger-selves.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“It was a good thing, we told ourselves; the eyes grow weary with looking at new things; sleeping late, we said, has its genuine therapeutic value; we would be better for it, would be able to work more effectively. We have little doubt that all this was true, but we wish we could build as good a rationalization every time we are lazy. For in some beastly way this fine laziness has got itself a bad name. It is easy to see how it might have come into disrepute, if the result of laziness were hunger. But it rarely is. Hunger makes laziness impossible. It has even become sinful to be lazy. We wonder why. One could argue, particularly if one had a gift for laziness, that it is relaxation pregnant of activity, a sense of rest from which directed effort may arise, whereas most busy-ness is merely a kind of nervous tic.
...
How can such a process have become a shame and a sin? Only in laziness can one achieve a state of contemplation which is a balancing of values, a weighing of oneself against the world and the world against itself. A busy man cannot find time for such balancing. We do not think a lazy man can commit murders, nor great thefts, nor lead a mob. He would be more likely to think about it and laugh. And a nation of lazy contemplative men would be incapable of fighting a war unless their very laziness were attacked. Wars are the activities of busy-ness.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“It is very easy to grow tired at collecting; the period of a low tide is about all men can endure. At first the rocks are bright and every moving animal makes his mark on the attention. The picture is wide and colored and beautiful. But after an hour and a half the attention centers weary, the color fades, and the field is likely to narrow to an individual animal. Here one may observe his own world narrowed down until interest and, with it, observation, flicker and go out. And what if with age this weariness becomes permanent and observation dim out and not recover? Can this be what happens to so many men of science? Enthusiasm, interest, sharpness, dulled with a weariness until finally they retire into easy didacticism? With this weariness, this stultification of attention centers, perhaps there comes the pained and sad memory of what the old excitement was like, and regret might turn to envy of the men who still have it. Then out of the shell of didacticism, such a used-up man might attack the unwearied, and he would have in his hands proper weapons of attack. It does seem certain that to a wearied man an error in a mass of correct data wipes out all the correctness and is a focus for attack; whereas the unwearied man, in his energy and receptivity, might consider the little dross of error a by-product of his effort. These two may balance and produce a purer thing than either in the end. These two may be the stresses which hold up the structure, but it is a sad thing to see the interest in interested men thin out and weaken and die. We have known so many professors who once carried their listeners high on their single enthusiasm, and have seen these same men finally settle back comfortably into lectures prepared years before and never vary them again. Perhaps this is the same narrowing we observe in relation to ourselves and the tide pool—a man looking at reality brings his own limitations to the world. If he has strength and energy of mind the tide pool stretches both ways, digs back to electrons and leaps space into the universe and fights out of the moment into non-conceptual time. Then ecology has a synonym which is ALL.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“We sat on a crate of oranges and thought what good men most biologists are, the tenors of the scientific world--temperamental, moody, lecherous, loud-laughing, and healthy. Once in a while one comes on the other kind--what used in the university to be called a 'dry-ball'--but such men are not really biologists. They are the embalmers of the field, the picklers who see only the preserved form of life without any of its principle. Out of their own crusted minds they create a world wrinkled with formaldehyde. The true biologist deals with life, with teeming boisterous life, and learns something from it, learns that the first rule of life is living. The dry-balls cannot possibly learn a thing every starfish knows in the core of his soul and in the vesicles between his rays. He must, so know the starfish and the student biologist who sits at the feet of living things, proliferate in all directions. Having certain tendencies, he must move along their lines to the limit of their potentialities. And we have known biologists who did proliferate in all directions: one or two have had a little trouble about it. Your true biologist will sing you a song as loud and off-key as will a blacksmith, for he knows that morals are too often diagnostic of prostatitis and stomach ulcers. Sometimes he may proliferate a little too much in all directions, but he is as easy to kill as any other organism, and meanwhile he is very good company, and at least he does not confuse a low hormone productivity with moral ethics.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“The compass simply represents the ideal, present but unachievable, and sight-steering a compromise with perfection which allows your boat to exist at all.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“If then this tendency toward collectivization is a mutation there is no reason to suppose it is for the better. It is a rule in paleontology that ornamentation and complication precede extinction. And our mutation, of which the assembly line, the collective farm, the mechanized army, and the mass production of food are evidences or even symptoms, might well correspond to the thickening armor of the great reptiles—a tendency that can end only in extinction.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“There is a curious idea among unscientific men that in scientific writing there is a common plateau of perfectionism. Nothing could be more untrue. The reports of biologists are the measure, not of the science, but of the men themselves. There are as few scientific giants as any other kind. In some reports it is impossible, because of inept expression, to relate the descriptions to the living animals. In some papers collecting places are so mixed or ignored that the animals mentioned cannot be found at all. The same conditioning forces itself into specification as it does into any other kind of observation, and the same faults of carelessness will be found in scientific reports as in the witness chair of a criminal court. It has seemed sometimes that the little men in scientific work assumed the awe-fullness of a priesthood to hide their deficiencies, as the witch-doctor does with his stilts and high masks, as the priesthoods of all cults have, with secret or unfamiliar languages and symbols. It is usually found that only the little stuffy men object to what is called "popularization", by which they mean writing with a clarity understandable to one not familiar with the tricks and codes of the cult. We have not known a single great scientist who could not discourse freely and interestingly with a child. Can it be that the haters of clarity have nothing to say, have observed nothing, have no clear picture of even their own fields? A dull man seems to be a dull man no matter what his field, and of course it is the right of a dull scientist to protect himself with feathers and robes, emblems and degrees, as do other dull men who are potentates and grand imperial rulers of lodges of dull men.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“There would come a time in our poverty when we needed a party.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“Our hosts had been kind to us and considerate as only Mexicans can be. Furthermore, they had taught us the best ways to go hunting, and we shall never use any other. We have, however, made one slight improvement on their method: we shall not take a gun, thereby ovbiating the last remote possibility of having the hunt cluttered up with game. We have never understood why men mount the heads of animals and hang them up to look down on their conquerors. Possibly it feels food to these men to be superior to animals, but it does seem that if they were sure of it they would not have to prove it. Often a man who is afraid must constantly demonstrate his courage and, in the case of the hunter, must keep a tangible record of his courage. for ourselves, we have mounted in a small hardwood plaque one perfect borrego dropping. And where another man can say "There was an animal, but because I am greater than he, he is dead and I am alive, and there is his head to prove it," we can say, "There was an animal, and for all we know there still is and here is the proof of it. he was very healthy when we last heard of him”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“Consider the blundering anarchic system of the United States the stupidity of some of its lawmakers, the violent reaction, the slowness of its ability to change. Twenty-five key men destroyed could make the Soviet Union stagger, but we could lose our congress, our president, and our general staff and nothing much would have happened. We would go right on. In fact we might be better for it.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“Tiny emerged on deck some hours later, shaken but smiling. He said that what he had been considering love had turned out to be simple flatulence. He said he wished all his romantic problems could be solved as easily.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
tags: love
“Perhaps the most overrated virtue in our list of shoddy virtues is that of giving. Giving builds up the ego of the giver, makes him superior and higher and larger than the receiver. Nearly always, giving is a selfish pleasure, and in many cases it is a downright destructive and evil thing. One has only to remember some of our wolfish financiers who spend two-thirds of their lives clawing fortunes out of the guts of society and the latter third pushing it back. It is not enough to suppose that their philanthropy is a kind of frightened restitution, or that their natures change when they have enough. Such a nature never has enough and natures do not change that readily. I think that the impulse is the same in both cases. For giving can bring the same sense of superiority as getting does, and philanthropy may be another kind of spiritual avarice.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“It would be good to live in a perpetual state of leave-taking, never to go nor to stay, but to remain suspended in that golden emotion of love and longing; to be missed without being gone; to be loved without satiety. How beautiful one is and how desirable; for in a few moments one will have ceased to exist.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
tags: humor
“Why do we so dread to think of our species as a species? Can it be that we are afraid of what we may find? That human self-love would suffer too much and that the image of God might prove to be a mask? This could be only partly true, for if we could cease to wear the image of a kindly, bearded, interstellar dictator, we might find ourselves true images of his kingdom, our eves the nebulae, and universes in our cells.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“It is good to know what you are doing. The man with his pickled fish has set down one truth and has recorded in his experience many lies. The fish is not that color, that texture, that dead, nor does he smell that way.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“It is a rule in paleontology that ornamentation and complication precede extinction. And our mutation, of which the assembly line, the collective farm, the mechanized army, and the mass production of food are evidences or even symptoms, might well correspond to the thickening armor of the great reptiles—a tendency that can end only in extinction. If this should happen to be true, nothing stemming from thought can interfere with it or bend it. Conscious thought seems to have little effect on the action or direction of our species.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“It is not enough to say that we cannot know or judge because all the information is not in. The process of gathering knowledge does not lead to knowing. A child's world spreads only a little beyond his understanding while that of a great scientist thrusts outward immeasurably. An answer is invariably the parent of a great family of new questions. So we draw worlds and fit them like tracings against the world about us, and crumple them when they do not fit and draw new ones.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“One who was born by the ocean or has associated with it cannot ever be quite content away from it for very long”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“It is one diagnostic trait of Homo sapiens that groups of individuals are periodically infected with a feverish nervousness which causes the individual to turn on and destroy, not only his own kind, but the works of his own kind. It is not known whether this be caused by a virus, some airborne spore, or whether it be a species reaction to some meteorological stimulus as yet undetermined.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“The tree-frog in the high pool in the mountain cleft, had he been endowed with human reason, on finding a cigarette butt in the water might have said, "Here is an impossibility. there is no tobacco hereabouts nor any paper. Here is evidence of fire and there has been no fire. This thing cannot fly nor crawl nor blow in the wind. In fact, this thing cannot be and I will deny it, for if I admit that this thing is here the whole world of frogs is in danger, and from there it is only one step to anti-frogicentricism." And so that frog will for the rest of his life try to forget that something is, is.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“...to the race in general, alcohol as been an anodyne, a warmer of the soul, a strengthener of muscle and spirit. It has given courage to cowards and has made very ugly people attractive. There is a story told of a Swedish tramp, sitting in a ditch on Midsummer Night. He was ragged and dirty and drunk, and he said to himself softly and in wonder, "I am rich and happy and perhaps a little beautiful.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“Let me absorb this thing. Let me try to understand it without private barriers. When I have understood what you are saying, only then will I subject it to my own scrutiny and my own criticism" This is the finest of all critical approaches and the rarest.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“The design of a book is the pattern of a reality controlled and shaped by the mind of a writer.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez

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