Daniel Quinn · 266 pages
Rating: (69.1K votes)
“There is no one right way to live.”
“I have amazing news for you. Man is not alone on this planet. He is part of a community, upon which he depends absolutely.”
“It's the idea that people living close to nature tend to be noble. It's seeing all those sunsets that does it. You can't watch a sunset and then go off and set fire to your neighbor's tepee. Living close to nature is wonderful for your mental health.”
“But why? Why do you need prophets to tell you how you ought to live? Why do you need anyone to tell you how you ought to live”
“Everyone in your culture knows this. Man was born to turn the world into paradise, but tragically he was born flawed. And so his paradise has always been spoiled by stupidty, greed, destructiveness, and shortsightedness.”
“There's nothing fundamentally wrong with people. Given a story to enact that puts them in accord with the world, they will live in accord with the world. But given a story to enact that puts them at odds with the world, as yours does, they will live at odds with the world. Given a story to enact in which they are the lords of the world, they will ACT like lords of the world. And, given a story to enact in which the world is a foe to be conquered, they will conquer it like a foe, and one day, inevitably, their foe will lie bleeding to death at their feet, as the world is now.”
“The premise of the Taker story is 'the world belongs to man'. … The premise of the Leaver story is 'man belongs to the world'.”
“Once you learn to discern the voice of Mother Culture humming in the background, telling her story over and over again to the people of your culture, you’ll never stop being conscious of it. Wherever you go for the rest of your life, you’ll be tempted to say to the people around you, “how can you listen to this stuff and not recognize it for what it is?”
“In fact, of course, there is no secret knowledge; no one knows anything that can't be found on a shelf in the public library.”
“Do you see the slightest evidence anywhere in the universe that creation came to an end with the birth of man? Do you see the slightest evidence anywhere out there that man was the climax toward which creation had been straining from the beginning? ...Very far from it. The universe went on as before, the planet went on as before. Man's appearance caused no more stir than the appearance of jellyfish.”
“We're not destroying the world because we're clumsy. We're destroying the world
because we are, in a very literal and deliberate way, at war with it.”
“You're captives of a civilizational system that more or less compels you to go on destroying the world in order to live. … You are captives—and you have made a captive of the world itself. That's what's at stake, isn't it?—your captivity and the captivity of the world.”
“[A]ny species that exempts itself from the rules of competition ends up destroying the community in order to support its own expansion.”
“The journey itself is going to change you, so you don’t have to worry about memorizing the route we took to accomplish that change.”
“And every time the Takers stamp out a Leaver culture, a wisdom ultimately tested since the birth of mankind disappears from the world beyond recall.”
“If you alone found out what the lie was, then you're probably right—it would make no great difference. But if you ALL found out what the lie was, it might conceivably make a very great difference indeed.”
“Diversity is a survival factor for the community itself. A community of a hundred million species can survive anything short of total global catastrophe. Within that hundred million will be thousands that could survive a global temperature drop of twenty degrees—which would be a lot more devastating than it sounds. Within that hundred million will be thousands that could survive a global temperature rise of twenty degrees. But a community of a hundred species or a thousand species has almost no survival value at all.”
“Guess what? The Nazis didn't lose the war after all. They won it and flourished. They took over the world and wiped out every last Jew, every last Gypsy, black, East Indian, and American Indian. Then, when they were finished with that, they wiped out the Russians and the Poles and the Bohemians and the Moravians and the Bulgarians and the Serbians and the Croatians--all the Slavs. Then they started in on the Polynesians and the Koreans and the Chinese and the Japanese--all the peoples of Asia. This took a long, long time, but when it was all over, everyone in the world was one hundred percent Aryan, and they were all very, very happy. Naturally the textbooks used in the schools no longer mentioned any race but the Aryan or any language but German or any religion but Hitlerism or any political system but National Socialism. There would have been no point. After a few generations of that, no one could have put anything different into the textbooks even if they'd wanted to, because they didn't know anything different. But one day, two young students were conversing at the University of New Heidelberg in Tokyo. Both were handsome in the usual Aryan way, but one of them looked vaguely worried and unhappy. That was Kurt. His friend said, "What's wrong, Kurt? Why are you always moping around like this?" Kurt said, "I'll tell you, Hans. There is something that's troubling me--and troubling me deeply." His friend asked what it was. "It's this," Kurt said. "I cannot shake the crazy feeling that there is some small thing that we're being lied to about." And that's how the paper ended.'
Ishmael nodded thoughtfully. 'And what did your teacher think of that?'
'He wanted to know if I had the same crazy feeling as Kurt. When I said I did, he wanted to know what I thought we were being lied to about. I said, 'How could I know? I'm no better off than Kurt.”
“The mythology of your culture hums in your ears so constantly that no one pays the slightest bit of attention to it. Of course man is conquering space and the atom and the deserts and the oceans and the elements. According to your mythology, this is what he was BORN to do.”
“[I]n Africa I was a member of a family—of a sort of family that the people of your culture haven't known for thousands of years. If gorillas were capable of such an expression, they would tell you that their family is like a hand, of which they are the fingers. They are fully aware of being a family but are very little aware of being individuals. Here in the zoo there were other gorillas—but there was no family. Five severed fingers do not make a hand.”
“The world of the Takers is one vast prison, and except for a handful of Leavers scattered across the world, the entire human race is now inside that prison.”
“You shouldn't have to settle for rabbits if what you want is deer”
“But charisma only wins people’s attention. Once you have their attention, you have to have something to tell them.”
“No one species shall make the life of the world its own.' … That's one expression of the law. Here's another: 'The world was not made for any one species.”
“There is a difference between the inmates of your criminal prisons and the inmates of your cultural prison: The former understand that the distribution of wealth and power inside the prison had nothing to do with justice.”
“This story takes place a half a billion years ago-an inconceivably long time ago, when this planet would be all but recognizable to you. Nothing at all stirred on the land except the wind and the dust. Not a single blade of grass waved in the wind, not a single cricket chirped, not a single bird soared in the sky. All these things were tens of millions of years away in the future.
But of course there was an anthropologist on hand. What sort of world would it be without an anthropologist? He was, however a very depressed and disillusioned anthropologist, for he'd been everywhere on the planet looking for someone to interview, and every tape in his knapsack was as blank as the sky. But one day as he was moping alongside the ocean he saw what seemed to be a living creature in the shallows off shore. It was nothing to brag about, just sort of a squishy blob, but it was the only prospect he'd seen in all his journeys, so he waded out to where it was bobbing in the waves.
He greeted the creature politely and was greeted in kind, and soon the two of them were good friends. The anthropologist explained as well as he could that he was a student of life-styles and customs, and begged his new friend for information of this sort, which was readily forthcoming. ‘And now’, he said at last, ‘I'd like to get on tape in your own words some of the stories you tell among yourselves.’
‘Stories?’ the other asked.
‘You know, like your creation myth, if you have one.’
‘What is a creation myth?’ the creature asked.
‘Oh, you know,’ the anthropologist replied, ‘the fanciful tale you tell your children about the origins of the world.’
Well, at this, the creature drew itself up indignantly- at least as well as a squishy blob can do- and replied that his people had no such fanciful tale.
‘You have no account of creation then?’
‘Certainly we have an account of creation,’ the other snapped. ‘But its definitely not a myth.’
‘Oh certainly not,’ the anthropologist said, remembering his training at last. ‘Ill be terribly grateful if you share it with me.’
‘Very well,’ the creature said. ‘But I want you to understand that, like you, we are a strictly rational people, who accept nothing that is not based on observation, logic, and scientific method.’
‘"Of course, of course,’ the anthropologist agreed.
So at last the creature began its story. ‘The universe,’ it said, ‘was born a long, long time ago, perhaps ten or fifteen billion years ago. Our own solar system-this star, this planet, and all the others- seem to have come into being some two or three billion years ago. For a long time, nothing whatever lived here. But then, after a billion years or so, life appeared.’
‘Excuse me,’ the anthropologist said. ‘You say that life appeared. Where did that happen, according to your myth- I mean, according to your scientific account.’
The creature seemed baffled by the question and turned a pale lavender. ‘Do you mean in what precise spot?’
‘No. I mean, did this happen on land or in the sea?’
‘Land?’ the other asked. ‘What is land?’
‘Oh, you know,’ he said, waving toward the shore, ‘the expanse of dirt and rocks that begins over there.’
The creature turned a deeper shade of lavender and said, ‘I cant imagine what you're gibbering about. The dirt and rocks over there are simply the lip of the vast bowl that holds the sea.’
‘Oh yes,’ the anthropologist said, ‘I see what you mean. Quite. Go on.’
‘Very well,’ the other said. ‘For many millions of centuries the life of the world was merely microorganisms floating helplessly in a chemical broth. But little by little, more complex forms appeared: single-celled creatures, slimes, algae, polyps, and so on.’
‘But finally,’ the creature said, turning quite pink with pride as he came to the climax of his story, ‘but finally jellyfish appeared!”
“You're captives of a civilizational system that more or less compels you to go on destroying the world in order to live... I think there are many among you who would be glad to release the world from captivity... This is what prevents them: They're unable to find the bars of the cage.”
“If you can’t discover what’s keeping you in, the will to get out soon becomes confused and ineffectual - "Ishmael”
“[T]he price you've paid is not the price of becoming human. It's not even the price of having the things you just mentioned. It's the price of enacting a story that casts mankind as the enemy of the world.”
“Exactly. That's what's been happening here for the past ten thousand years: You've been doing what you damn well please with the world. And of course you mean to go right on doing what you damn well please with it, because the whole damn thing belongs to you.”
“Half of an Assassin is just an Ass.”
“In a garden, things grow . . . but first, they must wither; trees have to lose their leaves in order to put forth new leaves, and to grow thicker and stronger and taller. Some trees die, but fresh saplings replace them. Gardens need a lot of care. But if you love your garden, you don’t mind working in it, and waiting. Then in the proper season you will surely see it flourish.”
“I wish merely to understand my husband’s sacrifice. He will live among his own people. I cannot bear him children, but the line of succession is secured many times over. He cannot marry a Kai woman, but if the Kai court is anything like the Gauri court, his union with me won’t prevent him from having a mistress. Several if he wishes. If he can’t bear the sight of me, we can talk in the daylight when he doesn’t see so well. Then I can argue the sacrifice is mine, not his.”
“A room—full of detached feet—like hundreds of them. Maybe thousands! And I saw the king in there. He was having an orgy with them. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen. Like a bunch of insects crawling all over his naked body. Except they weren’t insects.”
“He was thirty-six years old, and six foot three. He spoke English to people and French to cats, and Latin to the birds. He had once nearly killed himself trying to read and ride a horse at the same time.”
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