Kim Stanley Robinson · 763 pages
Rating: (9.1K votes)
“We will go out into the world and plant gardens and orchards to the horizons, we will build roads through the mountains and across the deserts, and terrace the mountains and irrigate the deserts until there will be garden everywhere, and plenty for all, and there will be no more empires or kingdoms, no more caliphs, sultans, emirs, khans, or zamindars, no more kings or queens or princes, no more quadis or mullahs or ulema, no more slavery and no more usury, no more property and no more taxes, no more rich and no more poor, no killing or maiming or torture or execution, no more jailers and no more prisoners, no more generals, soldiers, armies or navies, no more patriarchy, no more caste, no more hunger, no more suffering than what life brings us for being born and having to die, and then we will see for the first time what kind of creatures we really are.”
“The word of God came down to man as rain to soil, and the result was mud, not clear water. (Bistami) Pg. 128”
“To a very great extent human history has been the story of the unequal accumulation of harvested wealth, shifting from one centre of power to another, while always expanding the four great inequalities. This is history. Nowhere, as far as I know, has there ever been a civilization or moment when the wealth of the harvests, created by all, has been equitably distributed. Power has been exerted wherever it can be, and each successful coercion has done its part to add to the general inequality, which has risen in direct proportion to the wealth gathered; for wealth and power are much the same. The possessors of the wealth in effect buy the armed power they need to enforce the growing inequality. And so the cycle continues.”
“Desire is life trying to continue to be life. All living things desire... Life is wanting.”
“...teaching was the most rigorous form of learning.”
“...no one knows why things happen, you see? Anything could follow from anything. Even real history tells us nothing.”
“Why are we here?'
'To make more love.'
'All right, fair enough. But how do we best love this world Allah gave us? We do it by learning it! [...] If you try to understand things, if you look at the world and say, why does this happen, why do things fall, why does the sun come up every morning and shine on us, and warm the air and fill the leaves with green--how does all this happen? What rules has Allah used to make this beautiful world?--Then it is all transformed. God sees that you appreciate it. And even if He doesn't, even if you never know anything in the end, even if it's impossible to know, you can still try. [...] This is God's real work.”
“None of us know our real names.”
“Looking back down the vale of the ages at the endless recurrence of their reincarnations, before they were forced to drink their vials of forgetting and all became obscure to them again, they could see no pattern at all to their efforts; if the gods had a plan, or even a set of procedures, if the long train of transmigrations was supposed to add up to anything, if it was not just mindless repetition, time itself nothing but a succession of chaoses, no one could discern it; and the story of their transmigrations, rather than being a narrative without death, as the first experiences of reincarnation perhaps seemed to suggest, had become instead a veritable charnel house. Why read on? Why pick up their book from the far wall where it has been thrown away in disgust and pain, and read on? Why submit to such cruelty, such bad karma, such bad plotting?
The reason is simple: these things happened. They happened countless times, just like this. The oceans are salt with our tears. No one can deny that these things happened.
And so there is no choice in the matter. They cannot escape the wheel of birth and death, not in the experience of it, or in the contemplation of it afterwards; and their anthologist, Old Red Ink himself, must tell their stories honestly, must deal in reality, or else the stories mean nothing. And it is crucial that the stories mean something.”
“Every moment an epiphany arrives, and cleaves the mountain asunder.”
“It makes us a thread in a tapestry that has unrolled for centuries before us, and will unroll for centuries after us. We're midway through the loom, that's the present, and what we do casts the thread in a particular direction, and the picture of the tapestry changes accordingly. When we begin to to try to make a picture pleasing to us and to those who come after, then perhaps you can say that we have seized history.”
“Reincarnation is a story we tell; then in the end it's the story itself that is the reincarnation.”
“Every day we wake up into a new world, each sleep causes yet another reincarnation.”
“...what has mattered are the moments of exposure to every life, when habit is no longer enough, and choices have to be made. That's when everyone becomes a great man, for a moment; and the choices made in those moments, which come all too frequently, then combine to make history.”
“Indeed I now think that the Indian and Chinese description of the afterlife, the system of the six lokas or realms of reality – the devas, asuras, humans, beasts, pretas, and inhabitants of hell – is in fact a metaphorical but precise description of this world and the inequalities that exist in it, with the devas sitting in luxury and judgment on the rest, the asuras fighting to keep the devas in their high position, the humans getting by as humans do, the beasts laboring as beasts do, the homeless preta suffering in fear at the edge of bell, and the inhabitants of hell enslaved to pure immiseration.
My feeling is that until the number of whole lives is greater than the number of shattered lives, we remain stuck in some kind of prehistory, unworthy of humanity's great spirit. History as a story worth telling will only begin when the whole lives outnumber the wasted ones. That means we have many generation s to go before history begins. All the inequalities must end; all the surplus wealth must be equitably distributed. Until then we are still only some kind of gibbering monkey, and humanity, as we usually like to think of it, does not yet exist.
To put it in religious terms, we are still indeed in the bardo, waiting to be born.”
“He is the same soul. You are simply seeing another aspect of him. There is a secret core in everyone that not even Gabriel can know by trying to know. Listen now. The intellect derives from the senses, which are limited, and come from the body. The intellect therefore is also limited, and it can never truly know reality, which is infinite and eternal. Khalid wanted to know reality with his intellect, and he can't. Now he knows that, and is downcast. Intellect has no real mettle, you see, and at the first threat, into a hole it scuttles. But love is divine. It comes from the realm of the infinite, and is entrusted to the heart as a gift from God. Love has no calculation in it. 'God loves you' is the only possible sentence! So it's love you must follow to the heart of your father-in-law. Love is the pearl of an oyster living in the ocean, and intellect lives on the shore and cannot swim. Bring up the oyster, sew the pearl onto your sleeve for all to see. It will bring courage to the intellect. Love is the king that must rescue his coward slave.”
“The people are suffering. Relieving people’s poverty ought to be handled as though one were rescuing them from fire, or saving them from drowning. One cannot hesitate.”
“This was perhaps the evolutionary usefulness of the elderly, Bao had concluded: to give the young some kind of psychic shield from reality, putting them under a description which allowed them to ignore the fact that age and death would come to them too, and could come early and out of sequence.”
“Why read on? Why pick up their book from the far wall where it has been thrown away in disgust and pain, and read on? Why submit to such cruelty, such bad karma, such bad plotting? The reason is simple: these things happened.”
“Maybe this was the way it had always happened, with no fate ever involved; you simply fell in with the people around you, and no matter what else happened in history or the great world, for the individual it was always a matter of local acquaintances—the village, the platoon, the work unit, the monastery or madressa, the zawiyya or farm or apartment block, or ship, or neighborhood—these formed the true circumference of one’s world, some twenty or so speaking parts, as if they were in a play together.”
“All the great moments of history have taken place inside people’s heads.”
“This is what the human story is, not the emperors and the generals and their wars, but the nameless actions of people who are never written down, the good they do for others passed on like a blessing, just doing for strangers what your mother did for you, or not doing what she always spoke against. And all that carries forward and makes us what we are.”
“Tiny parasites inside you, big parasites outside you, people living from your work even though they stay on the other side of the world, making you do it by the force of laws and guns. Laws like mistletoe!”
“Bold didn’t know what he felt, it changed minute by minute.”
“Sura 2:223 says that ‘your wife is as your farm to you, so treat her as you would your farm.’ The ulema have quoted this as if it meant you could treat women like the dirt under your feet, but these clerics, who stand as unneeded intercessors between us and God, are never farmers, and farmers read the Quran right, and see their wives are their food, their drink, their work, the bed they lie on at night, the very ground under their feet! Yes, of course you treat your wife as the ground under your feet!”
“And yet; and yet; sometimes, as at this moment, at dusk, in the wind, we catch, with a sixth sense we don’t know we have, glimpses of that larger world—vast shapes of cosmic significance, a sense of everything holy to dimensions beyond sense or thought or even feeling—this visible world of ours, lit from within, stuffed vibrant with reality.”
“Bistami watched his fellow scholars around the fire in the evenings, intent on a point of doctrine, or the questionable isnad of a hadith, and what that meant, arguing with exaggerated punctilio and little debater’s jokes and flourishes, while a pot of thick hot coffee was poured with solemn attention into little glazed clay cups, all eyes gleaming with firelight and pleasure in the argument; and he thought, these are the Muslims who make Islam good.”
“was fighting the war on a level where it might actually mean something, might have some use, might be a matter of changing people’s souls in their pure existence outside the world, where they might be capable of change, where they might learn what was important and return to life next time with new capacities in their hearts, with new goals in mind.”
“There was too little space for their own—and they guarded their own as all Chinese had done from the earliest dynasties.”
“Though it isn't a terrible thing, having someone to talk to. Your average underclerk doesn't know a woman from a pile of paper clips.”
“He framed her face with his hands, wiping her tears away as soon as they spilled over. “Morrow . . . my heart is on the ground.” The simple Shawnee phrase rent her heart. She simply bent her head as he whispered, “Remember how much I love you. Remember love bears all things.”
“It’s as though I went down to Disneyland and assassinated Mickey Mouse.”
“How many Elysiums have you been to?"
"Three," I said immediately. "At least...this will be my third one."
"And how many Elysiums do you think I've been to?"
"Um. More than three?"
"I do appreciate your gift for the understatement.”
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