I confess that I am sitting under a pine tree doing absolutely nothing. I have done nothing for one hour and firmly intend to continue to do nothing for an indefinite period. I have taken my shoes off. I confess that I have been listening to a mockingbird. I hear him singing in those cedars, and I am very sorry. It is probably my fault. He is singing again. This kind of thing goes on all the time. Wherever I am, I find myself the center of reactionary plots like this one. A Signed Confession of Crimes Against the State
It is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous. It is the sane ones, the well-adapted ones, who can without qualms and without nausea aim the missiles and press the buttons that will initiate the great festival of destruction.... No one suspects the sane, and the sane have perfectly good reasons, logical, well-adjusted reasons .... Raids on the Unspeakable
He who begins by loving Christianity better than Truth will proceed by loving his own sect or church better than Christianity, and end by loving himself better than all. Aids to Reflection: Moral and Religious Aphorisms, XXV
Man is quite insane.
He wouldn't know how to create a maggot,
and he creates Gods by the dozen.
The errors of religion are dangerous;
those of philosophy only ridiculous.
Treatise, Bk I, Part IV, Section VII
Hell is: other people.
It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it's the parts that I do understand.
I object to the word atheist. I don't have a word for not believing in fairies.
Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay to mold me man?
Did I solicit thee from darkness to promote me?
Henry David Thoreau
The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of any thing, it is very likely to be my good behavior. Walden
Most of the luxuries, and many of the so called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. Walden
The farmer is endeavoring to solve the problem of a livelihood by a formula more complicated than the problem itself. To get his shoestrings he speculates in herds of cattle. With consummate skill he has set his trap with a hair spring to catch comfort and independence, and then, as he turned away, got his own leg into it. This is the reason he is poor; and for a similar reason we are all poor in respect to a thousand savage comforts, though surrounded by luxuries. Walden
A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. Walden
Our life is frittered away by detail. Walden
It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. Civil Disobedience
If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
perhaps it is because he has the wrong companions.
Morality is the herd-instinct in the individual. Joyful Wisdom #116
Forgive him, for he is a savage and believes that the customs of his tribe are the laws of nature.
To be really Greek, one should have no clothes.
To be really medieval one should have no body.
To be really modern one should have no soul.
A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.
To be really post-modern, one shouldn't have a clue.
A thing is not true (necessarily or contingently) because a man kills for it.
Ralf Waldo Emerson 1803-1882
To stand in true relations to men in a false age is worth a fit of insanity, is it not? Friendship
It is a low benefit to give me something; it is a high benefit to enable me to make somewhat of myself. The Divinity School Address
William S. Burroughs
Nothing is true. Everything is permitted. Everything is permitted because nothing is true.
For every problem there is a solution which is simple, neat, and wrong.
The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.
The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth--that the error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it is cured of one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first.
Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.
"What is truth?" How long is a piece of string?
"What is The Truth?" How long is The Piece of String?
Give me a piece of string and I will tell you a truth
--but you will find that you cannot hold up your trousers with a truth.
In our time the destiny of man presents itself in political terms.
The gravest long-term threat to liberty is not terrorism, but the overzealous measures governments are taking to combat it. Europe and America succumb to paranoia; every email, phone call, and web site visit is tracked by governments. Wake up, people! When governments spy on ordinary people, gulags are not far off. --FqF
The real tragedy of prejudice is that the victims themselves eventually believe it. The Fire Next Time
Our capacity for self-delusion is boundless. Travels With Charley
This prize business is only different from the Lettuce Queen of Salinas in degree.
[Letter to a friend upon receiving the Nobel Prize in 1962.]