It is remarkable that there is little or nothing to be remembered written on the subject of getting a living; how to make getting a living not merely honest and honorable, but altogether inviting and glorious; for if getting a living is not so, then living is not. One would think, from looking at literature, that this question had never disturbed a solitary individual's musings. Is it that men are too much disgusted with their experience to speak of it?
My departure from the volumes of science was a sin far less serious than that which consisted in having neglected to cast his eyes on the book of life.
I do not look on a human being as a machine, made to be kept in action by a foreign force, to accomplish an unvarying succession of motions, to do a fixed amount of work, and then to fall to pieces at death, but as a being of free spiritual powers; and I place little value on any culture but that which aims to bring out these, and to give them perpetual impulse and expansion.
It is hard to have patience with people who say "There is no death" or "Death doesn't matter." There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn't matter.
They looked at each other for a moment.
The moment became a longer moment, and suddenly it was a very long moment, so long one could hardly tell where all the time was coming from.
For Arthur, who would usually contrive to feel self-conscious if left alone for long enough with a Swiss cheese plant, the moment was one of sustained revelation. He felt on the sudden like a cramped and zoo-born animal who wakes one morning to find the door to his cage hanging quietly open and the savanna stretching grey and pink to the distant rising sun, while all around new sounds are waking.
He wondered what the new sounds were as he gazed at her openly wondering face and her eyes that smiled with a shared surprise.
He didn't realize that life speaks with a voice to you, a voice that brings you answers to the questions you continually ask of it, had never consciously detected it or recognized its tones until now it said something it had never said to him before, which was "yes.""Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"
You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid... You refuse to do it because you want to live longer... You're afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you're afraid someone will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.
Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you're just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.
I believe in living. I believe in the spectrum of Beta days and Gamma people. I believe in sunshine. In windmills and waterfalls, tricycles and rocking chairs. And I believe that seeds grow into sprouts. And sprouts grow into trees. I believe in the magic of the hands. And in the wisdom of the eyes. I believe in rain and tears. And in the blood of infinity. I believe in life. And I have seen the death parade march through the torso of the earth, sculpting mud bodies in its path. I have seen the destruction of the daylight, and seen bloodthirsty maggots prayed to and saluted. I have seen the kind become the blind and the blind become the bind in one easy lesson. I have walked on cut glass. I have eaten crow and blunder bread and breathed the stench of indifference. I have been locked by the lawless. Handcuffed by the haters. Gagged by the greedy. And, if I know any thing at all, it’s that a wall is just a wall and nothing more at all. It can be broken down. I believe in living. I believe in birth. I believe in the sweat of love and in the fire of truth. And I believe that a lost ship, steered by tired, seasick sailors, can still be guided home to port."Affirmation"
What I Have Lived For
Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.
I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy - ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness—that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what—at last—I have found.
With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.
Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.
This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me."Autobiography"
What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is found on this dread road? The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated. The worst is atomic war. The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth. Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life, which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
We have more life than we know what to do with. We have life far beyond the point where it becomes a sick caricature of itself. We prolong life until it becomes a sickness, an abomination, a miserable and pathetic flight from death that saps out and mocks everything that made life desirable in the first place.
Man always dies before he is fully born.
All real living is meeting.
To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
PLAYBOY: Earlier, you referred to the U.S. Constitution as "inspiring." Do you endorse all of it - even the right to bear arms?
CARLIN: I have mixed feelings about that. I plan to get a gun if crime gets any worse. I believe my first duty is to survive. And I'm not just talking about criminals coming into my home. I once seriously considered getting a gun to protect myself from the police. If I need a weapon to continue living, I'll get one. And I'll use it.
PLAYBOY: But if violence in our society --
CARLIN: Look, I'm going to interrupt you: There are two ways to think about this existence we have. One of them is that it's Wednesday and it's three fifteen and we're talking here in my home, and at four o'clock I have to leave for another meeting. Now, that's a reality. But there's another reality. We're in the solar system of a second-rate star, three quarters of the way out on a spiral arm of an average galaxy in a thing called the Local Group. And ours is only one of billions of galaxies, each of which has billions of stars. Some star systems are binary, and there could be a planet that revolves around a center of gravity between two binary stars. So you'd have two sunrises and two sunsets every day. One could be a red giant, the other a white dwarf; two different-sized, -shaped, and -colored suns in the sky. And there might be other planets and comets. In other words, fuck Wednesday, fuck three fifteen, fuck four o'clock, fuck the United States, fuck the earth. It's all temporal bullshit. I like thinking about being out there and not thinking about the corporate structure, not worrying about freedom, and not worrying about guns. I chose a life of ideas. That entertains me. That nourishes me. And that's why I run from this conversation.
Life is the ultimate aim of moral design, which it must protect, advance, ennoble and enrich. Immoral design, which is also bad design, is the opposite. It takes life by stealing time; it impoverishes by pretending to be more than it is; it does not last; it deceives, harms, enrages and degrades. The difference between the two lies at the origin of the work, when the designer first establishes their true goals and decides whether it is to satisfy their destructively selfish aims, or it is to be something higher, something that respects and elevates people’s lives, something that they are not ashamed to put out into this world because they know that their heart lies in the right place; and if they fail to achieve what they set out to do, it will be but an error of affection, not ill work laden with guilt.
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.
He has the feeling that merely by being alive he is blocking his own way. From this sense of hindrance, in turn, he deduces the proof that he is alive."Aphorisms"
What good does it do me, after all, if an ever-watchful authority keeps an eye out to ensure that my pleasures will be tranquil and races ahead of me to ward off all danger, sparing me the need even to think about such things, if that authority, even as it removes the smallest thorns from my path, is also absolute master of my liberty and my life; if it monopolizes vitality and existence to such a degree that when it languishes, everything around it must also languish; when it sleeps, everything must also sleep; and when it dies, everything must also perish?