Terry Pratchett's Guide to God, Genesis, Sacred Scriptures, Ethics, Fate, Science, Nature, Philosophy, Funny Lines, History, Politics, and Education

Terry Pratchett's Guide to God

Terryʼs last moments and final words

Death and What Comes Next: A Discworld short story by Terry Pratchett


Personal Opinions

Belief was never mentioned at home, but right actions were taught by daily example. Possibly because of this, I have never disliked religion. I think it has some purpose in our evolution… I number believers of all sorts among my friends. Some of them are praying for me. Iʼm happy they wish to do this, I really am, but I think science may be a better bet.

So what shall I make of the voice that spoke to me recently as I was scuttling around getting ready for yet another spell on a chat-show sofa? More accurately, it was a memory of a voice in my head, and it told me that everything was OK and things were happening as they should. For a moment, the world had felt at peace. Where did it come from? Me, actually — the part of all of us that, in my case, caused me to stand in awe the first time I heard Thomas Tallisʼs Spem in alium, and the elation I felt on a walk one day last February, when the light of the setting sun turned a plowed field into shocking pink; I believe itʼs what Abraham felt on the mountain and Einstein did when it turned out that E=mc2. Itʼs that moment, that brief epiphany when the universe opens up and shows us something, and in that instant we get just a sense of an order greater than Heaven and, as yet at least, beyond the grasp of Stephen Hawking. It doesnʼt require worship, but, I think, rewards intelligence, observation and inquiring minds.

There is a rumor going around that I have found God. I think this is unlikely because I have enough difficulty finding my keys, and there is empirical evidence that they exist.


On God(s)

Night poured over the desert. It came suddenly, in purple. In the clear air, the stars drilled down out of the sky, reminding any thoughtful watcher that it is in the deserts and high places that religions are generated. When men see nothing but bottomless infinity over their heads they have always had a driving and desperate urge to find someone to put in the way.

God moves in extremely mysterious, not to say, circuitous ways. God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who wonʼt tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.

It is embarrassing to know that one is a god of a world that only exists because every probability curve must have a far end.

When someone is saved from certain death by a strange concatenation of circumstances, they say thatʼs a miracle. But of course if someone is killed by a freak chain of events - the oil spilled just there, the safety fence broken just there — that must also be a miracle.

“G-d does not play games with His loyal servants,” said the Metatron, but in a worried tone of voice.
“Whooo-eee,” said Crowley. “Where have you been?”

Only a mile away from the shepherd and his flock was a goatherd and his herd. The merest accident of microgeography had meant that the first man to hear the voice of Om, and who gave Om his view of humans, was a shepherd and not a goatherd. They have quite different ways of looking at the world, and the whole of history might have been different. For sheep are stupid, and have to be driven. But goats are intelligent, and need to be led.

After four years of theological college he wasnʼt at all certain of what he believed, and this was partly because the Church had schismed so often that occasionally the entire curriculum would alter in the space of one afternoon. But also—They had been warned about it. Donʼt expect it, theyʼd said. It doesnʼt happen to anyone except the prophets. [But the Great God,] Om doesnʼt work like that. Om works from inside — but heʼd hoped that, just once, that Om would make himself known in some obvious and unequivocal way that couldnʼt be mistaken for wind or a guilty conscience. Just once, heʼd like the clouds to part for the space of ten seconds and a voice to cry out, “Yes, Mightily-Praiseworthy-Are-Ye-Who-Exalteth-Om! Itʼs All Completely True! Incidentally, That Was A Very Thoughtful Paper You Wrote On The Crisis Of Religion In A Pluralistic Society!”

And it came to pass that in time the Great God Om spake unto Brutha, the Chosen One: “Psst!”

There are a hundred pathways to Om. Unfortunately, I sometimes think someone left a rake lying across a lot of them.

Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isnʼt believing. Itʼs where belief stops, because it isnʼt needed anymore.

[Pascalʼs Wager] is very similar to the suggestion put forward by the Quirmian philosopher Ventre, who said, “Possibly the gods exist, and possibly they do not. So why not believe in them in any case? If itʼs all true youʼll go to a lovely place when you die, and if it isnʼt then youʼve lost nothing, right?” When he died he woke up in a circle of gods holding nasty-looking sticks and one of them said, “Weʼre going to show you what we think of Mr. Clever Dick in these parts…”

Itʼs a god-eat-god world.

The trouble with gods was that if they didnʼt like something they didnʼt just drop hints.

When you can flatten entire cities at a whim, a tendency towards quiet reflection and seeing-things-from-the-other-fellowʼs-point-of-view is seldom necessary.

The trouble with being a god is that youʼve got no one to pray to.

It was easy to respect an invisible god. It was the ones that turned up everywhere, often drunk, that put people off.

She was, of course, beautiful. You seldom saw a goddess portrayed as ugly. This probably had something to do with their ability to strike people down instantly.

Gods donʼt like people not doing much work. People who arenʼt busy all the time might start to think.

Gods prefer simple, vicious games, where you Do Not Achieve Transcendence but Go Straight To Oblivion; a key to the understanding of all religion is that a godʼs idea of amusement is Snakes and Ladders with greased rungs.

The gods of the Disc have never bothered much about judging the souls of the dead, and so people only go to hell if thatʼs where they believe, in their deepest heart, that they deserve to go. Which they wonʼt do if they donʼt know about it. This explains why it is so important to shoot missionaries on sight.

Thereʼs a tendency [in religion] to declare that there is more backsliding around than the national toboggan championships, that heresy must be torn out root and branch, and even arm and leg and eye and tongue, that itʼs time to wipe the slate clean. Blood is generally considered very efficient for this purpose.

“Blessings be upon this house,” said Granny, but in a voice that suggested that if blessings needed to be taken away, she could do that, too.

I commend my soul to any God that can find it.

Newton Pulsifer had never had a cause in his life. Nor had he, as far as he knew, ever believed in anything. It had been embarrassing, because he quite wanted to believe in something, since he recognized that belief was the lifebelt that got most people through the choppy waters of Life. Heʼd have liked to believe in a supreme God, although heʼd have preferred a half-hourʼs chat with Him before committing himself, to clear up one or two points. Heʼd sat in all sorts of churches, waiting for that single flash of blue light, and it hadnʼt come. And then heʼd tried to become an official Atheist and hadnʼt got the rock-hard, self-satisfied strength of belief even for that. And every single political party had seemed to him equally dishonest. And heʼd given up on ecology when the ecology magazine heʼd been subscribing to had shown its readers a plan of a self-sufficient garden, and had drawn the ecological goat tethered within three feet of the ecological beehive. Newt had spent a lot of time at his grandmotherʼs house in the country and thought he knew something about the habits of both goats and bees, and concluded therefore that the magazine was run by a bunch of bib-overalled maniacs. Besides, it used the word ‘community’ too often; Newton had always suspected that people who regularly used the word ‘community’ were using it in a very specific sense that excluded him and everyone he knew.

A man could be dogmatic, and that was all right, or he could be stupid, and no harm done, but stupid and dogmatic at the same time was too much.

God also helped those who helped themselves, and presumably expected the chosen to bring warm clothing, water purification tablets, basic medication, a weapon such as the bronze knives that were selling these days, possibly a tent - in short, to bring some common sense to the party.

Offer people a new creed with a costume and their hearts and minds will follow.

I can tell you what I feel. That God is not out there somewhere. God is in us, in our everyday lives. In the act of understanding. God is the sacredness of comprehension – no, of the act of comprehension.

Do you know what it feels like to be aware of every star, every blade of grass?… We [gods] have done it for eternity. No sleep, no rest, just endless… endless experience, endless awareness. Of everything. All the time. How we envy you, envy you! Lucky humans, who can close your minds to the endless deeps of space! You have this thing you call… boredom? That is the rarest talent in the universe! We heard a song — it went ‘Twinkle twinkle little star….’ What power! What wondrous power! You can take a billion trillion tons of flaming matter, a furnace of unimaginable strength, and turn it into a little song for children! You build little worlds, little stories, little shells around your minds, and that keeps infinity at bay and allows you to wake up in the morning without screaming!

[The god] Tak does not require that you think of him, but he does require that you think.

Gods didnʼt mind atheists, if they were deep, hot, fiery, atheists like Simony, who spend their whole life hating gods for not existing. That sort of atheism was a rock. It was nearly belief.


On Genesis

Anyone who could build a universe in six days isnʼt going to let a little thing like that happen. Unless they want it to, of course… Like: why make people inquisitive, and then put some forbidden fruit where they can see it with a big neon finger flashing on and off saying ‘THIS IS IT!’?

“I donʼt see whatʼs so terrific about creating people as people and then gettin’ upset ‘cos they act like people,” said Adam severely. “Anyway, if you stopped tellin’ people itʼs all sorted out after theyʼre dead, they might try sorting it all out while theyʼre alive.”

“Some people” – and here the creator looked sharply at the unformed matter still streaming past – “think itʼs enough to install a few basic physical formulas and then take the money and run. A billion years later you got leaks all over the sky, black holes the size of your head, and when you pray up to complain thereʼs just a girl on the counter who says she donʼt know where the boss is.

We might find out why mankind is here, although that is more complicated and begs the question ‘Where else should we be?’ It would be terrible to think that some impatient deity might part the clouds and say, ‘Damn, are you lot still here?’


On Holy Writings / Sacred Scriptures

There are no inconsistencies in the Discworld books; occasionally, however, there are alternate pasts.
[I wonder if defenders of the notions of the Bibleʼs “inerrancy” have used That excuse yet?—EB]

Granny had never had much time for words. They were so insubstantial. Now she wished that she had found the time. Words were indeed insubstantial. They were as soft as water, but they were also as powerful as water and now they were rushing over the audience, eroding the levees of veracity, and carrying away the past.

The stories never said why she was wicked. It was enough to be an old woman, enough to be all alone, enough to look strange because you have no teeth. It was enough to be called a witch. If it came to that, the book never gave you the evidence of anything. It talked about “a handsome prince”… was he really, or was it just because he was a prince that people called handsome? As for “a girl who was as beautiful as the day was long”… well, which day? In midwinter it hardly ever got light! The stories donʼt want you to think, they just wanted you to believe what you were told.

Legislation was passed to put some honesty into reporting. Thus, if a legend said of a notable that “all men spoke of his prowess” any bard who valued his life would add hastily “except for a couple of people in his home village who thought he was a liar, and quite a lot of other people who had never really heard of him.”

And naturally, when you have one rumor, it buds little extra rumors. Just for the fun of it.

The truth isnʼt easily pinned to a page. In the bathtub of history the truth is harder to hold than the soap and much more difficult to find.

“Iʼm just saying man is naturally a mythopoeic creature.”
“Whatʼs that mean?” said the Senior Wrangler.
“Means we make things up as we go along,” said the Dean, not looking up.

The trouble with gods is that after enough people start believing in them, they begin to exist. And what begins to exist isnʼt what was originally intended.

We spray our fantasies on the landscape like a dog sprays urine. It turns it into ours. Once weʼve invented our gods and demons, we can propitiate or exorcise them. Once weʼve put fairies in the sinister solitary thorn tree, we can decide where we stand in relation to it; we can hang ribbons on it, see visions under it—or bulldoze it up and call ourselves free of superstition.

People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, itʼs the other way around. Stories exist independently of their players. If you know that, the knowledge is power. Stories, great flapping ribbons of shaped space-time, have been blowing and uncoiling around the universe since the beginning of time. And they have evolved. The weakest have died and the strongest have survived and they have grown fat on the retelling… stories, twisting and blowing through the darkness. And their very existence overlays a faint but insistent pattern on the chaos that is history. Stories etch grooves deep enough for people to follow in the same way that water follows certain paths down a mountainside. And every time fresh actors tread the path of the story, the groove runs deeper. This is called the theory of narrative causality and it means that a story, once started, takes a shape. It picks up all the vibrations of all the other workings of that story that have ever been. This is why history keeps on repeating all the time.


On Ethics

Goodness is about what you do. Not who you pray to.

The gods were there to do the duties of a megaphone, because who else would people listen to? [On the other hand] some of the most terrible things in the world are done by people who think, genuinely think, that theyʼre doing it for the best, especially if there is some god involved.

Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.

Iʼd rather be a rising ape than a falling angel.

“And what would humans be without love?”
RARE, said Death.

Human beings mostly arenʼt particularly evil. They just get carried away by new ideas, like dressing up in jackboots and shooting people, or dressing up in white sheets and lynching people, or dressing up in tie-dye jeans and playing guitars at people. Offer people a new creed with a costume and their hearts and minds will follow. Anyway, being brought up as a Satanist tended to take the edge off it. It was something you did on Saturday nights. And the rest of the time you simply got on with life as best you could, just like everyone else.

I see evil when I look in my shaving mirror. It is, philosophically, present everywhere in the universe in order, apparently, to highlight the existence of good. I think there is more to this theory, but I tend to burst out laughing at this point.


On Fate

You know what the greatest tragedy is in the whole world?… Itʼs all the people who never find out what it is they really want to do or what it is theyʼre really good at. Itʼs all the sons who become blacksmiths because their fathers were blacksmiths. Itʼs all the people who could be really fantastic flute players who grow old and die without ever seeing a musical instrument, so they become bad plowmen instead. Itʼs all the people with talents who never even find out. Maybe they are never even born in a time when itʼs even possible to find out. Itʼs all the people who never get to know what it is that they can really be. Itʼs all the wasted chances.


On Science & Nature

Humans! They lived in a world where the grass continued to be green and the sun rose every day and flowers regularly turned into fruit, and what impressed them? Weeping statues. And wine made out of water! A mere quantum-mechanistic tunnel effect, thatʼd happen anyway if you were prepared to wait zillions of years. As if the turning of sunlight into wine, by means of vines and grapes and time and enzymes, wasnʼt a thousand times more impressive and happened all the time.

Science: A way of finding things out and then making them work. Science explains what is happening around us the whole time. So does religion, but science is better because it comes up with more understandable excuses when it is wrong.

The Universe contains everything and nothing.
There is very little everything.
And more nothing than you can possibly imagine.

It is hard to understand nothing, but the multiverse is full of it.

Once we were blobs in the sea, and then fishes, and then lizards and rats and then monkeys, and hundreds of things in between. This hand was once a fin, this hand once had claws! In my human mouth I have the pointy teeth of a wolf and the chisel teeth of a rabbit and the grinding teeth of a cow! Our blood is as salty as the sea we used to live in! When weʼre frightened, the hair on our skin stands up, just like it did when we had fur. We are history! Everything weʼve ever been on the way to becoming us, we still are… Iʼm made up of the memories of my parents and my grandparents, all my ancestors. Theyʼre in the way I look, in the color of my hair. And Iʼm made up of everyone Iʼve ever met whoʼs changed the way I think.

Animal minds are simple, and therefore sharp. Animals never spend time dividing experience into little bits and speculating about all the bits theyʼve missed. The whole panoply of the universe has been neatly expressed to them as things to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from, and (d) rocks. This frees the mind from unnecessary thoughts and gives it a cutting edge where it matters. Your normal animal, in fact, never tries to walk and chew gum at the same time. The average human, on the other hand, thinks about all sorts of things around the clock, on all sorts of levels, with interruptions from dozens of biological calendars and timepieces. Thereʼs thoughts about to be said, and private thoughts, and real thoughts, and thoughts about thoughts, and a whole gamut of subconscious thoughts. To a telepath the human head is a din. It is a railway terminus with all the Tannoys talking at once. It is a complete FM waveband- and some of those stations arenʼt reputable, theyʼre outlawed pirates on forbidden seas who play late-night records with limbic lyrics.

Human beings, little bags of thinking water held up briefly by fragile accumulations of calcium.

Everything starts somewhere, though many physicists disagree. But people have always been dimly aware of the problem with the start of things. They wonder how the snowplow driver gets to work, or how the makers of dictionaries look up the spelling of words.

There are very few starts. Oh, some things seem to be beginnings. The curtain goes up, the first pawn moves, the first shot is fired - but thatʼs not the start. The play, the game, the war is just a little window on a ribbon of events that may extend back thousands of years. The point is, thereʼs always something before. Itʼs always a case of Now Read On.

Extinct. Now thereʼs a terrible word if you like. A word beyond death, because extinction means your children are dead too, and your grandchildren and their children will never even be born.

Light thinks it travels faster than anything, but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

One day when I was a young boy on holiday in Uberwald I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. A very endearing sight, Iʼm sure youʼll agree, and even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged onto a half submerged log. As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters, who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of natureʼs wonders, gentlemen. Mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that is when I first learned about evil. It is built into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior.

Most species do their own evolving, making it up as they go along, which is the way Nature intended. And this is all very natural and organic and in tune with mysterious cycles of the cosmos, which believes that thereʼs nothing like millions of years of really frustrating trial and error to give a species moral fibre and, in some cases, backbone. This is probably fine from the speciesʼ point of view, but from the perspective of the actual individuals involved it can be a real pig.

Youʼve got to face it, all this stuff about golden boughs and the cycles of nature and stuff just boils down to sex and violence, usually at the same time.


On Philosophy

The truth shall make thee fret.

The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think theyʼve found it.

“Whatʼs a philosopher?” said Brutha. Someone whoʼs bright enough to find a job with no heavy lifting, said a voice in his head.

Take it from me, whenever you see a bunch of buggers puttering around talking about Truth and Beauty and the best way of attacking Ethics, you can bet your sandals itʼs all because dozens of other poor buggers are doing all the real work around the place.

“Thatʼs right,” he said. “Weʼre philosophers. We think, therefore we am.”

It is said that someone at a party once asked the famous philosopher Ly Tin Weedle “Why are you here?” and the reply took three years.

Philosophy professors are like genies or demons – if you donʼt word things exactly right, they delight in giving you absolutely accurate and completely misleading answers.

When they look into The Life of Wen the Eternally Surprised [philosopher], the first question they ask is: ‘Why was he eternally surprised?’ And they are told: ‘Wen considered the nature of time and understood that the universe is, instant by instant, recreated anew. Therefore, he understood, there is in truth no past, only a memory of the past. Blink your eyes, and the world you see next did not exist when you closed them. Therefore, he said, the only appropriate state of the mind is surprise. The only appropriate state of the heart is joy. The sky you see now, you have never seen before. The perfect moment is now. Be glad of it.’

The truth may be out there, but the lies are inside your head.

Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.

That statement is either so deep it would take a lifetime to fully comprehend every particle of its meaning, or it is a load of absolute tosh. Which is it, I wonder?

His philosophy was a mixture of three famous schools - the Cynics, the Stoics and the Epicureans - and summed up all three of them in his famous phrase, “You canʼt trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and thereʼs nothing you can do about it, so letʼs have a drink.”

Death: “There Are Better Things In The World Than Alcohol, Albert.”
Albert: “Oh, yes, sir. But alcohol sort of compensates for not getting them.”

People who say things like ‘may all your dreams come true’ should try living in one for five minutes.

Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you.

The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only itʼs as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.

His job was to make sense of the world, and there were times when he wished that the world would meet him halfway.

If you trust in yourself and believe in your dreams and follow your star, youʼll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and werenʼt so lazy.

The harder I work, the luckier I get.

There isnʼt a way things should be. Thereʼs just what happens, and what we do.

If you donʼt turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone elseʼs story.

What have I always believed? That on the whole, and by and large, if a man lived properly, not according to what any priests said, but according to what seemed decent and honest inside, then it would, at the end, more or less, turn out all right.

Every intelligent being, whether it breathes or not, coughs nervously at some time in its life.

Even our fears make us feel important, because we fear we might not be.

“You Fear To Die?”
“Itʼs not that I donʼt want… I mean, Iʼve always… itʼs just that life is a habit thatʼs hard to break…”

A Dialogue With Death

Susan: “Youʼre saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

DEATH: “No. Humans Need Fantasy To Be Human. To Be The Place Where The Falling Angel Meets The Rising Ape.”

Susan: “Tooth fairies? Hogfathers?”

DEATH: “Yes. As Practice. You Have To Start Out Learning To Believe The Little Lies.

Susan: “So we can believe the big ones?”

DEATH: “Yes. Justice. Duty. Mercy. That Sort Of Thing.”

Susan: “Theyʼre not the same at all!”

DEATH: “Really? Then Take The Universe And Grind It Down To The Finest Powder And Sieve It Through The Finest Sieve And Then Show Me One Atom Of Justice, One Molecule Of Mercy. And Yet You Act, Like There Was Some Sort Of Rightness In The Universe By Which It May Be Judged.

Susan: “Yes, but people have got to believe that, or whatʼs the point—”

DEATH: My Point Exactly.


Funny Lines

Mind you, the Elizabethans had so many words for the female genitals that it is quite hard to speak a sentence of modern English without inadvertently mentioning at least three of them.

The question seldom addressed is *where* Medusa had snakes. Underarm hair is an even more embarrassing problem when it keeps biting the top of the deodorant bottle.

Sheʼd become a governess. It was one of the few jobs a known lady could do. And sheʼd taken to it well. Sheʼd sworn that if she did indeed ever find herself dancing on rooftops with chimney sweeps sheʼd beat herself to death with her own umbrella.

“The female mind is certainly a devious one, my lord.”
Vetinari looked at his secretary in surprise. “Well, of course it is. It has to deal with the male one.”

Heʼd noticed that sex bore some resemblance to cookery: it fascinated people, they sometimes bought books full of complicated recipes and interesting pictures, and sometimes when they were really hungry they created vast banquets in their imagination - but at the end of the day theyʼd settle quite happily for egg and chips. If it was well done and maybe had a slice of tomato.

Nanny Ogg looked under her bed in case there was a man there. Well, you never knew your luck.

No-one with their sleeves rolled up who walks purposefully with a piece of paper held conspicuously in their hand is ever challenged.

Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.

“Thereʼs a door.”
“Where does it go?”
“It stays where it is, I think.”

They didnʼt know why these things were funny. Sometimes you laugh because youʼve got no more room for crying. Sometimes you laugh because table manners on a beach are funny. And sometimes you laugh because youʼre alive, when you really shouldnʼt be.


On History

It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyoneʼs fault. If it was us, what did that make Me? After all, Iʼm one of Us. I must be. Iʼve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. Weʼre always one of Us. Itʼs Them that do the bad things.

Lots of people in history have only done their jobs and look at the trouble they caused.

There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.

Death: Human Beings Make Life So Interesting. Do You Know, That In A Universe So Full Of Wonders, They Have Managed To Invent Boredom.

The world is full of little people with big dreams! They want dancing girls! They want thrills! They want elephants! They want people falling off roofs! They want dreams!

‘The Pyramids of Tsort by moonlight!’ breathed Ysabell, ‘How romantic!’ [Did you know they were] Mortared With The Blood Of Thousands Of Slaves?

It was nice to think that mankind made a distinction between blowing their planet to bits by accident and doing it by design.

Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying ‘End-of-the-World Switch. Please Do Not Touch,’ the paint wouldnʼt even have time to dry.


On Politics

You canʼt make people happy by law. If you said to a bunch of average people two hundred years ago “Would you be happy in a world where medical care is widely available, houses are clean, the worldʼs music and sights and foods can be brought into your home at small cost, traveling even 100 miles is easy, childbirth is generally not fatal to mother or child, you donʼt have to die of dental abscesses and you donʼt have to do what the squire tells you” theyʼd think you were talking about the New Jerusalem and say “yes.”

“Heʼs muffed it,” said Simony. “he could have done anything with them. And he just told them the facts. You canʼt inspire people with facts. They need a cause. They need a symbol.”

“Donʼt you want to die nobly for a just cause?”
“Iʼd much rather live quietly for one.”

The poor devils. They thought a king would make them free.

Donʼt put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. Thatʼs why theyʼre called revolutions.

‘Fear generates big profits.’ ‘Youʼre very cynical.’ ‘Joshua, cynicism is the only reasonable response to the antics of humanity.’

Weʼre really good at it, Teppic thought. Mere animals couldnʼt possibly manage to act like this. You need to be a human being to be really stupid.

The people who really run organizations are usually found several levels down, where it is still possible to get things done.

It was sad, like those businessmen who came to work in serious clothes but wore colorful ties in a mad, desperate attempt to show there was a free spirit in there somewhere.


On Education

Getting an education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on.

His progress through life was hampered by his tremendous sense of his own ignorance, a disability which affects all too few.

Cutangle: While Iʼm still confused and uncertain, itʼs on a much higher plane, d’you see, and at least I know Iʼm bewildered about the really fundamental and important facts of the universe.
Treatle: I hadnʼt looked at it like that, but youʼre absolutely right. Heʼs really pushed back the boundaries of ignorance.
They both savoured the strange warm glow of being much more ignorant than ordinary people, who were only ignorant of ordinary things.

“We all think we understand each other,” Kin heard Silver say. “We eat together, we trade, many of us pride ourselves on having alien friends - but all this is only possible, only possible, Kin, because we do not fully comprehend the other. Youʼve studied Earth history. Do you think you could understand the workings of of the mind of a Japanese warrior a thousand years ago? But he is as a twin to you compared with Marco, or with myself. When we use the word ‘cosmopolitan’ we use it too lightly — itʼs flippant, it means weʼre galactic tourists who communicate in superficialities. We donʼt comprehend. Different worlds, Kin. Different anvils of gravity and radiation and evolution.”

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