commonplace book

“If paradise now arises in hell, it’s because in the suspension of the usual order and the failure of most systems, we are free to live and act another way.” – Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell, page 7.

“The world is much larger and these other loves lead you to its vastness. We are often told of public and political life merely as a force, a duty, and occasionally a terror. But it is sometimes also a joy. The human being you recognize in reading, for example, Tom Paine’s Rights of Man or Nelson Mandela’s autobiography is larger than this creature of family and erotic life. That being has a soul, ethics, ideals, a chance at heroism, at shaping history, a set of motivations based on principles. Paine writes that nature “has not only forced man into society by a diversity of wants that the reciprocal aid of each other can supply, but she ha implanted in hum a system of social affections, which, though not necessary to his existence, are essential to his happiness. There is no period in life when this love for society ceases to act. It beings and ends with our being.” But that love and that happiness have no place in the conventional configuration of who we are and what we should want. We lack the language for that aspect of our existence, the language we need to describe what happens in disaster.””There are other loves. But we have little language for them. In an era whose sense of the human psyche is dominated by entertainment and consumerism and by therapy culture – the amalgamation of ideas drawn from pop psychology and counseling – the personal and private are most often emphasized to the exclusion of almost everything else. Even the scope of psychotherapy generally leaves out the soul, the creator, and the citizen, those aspects of being human that extend into realms beyond private life. Conventional therapy, necessary and valuable at times to resolve personal crises and suffering, presents a very incomplete sense of self. As a guide to the range of human possibility it is grimly reductive. It will help you deal with private shames and pains, but it won’t generally have much to say about your society and your purpose on earth. It won’t even suggest, most of the time, that you provide yourself with relief from and perspective on the purely personal by living in a larger world. Nor will it ordinarily diagnose people as suffering from social alienation, meaninglessness, or other anomalies that arise from something other than familial and erotic life. It more often leads to personal adjustment than to social change … Such a confinement of desire and possibility to the private serves the status quot as well; it describes no role for citizenship and no need for social change or engagement.” – Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell, page 64.

“There are other loves. BUt we have little language for them. In an era whose sense of the human psyche is dominated by entertainment and consumerism and by therapy culture – the amalgamation of ideas drawn from pop psychology and counseling – the personal and private are most often emphasized to the exclusion of almost everything else. Even the scope of psychotherapy generally leaves out the soul, the creator, and the citizen, those aspects of being human that extend into realms beyond private life. Conventional therapy, necessary and valuable at times to resolve personal crises and suffering, presents a very incomplete sense of self. As a guide to the range of human possibility it is grimly reductive. It will help you deal with private shames and pains, but it won’t generally have much to say about your society and your purpose on earth. It won’t even suggest, most of the time, that you provide yourself with relief from and perspective on the purely personal by living in a larger world. Nor will it ordinarily diagnose people as suffering from social alienation, meaninglessness, or other anomalies that arise from something other than familial and erotic life. It more often leads to personal adjustment than to social change … Such a confinement of desire and possibility to the private serves the status quot as well; it describes no role for citizenship and no need for social change or engagement.” – Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell, page 62.

“She and Maurin were much influenced by the French philosopher Emmanuel Mournier’s idea of “personalism” – of addressing people as individuals rather than members of a class and of taking responbility for social problems. She was also a pacifist who saw the grand gestures of war as only myriad unjustifiable acts of killing individuals.” – Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell, page 68.

“The TAZ [temporary autonomous zone] must exist in geographical odorous tactile tasty physical space (ranging in size from, say a double bed to a large city) – otherwise it’s no more than a blueprint or a dream. Utopian dreams have value as critical tools and heuristic devices, but there’s no substitute for lvied life, real presence, adventure, risk, love. If you make media the center of your life then you will lead a mediated life – but the TAZ wants to be immediate or else nothing.” – Hakim Bey, TAZ, page xi.

“As the afternoon wore on, the conversation turned to botany and in particular a new book that made a great fuss about house plants responding to music and human voices. For Tim the very idea was ridiculous.

“Why would a plant give a shit about Mozart?” I remember him saying. “And even if it did, why should that impress us? I mean, they can eat light, isn’t that enough?”” – Wade Davis, One River, page 40.

“Throughout the Seventeenth and Eighteen centuries, as Spanish wrath fell on the Guambianes, and the Pijao were virtually exterminated in a campaign of pitiless cruelty, the Paez were subjected only to the incursions of the missionaries who, by all accounts, met with little success. The terrain was difficult, the climate forbidding, the shamanic traditions deeply entrenched in the culture. One Jesuit priest was rendered mute and catatonic by the Paez habit of laughing uncontrollably at his every attempt to convert them.” – Wade Davis, One River, page 141.

“”What you are looking at is the jungle coming into the mountains,” Tim said, “The place of fear and the place of healing lifted into the highlands by the imagination of these people.”

“It looks like the whole place was tripping,” I replied foolishly.

“Reichel-Dolmatoff sort of thinks they were,” Tim said, referring to the Colombian anthropologist. “The jaguar was sent to the world as a tes tof the will and integrity of the first humans. Like people, it is both good and evil. It can create and it can destroy. The jaguar is the force the shaman must confront. To do this he takes yagé. That’s when things get interesting.”

“How do you mean?” I asked.

“If the shaman can tame the jaguar, the energy may be directed for the good. But if the dark aspect of the wild overcomes, the jaguar is transformed into a devouring monster, the image of our darkest selves. Either way the shaman and the jaguar become one and the same. Reichel-Dolmatoff would say the jaguar spirit must be mastered by everyone if the moral and social order is to be preserved. The wildest of instincts, like the impulses of the natural world, must be curbed if any society is to survive. That may be what these stones are all about.”” – Wade Davis, One River, page 152-158.

“What astonished Schultes was less the raw effect of the drugs – by this time, after all, he was becoming accustomed to having his consciousness awash in color – than the underling intellectual question that the elaboration of these complex preparations posed. The Amazonian flora contained literally tens of thousands of species. How had the Indians learned to identify and combine in this sophisticated manner these morphologically dissimilar plants that possessed such unique and complimentary chemical properties? These standard scientific explanation was trial and error – a reasonable term that may well account for certain innovations – but at at another level, as Schultes came to realize on spending more time in the forest, it is a euphemism that disguises the fact that ethnobotanists have very little idea how Indians originally made their discoveries.

The problem with trial and error is that the elaboration of the preparations involves procedures that are either exceedingly complex or yield products of little or no obvious value. Yagé is an inedible, nondescript liana that seldom flowers. True, its bark is bitter, often a clue to medicinal properties, but it is no more so than a hundred other forest vines. An infusion of the bark causes vomitting and severe diarrhea, conditions that would discourage further experimentation. Yet not only did the Indians persist but they became so adept at manipulating the various ingredients that individual shamans developed dozens of recipes, each yielding potions of various strengths and nuances to be used for specific ceremonial and ritual purposes.”  – Wade Davis, One River, page 217.

“In a prose that is today archaic in tome but thoroughly modern in sentiment, he noted that “the naturalist, interested in plants and animals, both close to the Indian’s preoccupations, usually is immediately accepted with excessive collaborative attention. These leaders are gentlemen, and all that is required to bring out their gentle manliness is reciprocal gentle manliness. Until the unsavory veneer of Western culture surreptitiously introduces the greed, deception, and exploitation that so often companies the good of ways foreign to these men of the forest, they preserve characteristics that must only be looked upon with envy by modern civilizations.”  – Wade Davis, One River, page 224.

“Finally, Jim realized that he could no more control the flow of goods than we could reverse the process begun so long before on Palm Beach. “As Romantics,” he told me, “we idealize a past we never experienced and deny those who know that past from changing. We forget perhaps the most disturbing lesson of anthropology. As Levi-Strauss said “The people for whom the term cultural relativism was invented have rejected it.”  – Wade Davis, One River, page 290.

“Just a decade earlier it was common to see herds of llamas being being watered at the fountains of the city [Cuzco] now only the odd one appeared, usually as an attraction for tourists. But in the countryside the animals are still revered. Once a year, on a special day in August, their owners join them in their corrals to drink and chew coca together. The llamas are decorated with bright tassels and given a special concoction of barely mash, chicha, medicinal herbs, and cane alcohol. The men make the offering, holding the animals down as bottles of the brew are poured into their throats. By the end of the day both man and beast are completely drunk, and together they stagger out of the corral, following their other companions, laughing, singing, and dancing.”  – Wade Davis, One River, page 432.

“A mountain is an ancestor, a protective being, and all those living within the shadow of a high peak share in its benevolence or wrath. The rivers are the open veins of the earth, the milky way its heavenly counterpart. Rainbows are double-headed serpents that emerge from hallowed springs, arch across the sky, and bury themselves again in the earth. Shooting stars are bolts of silver. Behind lie all the heavens, including the dark patches of cosmic dust, the negative constellations that to the highland Indians are as meaningful as the clusters of stars that form animals in the sky. Lightning is concentrated light in its purest form. Places struck by lightning receive offerings of coca and are never forgotten; objets that have been hit become imbued with regenerative power. A person killed by lighing is burned on the spot and instantly becomes a Tirakuna.”  – Wade Davis, One River, page 435.


“Among the earliest forms of human self-awareness was the awareness of being meat.” – David Quammen

“Paul Goodman famously wrote, “Suppose you had the revolution you are talking and dreaming about. Suppose your side had won, and you had the kind of society that you wanted. How would you live, you personally, in that society? Start living that way now!” It’s an argument for tiny and temporary victories, and for the possibility of partial victories in the absence or even the impossibility of total victories.” – Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark, page xxiv.

“The struggle for justice should never be abandoned because of the apparent overwhelm

ing power of those who have the guns and the money and who seem invisible in the determination to hold onto it. That apparent power has, again and again, proved vulnerable to moral fervor, determination, unity, organization, sacrifice, wit, ingenuity, courage, patience – whether by blacks in Alabama and South Africa, peasants in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Vietnam, or workers and intellectuals in Poland, Hungary, and the Soviet Union itself.” – Howard Zinn from The Optimism of Uncertainty, found in Hope in the Dark, page xxii.

“The future is dark, which is on the whole, the best thing the future can be, I think.” – Virginia Woolf from her journal, found in Hope in the Dark, page 1.

“The kind of hope I often think about (especially in situations that are particularly hopeless, such as prison) I understand above all as a state of mind, not a state of the world. Either we have hope within us or we don’t; it is a dimension of the soul; it’s  not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, and orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is achieved somewhere beyond its horizons. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for an early success, but, rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.” – Vaclav Havel from Hope in the Dark, page 11.

“Joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated, and isolated, joy is a fine initial act of insurrection.” – Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark, page 24.

“What is missing from these two ways of telling is an ability to recognize a situation in which you are traveling and have not arrived, in which you have to cause to celebrate and fight, in which the world is always being made and is never finished.” – Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark, page 78.

“”Utopia is on the horizon,” declares Eduardo Galeano. “When I walk two steps, it takes two steps back. I walk ten steps and it is ten steps further away. What is utopia for? It is for this, for walking.” – Eduardo Galeano from Hope in the Dark, page 79.

“Moths and other nocturnal insects navigate by the moon and stars. Those heavenly bodies are useful for them to find their way, even though they never get far from the surface of the earth. But lightbulbs and candles send them stray; they fly into the heat or flame and die. For these creatures, to arrive is a calamity. When activists mistake heaven for some goal at which they must arrive, rather than an idea to navigate earth by, they burn themselves out, or they set up a totalitarian utopia in which others are burned in the flames. Don’t mistake a lightbulb for the moon, and don’t believe the moon is useless unless we land on it.” – Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark, page 79.

“Paradise is not the place in which you arrive but the journey towards it. Sometimes I think victories must be temporary or incomplete; what kind of humanity would survive paradise? The industrialized world has tried to approximate paradise in its suburbs, with luxe, calme, volupte, cul-de-sacs, cable television and two-car garages, and it has produced a soft ennui that shades over into despair and a decay of the soul suggesting that paradise is already a gulag. Countless desperate teenagers will tell you so. For paradise does not require of us courage, selflessness, creativity, passion: paradise in all accounts is passive, is sedative, and if you read carefully, soulless.” – Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark, page 80.

“That’s why John Keats called the world with all its suffering “the vale of soul making,” why crisis often brings out the best in us.” – Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark, page 80.

“Recent strains of activism proceed on the realization that victory is not some absolute state far away but the achieving of it, not the moon landing but the flight. A number of ideas and practices have emerged that live this out. The term “politics of prefiguration: has long been used to describe the idea that if you embody what you aspire to, you have already succeeded. That is to say, if your activism is already democratic, peaceful, creative, then in one small corner of the world these things have triumphed. Activism, in this model, is not only a toolbox to change things but a home in which to take up residence and live according to your beliefs, even if it’s a temporary and local place, this paradise of participating, this vale where souls get made.” – Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark, page 80-81.

“Our movements are trying to a politics that challenges all the certainties of traditional leftist politics, not by replacing them with new ones, but by dissolving any notion that we have answers, plans, or strategies that are watertight or universal. In fact our strategies must be more like water itself, undermining everything that is fixed, hard and rigid with fluidity, constant movement and evolution. We are trying to build a politics of process, where the only certainty is doing what feels right at the right time and in the right place – a politics that doesn’t wait (interesting how wait and hope are the same words in Spanish) but acts in the moment, not to create something in the future but to build in the present, it’s the politics of the here and now. When we are asked how are we going to build a new world, our answer is, “We don’t know, but let’s build it together.” In effect we are saying the end is not as important as the means, we are turning hundreds of years of political form and content on its head by putting the means before the ends, by putting context in front of ideology, by rejecting purity and perfection, in fact, we are turning our backs on the future.

It’s an enormous challenge, because in a chaotic world people need something to hold onto and something to hold them, if all is uncertain, if uncertainty is the only certainty, then the uprooted, the fragile, those that crave something to give them meaning in their lives, simply get washed away by the flood and flux of an unsure universe. For them, hope is often found in certainty. Not necessarily certainty rooted in a predictable future, but certainty that they are doing the right thing with their lives…Taking power has been the goal at the end of the very straight and narrow road of most political movements of the past. Taking control of the future lies at the root of nearly every historical social change strategy, and yet we are building movements which believe that to “let go” is the most powerful thing we can do – to let go, walk away from power and find freedom. Giving people back their creative agency, reactivating their potential for a direct intervention into the world is at the heart of the process. With agency and meaning reclaimed, perhaps it is possible to imagine tomorrow today and to be wary of desires that can only be fulfilled by the future. In that moment of creation, the need for certainty is subsumed by the joy of doing, and the doing is filled with meaning.” – John Jordan of Reclaim The Street from Hope in the Dark, page 93-94.

“These other versions of what revolution means suggest that the goal is not so much to go on and create the world as to live in that time of creation, and with this the emphasis shifts from institutional power to the power of consciousness and the enactments of daily life, towards a revolution that does not institute its idea of perfection but opens up the freedom for each to participate in inventing the world.” – Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark, page 95.

“I believe in hope as an act of defiance, or rather as the foundation for an ongoing series of acts of defiance, those acts necessary to bring about some of what we hope for while we live by principle in the meantime. There is not alternative, except surrender. And surrender not only abandons the future, it abandons the soul.

Subcommandante Marcos says,

“History written by Power taught us that we had lost… We did not beleive what Power had taught us. We skipped class when they taught conformity and idiocy. We failed modernity. We are united by the imagination, by creativity, by tomorrow. In the past we not only met defeat but also found a desire for justice and the dream of being better. We left skepticism hanging from the hook of Big Capital and discovered that we could believe, that it was worth believing, that we should believe – in ourselves. Health to you, and don’t forget that flowers, like hope, are harvested.” – Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark, page 110.

“In every case, the scientific quest served as a metaphor, a lens through which to interpret a culture and acquire personal experience of the other. But what ultimately inspired these journeys was a restless desire to move, what Baudelaire called “the great malady,” horror of home. Simply put, I sought escape from a monochromatic world of monotony, in the hope that I might find in a polychromatic world of diversity the means to rediscover and celebrate the enchantment of being human.” – Wade Davis, Light at the Edge of the World, page 8.

“More than a cluster of words or a set of grammatical rules, a language is a flash of the human spirit, the filter through which the soul of each particular species reaches the material world. A language is a divine and mysterious living creatures.” – Wade Davis, Light at the Edge of the World, page 13.

“….each language is, in itself, an entire ecosystem of ideas and intuitions, a watershed of thought, an old growth forest of the mind.” – Wade Davis, Light at the Edge of the World, page 14.

“Life was real, visceral, dense with intoxicating possibilities. I learned that summer to have but one operative word in my vocabulary, and that was yes to any experience, any encounter, anything new. Colombia taught me that it was possible to fling oneself upon the benevolence of the world and emerge not only unscathed but transformed. It was a naive notion, but one that I carried with me for a long time.” – Wade Davis, Light at the Edge of the World, page 24.

“This quest for balance, Levi-Strauss maintained, was a fundamental human urge, a key adaptive trait that allowed peoples such as the Bororo to come to terms with the fragility of their lives and the harshness of the natural world that surrounded them. At the very least, it provided an illusion of control, that in their scattered encampments they were not utterly at the mercy of the fickle forces of life and death. Modern industrialized society has precisely the same need to insulate the individual from nature and indulges in similar illusions that it can be accomplished. The difference lies in the medium. We built machines and dwell in cities. The Ge peoples find protection in a web of ideas, beliefs, and ritual practices dreamed into being at the beginning of time.” – Wade Davis, Light at the Edge of the World, page 26.

“Herein, perhaps, lies the essence of the relationship between indigenous peoples and the natural world. Life in the malarial swamps of New Guinea, the chill winds of Tibet, the white heat of the Sahara, leaves little room for sentiment. Nostalgia is not a trait commonly associated with the Inuit. Nomadic hunters and gatherers in Borneo have no conscious sense of stewardship for mountain forests that they lack the technical capacity to destroy. What these cultures have done, however, is to forge through time and ritual a traditional mystique of the earth that is based not only on deep attachment to the land but also on far more subtle intuition – the idea that the land itself is breathed into being by human consciousness. Mountains, rivers, and forests are not perceived as inanimate, as mere props on a stage upon which the human drama unfolds. For these societies, the land is alive, a dynamic force to be embraced and transformed by the human imagination. This sense of belonging and connection, noted by ethnographers working among traditional societies throughout the Andes, is also the invisible constant of the Amazon.” – Wade Davis, Light at the Edge of the World, page 52.

“Is a mountain a sacred place? Does the river follow the ancestral path of an anaconda? Do the prayers of the Kogi actually maintain cosmic balance? Who is to say? What matters is the potency of the belief and the manner in which the conviction plays out in the day to day life of a people. A child raised to believe that a mountain is the abode of a protective spirit will be a profoundly different human being from a youth brought up to believe that a mountain is an inert mass of rock ready to be mined.” – Wade Davis, Light at the Edge of the World, page 52.

“The Indians know, just as they know that the trees sway out of time in order to snap the grip of clinging lianas and slough off great sheets of bark to rid themselves of epiphytes competing for light. Watching the forest for signs, they anticipate the flowering and fruiting cycles of plants, recognize the preferred foods of animals, exploit the healing power of leaves.” – Wade Davis, Light at the Edge of the World, page 63.

“As the pilgrims struggle up the slope, leaving behind the silver-blue agaves, the optunias, alders, and eucalyptus, the journey becomes a passage. It is a long arduous walk, a climb of 6000′ feet in a day, across an endless series of switchbacks etched into the flank of the mountain. The goal is the lake. The effort is the sacrifice, a term that does not mean to give, but rather to make sacred. This is the key to the maestros art of healing. It is not enough to identify a symptom and eliminate it, with either medicinal plants or the intervention of positive magic. To heal the body one has to seek realignment, not only with the supernatural realm, but with the earth itself, the source of all life. It is  movement through sacred geography that makes atonement possible. This is the true meaning of healing. To make whole. To be holy. To give of oneself to the earth, and thus rediscover balance, the foundation and essence of well-being. As much as any aspect of the contemporary cult, it is this pursuit of equilibrium that linked the maestro to the ancient traditions of the Andes.” – Wade Davis, Shadows in the Sun, page 189-190.

“We are living in the midst of an ecological catastrophe every bit as tragic as that of the slaughter of the Buffalo and the Passenger Pigeon. Whereever one looks, there are governmental policies that are equally blind, economic rationales equally compelling. All memory is convulsed in an upheaval of violence. There is a fire burning over the earth, taking with it plants and animals, cultures, languages, ancient skills, and visionary wisdom. Quelling this flame and reinventing the poetry of diversity is the most important challenge of our times.” – Wade Davis, Shadows in the Sun, page 279.

“Walk on gaunt shores and avoid the people; rock and wave are good prophets.” – Robinson Jeffers from Advice to Pilgrims in The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, page 579.

“What are you doing? There is no food up there. – For
pure beauty of the storm –
They feel the beauty of things – as we do – they give
their flying hearts to it- their wind-borne hungers.” – Robinson Jeffers, Storm Dance of the Sea Gulls from The Beginning and the End, page 49.

“I accept reality and dare not question it,
Materialism first and last imbuing.
Hurrah for positive science! Long live exact demonstration!
Fetch stonecrop mixt with cedar and branches of lilac,
This is the lexicographer, this the chemist, this made a grammar of the old cartouches,
These mariners put the ship through dangerous unknown seas,
This is the geologist, this works with the scalpel,
and this is a mathematician.

Gentlemen, to you first honors always!
Your facts are useful, and yet they are not my dwelling.
I but enter them to the area of my dwelling.
Less the reminders of properties told my words,
And more the reminders they of life untold, and of freedom and extrication,
And make short account of neuters and geldings, and favor men and women fully equipt,
And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugitives and them that plot and conspire.” – Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, page 53.

“Deep down inside me a tiny voice was calling. At first scarcely audible, it persisted until I could no longer ignore it. It was the voice of the wild places, and I knew that it was now part of me forever. Inexplicably – amazingly – I know I love that hell. Its fiendish grasp had captured me, and I wanted to see it again.” – Percy Fawcett from The Lost City of Z by David Grann, page 116.

“…the footprint of projects like the Syncrude Mine in the Athabasca oil sands of north-eastern Canada, which moves 30 billion tonnes of earth each year, twice the amount of sediment that flows down all the rivers of the world in that time.” – Gaia Vince, Adventures in the Anthropocene, page 4.

“One gallon of oil contains an amount of energy that would take a man eight days of labor to produce.” – Gaia Vince, Adventures in the Anthropocene, page 24.

“Coffee is concentrated sunshine.” – Alexander Von Humboldt

“San Francisco is barren and bee-less.” – John Muir

“Central to the IR [immediate return] economy – or at least, a necessary condition for it – is the phenomenon of movement. Movement works heavily against any tendencies towards surplus building and accumulation, which suggests that sedentism is a key factor in the origins of social inequality. In addition, the nomadic life is one that acts as a natural leveler of social conflict, which becomes a major issue once human beings start to create permanent settlements. In an article on “egalitarian societies,” Woodburn examined six foraging societies with IR economies: the Mbuti, the !Kung, the Pandaren Paliyan of Southern India, the Batek Negrito of Malaysia, and the Hadza. In all six, he says, movement is fundamental. There are no fixed dwellings or basecamps: people live in small camp units of twelve to twenty four individuals and move frequently. The groups are flexible, with composition changing consistently, and all individuals having a choice of whom they associate with (this is the fission-and-fussion pattern referred to above), conflict when it does arise, is resolved by simply moving away, and no one’s livelihood is jeopardized as a result. Movement thus allows socials ties to be manipulated without strain, and the Hadza move at the drop of a hat. No one is in charge, and this is modeled within the family as well. The values taught are ones of personal autonomy and sharing, not dependency and authority. All this works against the formation of hierarchy and social inequality, as well as against the possibility of farming.” – Morris Berman, Wandering God, page 54.

“We only think we are thinking; the truth is that we spend most of our time organizing our lives around mental theme parks, going from one “paradigm” to the next and congratulating ourselves on our insight…” – Morris Berman, Wandering God, page 150.

“People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“So it it turns out not everyone is happy with the sedentary life, and this should come as no great surprise: it’s not our genetic heritage. States, sedentism, and agriculture are all late comers, apparently forced upon us by a combination of external circumstances and a latent drive for power and inequality. Although pastoralism has a relatively long history and evolves out of the early domestication of animals, it eventually becomes a form of movement, not just a form of food production. As the great Russian authority on nomadic peoples, Anatoly Khazanov, once put it, “Pastoralism is not only a way of making a living; it is also a way of living.” And it is a away that takes us back to our hunter-gatherer roots. In this latter development, which is the reassertion of movement, we find both deep rejection of sedentary life – along with its values – and the attempt to recapture core elements of the lost HG [hunter gatherer]: egalitarian social relations, self-reliance and autonomy, paradoxical consciousness, a “non-religious” way of being, and the world of immanent brilliance and perpetual surprise.” – Morris Berman, Wandering God, page 153.

“What I would like to suggest (following Bruce Chatwin) is a bit different: in the case of such nomads, as with HGs [hunter gatherers], it is a movement that makes religious ritual superfluous. Movement across the landscape is such a vivid, immediate experience that the need for anything more complicated than paradox is largely obviated…. For in her reflections on both, Douglas goes to the heart of the paradoxical phenomenon and the ultimate security of needing no mirroring, no self-representation, in order to feel at home in the world.” – Morris Berman, Wandering God, page 166.

“No “answer” can offer man a possibility of autonomy. Any “answer” subordinates human existence. The autonomy – sovereignty – of man is linked to the fact of his being a question with no answer. – Georges Bataille from Wandering God by Morris Berman, page 191.

“An honest religious thinking is like a tightrope walker. He almost looks as though he were walking on nothing but air. His support is the slenderest imaginable. And yet it really is possible to walk on it.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein from Wandering God by Morris Berman page 191.

“What we need is a way of seeing, not doctrines.” – Morris Berman, Wandering God, page 198.

“That brand of philosophy known as hermeneutics, also seems to bear a Wittgensteinian stamp. The idea of the “hermeneutic circle” is that answers are prefigured in the questions being asked. In other words, all we can finally get is the ocnsensus of a given community and each community is a closed system, which now has epistemic authority and which cannot be measured by the standards of another community. (This is the “incommensurable” about which Foucalt would later write.” – Morris Berman, Wandering God, page 201.

“The courage involved in being willing to undergo such humiliation can be well imagined, but in the world of his own spiritual nomadism, you couldn’t speak the truth if you didn’t live it…Real philosophy, Wittgenstein wrote to Rush, involves a willingness to change one’s own pet notions, as well as one’s life. As such, it is nasty and disagreeable.” – Morris Berman, Wandering God, page 202.

“If social dérapage corresponds to individual introjection, the sad restlessness described by Object Relations Theory – “I feel empoty, but once I get X, then I’ll be happy.” – has a social counterpart in the new paradigm game. In other words, the following diagram of “the wheel of suffering” as it operates for individuals (when you finally get x, one then wants y, and infinitum) can easily be seen to be the underlying mechanism of paradigm-shift addiction and of Zoroastrian Utopianism in general. Here we start on the left with our hope or dream (“a new job/relationship will change everything e.g.) and translate it into action. We go for it. Let us say that we get what we want (“You’re hired!); what happens next? Well it is no longer a fantasy: the perfect job proves to be rather mundane, after a while, or the perfect dream partner all too human. Elation over, I go into depression…. I feel hopeless defeated. It is at this point that I could sit with the feelings, live with them in my body and see what comes up. But living in the present, outside of fantasy, is too painful, to contemplate, so I generate another dream (“I’ll get a promotion.” or “I’ll get a new partner.”), and I’m off and running once again. Like a hamster on a treadmill, I never see that his is a game without an end. The only “end” is to experience my life as it actually is, as it presents itself; to really grasp the fact that “there” is not necessarily going to be any different from here.” – Morris Berman, Wandering God, page 228.

“Linguist William Pilcher has observed that the Papago discuss events in terms of their possibility of occurrence, avoiding any assumption that an event will happen for sure:

“It is my impression that the Papago abhor the idea of making definitive statements. I am still in doubt as to how close a rainstorm must be before one may properly say t’o tju (It is going to rain on us.), rather than tki ‘o tju:ks (something like: It looks like it may be going to rain on us.)” – Gary Paul Nabhan, The Desert Smells Like Rain, page 6.

“If others wish to adapt to the deserts peculiarities, the ancient knowledge can serve you a a guide. Yet the best guide will tell you: there are certain things you must learn on your own. The desert is unpredictable, enigmatic. One minute you will be smelling dust. The next, the desert can smell just like rain.” – Gary Paul Nabhan, The Desert Smells Like Rain, page 8.

“There are two modes of invading private property; first, by which the poor plunder the rich…sudden and violent; the second, by which the rich plunder the poor, slow and legal.” – John Taylor from An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States (1814).

“We live amid surfaces, and the true art of life is to skate well on them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, from Experience within Essay and Journals, page 275.

“There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living.” – Henry David Thoreau, Life Without Principle, page 752.

“All summer, and far into the autumn, perchance, you unconsciously went by the newspapers and news, and now you find it was because the morning and the evening were full of news to you. Your walks were full of incidents. You attended, not to the affairs of Europe, but to the your own affairs in Massachusetts fields. If you chance to live and move and ‘have your being in that thin stratum in which events that make news transpire, – thinner than the paper on which it is printed, – then these things will fill the world for you; but if you soar about or dive below that plane, you cannot remember nor be reminded of them. Really to see the sun rise or go down everyday, so to relate ourselves to a universal fact, would preserve us sane forever.” – Henry David Thoreau, Life Without Principle, page 761-762.

“If I am to be a thoroughfare, I prefer that it be of the mountain-brooks, the Parnasian streams, and not the town sewers.” – Henry David Thoreau, Life Without Principle, page 763.

“Read not the times. Read the eternities.” – Henry David Thoreau, Life Without Principle, page 764.

“The idea of a single civilization for everyone implicit in the cult of progress and technique impoverishes and mutilates us. Every view of world that becomes extinct, every culture that disappears, diminishes a possibility of life.” – Octavio Paz from The Wayfinders by Wade Davis page 162.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” – Albert Einstein

“I want all the cultures of the land to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.” – Mahatma Ghandi from – The Wayfinders by Wade Davis, page 1.

“What ultimately we will discover on this journey will be our mission for the next century. There is a fire burning over the earth, taking with it plants and animals, ancient skills, and visionary wisdom. At risk is a vast archive of knowledge and expertise, a catalogue of the imagination, an oral and written language composed of the memories of countless elders and healers, warriors, farmers, fishermen, midwives, poets, and saints – in short, the artistic, intellectual, and spiritual expression of the full complexity and diversity of the human experience. Quelling this flame, this spreading inferno, and rediscovering a new appreciation for the diversity of the human spirit as expressed by culture, is among the central challenges of our times.” – Wade Davis, The Wayfinders, page 34.

“Enjoyment, as we have seen, does not depend on what you do, rather on how you do it.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, page 99.

“Water can be both good and bad, useful and dangerous. To the danger, however, a remedy has been found: learning to swim.” – Democritus from Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, page 70.

“There are many people who spend all of their time giving aid to the needy and joining movements for the betterment of society. To be sure, this ought not to be discounted. But their root anxiety, growing out of their false view of themselves and the universe, goes unrelieved, gnawing at their hearts and robbing them of a rich, joyous life. Those who sponsor and engage in such social betterment activities look upon themselves, consciously or unconsciously, as morally superior and so never bother to purge their minds of greed, anger, and delusive thinking. But the time comes when, having grown exhausted from all of their restless activity, they can no longer conceal themselves from their basic anxieties about life and death. Then they seriously begin to question why life hasn’t more meaning and zest. Nor for the first time they wonder whether instead of trying to save others they ought not to save themselves first.” – Philip Kapleau, Three Pillars of Zen, page 151.

“The problem is this: How to love people who have no use.” – Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless you, Mr. Rosewater, page 264.

“In The Dialectic of the Enlightenment, Horkheimer and Adorno identified the problem quite clearly, arguing that Enlightenment thought slowly got transmuted into scientism and positivism. In this scheme of things, everything got objectified; only that which was measurable and empirical was regarded as real.

Thus in One-Dimensional Man, Herbert Mancuse indicts the thought of the seventeenth century as being inherently “purposive-rational,” inherently antithetical to any values except those embodied in science and technology, which he says wear the mask of neutrality. Science, says Mancuse, is purely about the abstract and rational manipulation of the environment; it reduces everything to instrumental value, in the guise of being value-free.


Horkheimer and Adorno, correspondingly, make a distinction between a “good” enlightenment and a “bad” one. The former gave us the Age of Reason, the world of Humen and Voltaire, which gave us our notions of critical analysis. The latter is the modern obsession with quantification, control, and domination of the natural world. Human power over nature increased – we call this “progress” – but so did alienation from our environment and from the world of meaning and value. This alienation, in turn, impelled us to seek more power, which lead to more alienation, and so on. “Progress” finally became an exercise in frustration, what the German sociologist Max Weber characterized both as the “disenchantment of the world” and the “iron cage” of industrial society. Underneath it all, say the Frankfurt writers, is an unconscious neurotic fantasy, the dream of absolute power over everything” – Morris Berman, Twlight of American Culture, page 107-114.

“Journeying through the world
to and fro, to and fro
cultivating a small field.” – Basho

“The true philosopher is not a member of any community of ideas.” – Wittgenstein.

“He would never swing the thurible before the tabernacle as a priest. His destiny was to be elusive of social or religious orders. The wisdom of the priest’s appeal did not touch him to the quick. He was destined to learn his own wisdom apart from others or to learn the wisdom of others himself wandering among the snares of the world.” – James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, page 136.

“Look here Cranly, he said. You have asked me what I would do and what I would not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe whether it calls itself my home, my fatherland or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use – silence, exile, and cunning.

You made me confess the fears that I have. But I will tell you also what I do not fear. I do not fear to be alone or to be spurned for another or to leave whatever I have to leave. And I am not afraid to make a mistake, even a great mistake, a lifelong mistake and perhaps as long as eternity too.” – James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, page 208.

“He once suggested that when depicted a murder, the artist shouldn’t focus on the victim or on “the natural but ignoble instinct by which we cleave to life.” This instinct merely “exhibits human nature in his most abject and humiliating attitude,” one that “would little suit the purposes of the poet.” “The moral of the story was good,” our narrator explains, “for it showed what an astonishing stimulus to latent talent is contained in any reasonable prospect of being murdered.” – From a review by Matthew Bevis on the book Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas de Quincey by Frances Wilson.

“An organism running on Brussel Sprouts probably isn’t as inclined to shoot up road signs or to share its habitat with bombing ranges and plutonium dumps as one that’s running on hammered beef.” – Tom Robbins, Wild Ducks Flying Backwards, page 15.

“The silence in the room was deep as the night itself. Biff stood transfixed, lost in his meditations. Then suddenly he felt a quickening in him. His heart turned and he leaned his back against the counter for support. For in a swift radiance of illumination he saw a glimpse of human struggle and of valor. Of the endless fluid passage of humanity through endless time. And of those who labor and those who – one word – love. His soul expanded. But for a moment only. For in him he felt a warring, a shaft of terror. Between the two worlds he was suspended. He saw that he was looking at his own face in the counter glass before him. Sweat glistened on his temples and his face was contented. One eye was wider than the other. The left eye. The left eye delved narrowly into the past while the right gazed wide and affrighted into a future of blackness, terror, and ruin. And he was suspended between radiance and darkness. Between bitter irony and faith.” – Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, page 306.

“Mrs. Nimkin, weeping in our kitchen: “Why? Why? Why did he do this to us?” Hear? Not what might we have done to him, oh no, never that – why did he do this to us? To us! Who would have given our arms and legs to make him happy and a famous concert pianist into the bargain! Really, can they be this blind? Can people be so abysmally stupid and live? Do you believe it? Can they actaully be equipped with all the machinery, a brain, a spinal cord, and the four apertures for the ears and eyes – equipment, Miss Nimkin, nearly as impressive as color TV 0 and still go through life without a single clue about the feelings and yearnings of anyone other than themselves? Mrs. Nimkin, you shit, I remember you, I was only six, but I remember you, and what killed your Ronald, the concert-pianist-to-be is obvious: YOUR FUCKING SELFISHNESS AND STUPIDITY!” – Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint, page 108-109.

“I thought, “This is going to be one of my greatest days.” For not only was the high feeling of the night still with me, which set a kind of record, but I became convinced (and still am convinced) that things, the object-world itself, gave me a kind of go-ahead sign. This did not come about as I had expected it to with Willatale. I thought that she could open her hand and show me the germ, the true cipher, maybe you recall – if not I’m telling you again. No, what happened was like nothing previously conceived; it took the form merely of the light at daybreak against the white clay of the wall beside me and had an extraordinary effect, for right away I began to feel the sensation in my guys warning of something lovely, and with it a close or painful feeling in the chest. People allergic to feathers or pollen will know what I’m talking about; they become aware of their presence with you most gradual subtlety. In my case the cause that morning was the color of the wall with the sunrise on it, and when it became deeper I had to put down the baked yam I was chewing and support myself with my hands on the ground, for I felt the world sway under me and I would have reached, if I were on a horse, for the horn of the saddle. Some powerful magnificence not human, in other words, seemed under me. And it was this same mild pink color, like water of watermelon, that did it. At once I recognized the importance of this, as throughout my life I had known these moments when the dumb begins to speak, when I hear the voices of objects and colors; then the physical universe starts to wrinkle and change and heave and rise and smooth, so it seems that even the dogs have to learn against a tree, shivering. Thus on this white wall with its prickles, like gooseflesh of matter, was the pink light, and it was similar to flying over the white points of the sea ten thousand feet as the sun begins to rise. It must have been at least 50 years since I had encountered such a color, and I thought I could remember waking as a tiny boy, alone in a double bed, a black bed, and looking at the ceiling where there was a big oval of plaster in the old style, with pears, fiddles, sheaves of wheat, and angel faces; and outside a white shutter, twelve feet long and covered with the same pink color.” – Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King, page 94-95.

“What was the purpose of my trip and why was I traveling like this?
Again that question! Again! It was like the question asked by Tennyson about the flower in the crannied wall. That is, to answer it might involve the history of the universe” – Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King, page 126.

“I put my my fist to my face and looked at the sky, giving a short laugh and thinking, Christ! What a person to meet at this distance from home. Yes, travel is advisable. And believe me, the world is a mind. Travel is mental travel. I had always suspected this. What we call reality is nothing but pedantry.” – Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King.

“”Exceptionally, exceptionally,” he said as if he were discussing one of my problems with me. “Sometimes I thinking it is helpful to think of burial in relation to the earth’s crust. What is the radius? Four thousand five hundred miles more or less, to the core of the earth. No, graves are not deep but insignificant, a mere few feet from the surface and not far from fearing and desiring. More or less the same fear, more or less the same desire. For thousands of generations. Child, father, father, child doing the same. Fear the same. Desire the same. Upon the crust, beneath the crust, again and again and again. Well, Henderson, what are the generations for, please explain to me? Only to repeat fear and desire without change? This cannot be what the thing is for, over and over and over. Any good man will try to break the cycle. There is no issue from the cycle for a man who do not take things into his hands.”

“Oh, King, wait a minute. Once out of the light, it’s enough. Does it hav eto be four thousand fire hundred miles to be the grave? How can you talk like that?” But I understood him all the same. All you hear from guys id desire, desire, desire. Knocking its way out of the breast, and fear striking and striking. Enough already! Time for a word of truth. Time for something notable to be heard. Otherwise, accelerating like a stone, you fall from life to death. Exactly like a stone, straight into deafness, and till the last repeating I want, I want, I want, then striking the earth and entering it forever! As a matter of fact, I thought, aout in the African sun from which the hooked wall of thorn temporarily cooled me: it’s a pleasure when harsh objects like thorns do something for you. Under the black barbs that the bushes had crocheted above us, I thought it out and agreed: The grave was relatively shallow. You couldn’t go many miles inside before you found the molten part of the earth, mainly nickel. I think – nickel, cobalt, pitchblende, or what they call the magma. Almost as it was torn from the sun.” – Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King, page 287-288.

“How was I going to understand him? Hell! It would be like extracting an eel from the chowder after it has been cooked to pieces. This planet has billions of passengers on it, and those were preceded by infinite billions and there are vaster billions to come, and none of these, no, not one, can I hope ever to understand. Never! And when I think how much confidence I used to have in understanding – you know? – it’s enough to make a man weep. Of course, you may ask, what have numbers got to do with it? And that’s right too. We get too depressed by them, and should be more accepting of multitudes than we are. Being in point of size precisely halfway between the suns and atoms, living among astronomical conceptions, with everything thumb and fingerprint

“We modern human beings are looking at life, trying to make sense of it; observing a ‘reality’ that often seems to be unfolding in a foreign tongue – only we’ve been issued the wrong librettos. For a text we’re given the bible. Or the Talmud or the Koran. We’re given Time magazine and Reader’s Digest, daily papers and the six o’clock news; we’re given schoolbooks, sitcoms, and revisionist histories, we’re given psychological counseling, cults, workshops, advertisements, sales pitches, and authoritative pronouncements by pundits, sold-out scientists, political activists, and heads of state. Unfortunately, none of these translations bears more than a faint resemblance to what is transpiring in the true theater of existence, and most of them are dangerously misleading. We’re attempting to comprehend the spiraling intricacies of a magnificently complex tragicomedy with librettos that describe barroom melodramas or kindergarten skits. And when’s the last time you heard anbody bitch about it to the management?” – Tom Robbins, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, page 98.

“All of which goes to show what hard bruises pack staves will deal in the hands of angry rustics.” – Cervantes, Don Quixote, page 113.

“Though if, of the love you bear me, you can’t discover anything other than love itself by which I may satisfy you, demand it of me; and I wear to you, by that sweet and absent enemy of mine, to bestow it upon you out of hand, even if you should demand a lock of Medusa’s hair, which was all snakes, or even the rays of the sun enclosed in a flask.” – Cervantes, Don Quixote, page 392.

“You infamous broad whose low and vile intelligence deserves no revelation from Heaven of that virtue which lies in knight errantry, nor any knowledge of your sin and ignorance in not reverencing the shadow – how much more the actual presence of a knight errant!…..Who was the idiot, I repeat, who does now know there is no patent of nobility with so much privileges and immunities as a knight errant receives on the day when he is knighted and undertakes the stern practice of chivalry?” – Cervantes, Don Quixote, page 410.

“I have read many serious histories of knights errant; but I have never read, or seen, or heard of enchanted knights being carried in this fashion and at the pace with which these slothful and lazy animals promise…..But perhaps chivalry and magic in our day must follow a different course from that pursued by the man of old; and it may be, too, that as I am a new knight in the world, and the first to resuscitate the long-forgotten profession of knight errantry, they have invented fresh kinds of enchantment and other methods of carrying the enchanted as well.” – Cervantes, Don Quixote, page 418.

“There was a madman in Seville who was taken with the oddest and craziest notion that a madman had in all of the world. It was this: he made a tube out of a cane, sharpened the end, and catching a dog, in the street or elsewhere, he would hold down one of its hind legs with one foot, and left the other one up with his hand. Next, fitting his tube to the right place, he would blow into it, as best he could, till he had made the dog round as a ball. Then, holding it up in this way, he would give it a couple of slaps on the belly and let it go, saying to the bystanders – and there were always plenty: ‘Your worships will perhaps be thinking it an easy thing to blow up a dog?’ Does your worship think it is an easy thing to write a book?” – Cervantes, Don Quixote, page 468.

“He undergoes experiences worthy to be inscribed not on parchment, but on brass. Now sloth triumphs over industry, indleness over labor, vile over virtue, presumption over valour, and theory over practice of arms, which only lived and flourished in the golden age and among knights errant.” – Cervantes, Don Quixote, page 477.

“If you want what visible reality
can give. you are an employee.

If you want the unseen world,
you’re not living your truth.

Both wishes are foolish,
but you’ll be forgiven for forgetting
that what you really want is
love’s confusing joy.” – Rumi, The Essential Rumi, page 193.

“Sissy thought that it must have something to do with the primacy of form over function, thus appoximating her own approach to hitchhiking, wherein an emotional and physical structure created by variations and intensifications of the act of hitching was of far more importance than the utilitarian goals commonly supposed to be the sole purpose of the act.” – Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, page 155.

“Until Sissy and The Chink are back on their feet again, the author is going to turn his back on them and rad the newspaper. Here, I’ll read it aloud. On page 31, we find:

Household Hints:

Dear Heloise: What does one use to polish Rosebuds?

Dear G.S: Bluebird spit and sugar should do the trick. Apply with a bee muff.

Heloise” – Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, page 375.

“I believe in political solutions to political problems. But man’s primary problems aren’t political; they’re philosophical. Until humans can solve their philosophical problems, they’re condemned to solve their political problems over and over and over again. Its a cruel repetitious bore.” – Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, page 378.

“Religion and politics are unnecessary to the culture – or individual – that has poetry.” – Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, page 378.

“If you know that you are not sure, you have a chance to improve the situation.” – Richard Feynman, The Meaning of Life, page 28.

“ live in an inspired condition, to know truth, to be free, to love another, to consummate existence, to abide with deal in clarity of consciousness – without which, racing and conniving to evade death, the spirit holds it breath and hopes to be immortal because it does not live – it is no longer a rarified project.” – Saul Bellow, Herzog, page 165.

“…the fifth veil will surely fall. It will fall at the moment of our death. As we lie there, helpless, beyond distractions, electricity stealing out of our bodies like a con man stealing out of a sucker’s neighborhood, it will occur to us that everything we ever did, we did for money. And at that instant, right before the stars blink off, we will, according to what else we may have learned in life, burn with unendurable regret – or have us a good silent laugh at our own expense.” – Tom Robbins, Skinny Legs and All, page 262.

“In like manner, geologists will sometimes use the calendar year as a unit to represent the time scale, and in such terms the Precambrian runs from New Years Day until well after Halloween. Dinosaurs appear in the middle of December and are gone the day after Christmas. The last ice sheet melts on December 31st at one minute before midnight, and the Roman Empire lasts five seconds. With your arms spread to represent all time on earth, look at one hand with its line of life. The Cambrian begins in the wrist, and the Permian extinction is at the outer end of the palm. All of the Cenozoic is in a fingerprint, and in a single stroke with a medium-grained nail file you could eradicate human history….If you free yourself from the conventional reaction to a quantity like a million years, you free yourself a bit from the boundaries of human time. And then in a way you do not live at all, but in another way you live forever.” – John McPhee, Annals of the Former World, page 89-91.

“If by some fiat I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence, this is the one that I would choose: The summit of Mountain Everest is marine limestone.” – John McPhee, Annals of the Former World, page 124.

“Arriving with some bewilderment in that awesome human topography, he noticed a line from Rafael Sabatini carved in stone in a courtyard of the Hall of Graduate Studies: “He was born with a gift for laughter and a sense that the world is mad.”” – John McPhee, Annals of the Former World, page 356.

“When we came into the country in the late eighteen-fifties, he was so galvanized by seeing the composition of the earth in clear unvegetated view that he regularly went off on his own, moved hurriedly from outcrop to outcrop, and filled canvas bags with samples. This puzzled the Sioux. Wondering what he could be collecting, they watched him, discussed him, and finally attacked him. Seizing his canvas bags, they shook out the contents. Rocks fell on the ground. In that instant, professor Hayden was accorded the special status that all benevolent people reserve for the mentally disadvantaged. In their own words, the Sioux named him He Who Picks Up Rocks Running and to all hostilities thereafter Hayden remained immune.” – John McPhee, Annals of the Former World, page 384

“Today the average American is inside a building 87% of the time.” – Amory Lovins, Reinventing Fire, page 82.

“Altogether the United States runs at least eight giant power plants to power stuff that is turned off.” – Amory Lovins, Reinventing Fire, page 83.

“….sitting on standard upholstered foam can make a person’s buttocks up to 12 degrees hotter in 30 minutes.” – Amory Lovins, Reinventing Fire, page 96.

“The U.S. economy extracts, moves, processes, and uses more than 20 times your body weight per person per day (not counting water, unless its returned too dirty to use.) Of that flow from the planet to industry, about 83% is minted, and the rest grown as food and fiber. Of the total, 93% is lost in extraction and manufacturing – in the form of overburden, tailings, scrap, and process losses. Then six-seventh of the products actually made are discarded after one use or no uses: consumer ephemerals. Only the last 1% of the original extracted material sneaks through into durable goods – and of those on fiftieth gets recycled. In all, therefore, only 0.02% of the originally extracted mass flow returns to nature as compost or to industry as “technically nutrient” for recycling and remanufacturing. The other 99.98%, much of it toxic, is pure waste. It’s hard to fine a more wastefully designed system, or a greater business opportunity, on the face of the earth.” – Amory Lovins, Reinventing Fire, page 152-153.

“Combining the fundamentally divergent futures, through hesitancy to choose a consistent and efficient strategy, tends to create an incoherent mishmash, confused people, wasted resources, and lost time – the most precious resource.” (Quote is regarding All of the Above energy strategies) – Amory Lovins, Reinventing Fire, page 216-217.

“Shell’s study of 20 countries found that the main reason for Europe’s more than halved per capita driving was land use patterns shaped by high energy prices.” – Amory Lovins, Reinventing Fire, page 240.

“Shall we continue down the path we’re on, toward economic stagnation, rising costs, unpleasant risks, social upheaval, and an ever more dangerous world, or shall we make a bold break and start laying the energy foundations of a world without waste, want, or war? We get to choose just once. Choose well.” – Amory Lovins, Reinventing Fire, page 251.

“For that matter, Thomas Edison exclaimed to Henry Ford in 1931: “We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy – sun, wind, and tide…. I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until coal and oil run out before we tackle that.”” – Amory Lovins, Reinventing Fire, page 187.

“The best of science doesn’t consist of mathematical models and experiments, as textbooks make it seem. Those came later, it springs from a more primitive mode of thought, wherein the hunter’s mind weaves ideas from old facts and fresh metaphors and the scrambled crazy images of things recently seen.” – E.O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life, page 5.

“The Arfak people of New Guinea recognize 130 bird species.” – E.O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life, page 43.

“If ever there was a prototypical shark i the popular imagination, it is most likely the tiger shark. (Galeo Cerdo Cuvier), The great fish sometimes called The Garbage Can of the Sea. Reaching 6 meters in length, weighing up to a ton, tiger sharks are often attracted to harbors, where they consume almost anything sizable even hinting of animal protein. From the stomachs of such specimens have been retrieved fish, boots, beer bottles, bags of potatoes, coal, dogs, and parts of human bodies. One dissected giant contained three overcoats, a raincoat, a driver’s license, one cow’s hoof, the antlers of a deer, twelve undigested lobsters, and a chicken coop with feathers and bones still inside.” – E.O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life, page 116.

“Tropical rainforests, though occupying only 6 percent of the earth’s land surface, are believed to contain more than half the species of organisms on earth.” – E.O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life, page 116.

“A close scan of the surface geometry reveals that the specifies of this diminutive fauna live as if the surface of the tree trunk were a hundred times or more greater than the surface embraced by the beetles the next size up, and thousands of times greater than the titan beetle looming over the whole ensemble. Finally, the tiny insects and mites stand on grains of sand lodged in algal films and the rhizoids of mosses, and on a single train of sand may grow colonies of ten or more species of bacteria.

I have dwelled on this tree trunk microcosm to stress that in the real world, where species multiply until halted, space is not measured in ordinary Euclidian dimensions but in fractal dimensions. Size depends on the span of the measuring sick of, more precisely, on the size and foraging ambit of the organisms dwelling on the tree.” – E.O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life, page 207-210.

“As the Mexican truck driver said who shot one of the last two Imperial Woodpeckers, largest of all the world’s woodpeckers, “It was a great piece of meat.” – E.O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life, page 253.

“The humble and ignored are often the real star species. An example of a species lifted from obscurity to fame by its biochemistry is the Rosy Periwinkle. (cathoranthus roseus) of Madagascar. An inconspicuous plant with a pink five-petalled flower, it produces two alkoloids, vinblastine and vincristine, that cure most victims of two of the deadliest of cancers, Hodgkin’s disease, mostly afflicting young adults, and acute lymphocytic leukemia, which used to be a virtual death sentence for children.” – E.O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life, page 283.

“Perhaps 30,000 species of plants have edible parts, and throughout history a total of 7,000 kinds have been grown or collected as food but, of the latter, 20 species provide 90 percent of the worlds food and just three – wheat, maize, and rice – supply more than half.” – E.O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life, page 288.

“It is a remarkable fat that with a single exception, the Macadamia nut of Australia, everyone of the fruits and nuts used in Western countries was grown first by indigenous peoples.” – E.O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life, page 291.

“About 300 kinds of fish – fishfin, to be exact, as opposed to shellfish – are cultured for food somewhere in the world. But 85 percent of the yield comes from only several carp species, while Tilapias contribute a large part of the remainder.” – E.O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life, page 299.

“Artificial selection has always been a tradeoff between the genetic creation of traits desired by human beings and on unintended by inevitable genetic weakness in the face of natural enemies.

With the Green Revolution in agrotechnology, the tradeoff more pronounced. Highly productive strains have been bred and mass-cultivated during the past forty years, and domestic species have become even more specialized and homogeneous than before. In India farmers originally grew as many as 30,000 varieties of rice. That diversity is being whittle down so far that by the year 2005 three quarters of the fields may contain no more than ten varieties.

In a world created by natural selection, homogeneity means vulnerability. Purity of stock lowers resistance to disease, while monocultures spread continually over vast areas are an invitation to enemies newly made formidable.”  – E.O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life, page 301.

“Hughes Rudd was in those days (and remained) an anomaly in the slick world of network news – a jowly man with a bloodshot glare and a fast, sardonic wit who stubbornly worked the fingers of American Culture, the flea circuses, and hog-calling fests and tattooists’ conventions by which he could illuminate, with his dour deadpan, the important truth that life was a benign but very ridiculous practical joke.” – David Quammen, The Flight of the Iguana.

“You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing on.” – Heraclitus.

“Nothing was “wild” because nothing was tamed. Lines began to be drawn on the land and in human minds – with the advent of herding, agriculture, and settlement some ten thousand years ago. After that it made sense to think of those parts of nature that had their own “will” and those that had been bent to follow the will of people. The word “wild” is a contraction of “willed”; literally, wilderness means self-willed land.” – Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind.

“Presiding over all was Azazel, the arch-devil of the wilderness. He was the key figure in an expiatory rite in which a live goat was brought before the chief priest of a community who symbolically laid upon it the sins of the group. The animal was then led to the edge of the cultivated land and “sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.”The ritual has significance not only as the origin of the conception of the scapegoat but as a demonstration of the Hebrew’s opinion of wilderness.” – Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind.

“In short, all good tings are wild and free.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

“The problem was now clear: was it possible “to combine the hardiness of these savages with the intellectualness of the civilized man?” Put another way, could men live so as “to secure all of the advantage (of civilization) without suffering any of the disadvantage?” The answer for Thoreau lay in a combination of the good inherent in wilderness with the benefits of cultural refinement. An excess of either condition must be avoided…”The natural proportion is to be found in the proportion which the night bears to the day, the winter to the summer, though to experience.” – (Quotes from Thoreau.) Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, page 92.

“In Walden he reported recognizing in himself “an instinct towards a higher, or, as it is named, spirited life…and another towards a primitive, raw and savage one.” Rejoicing in both, Thoreau strove to make himself, as his beanfield as the pond, “half cultivated.” “I would not,” he explained, “have…every part of a man cultivated, any more than I would have every acre of earth.” – Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, page 92-93.

“There are aesthetic and ethical arguments, but there are also materialist, utilitarian reasons for environmental preservation…droughts, flood, fertility, ecological balance, and all of the benefits of the forest which our self-renewing and infinite.” – Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, page 105.

“Recognizing in himself “a constant tendency to return to primitive wilderness,” Muir generalized for his race: “going to the woods is going home; for I suppose we came from the woods originally. Consequently there is a love of wild nature in everybody, an ancient mother-love showing itself whether recognized or not, and however covered by cares and duties.” – (Quote from John Muir) Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, page 128.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings,” he advised. “Nature’s peace will flow into you as the sunshine into the faces. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” Wilderness was medicinal to lives “bound by clocks, almanacs,….and dust and din.” and limited to places where “Nature is covered and her voice smothered.” – Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, page 128.

“The universe would be complete without man; but it would also be incomplete without the smallest transmicroscopic creature that dwells beyond our conceitful eyes and knowledge.” – (Quote from John Muir) Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, page 129.

“The defense of wilderness attracted them because it permitted making a positive case – they could be for something (wilderness) rather than merely against amorphous forces. Protecting the wild from an exploitative civilization, in short, represented the broader struggle to maintain intangibles against the pressures of utilitarian demands.” – Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, page 166.

“Many of the attributes most distinctive of American and American’s are [due to] the impress of the wilderness and the life that accompanied it… If we hae such a thing as an American Culture (and I think we have), its distinguishing marks are a certain vigorous individualism combined with ability to organize, a certain intellectual curiosity bent to practical ends, a lack of subservience to stiff social forms, and an intolerance of drones, all of which are distinctive characteristics of successful pioneers. These, if anything, are the indigenous part of our Americanism, the qualities that set it apart as a new rather than an imitative contribution to civilization…is it not a bit beside the point for us to be so solicitous about preserving [American institutions] without giving so much as a thought to preserving the environment which produced them and which maybe one of our most effective mans of keeping them alive.” – (Quote from Aldo Leopold) – Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, page 188.

“”The land ethic,” he explained, “simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively the land.” It demanded that each man’s relation to his environment be studied “in terms of what is ethically and aesthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient.” And according to the land ethic, “a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and the beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” – (Quotes from Aldo Leopold) Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, page 197.

“”It required 19 centuries,” Leopold pointed out, “to define decent man-to-man conduct and the process is only half done; it may take as long to evolve a code of decency for man-to-land conduct.” – Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, page 197.

“The lesson most frequently drawn from ecology and wilderness was the need for humility ont he part of man. Having gained the power to modify nature on a massive scale, man now had to develop the restraint prerequisite to responsible environmental citizenship.” – Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, page 256.

“One cluster of arguments that appear again and again in contemporary defenses of  wilderness centers on its importance as a reservoir of normal ecological processes and of a diversity of genetic raw material.” – Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, page 257.

“Wilderness by definition, is the uncontrolled and unorganized – the antipode of civilization. As such it is fertile ground for deviancy, eccentricity, and idiosyncrasy in the positive sense of those terms.” – Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, page 202.

“”Without any remaining wilderness we are committed wholly, without chance for even momentary reflection and rest, to a headlong drive into our technological termite life, the Brave New World of a completely man controlled environment.” – (Quote from Wallace Stegner) Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, page 203.

“Unaided rational inquiry has no way to conceive its own process” – E.O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of the Earth

“The possible evolution of a species can be visualized as a maze.” (He goes on to explain that the maze is constantly changing due to shifting external factors, but that progression in the maze closes off other pathways.) – E.O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of the Earth

“For the entire course of evolution leading from our primitive mammalian forebearers of a hundred million years ago to the single lineage that threaded its way to become the first homosapiens, the total number of individuals it required might have been 100 billion.” – E.O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of the Earth

On humanity: “Even though tiny in biomass – all of its more than seven billion members could be log-stacked into a cube two kilometers on edge – the new species had become a geophysical force.” – E.O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of the Earth

“Leaf cutter ants hold the record: one queen can give birth to 150 million daughter workers during her life span of about a dozen years.” – E.O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of the Earth

“Organisms are not arrayed along a spectrum, with some “more intelligent” than others, simply capable of solving more complex problems. Rather they differ in the array of problems that the are capable of addressing and solving. A certain species of wasp, or a pigeon, is designed to find its way home; a human is not designed in the same way and cannot perform similar tasks readily or at all. It is not that the wasp or pigeon is “more intelligent” than a human; rather it is different in its biologically determined capabilities. Furthermore, there is no clear “absolute sense” in which problems are simple or difficult. It may be possible to formulate an “absolute notion” of difficulty that is useful for certain purposes in terms of the mathematical theory of computation. But it is not clear that this notion would be of much interest for psychology or biology, at least in the present context, because what is important for an organism is its special design and the array of “difficulty” of the problems that is determined by this species design.” – The Essential Chomsky – The View Beyond: Prospects for the Study of Minds, Noam Chomsky, page 242.

“Suppose that a person decides to accept that status quo, or to try to change it, whether by reform or revolution. If not based simply on fear, greed, or other forms of abdication of moral responsibility, the decision is taken in a specific way on the basis of beliefs – explicit or implicit – about what is good and right for human beings, hence ultimately on assumption about fundamental human nature.” – The Essential Chomsky – The View Beyond: Prospects for the Study of Minds, Noam Chomsky, page 247.

“One may choose to have selective faith in domestic political leadership, adopting the stance that Hans Morgenthau, one of the founders of modern international relations theory, condemned as “Our conformist subservience to those in power,” the regular stance of most intellectuals throughout history. But it is important to recognize that profession of noble intent is predictable, and therefore carries no information, even in the technical sense of the term. Those who are seriously interested in understanding the world will adopt the same standards whether they are evaluating their own political and intellectual elites or those of official enemies. One might fairly ask how much would survive this elementary exercise of rationality and honesty.” – The Essential Chomsky, Noam Chomsky, page 402.

“The goal of classic style is to make it seem as if the writer’s words were fully formed before he clothed them in words” – Stephen Pinker, Sense of Style

“…most scientists believes that there are objective truths about the world and that they can be discovered by a disinterested observer. By the same token, the guiding image of classic prose could  not be more further from the worldview of relativistic academic ideologies such as post-modernism, post-structuralism, and literary Marxism.” – Stephen Pinker, Sense of Style

“And we can remind ourselves of the reasons to strive for good style: to enhance the spread of good ideas, to exemplify attention to detail, and to add to the beauty of the world.” – Stephen Pinker, Sense of Style.

“There is a particularly unattractive and discouragingly common affliction called tunnel vision, which for all of the misery it causes ought to top the job list as the World Health Organization. Tunnel vision is a disease in which perception is restricted by ignorance and distorted by vested interest. Tunnel vision is caused by an optic fungus that multiplies when the brain is less energetic than the ego. It is complicated by exposure to politics. When a good idea is run through the filters and compressors of ordinary tunnel vision, it not only comes out reduced in scale and value, but in its new dogmatic configuration produces effects the opposite of those for which it originally was intended.” – Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker, page 86

“A romantic, however, recognizes that the movement, the organization, the institution, the revolution, if it comes to that, is merely a backdrop for his or her own personal drama and that to pretend otherwise is to surrender freedom and will to the totalitarian impulse, is to replace psychological relaity with sociological illusion, but such truth never penetrates the the Glo-Coat of righteous conviction that surrounds the social idealist when he or she is identifying with the poor or exploited.” – Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker, page 86

“One consequence of encoding information as statistical and time varying patterns of low-level components is that no individual component of the system can perceive or communicate the “big picture” of the state of the system. Instead, information must be communicated via spatial and temporal sampling.” – Melanie Mitchell, Complexity: A Guided Tour

“Given the statistical nature of the information read, the actions of the system need to have random (or at least “unpredictable”) components. All three systems above use randomness and probabilities in essential ways” – Melanie Mitchell, Complexity: A Guided Tour

“Eventually the ants will have established a detailed map of paths to food sources. An observer might think that the ants are using a map supplied by an intelligent designer of food distribution. However, what appears to be carefully laid out mapping of pathways to food supplies is in reality just a consequence of random searches.” – Melanie Mitchell, Complexity: A Guided Tour

“It appears that such intrinsic random and probabilistic elements are needed in order for a comparatively small population of simple components (ants, cells, molecules) to explore an enormously larger space of probabilities, particularly when the information to be gained from such explorations is statistical in nature and there is little a priori knowledge about what will be encountered.

However, randomness must be balanced with determinism: self-regulation in complex adaptive systems continually adjusts probabilities of where the components should move, what actions they should take, and, as a result, how deeply to explore particular pathways in these large systems.” – Melanie Mitchell, Complexity: A Guided Tour

“Likewise, ant foraging consists of unfocused explorations by ants moving at random, looking for food in any direction, and focused explorations in which ants follow existing pheromone trails…As in all adaptive systems, maintaining a correct balance between these two modes of exploring is essential. Indeed, the optimal balance shifts over time. Early explorations, based on little or no information, are largely random and unfocused. As information is obtained and acted upon, exploration gradually becomes more deterministic and focused in response to what has been perceived by the system.” – Melanie Mitchell, Complexity: A Guided Tour

“But in a complex system such as those described above, in which simple components act without a central controller or leader, who or what actually perceives the meaning of situations so as to take appropriate actions? This is essentially the question of what constitutes consciousness or self-awareness in living systems. To me this is among the most profound mysteries in complex systems and in science in general” – Melanie Mitchell, Complexity: A Guided Tour

“All models are wrong, bu some are useful” – George Box and Norman Draper

“Network thinking means focusing on the relationships between entities rather than the entities themselves.” – Melanie Mitchell, Complexity: A Guided Tour

“Evidence of a networked genome shatters the scientific basis for virtually every official risk assessment of today’s commercial biotech products, from genetically engineered crops to pharmaceuticals.” – Melanie Mitchell, Complexity: A Guided Tour

“System theorist Anatol Rapoport characterized the main themes of general systems theory (as applied to living systems, social systems, and other complex systems) as preservation of identity amid changes, organized complexity, and goal-directedness. Biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela attempted to make sense of the first two themes in terms of their notion of autopoesis, or “self-construction” a self-maintaining process by which systems (e.g. parts of a cell) which themselves make up a system that produces them. To Maturana, Varela, and their many followers, autopoesis was a key, if not the key feature of life.” – Melanie Mitchell, Complexity: A Guided Tour

“A system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interactions, and a function or purpose.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“A system is more than the some of its parts. It may exhibit adaptive, dynamic, goal-seeking, self-preserving, and sometimes evolutionary behavior.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Many of the interconnections in systems operate through the flow of information. Information holds systems together a plays a great role in determining how they operate.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“A stock is the memory of the history of changing flows within the system.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer

“A stock can be increased by decreasing its outflow rate as well as by increasing its inflow rate.” (Rates can change quickly, but stocks cannot.) – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Stocks generally change slowly, even when the flows into or out of them change suddenly.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“A feedback loop is formed when changes in the stock affect the flows into or out of that same stock.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“A feedback loop is a closed chain of causal connections from a stock, through a set of decisions or rules or physical laws or actions that are dependent on the level of the stock, and back again through a flow to change the stock.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Balancing feedback loops are equilibrating or goal-seeking structures in systems and are both sources of stability and sources of change.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Reinforcing feedback loops are self-enhancing, leading to exponential growth or to runaway collapses over time. They are found whenever a stock has the capacity to reinforce or reproduce itself.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“The information delivered by a feedback loop – even non-physical feedback – can only affect future behavior; it can’t deliver a signal fast enough to correct behavior that drove the current feedback.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“A stock-maintaining balancing feedback loop must have its goal set appropriately to compensate for draining or inflowing processes that affect the stock. Otherwise, the feedback process will fall short of or exceed the target for the stock.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Complex behaviors of systems often arise as the relative strengths of feedback loops shift, causing first one loop and then another to dominate behavior.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“System dynamics models explore possible futures and ask “what if” questions.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“A delay in a balancing feedback loop makes a system likely to oscillate.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Delays are pervasive in systems and they are strong determinants of behavior. Changing the length of a delay may (or may not, depending on the type of delay and the relative length of other delays) make a large change in the behavior of a system.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“In physical, exponentially growing systems, there must be at least one reinforcing loop driving the growth and at least one balancing loop constraining the growth, because no physical system can grow forever in a finite environment.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“The opposite of resilience is brittleness or rigidity. Resilience is the measure of a system’s ability to survive and persist within a variable environment. Resilience arises from a rich structure of many feedback loops that can work in different ways to restore a system even after a large perturbation.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Systems need to be managed not only for productivity or stability, they also need to be managed for resilience – the ability to recover from perturbation, the ability to restore or repair themselves.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“It is because of fractal geometry that the average human being has enough surface area to cover a tennis court.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Systems often have the property of self-organization – the ability to structure themselves, to create new structures, to learn, to diversify, and complexify. Even complex forms of self-organization may arise from relatively simple organizing rules – or may not.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Hierarchies are brilliant systems inventions, not only because they give a system stability and resilience, but also because they reduce the amount of information that any part of the system has to keep track of….If these differential information links within and between each level of hierarchy are designed right, feedback loops are minimized.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Hierarchical systems evolve from the bottom up. The purpose of the upper layers of the hierarchy is to serve the purposes of the lower layers.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“System structure is the source of system behavior. System behavior reveals itself as a series of events over time.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“At any given time, the input that is most important to a system is the one that is most limiting.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Any physical entity with multiple inputs and outputs is surrounded by layers of limits.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“The bounded rationality of each action in a system – determined by information, incentives, disincentives, goals, stresses, and constraints impinging on that actor – may or may not lead to decisions that further the welfare of a system as a whole. If they do not, putting new actions into the same system will not improve the systems performance.. What makes a difference is redesigning the system to improve the information incentives, disincentives, goals, stresses, and constraints that have an effect on specific actors.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Delays, nonlinearities, lack of firm boundaries, and other properties of systems that surprise us are found in just about any system.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“System traps:
-Policy resistance: various actions try to pull a system stock in various directions and work against one another. Solution: stop pulling and try to realign actors.
-Tradgedy of the Commons: results from missing or too long delayed feedback from the resource to the growth of users of that resource.
-Drift to low performance: The desired state of a system is influenced by the perceived state…The balancing feedback loop that should keep the system state at an acceptable level is overwhelmed by a reincorcing feedback loop headed downhill” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Escalation comes from a reinforcing loop set up by competing actors trying to get ahead of one another. The goal of one part of the system or actor is not absolute… but it is related to the state of another part of the system, another actor.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Shifting the burden, dependence, and addiction arise when a solution to a systemic problem reduces (or disguises) the symptoms, but does nothing to solve the underlying problem.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer

“The goal or purpose…. of the feedback loop used to measure a stock will lead to the production or striving towards that aim: Judge a professor by academic papers and you will get academic papers. An economy by GDP and you will get just that.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Self-organization is basically a matter of evolutionary raw material. A highly variable stock of information from which to select possible patterns and a means for experimentation, for selecting and testing new patterns.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Any system, biological, economic, or social, that gets so encrusted that it cannot self-evolve, a system that systematically scorns experimentation and wipes out the raw material of innovation is doomed over the long term on this highly variable planet.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Encouraging variability and experimentation and diversity means “losing control.” Let a thousand flowers bloom and anything could happen.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“People who cling to paradigms (which means just about all of us) take one look at the spacious possibility that everything they think is generated to be non-sense and pedal rapidly in the opposite direction. Surely there is no power, no control, no understanding, not even a reason for being, much less acting, embodied in the notion that there is no certainty in any worldview. But, in fact, everyone who has managed to entertain the idea, for a moment or for a lifetime, has found it to be the basis for radical empowerment. If no paradigm is right, you can choose whatever one will help you achieve your purpose. If you have no idea where to get a purpose, you can listen to the universe.

It is in this mastery over paradigms that people throw off addictions, live in constant joy, bring down empires, get locked up, and burned at the stack or crucified or shot, and have impacts that last for millenia.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

“Getting models out into the light of day, making them as rigorous as possible, testing them against the evidence, and being willing to scuttle them if they are no longer supported is nothing more than practicing the scientific method.” – Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.


“We are training not isolated men but a living group of men – nay, a group within a group. And the final product of our training must be neither a psychologist nor a brickmason, but a man. And to make men, we must have ideals, broad, pure and inspiring ends of living, – no sordid money getting, not apples of gold. The worker must work for the glory of his handiwork, not simply for pay……” – W.E.B DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk.

“-and he reads it over his coffee and rolls, that a man has had his eyes gouged out this morning on the Wichita River; never dreaming the while that he lives in the dark unfathomed mammoth cave of this world, and has but the rudiment of an eye for himself.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

“It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves. I had not lived there a week before my feet wore a path from my door to the pond-side; and though it is five or six years since I tried it, it is still quite distinct” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

“But such integration means recognizing that wants are dependent on production. It accords to the producer the function both of making the goods and of making the desires for them. It recognizes that production, not only passively through emulation, but actively through advertising and related activities, creates the wants it seeks to satisfy.” – John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society.

“As increased industrial efficiency makes it possible to produce the means of livelihood with less labor, the energies of the industrious members of the community are bent to the compassing of a higher result in conspicuous expenditure, rather than slackening to a more comfortable pace. The strain is not lightened as industrial efficiency increases and makes lighter strain possible, but the increment of outputted is turned to use to meet this want, which is indefinitely expansible, after the manner commonly imputed in economic theory to higher or spiritual wants. It is owing chiefly to the presence of this element in the standard of living that J.S. Mill was able to say that “hitherto it is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being.” – Thorstein Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class.

“Only individuals with an aberrant temperament can in the long run retain their self-esteem in the face of the disesteem of their fellows.” – Thorstein Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class.

“It is hard for an empty bag to stand upright.” – Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin.

“In proportion as the principle of division of labour is more extensively applied, the workman becomes more weak, more narrowminded, and more dependent. The art advances, the artisan recedes.” – Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America.

”There is no security”—to quote from his own word—“against the ultimate development of mechanical consciousness, in the fact of machines possessing little consciousness now. A mollusc has not much consciousness. Reflect upon the extraordinary advance which machines have made during the last few hundred years, and note how slowly the animal and vegetable kingdoms are advancing.” – Samuel Butler, Eerewhon.

“How many men at this hour are living in a state of bondage to the machines?” – Samuel Butler, Erewhon, page 441.

“If the worker’s activity is a torment to him, it must be a source of enjoyment and pleasure to another man.” – Karl Marx, Alienated Labor.

“The end to be sought is human happiness combined with full mental and moral growth.” – Mohandas Gandhi, All Men are Brothers.