I just took [my cancer diagnosis] as bad luck, basically. It did strike me almost immediately, my atheist sort of thing kicked in and I thought ha, if I was a God-botherer, I'd be thinking, why me God? What have I done to deserve this? and I thought at least I'm free of that, at least I can simply treat it as bad luck and get on with it.
What, anyway, was he to say? That intelligence could surpass and excel the blind force of evolution, with its emphasis on mutation, struggle and death? That conscious cooperation was more efficient than feral competition?
A temple was worth a dozen barracks; a militia man carrying a gun could control a small unarmed crowd only for as long as he was present; however, a single priest could put a policeman inside the head of every one of their flock, for ever.
...a guilty system recognizes no innocents. As with any power apparatus which thinks everybody’s either for it or against it, we’re against it. You would be too, if you thought about it. The very way you think places you among its enemies. This might not be your fault, because every society imposes some of its values on those raised within it, but the point is that some societies try to maximize that effect, and some try to minimize it. You come from one of the latter and you’re being asked to explain yourself to one of the former. Prevarication will be more difficult than you might imagine; neutrality is probably impossible. You cannot choose not to have the politics you do; they are not some separate set of entities somehow detachable from the rest of your being; they are a function of your existence. I know that and they know that; you had better accept it.
The trick, he supposed, was never to lose sight of the theoretical possibility while not for a moment taking the idea remotely seriously.
Welcome to the future, she thought, surveying all this wordage and tat. All our tragedies and triumphs, our lives and deaths, our shames and joys are just stuffing for your emptiness.
One believed what one was told to believe, what it made sense to believe. Unless one was a foreigner, of course, or a philosopher.
[M]y determined and strenuous endeavours to take in absolutely nothing of what I had regarded as entirely the most irrelevant part of my schooling had patently not met with total success
I have seen people who find that grief gives them something they never had before, and no matter how terrible and real their loss they choose to hug that awfulness to them rather than push it away.
Lying here, during all this time after my own small fall, it has become my conviction that things mean pretty much what we want them to mean. We’ll pluck significance from the least consequential happenstance if it suits us and happily ignore the most flagrantly obvious symmetry between separate aspects of our lives if it threatens some cherished prejudice or cosily comforting belief; we are blindest to precisely whatever might be most illuminating.
[I]t would be a niceness that was enforced leniently, patiently and gracefully, with the sort of unflappable self-certainty [they] couldn't help displaying when all its statistics proved that it really was doing the right thing.
Darkness came like a black flag waved over the canyon, drawing back the grayness from the shores of the city, then pushing forward the individual specks of street and building lights as though in recompense.
I love writing and can't imagine not being able to do it. I want an easy life and if it had been difficult doing it I wouldn't be doing it. I do admire writers who do it even though it costs them.
I can understand that people want to feel special and important and so on, but that self-obsession seems a bit pathetic somehow. Not being able to accept that you're just this collection of cells, intelligent to whatever degree, capable of feeling emotion to whatever degree, for a limited amount of time and so on, on this tiny little rock orbiting this not particularly important sun in one of just 400m galaxies, and whatever other levels of reality there might be via something like brane-theory [of multiple dimensions] … really, it's not about you. It's what religion does with this drive for acknowledgement of self-importance that really gets up my nose. 'Yeah, yeah, your individual consciousness is so important to the universe that it must be preserved at all costs' – oh, please. Do try to get a grip of something other than your self-obsession. How Californian. The idea that at all costs, no matter what, it always has to be all about you. Well, I think not.
By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains malleable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory, to use an unfashionable word. In this, the future is a game; time is one of the rules.
it had been briefed that when Culture people didn’t speak Marain for a long time and did speak another language, they were liable to change; they acted differently, they started to think in that other language, they lost the carefully balanced interpretative structure of the Culture language, left its subtle shifts of cadence, tone and rhythm behind for, in virtually every case, something much cruder.
Marain, the Culture’s quintessentially wonderful language (so the Culture will tell you), has, as any schoolkid knows, one personal pronoun to cover females, males, in-betweens, neuters, children, drones, Minds, other sentient machines, and every life-form capable of scraping together anything remotely resembling a nervous system and the rudiments of language (or a good excuse for not having either). Naturally, there are ways of specifying a person’s sex in Marain, but they’re not used in everyday conversation
They speak very well of you.- They speak very well of everybody.- That so bad?- Yes. It means you can´t trust them.
It seemed perverse to some, but for all their apparent militarism the Gzilt had remained peaceful over many millenia; it was the avowedly peaceful Culture that had , within living memory, taken part in an all-out galactic war against another civilisation.
She'd asked him what it was like to be in there, doing nothing but then being woken up to speak to somebody you couldn't see. He'd said that it was like being woken from a deep and satisfying sleep, to be asked questions while you kept your eyes closed. He was quite happy. Sight was over-rated anyway.
Ferbin's father had had the same robustly pragmatic view of religion as he’d had of everything else. In his opinion, only the very poor and downtrodden really needed religion, to make their laborious lives more bearable. People craved self-importance; they longed to be told they mattered as individuals, not just as part of a mass of people or some historical process. They needed the reassurance that while their life might be hard, bitter and thankless, some reward would be theirs after death. Happily for the governing class, a well-formed faith also kept people from seeking their recompense in the here and now, through riot, insurrection or revolution.
Ferbin’s father had had the same robustly pragmatic view of religion as he’d had of everything else. In his opinion, only the very poor and downtrodden really needed religion, to make their laborious lives more bearable. People craved self-importance; they longed to be told they mattered as individuals, not just as part of a mass of people or some historical process. They needed the reassurance that while their life might be hard, bitter and thankless, some reward would be theirs after death. Happily for the governing class, a well-formed faith also kept people from seeking their recompense in the here and now, through riot, insurrection or revolution.
The point is: what happens in heaven?''Unknowable wonderfulness?' 'Nonsense. The answer is nothing. Nothing can happen because if something happens, in fact if something can happen, then it doesn't represent eternity. Our lives are about development, mutation and the possibility of change; that is almost a definition of what life is: change.''If you disable change, if you effectively stop time, if you prevent the possibility of the alteration of an individual's circumstances - and that must include at least the possibility that they alter for the worse - then you don't have life after death; you just have death.
The Culture gives us so much, but in fact it’s only taking things away from us, lobotimizings everybody in it, taking away their choices, their potential for being really good or even slightly bad.
He tried to decide if he was really ashamed of being afraid, and decided that he was not. Fear was there for a purpose. It was wired into any creature that had not completely turned its back on its evolutionary inheritance and so remade itself in whatever image it coveted. The more sophisticated you became, the less you relied on fear and pain to keep you alive; you could afford to ignore them because you had other means of coping with the consequences if things went badly.
That is the way with all of your kind… It is how you are made; you must all strive to claw your way over the backs of your fellow humans during the short time you are permitted in the universe, breeding when you can, so that the strongest strain survive and the weakest die. I would no more blame you for that than I would try to convert some non-sentient carnivore to vegetarianism. You are all on your own side.
That’s what we’ve lost, you know. What you’ve lost; all of you. A sense of wonder and awe and . . . sin. These people know there are still things they don’t know, things that can still go wrong, things they can still do wrong.
I have a story to tell you. It has many beginnings, and perhaps one ending. Perhaps not. Beginnings and endings are contingent things anyway; inventions, devices. Where does any story really begin? There is always context, always an encompassingly greater epic, always something before the described events, unless we are to start every story with “BANG! Expand! Sssss…,” then itemize the whole subsequent history of the universe before settling down, at last, to the particular tale in question. Similarly, no ending is final, unless it is the end of all things…
This is the story of a man who went far away for a long time, just to play a game. The man is a game-player called “Gurgeh.” The story starts with a battle that is not a battle, and ends with a game that is not a game.
Patience can be a means of letting matters mature to a proper state for action, not just a way of letting time slip away.
It gripped her hand gently. 'Regret is for humans,' it said.She laughed. 'Really?'The machine shrugged and let go of her hand. 'Oh, no. It's just something we tell ourselves.
On Earth one of the things that a large proportion of the locals is most proud of is this wonderful economic system which, with a sureness and certainty so comprehensive one could almost imagine the process bears some relation to their limited and limiting notions of either thermodynamics or God, all food, comfort, energy, shelter, space, fuel and sustenance gravitates naturally and easily away from those who need it most and towards those who need it least. Indeed, those on the receiving end of such largesse are often harmed unto death by its arrival, though the effects may take years and generations to manifest themselves.
Now, quite apart from the fact that, from the point of view of the Earther, socialism suffers the devastating liability of only exhibiting internal contradictions when you are trying to use it as an adjunct to your own stupidity (unlike capitalism, which again, from the point of view of the Earther, happily has them built in from the start), it is the case that because Free Enterprise got there first and set up the house rules, it will always stay at least one kick ahead of its rivals.
[I]t was really only in the generation or two before hers that the idea had started to traverse the spectrum of likelihood in the popular imagination, beginning at unthinkable, progressing to absurd, then going from possible but unlikely to probable and likely, before eventually arriving – round about the time of her birth – at seemingly inevitable.