I know that the last thing a book wants is to just sit around unread, serving as an element of interior decorating. So when I have people over, all they have to do is glance at my books, and I implore them to take a few home with them. If I am really ambitious, I pack books into boxes and donate them to prisons.
We love television because television brings us a world in which television does not exist.
When I was 13, I had these episodes where I could just see the world without any words attached to it, without any associations. It was a little bit spooky. A lot of people might have even thought it was pathological. I thought it was interesting.
Take motherhood: nobody ever thought of putting it on a moral pedestal until some brash feminists pointed out, about a century ago, that the pay is lousy and the career ladder nonexistent.
I would never call myself a cancer survivor because I think it devalues those who do not survive. There’s this whole mythology that people bravely battle their cancer and then they become survivors. Well, the ones who don’t survive may be just as brave, you know, just as courageous, wonderful people.
No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.
Of all the nasty outcomes predicted for women’s liberation… none was more alarming, from a feminist point of view, than the suggestion that women would eventually become just like men.
The one regret I have about my own abortions is that they cost money that might otherwise have been spent on something more pleasurable, like taking the kids to movies and theme parks.
Natural selection, as it has operated in human history, favors not only the clever but the murderous.
Exercise is the yuppie version of bulimia.
That’s free enterprise, friends: freedom to gamble, freedom to lose. And the great thing – the truly democratic thing about it – is that you don’t even have to be a player to lose.
We who officially value freedom of speech above life itself seem to have nothing to talk about but the weather.
Personally, I can’t see why it would be any less romantic to find a husband in a nice four-color catalogue than in the average downtown bar at happy hour.
There is the fear, common to all English-only speakers, that the chief purpose of foreign languages is to make fun of us. Otherwise, you know, why not just come out and say it?
America is addicted to wars of distraction.
Personally, I have nothing against work, particularly when performed, quietly and unobtrusively, by someone else. I just don’t happen to think it’s an appropriate subject for an ‘ethic.’
Marriage is socialism among two people.
I’m not a nice person.
Like many other women, I could not understand why every man who changed a diaper has felt impelled, in recent years, to write a book about it.
Someone has to stand up for wimps.
In fact, there is clear evidence of black intellectual superiority: in 1984, 92 percent of blacks voted to retire Ronald Reagan, compared to only 36 percent of whites.
That’s the really neat thing about Dan Quayle, as you must have realized from the first moment you looked into those lovely blue eyes: impeachment insurance.
The secret of the truly successful, I believe, is that they learned very early in life how not to be busy. They saw through that adage, repeated to me so often in childhood, that anything worth doing is worth doing well.
At best the family teaches the finest things human beings can learn from one another generosity and love. But it is also, all too often, where we learn nasty things like hate, rage and shame.
Individually the poor are not too tempting to thieves, for obvious reasons. Mug a banker and you might score a wallet containing a month’s rent. Mug a janitor and you will be lucky to get away with bus fare to flee the crime scene.
Lenders, including major credit companies as well as payday lenders, have taken over the traditional role of the street-corner loan shark, charging the poor insanely high rates of interest.
No one should be incarcerated for debt or squeezed for money they have no chance of getting their hands on.
As anyone knows who has ever had to set up a military encampment or build a village from the ground up, occupations pose staggering logistical problems.
Employers have gone away from the idea that an employee is a long-term asset to the company, someone to be nurtured and developed, to a new notion that they are disposable.
The internet was supposed to make this whole business of job searching rational and simple. You could post your resume and companies would search them and they’d find you. It doesn’t seem to work that way. There aren’t enough jobs for experienced, college educated managers and professionals.
There’s more pressure on women to be chirpy and perky.
Well I do think there are people who are habitually negative and depressed and take the opposite approach because they imagine the worst, and their minds become dominated by that. They let their own emotions and expectations transform their perceptions of the world.
So even though I consider myself a fairly upbeat person, energetic and things like that, I never do very well on happiness tests.
If you can attribute your success entirely to your own mental effort, to your own attitude, to some spiritual essence that you have that is better than other people’s, then that must feel pretty good.
Well, the first thing that clued me in to the fact that there was something really scary about breast cancer, way beyond the thought of dying, was coming across an ad in the newspaper for pink breast cancer teddy bears. I am not that afraid of dying, but I am terrified of dying with a pink teddy bear under my arm.
It was a real surprise to me to come across the evidence that Christianity might once have been a danced religion. Certainly, some of the early church leaders thought this was great and spoke of what seems to have been circle dancing, perhaps around an altar.
Whenever people can access deities directly without the intervention of a religious hierarchy, they don’t need to have hierarchy so much.
Yes, I think especially the Pentecostal churches, you know, that there’s been such a growth in Pentecostalism. And it’s a rejection of the much more dour and barren kind of Calvinist worship and also, the very formal Catholic forms of worship.
I think it’s tragic that we have this human capacity, which appears to be hardwired, or so the evolutionary biologists say, for collective joy. We have these techniques for generating it that go back thousands of years, and yet we tend not to use this.
Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to live in the 18th century myself, or the 19th either, for that matter.
Yes. I think the anti-Wal-Mart is Costco, which pays much better and has much better health benefits and which is profitable and offers low prices.
Medical debts are the number-one cause of bankruptcy in America.
For a long time on Earth humans didn’t worship good gods; that’s a new idea. The ancient Greek gods, the Hindu gods, are fairly amoral, most of them. We get stuck when we insist that God be both good and all-powerful.
I have a Ph.D. in cell biology. And that’s really manual labor. I mean, experimental science, you do it with your hands. So it’s very different. You’re out there in a lab, cleaning test tubes, and it just wasn’t that fascinating.
Experimental science is fascinating, but I don’t want to do it. I want other people to do it, and I’ll read about it.
People tend to judge presidents on how the economy performs, and yet we don’t expect them to have the power to do much about it. Or we don’t want them to exercise that power, if they were to have it.
When I was born, my father was a copper miner in Butte, Montana. It was a hard-core, blue-collar situation.
Both chronic, long-term poverty and downward mobility from the middle class are in the same category of things that America likes not to think about.
I haven’t read enough of the Bible. You know, I’m saving the Bible for if I ever get imprisoned, and the only reading material was the Bible.
I’m an obsessive. When I get a problem, a question in my mind, it can take me over.
I haven’t seen much socially redeeming about religion. I’m an atheist. I don’t here want to get into the Hitchens- or Dawkins-style attack on religion. I was raised on that. It’s boring.
It was a very big principle in my upbringing that you should respect everybody’s work. The street sweeper. Everybody. You should never look down on anybody for their work.
The religions that fascinate me and, you know, could possibly tempt me are not the ones that involve faith or belief. They’re the ones that offer you the opportunity to know the spirit or deity.
My death is incidental, and I worry very much about my loved ones and, you know, would like to make it as easy as possible for them. Or wish I could will away whatever, you know, the sadness they will feel when I die. But for me, nothing. The world goes on.
The psychological trauma of losing a job can be as great as the trauma of a divorce.
A research group found that 56 percent of major companies surveyed in the late ’80s agreed that ’employees who are loyal to the company and further its business goals deserve an assurance of continued employment.’ A decade later, only 6 percent agreed. It was in the ’90s that companies started weeding people out as a form of cost reduction.
In 1993, 89 of the ‘Fortune’ top 100 companies were administering the Myers-Briggs test to their employees. The philosophy behind personality tests is that they don’t want you to be in the wrong kind of job. The tests have been completely exposed as nonsense.
In 2001, I was being treated for breast cancer, and I was pretty sure I was going to recover.
I’ve spent so many years talking about poverty and economic justice, I’m strongly tempted to get biblical. Jesus’ teachings are so radical; they’re just insanely generous and apocalyptic. Christians become more fascinated by the dead Jesus. They don’t like the living Jesus.
The Civil Rights Movement, it wasn’t just a couple of, you know, superstars like Martin Luther King. It was thousands and thousands – millions, I should say – of people taking risks, becoming leaders in their community.
If I get incensed about some injustice, you can’t make me – I will not just going to sit at my desk, at my computer all the time. I – I might want to march out on that.
I’m interested in what bonds people together. You know, what brings us together in good ways? And there’s not a lot known about that.
We – we spend a lot of time, scholarly time, thinking about love and sex, but very little about the – the kind of joy that can take over a crowd of people or a group of people, in festivity, in ecstatic ritual of some kind, in celebration.
My parents were atheists, strong atheists. I never got the answer ‘God.’
When I was 17, I had an experience that I later learned could be called a ‘mystical experience.’ It was almost violent. No faces, voices, nothing like that. It is like the world burst and flamed into life all around me. That is not a great image, but it is as good as I will ever do.
I became a student of the history of religion. I am fascinated by how religions often center on mystical experience, and in the Old Testament tradition you find flames, the burning bush.
If there is something I am arguing, it is a critique of science. Science has consistently denied the existence of consciousness other than human. Only in the last 20 years do we have acknowledgement of animal feeling or culture or experience.
There’s a lot of cruelty going on all the time, and I’m not just talking about inter-human cruelty. I’m talking about whole species becoming extinct, asteroids hitting planets, black holes gobbling up stars.
I’m not questioning the monotheistic god. I think there’s absolutely no evidence for the existence of such a god. When I say that, I mean I’m – part of that is that the idea that God could be all-powerful and also benevolent is on its face contradictory.
Our atheism family tradition is traced to a – I don’t know if it was great-great or a great-great-great grandmother who was a poor Irish-American woman in the 1880s in western Montana.
I first started asking big questions when I was 12, and by big questions, I mean, ‘Why are we here? What is this business? We’re alive for a few short decades and then poof, we’re out of here.’
I didn’t want to be an author; I wanted to be a scientist. Not that I didn’t love literature, but I couldn’t distinguish it from reading, and reading was already my default activity, almost like breathing.
I went into science, ending up with a Ph.D. in cell biology, but along the way I found out that experimental science involves many hours and days and nights of laboratory work, which is a lot like washing dishes, only a little more challenging. I was too impatient, and maybe a little too sloppy, for it.
I routinely oscillate between exultation and despair. Maybe at the end of the day I feel pretty good about what I’ve written, but the next morning I see that it’s crap. Then I start again – make a new outline, do some more research, try to rethink the whole question.
I think the anti-Wal-Mart is Costco, which pays much better and has much better health benefits and which is profitable and offers low prices.