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And Now, for Something Entirely Different: Excerpts from the notebooks of Lazarus Long


Robert Heinlein

(Editor’s Note:The following “aphorisms” come from the “Notebooks of Lazarus Long” in Robert Heinlein’s 1973 novel, Time Enough for Love. These notebooks are called “Intermission” (pp. 240-251) and “Second Intermission” (pp. 346-353) and are full of pithy insights and opinions of Lazarus Long, the central character in this classic science fiction novel. Some of the aphorisms can be readily agreed with…while others might provoke disagreement. Yet, all of them generate thought about our own time (my own personal standard concerning “science fiction”). They are presented here in that spirit…thought-provoking observations from an author, Heinlein, who has never been bereft of such insights in any book he has written…and who never forgot who he was writing for…and when. – JSB)

Always store beer in a dark place.

Men are more sentimental than women. It blurs their thinking.

Certainly the game is rigged. Don’t let that stop you; if you don’t bet, you can’t win.

Any priest or shaman must be presumed guilty until proved innocent.

Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done and why. Then do it!

Get a shot off fast. This upsets him long enough to let you make your second shot perfect.

There is no conclusive evidence of life after death. But there is no evidence of any sort against it. Soon enough you will know. So why fret about it?

If it can’t be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion.

It has long been known that one horse can run faster than another – but which one? Differences are crucial.

A fake fortune teller can be tolerated. But an authentic soothsayer should be shot on sight. Cassandra did not get half the kicking around she deserved .

Delusions are often functional. A mother’s opinions about her children’s beauty, intelligence, goodness, et cetera ad nauseam, keep her from drowning them at birth.

Most “scientists” are bottle washers and button sorters.

A “pacifist male” is a contradiction in terms. Most self-described “pacifists” are not pacific; they simply assume false colors. When the wind changes, they hoist the Jolly Roger.

Nursing does not diminish the beauty of a woman’s breasts; it enhances their charm by making them look lived in and happy.

A generation which ignores history has no past… and no future.

A poet who reads his verse in public may have other nasty habits.

What a wonderful world it is that has girls in!

Small change can often be found under seat cushions.

History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it.

It’s amazing how much “mature wisdom” resembles being too tired.

If you don’t like yourself, you can’t like other people.

Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate – and quickly.

A motion to adjourn is always in order.

No state has an inherent right to survive through conscript troops and, in the long run, no state ever has. Roman matrons used to say to their sons: “Come back with your shield, or on it.” Later on this custom declined. So did Rome.

Of all the strange “crimes that human beings have legislated out of nothing, “blasphemy” is the most amazing – with “obscenity” and “indecent exposure” fighting it out for second and third place.

Cheops’ Law: Nothing is ever built on schedule or within budget.

It is better to copulate than never.

All societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children. All else is surplus age, excrescence, adornment, luxury or folly which can – and must – be dumped in emergency to preserve this prime function. As racial survival is the only universal morality, no other basic is possible. Attempts to formulate a “perfect society” on any foundation other than “women and children first!” is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal. Nevertheless, starry-eyed idealists (all of them male) have tried endlessly – and no doubt will keep on trying.

All men are created unequal.

Money is a powerful aphrodisiac. But flowers work almost as well.

A brute kills for pleasure. A fool kills from hate.

There is only one way to console a widow. But remember the risk.

When the need arises – and it does – you must be able too shoot your own dog. Don’t farm it out – that doesn’t make it nicer, it makes it worse.

Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks.

It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a live lion. And usually easier.

One man’s theology is another man’s belly laugh.

Sex should be friendly. Otherwise stick to mechanical toys; it’s more sanitary.

Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a God superior to themselves. Most Gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.

Never appeal to a man’s “better nature.” He may not have one. Invoking his “self… interest” gives you more leverage.

Little girls, like butterflies, need no excuse.

You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don’t ever count on having both at once.

Avoid making irrevocable decisions while tired or hungry. N.B.: Circumstances can force your hand. So think ahead!

Place your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark.

An elephant: A mouse built to government specifications.

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded – here and there, now and then – are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.”

In a mature society, “civil servant” is semantically equal to “civil master.”

When a place gets crowded enough to require ID’s, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere.

A woman is not property, and husbands who think otherwise are living in a dreamworld.

The second best thing about space travel is that the distances involved make war very difficult, usually impractical, and almost always unnecessary. This is probably a loss for most people, since war is our races most popular diversion, one which gives purpose and color to dull and stupid lives. But it is a great boon to the intelligent man who fights only when he must – never for sport.

A zygote is a gamete’s way of producing more gamete’s. This may be the purpose of the universe.

There are hidden contradictions within the minds of people who “love nature” while deploring the “artificialities” with which “Man has spoiled Nature.” The obvious contradiction lies in their choice of words, which imply that Man and his artifacts are not part of “Nature” – but beavers and their damns are. But the contradictions go deeper than this prima-facie absurdity. In declaring his love for a beaver damn (erected by beavers for beaver’s purposes) and his hatred for dams erected by men (for the purpose of men) the “Naturist” reveals his hatred for his own race – i.e., his own self-hatred. In the case of “Naturists” such self… hatred is understandable; they are such a sorry lot. But hatred is too strong an emotion to feel toward them; pity and contempt are the most they rate. As for me, willy-nilly I am a man, not a beaver, and H. Sapiens is the only race I have or can have. Fortunately for me, I like being part of a race made up of men and women – it strikes me as a fine arrangement and perfectly “natural.” Believe it or not, there were “Naturists” who opposed the first flight to old Earth’s Moon as being “unnatural” and a “despoiling of nature.”

No man is an island – ” Much as we may feel and act as individuals, our race is a single organism, always growing and branching – which must be pruned regularly to be healthy. This necessity need not be argued; anyone with eyes can see that any organism which grows without limit always dies within ïits own poisons. The only rational question is whether pruning is best done before or after birth. Being an incurable sentimentalist I favor the former of these methods – killing makes me queasy, even when it’s a case of “He’s dead and I’m alive and that’s the way I wanted it to be.” But this may be a matter of taste. Some shamans think that it is better to be killed in a war, or to die in childbirth, or to starve in misery, than never to have lived at all. They may be right. But I don’t have to like it – and I don’t.

Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How’s that again? I missed something.

Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let’s play that over again, too. Who decides?

Any government will work if authority and responsibility are equal and coordinate. This does not insure “good” government; it simply insures that it will work. But such governments are rare – most people want to run things but want no part of the blame. This used to be called the “backseat-driver syndrome.”

What are the facts? Again and again and again-what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” – what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!

God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent-it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these divine attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills.

Courage is the compliment of fear. A man who is fearless cannot be courageous. (He is also a fool.)

The two highest achievements of the human mind are the twin concepts of “loyalty” and “duty.” Whenever these twin concepts fall into disrepute – get out of there fast. You may possibly save yourself, but it is too late to save that society. It is doomed.

People who go broke in a big way never miss any meals. It is the poor jerk who is shy half a slug who must tighten his belt.

The truth of a proposition has nothing to do with it’s credibility. And vice versa.

Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable sub-human who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house.

Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as “empty,” “meaningless,” or “dishonest,” and scorn to use them. No matter how “pure” their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects!

The more you love, the more you can love – and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had Time Enough, he could Love all of the majority who are decent and just.

Masturbation is cheap, clean, convenient, and free of any possibility of wrong-doing – and you don’t have to go home in the cold. But it’s lonely.

Beware of altrusim. It is based on self-deception, the root of all evil.

If tempted by something that feels “altruistic” examine your motives and root out that self-deception. Then, if you still want to do it, wallow in it!

The most preposterous notion that H. Sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all of history.

The second most preposterous notion is that copulation is inherently sinful.

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of – but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.

$100 placed at 7% interest compounded quarterly for 200 years will increase to more than $100,000,000 – by which time it will be worth nothing.

Dear, don’t bore him with trivia or burden him with your past mistakes. The happiest way to deal with a man is never to tell him anything he does not need to know.

Darling, a true lady takes off her dignity with her clothes and does her whorish best. At other times you can be as modest and dignified as your persona requires.

Everybody lies about sex.

If men were the automatons that behaviorists claim they are, the behaviorist psychologists could not have invented the amazing nonsense called “behaviorist psychology.” So they are wrong from scratch – as clever and as wrong as phlogiston chemists.

The shamans are forever yacking about their snake-oil “miracles.” I prefer the real McCoy – a pregnant woman.

If the universe has any purpose more important than topping the woman you love and making a baby with her hearty help, I’ve never heard of it.

Thou shalt remember the 11th commandment and keep it Wholly.

A touchstone to determine the actual worth of an “intellectual” – find out how he feels about astrology.

Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed.

There is no such thing as Social Gambling. Either you are there to cut the other blokes heart out and eat it – or you’re a sucker. If you don’t like this choice – don’t gamble.

The first time I was a drill instructor I was too inexperienced for the job – the things I taught those lads must have got some of them killed. War is too serious a matter to be taught by the inexperienced.

A competent and self confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything. Jealousy is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity.

Money is the sincerest of all flattery. Women love to be flattered. So do men.

You live and learn or you don’t live long.

Whenever women have insisted on absolute equality with men, they have invariably wound up on the dirty end of the stick. What they are and what they can do makes them superior to men, and their proper tactic is to demand special privileges, all the traffic will bear. They should never settle merely for equality. For women, “equality” is a disaster.

Peace is an extension of war by political means. Plenty of elbowroom is pleasanter – and much safer.

One man’s “magic” is another man’s engineering. “Supernatural” is a null word.

The phrase “we (I) (you) simply must – “designates something that need not be done. “That goes without saying” is a red warning. “Of course” means you had best check it yourself. These small – change cliches and others like them, when read correctly, are reliable channel markers.

Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.

Rub her feet.

If you happen to be one of the fretful who can do creative work, never force an idea; you’ll abort it if you do. Be patient and you’ll give birth to it when the time is ripe. Learn to wait.

Never crowd youngsters about their private affairs – sex especially. When they are growing up they are nerve ends all over, and resent (quite properly) any invasions of their privacy. Oh sure, they’ll make mistakes – but that’s their business, not yours. (You made your own mistakes, did you not?)

Never underestimate the power of human stupidity!

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