Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Robert A. Heinlein, fully Robert Anson Heinlein, pen name for Anson MacDonald

American Novelist, Hugo Award-winning Science Fiction Writer, called the "dean of science fiction writers"

"Obscurity is the refuge of incompetence."

"Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own."

"Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy."

"Goodness without wisdom always accomplishes evil."

"Learning isn't a means to an end; it is an end in itself."

"Ninety percent of all human wisdom is the ability to mind your own business."

"Never underestimate the power of human stupidity."

"In a family argument, if it turns out you are right, apologize at once."

"A generation which ignores history has no past - and no future."

"?Grok? means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the process being observed ? to experience."

"?Savage? describes a cultural condition, not a degree of intelligence."

"A boy who gets a C- in 'Appreciation of Television' can't be all bad."

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

"A committee is a life form with six or more legs and no brain."

"A boss who is forced to part a man's hair with a wrench has failed at some point."

"A book need never die and should not be killed; books were the immortal part of man."

"A "critic" is a man who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men. There is a logic in this; he is unbiased - he hates all creative people equally."

"A community where everyone is a ruthless murderer, with handy access to death-dealing devices, is a very polite community."

"A committee is the only known form of life with a hundred bellies and no brain."

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

"A confidence man knows he?s lying; that limits his scope. But a successful shaman ropes himself first; he believes what he says ? and such belief is contagious; there is no limit to his scope."

"A desire not to butt into other people's business is at least eighty percent of all human wisdom... and the other twenty percent isn't very important."

"A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot."

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

"A fool cannot be protected from his folly. If you attempt to do so, you will not only arouse his animosity but also you will be attempting to deprive him of whatever benefit he is capable of deriving from experience. Never attempt to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig."

"A government is a living organism. Like every living thing its prime characteristic is a blind, unreasoned instinct to survive. You hit it, it will fight back."

"A great artist can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is... and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be... more than that he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo see that this lovely young girl is still alive, prisoned inside her ruined body."

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

"A little more money won't do you any good - because daughters can use up ten percent more than a man can make in any normal occupation, regardless of the amount."

"A long and wicked life followed by five minutes of perfect grace gets you into Heaven. An equally long life of decent living and good works followed by one outburst of taking the name of the Lord in vain - then have a heart attack at that moment and be damned for eternity. Is that the system?"

"A man who marries at my age isn?t taking a wife, he?s indenturing a nurse."

"A managed democracy is a wonderful thing... for the managers... and its greatest strength is a 'free press' when 'free' is defined as 'responsible' and the managers define what is 'irresponsible'."

"A monarch?s neck should always have a noose around it?it keeps him upright."

"A motion to adjourn is always in order."

"A person must be everything - a warrior, a pacifist a staunch individual, a willing cog in the mechanism of a galactic socio-organism. A man who obeys laws and breaks them, creates his own and polices them. He must be friends with all and none because he must be impartial to all. He must walk the line between passion and reason, and never fall lest he lose his footing forever. He must respect all gods, while honoring his own, renounce his home town and be at home everywhere. The limits of space are his only boundaries, and the burden of freedom his only responsibility. And above all, he must be a true and gentle knight."

"A pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun - and neither can stop the march of events."

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

"A prude is a person who thinks that his own rules of propriety are natural laws."

"A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as ?state? and ?society? and ?government? have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame? as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world?aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure? My point is that one person is responsible. Always... In terms of morals there is no such thing as ?state.? Just men. Individuals. Each responsible for his own acts."

"A religion is sometime a source of happiness, and I would not deprive anyone of happiness. But it is a comfort appropriate for the weak, not for the strong. The great trouble with religion ? any religion ? is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak uncertainty of reason ? but one cannot have both."

"A slave cannot be freed, save he do it himself. Nor can you enslave a free man; the very most you can do is kill him!"

"A society that gets rid of all its troublemakers goes downhill."

"A touchstone to determine the actual worth of an "intellectual" - find out how he feels about astrology."

"A very bad sign. Particularism. It was once considered a Spanish vice but any country can fall sick with it. Dominance of males over females seems to be one of the symptoms."

"A woman is not property and husbands who think otherwise are living in a dream world."

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

"Abstract art is all right ? for wall paper or linoleum. But art is the process of evoking pity and terror, which is not abstract at all but very human."

"Age does not bring wisdom, but it does give perspective?and the saddest perspective of all is to see far, far behind you, the temptations you?ve passed up."

"Age is not an accomplishment, and youth is not a sin."

"Ah, yes, the 'unalienable rights.' Each year someone quotes that magnificent poetry. Life? What 'right' to life has a man who is drowning in the Pacific? The ocean will not hearken to his cries. What 'right' to life has a man who must die if he is to save his children? If he chooses to save his own life, does he do so as a matter of 'right'? If two men are starving and cannibalism is the only alternative to death, which man's right is 'unalienable'? And is it 'right'?"