Famous Quotes & Sayings

Alan Lightman Quotes & Sayings

Enjoy the top 100 famous quotes, sayings and quotations by Alan Lightman.

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Alan Lightman Quotes 590224

Thus, in this world of brief scenes from the future, few risks are taken. Those who have seen the future do not need to take risks, and those who have not yet seen the future wait for their visions without taking risks. — Alan Lightman

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If I were not a writer, I would spend more time doing the things that I am already doing, which include doing research in physics, teaching, and running a nonprofit organization with a mission to empower women in Cambodia. — Alan Lightman

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As long as God does not intervene in the contemporary universe in such a way as to violate physical laws, science has no way of knowing whether God exists or not. The belief or disbelief in such a Being is therefore a matter of faith. — Alan Lightman

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I consider myself a spiritual atheist. I certainly believe there are forces bigger than ourselves, and that we should be searching, individually, for meaning in our lives. But I don't believe there's a supreme being, an intelligence that created everything. — Alan Lightman

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One day I'm going to write a book about osprey . It has really gotten deep into my bloodstream. So when you ask what else I do, I feel like this is part of what I do ... is to watch these birds. — Alan Lightman

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Originality is also very important to a writer. And all of the writers I've mentioned, of course, are original, but it's important to me that every book that I do be really a completely fresh and new look at the world. And of course, that makes it frightening to start a new book because you can't really depend upon what you've done with previous books. — Alan Lightman

Alan Lightman Quotes 1985458

In this world, time has three dimensions, like space. Just as an object may move in three perpendicular directions, corresponding to horizontal, vertical, and longitudinal, so an object may participate in three perpendicular futures. Each future moves in a different direction of time. Each future is real. At every point of decision, the world splits into three worlds, each with the same people, but different fates for those people. In time, there are an infinity of worlds. — Alan Lightman

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I wouldn't overall say that The Diagnosis it's a funny book. I would say that it has comic moments. It's a modern tragedy. — Alan Lightman

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Thoughts are no more than electrical surges in the brain. Sexual arousal is no more than a flow of chemicals to certain nerve endings. Sadness is no more than a bit of acid transfixed in the cerebellum. In short, the body is a machine, subject to the same laws of electricity and mechanics as an electron or clock. — Alan Lightman

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I think what gets you through a small writing project, is just one burst of inspiration. A book, especially a longer book, it's a different kind of force that pushes you through it. It's a vision of the whole thing. — Alan Lightman

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But why are we attracted to symmetry? Why do we human beings delight in seeing perfectly round planets through the lens of a telescope and six-sided snowflakes on a cold winter day? The answer must be partly psychological. I would claim that symmetry represents order, and we crave order in this strange universe we find ourselves in. The search for symmetry, and the emotional pleasure we derive when we find it, must help us make sense of the world around us, just as we find satisfaction in the repetition of the seasons and the reliability of friendships. Symmetry is also economy. Symmetry is simplicity. Symmetry is elegance. — Alan Lightman

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If the past has uncertain effect on the present, there is no need to dwell on the past. And if the present has little effect on the future, — Alan Lightman

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As human beings, don't we need questions without answers as well as questions with answers, questions that we might someday answer and questions that we can never answer? — Alan Lightman

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I have for a long time loved fabulist, imaginative fiction, such as the writing of Italo Calvino, Jose Saramago, Michael Bulgakov, and Salman Rushdie. I also like the magic realist writers, such as Borges and Marquez, and feel that interesting truths can be learned about our world by exploring highly distorted worlds. — Alan Lightman

Alan Lightman Quotes 1609813

Most people have learned to live in the moment. The argument goes that if the past has uncertain effect on the present, there is no need to dwell on the past. And if the present has little effect on the future, present actions need not be weighed for their consequence. Rather, each act is an island in time, to be judged on its own ... It is a world of impulse. It is a world of sincerity. It is a world in which every word spoken speaks just to that moment, every glance given has only one meaning. — Alan Lightman

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The Book of Telling tells of a woman's journey to uncover the secret life of her father and to find herself in the process, an unusual counterpoint between personal history and the history of a young nation. Haunting, powerful, and beautifully written. — Alan Lightman

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If a person holds no ambitions in this world, he suffers unknowingly. If a person holds ambitions, he suffers knowingly, but very slowly. — Alan Lightman

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As both a scientist and a humanist myself, I have struggled to understand different claims to knowledge, and I have eventually come to a formulation of the kind of religious belief that would, in my view, be compatible with science. — Alan Lightman

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In a world of fixed future, life is an infinite corridor of rooms, one room lit at each moment, the next room dark but prepared. We walk from room to room, look into the room that is lit, the present moment, then walk on. We do not know the rooms ahead, but we know we cannot change them. We are spectators of our lives. — Alan Lightman

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At some point in the future, new stars will cease being born. Slowly but surely, the stars of our universe are winking out. A day will come when the night sky will be totally black, and the day sky will be totally black as well. Solar systems will become planets orbiting dead stars. According to astrophysical calculations, in about a million billion years, plus or minus, even those dead solar systems will be disrupted from chance gravitational encounters with other stars. In about ten billion billion years, even galaxies will be disrupted, the cold spheres that were once stars flung out to coast solo through empty space. — Alan Lightman

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Don't you feel something magical when you're in love? ... I do, I certainly do ... but I think that feeling of magic is a hardwired psychological response. It's a chemical thing in the brain. It's a flow of chemicals and electrical currents, and it developed over millions of years in the process of evolution to aid in the procreation of the species. — Alan Lightman

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Novels aren't pedagogical instruments, or instructions in law or physics or any other discipline. A novel has to be an emotional experience, a trip of the imagination, and because science has raised so many issues that concern and affect humans, it's a good starting place for me. — Alan Lightman

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It's exciting having a student who is not used to expressing their emotional side and bringing that out in them and see that developing and helping to nurture that. That's an exciting thing. In a class of fifteen there are usually two very good writers, equal to good student writers anywhere in the country. Those two make the class wonderful. — Alan Lightman

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What sense is there in continuing when one has seen the future? — Alan Lightman

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I think that the scienti?c way of looking at the world, and the humanistic way of looking at the world are complementary. There are important differences which should be preserved, and in trying to do away with those differences we would lose something the same way as if we tried to make all religions one religion or all races one race. There is a cultural diversity that's very valuable, and it's valuable to have different ways of looking at the world. — Alan Lightman

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In fiction writing ideas have to be handled extremely carefully. You can't let your characters just be mouthpieces for your ideas. They have to live and breathe on their own. — Alan Lightman

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It never occurred to me that she might travel from one man to the next to avoid being abandoned. Or to avoid being worshiped like a goddess, a worship she both relished and despised. — Alan Lightman

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A world with one month is a world of equality. — Alan Lightman

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Is it possible for a person to love without wanting love back? Is anything so pure? Or is love, by its nature, a reciprocity, like oceans and clouds, an evaporating of seawater and a replenishing by rain? — Alan Lightman

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I don't know why we long so for permanence, why the fleeting nature of things so disturbs. With futility, we cling to the old wallet long after it has fallen apart. We visit and revisit the old neighborhood where we grew up, searching for the remembered grove of trees and the little fence. We clutch our old photographs. In our churches and synagogues and mosques, we pray to the everlasting and eternal. Yet, in every nook and cranny, nature screams at the top of her lungs that nothing lasts, that it is all passing away. All that we see around us, including our own bodies, is shifting and evaporating and one day will be gone. Where are the one billion people who lived and breathed in the year 1800, only two short centuries ago? — Alan Lightman

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Human beings consider themselves satisfied only compared to some other condition. A man who has owned nothing but a bicycle all of his life feels suddenly wealthy the moment he buys an automobile ... But this happy sensation wears off. After a while the car becomes just another thing that he owns. Moreover, when his neighbor next door buys two cars, in an instant our man feels wretchedly poor and deprived. — Alan Lightman

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The catchers delight in the moment so frozen but soon discover that the nightingale expires, its clear flutelike song diminishes to silence, the trapped moment grows withered and without life. — Alan Lightman

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That's the fine balance of a fiction writer ... to be able to give your characters enough freedom to surprise you and yet still maintain some kind of artistic control. — Alan Lightman

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I think people all over the institution recognize that different ways of understanding are valuable. Artists may think in a different way than biologists or chemists, but you can learn something from that. It is true that the arts at MIT don't have the same amount of funding or same status as the sciences or engineering. — Alan Lightman

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Oh, love is very much a physical thing ... I realize that it's very complicated, and I'm sure it can't be traced to individual neurons and hormones, but I think it's very much a physiological sensation that takes place in the brain. — Alan Lightman

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I think it is always a long shot getting a book made into a film. Making that book into a film is going to be quite a challenge. — Alan Lightman

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I have too many friends who tell me that they spend the first hour of every morning going through their e-mail messages. I'd like to use my time more carefully. — Alan Lightman

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I have a family and you know very well the time that that takes. That's good time. I have a couple hobbies. I'm a runner and play tennis. In the summer my family and I uproot ourselves and go live in Maine for the summer. We have a house on a very tiny island in Maine. Which is really my spiritual center. We've been going there for ten years, and it has no ferry service, no bridges, no telephone service. It's really isolated. — Alan Lightman

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Scientists will forever have to live with the fact that their product is, in the end, impersonal. — Alan Lightman

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Unconditional love. That's what he wants to give her and what he wants from her. People should give without wanting anything in return. All other giving is selfish. But he is being selfish a little, isn't he, by wanting her to love him in return? He hopes that she loves him in return. Is it possible for a person to love without wanting love back? Is anything so pure? Or is love, by its nature, a reciprocity, like oceans and clouds, an evaporating of seawater and a replenishing of rain? — Alan Lightman

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A writer is someone who has a one-man tent in the desert and occasionally he sees the footprint of an other writer - in the form of a review or something. — Alan Lightman

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For me, consciousness is the most interesting unsolved problem of science, and, in fact, we may never know what it is about a particular arrangement of neurons that gives rise to consciousness. Our consciousness, like the air we breathe or like the passage of time, is central to our existence as intelligent beings. — Alan Lightman

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Franz Kafka is an idea person. His books begin and end in ideas. Ideas have always been important to me in my writing. To the point that I have to be careful that they don't take over. — Alan Lightman

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For me, spirituality includes the belief in things larger than ourselves, an appreciation of nature and beauty, a sensitivity to the world, a feeling of shared connection with other living things, a desire to help people less fortunate than ourselves. All of these things can occur with or without God. I do not believe in the existence of God, but I consider myself a spiritual person in the manner I have just described. I call myself a spiritual atheist. I would imagine that many people are spiritual atheists. — Alan Lightman

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Except for a God who sits down after the universe begins, all other gods conflict with the assumptions of science. — Alan Lightman

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Imagine a world in which there is no time. Only images. — Alan Lightman

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I should have written books instead of reading them. — Alan Lightman

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I consider myself an essayist and a fiction writer. In the essays, I certainly have been influenced by some of the leading science essayists. Like Loren Eiseley, Stephen Jay Gould, Lewis Thomas. — Alan Lightman

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In a world of fixed future, there can be no right or wrong. Right and wrong demand freedom of choice, but if each action is already chosen, there can be no freedom of choice. In a world of fixed future, no person is responsible. The rooms are already arranged. — Alan Lightman

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Some people believe that there is no distinction between the spiritual and physical universes, no distinction between the inner and the outer, between the subjective and the objective, between the miraculous and the rational. I need such distinctions to make sense of my spiritual and scientific lives. For me, there is room for both a spiritual universe and a physical universe, just as there is room for both religion and science. Each universe has its own power. Each has its own beauty, and mystery. — Alan Lightman

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I spend a lot of time just listening to the ospreys. I watch them go through their life cycle. They spend the winter in South America. The mother and father osprey stay together. It's a monogamous relationship. And every summer they raise a new brood of children. They came back to the nest in the middle of April. They take separate vacations in the winter - the mother and father ... — Alan Lightman

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All writers have roots they draw from - travel, work, family. My roots are in science and it is fertile ground for fiction. — Alan Lightman

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I have a number of vague ideas where I just have the core or kernel of the idea. I feel like I need some time for my mind to fill up again. I feel empty. Right now. — Alan Lightman

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I'm humbled and enormously grateful to be connected to [Franz] Kafka in a any way. He is one of the writers I admire. I think he has been a big influence on me. I appreciate the idea of the individual person battling the society - which is true in all his books. — Alan Lightman

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Suppose time is a circle, bending back on itself. The world repeats itself, precisely, endlessly. — Alan Lightman

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Faith is the ability to honor stillness at some moments, and at others to ride the passion and exuberance. — Alan Lightman

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One cannot walk down an avenue, converse with a friend, enter a building, browse beneath the sandstone arches of an old arcade without meeting an instrument of time. Time is visible in all places. Clock towers, wristwatches, church bells divide years into months, months into days, days into hours, hours into seconds, each increment of time marching after the other in perfect succession. And beyond any particular clock, a vast scaffold of time, stretching across the universe, lays down the law of time equally for all. — Alan Lightman

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While people brood, time skips ahead without looking back. — Alan Lightman

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Such is the cost immortality. No person is whole. No person is free. Over time, some have determined that the only way to live is to die. In death, a man or a woman is free of the weight of the past. — Alan Lightman

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It's the Platonic philosophy in The Republic that philosophers should lead the country ... — Alan Lightman

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The urge to discover, to invent, to know the unknown, seems so deeply human that we cannot imagine our history without it. — Alan Lightman

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When a traveler from the future must talk, he does not talk but whimpers. He whispers tortured sounds. He is agonized. For if he makes the slightest alteration in anything, he may destroy the future. At the same time, he is forced to witness events without being part of them, without changing them. He envies the people who live in their own time, who can act at will, oblivious of the future, ignorant of the effects of their actions. But he cannot act. He is an inert gas, a ghost, a sheet without soul. He has lost his personhood. He is an exile of time. — Alan Lightman

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One metaphor for how we are living is that you see so may people with cell phones. In restaurants, walking, they have cell phones clamped to their to heads. When they are on their cell phones they are not where their bodies are ... they are somewhere else in hyperspace. They are not grounded. We have become disembodied. By being always somewhere else we are nowhere. — Alan Lightman

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In a world where time cannot be measured, there are no clocks, no calendars, no definite appointments. Events are triggered by other events, not by time. — Alan Lightman

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Using technology, we have redefined ourselves in such a way that our immediate surroundings and relationships, our immediate sensory perceptions of the world, are much diminished in relevance. We have trained ourselves not to be present. We have extended our bodies, created enhanced selves that might be called our "techno-selves." Our techno-selves are both bigger and smaller than our former selves. Bigger in that we have tremendous powers to communicate with the invisible world. Smaller in that we have sacrificed some of our contact and experience with the visible, immediate world. We have marginalized our direct sensory experience. — Alan Lightman

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My writings are an exploration, and I think a lot of writers would tell you this, but in writing, you're not simply putting down things that are already known to you. You're actually discovering in the writing process, you're actually creating knowledge. — Alan Lightman

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unopened. When her son stands in the night outside her house, she goes to bed early. In the morning, she looks at his photograph, writes adoring letters to a long-defunct address. A spinster sees the face of the young man who loved her in the mirror of her bedroom, on the ceiling of the bakery, on the surface of the lake, in the sky. The — Alan Lightman

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On one thing most physicists agree. If the amount of dark energy in our universe were only a little bit different than what it actually is, then life could never have emerged. A little larger, and the universe would have accelerated so rapidly that matter in the young universe could never have pulled itself together to form stars and hence complex atoms made in stars. And, going into negative values of dark energy, a little smaller and the universe would have decelerated so rapidly that it would have recollapsed before there was time to form even the simplest atoms. Out of all the possible amounts of dark energy that our universe might have, the actual amount lies in the tiny sliver of the range that allows life. As before, one is compelled to ask the question: Why does such fine-tuning occur? — Alan Lightman

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Music is, of course, a universal emotional experience, cutting across cultures and languages. I studied piano for ten years as a child and consider that experience one of the most valuable in my life. — Alan Lightman

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I think all tragedies are best told with some humor. You have to relieve the darkness to let the reader get through it. Also, that life has happiness and sadness mixed together. If you told a story that was all darkness, it wouldn't be real. — Alan Lightman

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In a world in which time is a circle, every handshake, every kiss, every birth, every word, will be repeated precisely. — Alan Lightman

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Some make light of decisions, arguing that all possible decisions will occur. In such a world, how could one be responsible for his actions? Others hold that each decision must be considered and committed to, that without commitment there is chaos. Such people are content to live in contradictory worlds, so long as they know the reason for each. — Alan Lightman

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I think e-mail is representative of our fast food mentality in the United States, where everything has gotten faster and faster, and we're required to respond to inputs more quickly with less time for thought and reflection. I believe that we need to slow down. — Alan Lightman

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His dreams have taken hold of his research. His dreams have worn him out, exhausted him so that he sometimes cannot tell whether he is awake or asleep. — Alan Lightman

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I love the fact publishers are still publishing unprofitable material. It's a challenge to the powers that be. It's saying there is a real literature in this country and we will keep publishing it. — Alan Lightman

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I still will sit down at the piano and play when I am wrestling with something emotionally or just want to move into the musical world. — Alan Lightman

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At the beginning of each session, one of us will begin talking about some random idea, another person will chime in or change the subject, and miraculously, after twenty minutes, we find that we have zeroed in on a question that everyone is passionate about. What continues to astonish me is the frequency with which religion slips into the room, unbidden but persistent. — Alan Lightman

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Science is an intellectual journey, and to me, it's not the destination, it's the journeyto get there. It's a way of thinking and it's an intellectual curiosity, a desire to know how the world works, and to know what the fundamental principles of the world are, and to know our place in it. I think once we stop asking questions like "what is the age of the universe," or "how are the instructions of DNA carried out on a microscopic level," once we stop asking questions like that, we're dead. — Alan Lightman

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I have no opposition at all to technology. I think technology is a wonderful thing that has to be used thoughtfully, and we can't just assume that every bit of new technology improvesthe quality of life; it's really in how the technology is used. What I am very disturbed about is this trend of everything happening faster and faster and faster and there being more and more general noise in the world, and less and less time for quiet reflection on who we are, and where we're going. — Alan Lightman

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Every essay - the subject matter of every essay - is ultimately about the essayist; him or herself. That ultimately, every essayist is writing about his or her view of the world. — Alan Lightman

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As I understand it, a universe is a ... well, a totality. A universe is everything that is, as far as the inside of the thing. — Alan Lightman

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With a background in science I am extremely interested in the meeting ground of science, theology, and philosophy, especially the ethical questions at the border of science and theology. — Alan Lightman

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-But rational thoughts lead only to rational thoughts, whereas irrational thoughts lead to new experiences. — Alan Lightman

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In fiction writing, I would say there are several different strands that have been woven through my own writing, and each influenced by a different group of writers. — Alan Lightman

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And at the place where time stands still, one sees lovers kissing in the shadows of buildings, in a frozen embrace that will never let go. The loved one will never take his arms from where they are now, will never give back the bracelet of memories, will never journey afar from his lover, will never place himself in danger of self-sacrifice, will never fail to show his love, will never become jealous, will never fall in love with someone else, will never lose the passion of this instant of time. — Alan Lightman

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I'm still happy with the way Einstein's Dreams came out. That book came out of a single inspiration. I really felt like I was not creating the words, that I was hearing the words. That someone else was speaking the words to me and I was just writing them down. It was a very strange experience. That can happen with a short book. I don't think it could happen with a long book. — Alan Lightman

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As a scientist, I don't believe science will ever discover whether God exists. Nor do I believe religion will ever prove it. — Alan Lightman

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In fact, this is a world without future. In this world, time is a line that terminates at the present, both in reality and in the mind. In this world, no person can imagine the future. Imagining the future is no more possible than seeing colors beyond violet: the senses cannot conceive what may lie past the visible end of the spectrum. In a world without future, each parting of friends is death. In a world without future, each loneliness is final. In a world without future, each laugh is the last laugh. In a world without a future, beyond the present lies nothingness, and people cling to the present as if hanging from a cliff. — Alan Lightman

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The Diagnosis is by far my most ambitious book. I such great hopes for it ... there was so much I wanted to do with the book. I was extremely insecure about it for several years. Just didn't know whether I would finish the book much less for it to come close to what I intended. I think that for any novel you never know exactly how the book is going to turn out ... — Alan Lightman

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In a world of shifting past, these memories are wheat in wind, fleet in dreams, shapes in clouds. Events, once happened, lose reality, alter with a glance, a storm, a night. In time, the past never happened. — Alan Lightman

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In a world without future, each moment is the end of the world. — Alan Lightman

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Each time is true, but the truths are not the same. — Alan Lightman

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Scientists are buffoons, not because they are rational but because the cosmos is irrational. Or perhaps it is not because the cosmos is irrational but because they are rational. Who — Alan Lightman

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It's not necessarily a large number of people that affect the culture. You don't count the number of influential voices, you weigh them. A hundred people can affect the culture. — Alan Lightman

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You say, "Something important really happened here. I really had hold of something I was visited by the muse." And that's enough to make you continue the months and years to finish the whole book. — Alan Lightman

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In this world, artists are joyous. Unpredictability is the life of their paintings, their music, their novels. They delight in events not forecasted, happenings without explanation, retrospective. — Alan Lightman

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The target of power is more interesting than its quantity. — Alan Lightman

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Each act is an island in time, to be judged on its own. — Alan Lightman

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A person who cannot imagine the future is a person who cannot contemplate the results of his actions. Some are thus paralyzed into inaction. — Alan Lightman

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Time paces forward with exquisite regularity, at precisely the same velocity in every corner of space. Time is an infinite ruler. Time is absolute. — Alan Lightman