Alan Lightman

Alan
Lightman
1948

American Physicist, Writer and Social Entrepreneur, Professor Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Author of Einstein's Dreams

Author Quotes

Some say it is best not to go near the center of time. Life is a vessel of sadness, but is noble to live life and without time there is no life. Others disagree. They would rather have an eternity of contentment, even if that eternity were fixed and frozen, like a butterfly mounted in a case.

The tragedy of this world is that everyone is alone. For a life in the past cannot be shared with the present.

We live in a highly polarized society. We need to try to understand each other in respectful ways. To that end, I believe that we should make room for both spiritual atheists and thinking believers.

Writers are a loosely knit community - community is an overstated word. Writers don't see each other very much.

Such is the cost of 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 [and the future].

The tragedy of this world is that no one is happy, whether stuck in a time of pain or of joy. The tragedy of this world is that everyone is alone. For a life in the past cannot be shared with the present. Each person who gets stuck in time gets stuck alone.

We often do not see what we do not expect to see.

Writers read essays and serious thinkers and serious readers... that is a small population.

Suppose that time is not a quantity but a quality, like the luminescence of the night above the trees just when a rising moon has touched the treeline. Time exists, but it cannot be measured.

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

We're plugged in 24 hours a day now. We're all part of one big machine, whether we are conscious of that or not. And if we can't unplug from that machine, eventually we're going to become mindless.

Yet the time-deaf are unable to speak what they know. For speech needs a sequence of words, spoken in time.

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

The world is moving faster and faster, but where are we going? I think one of the reasons why things are getting blurry is because there is not much meaning.

We've lost our way, we have lost our centeredness. We don't have the time, literally, to think during the day. To listen to ourselves think. To think about where we are going, who we are, what's important. I would bet most people don't have thirty minutes in a day where they can just sit down and think. Or maybe they don't have to be sitting, they can be walking.

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.

That has been the great achievement of our age: to so thoroughly flood the planet with megabits that every image and fact has become a digitized disembodied nothingness. With magnificent determination, our species has advanced from Stone Age to Industrial Revolution to Digital Emptiness. We've become weightless, in the bad sense of the word.

Then there are those who think that their bodies don't exist. They live by mechanical time. They rise at seven o'clock in the morning. They eat their lunch at noon and their supper at six. They arrive at their appointments on time, precisely by the clock. They make love between eight and ten at night. They work forty hours a week, read the Sunday paper on Sunday, play chess on Tuesday nights. When their stomach growls, they look at their watch to see if it is time to eat. When they begin to lose themselves in a concert, they look at the clock above the stage to see when it will be time to go home. They know that the body is not a thing of wild magic, but a collection of chemicals, tissues, and nerve impulses.

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

You've made something grand, but it will be grander if it has feeling and beauty and harmony.

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.

There is a place where time stands still ... illuminated by only the most feeble red light, for light is diminished to almost nothing at the center of time, its vibrations slowed to echoes in vast canyons, its intensity reduced to the faint glow of fireflies.

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.

The book is finished by the reader. A good novel should invite the reader in and let the reader participate in the creative experience and bring their own life experiences to it, interpret with their own individual life experiences. Every reader gets something different from a book and every reader, in a sense, completes it in a different way.

They do not keep clocks in their houses. Instead, they listen to their heartbeats. They feel the rhythms of their moods and desires.

Author Picture
First Name
Alan
Last Name
Lightman
Birth Date
1948
Bio

American Physicist, Writer and Social Entrepreneur, Professor Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Author of Einstein's Dreams