Loren Eiseley


American Author, Anthropologist, Educator, Philosopher and Natural Science Writer

Author Quotes

Ah, my mind takes up, on the other hand the machine does not bleed, ache, hang for hours in the empty sky in a torment of hope to learn the fate of another machine, nor does it cry out with joy nor dance in the air with the fierce passion of a bird. Far off, over a distance greater than space, that remote cry from the heart of heaven makes a faint buzzing sound among my breakfast dishes and passes on and away.

For if inventions of power outrun understanding, as they now threaten to do, man may well sink into a night more abysmal than any he has yet experienced.

I mean to reflect on the life that is here and about In the fall of the leaves -- not on the dying leaf.

In the days of the frost seek a minor sun.

Let men beat men, if they will, but why do they have to beat and starve small things? Why? -- why? I will never forget that dog's eyes, nor the eyes of every starved mongrel I have fed from Curacao to Cuernavaca. Nor the drowning one I once fished out of an irrigation ditch in California, only to see him limp away with his ribs showing as mine once showed in that cabin long ago in Manitou. This is why I am a wanderer forever in the streets of men, a wanderer in mind, and, in these matters, a creature of desperate impulse.

Mind is locked in matter like the spirit Ariel in a cloven pine. Like Ariel, men struggle to escape the drag

Perhaps a creature of so much ingenuity and deep memory is almost bound to grow alienated from his world, his fellows, and the objects around him. He suffers from a nostalgia for which there is no remedy upon earth except as it is to be found in the enlightenment of the spirit--some ability to have a perceptive rather than an exploitive relationship with his fellow creatures.

The door to the past is a strange door. It swings open and things pass through it, but they pass in one direction only. No man can return across that threshold, though he can look down still and see the green light waver in the water weeds.

The truth is that we are all potential fossils still carrying within our bodies the crudities of former existences, the marks of a world in which living creatures flow with little more consistency than clouds from age to age.

We are one of many appearances of the thing called Life; we are not its perfect image, for it has no perfect image except Life, and life is multitudinous and emergent in the stream of time.

All else gives way before the technician and the computer specialist running his estimates as to how many deaths it takes, and in how many minutes, before the surviving fragment of a nation ? if any ? sues for peace. Nor, in the scores of books analyzing these facts, is it easy to find a word spared to indicate concern for the falling sparrow, the ruined forest, the contaminated spring ? all, in short, that still spells to man a life in nature."

For just a moment I held the universe at bay by the simple expedient of sitting on my haunches before a fox den and tumbling about with a chicken bone. It is the gravest, most meaningful act I shall ever accomplish, but, as Thoreau once remarked of some peculiar errand of his own, there is no use reporting it to the Royal Society.

I once saw, on a flower pot in my own living room, the efforts of a field mouse to build a remembered field. I have lived to see this episode repeated in a thousand guises, and since I have spent a large portion of my life in the shade of a nonexistent tree I think I am entitled to speak for the field mouse.

In the desert, an old monk had once advised a traveler, the voices of God and the Devil are scarcely distinguishable.

Life may exist in yonder dark, but it will not wear the shape of man

Mind is locked in matter like the spirit Ariel in a cloven pine. Like Ariel, men struggle to escape the drag of the matter they inhabit, yet it is the spirit that they fear.

Perhaps he knew, there in the grass by the waters, that he had before him an immense journey.

The educator can be the withholder as well as the giver of life.

The truth is, however, that there is nothing very normal about nature. Once upon a time there were no flowers at all.

We are rag dolls made out of many ages and skins, changelings who have slept in wood nests, and hissed in the uncouth guise of waddling amphibians. We have played such roles for infinitely longer ages than we have been human. Our identity is a dream. We are process, not reality.

Already he [humanity] is physically antique in this robot world he has created. All that sustains him is that small globe of grey matter through which spin his ever-changing conceptions of the universe.

For the first time in four billion years a living creature had contemplated himself and heard with a sudden, unaccountable loneliness, the whisper of the wind in the night reeds. Perhaps he knew, there in the grass by the chill waters, that he had before him an immense journey. Perhaps that same foreboding still troubles the hearts of those who walk out of a crowded room and stare with relief into the abyss of space so long as there is a star to be seen twinkling across those miles of emptiness.

I shook my head wordlessly and turned away, raising my hand in a combined gesture of despair and farewell. The last I saw was the blue vein creeping down her arm as she repeated in a voice that seemed to emanate from another dimension, "I'm old, I think I'm old." [last words with his mother]

In the fell fields where elfin timber grows above tree limits and the world is dwarfed, where every thousand year old pine is crouched behind huge boulders like a rifleman hunched to the earth, where even leaves must hide against the wind that screams on naked granite, this is where one comes to be alone; not just alone, to feel what life is like when one must cringe to live.

Life, unlike the inanimate, will take the long way round to circumvent barrenness. A kind of desperate will resides even in a root.

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American Author, Anthropologist, Educator, Philosopher and Natural Science Writer