Robert Grudin


American Writer and Philosopher

Author Quotes

The goal of discoverers is not to outdistance their peers, but to transcend themselves.

We commonly conceive of time as something external to ourselves. Modern physics has established time and space as parts of the same continuum and thus by implication integrated time into the heart of all things perceived; but modern language, common sense, and humanistic inquiry lag far behind. We still speak and think in clich‚s which suggest that time is outside of us, something which ?passes,? something we can ?spend,? ?serve,? or ?kill?; something which, though admittedly a part of the natural order, runs a course of its own. While natural science has attained a temporal understanding which is not only realistic but strangely beautiful and evocative, our own more general awareness of time has changed little since the days when Galileo was hauled before the Inquisition. Our world of time is as flat and exclusive as some medieval map.

The happy individual is able to renew daily and with full consciousness all the basic expressions of human identity: work, love, communication, play, and rest.

We commonly think of freedom as the ability to define alternatives and choose between them. The creative mind exceeds this liberty in being able to redefine itself and reality at large, generating whole new sets of alternatives.

The mind which can totally and inanely forget its work and obligations is often also the mind which can, at the proper time, give them the fullest attention.

We pamper the present like a spoiled child, obeying its superficial demands but ignoring its real needs.

The reason so many promises are not kept is the same as the reason they are made in the first place.

We starve, neglect, insult, and variously abuse our memories, treating them more like filing cabinets, to store and regurgitate the minor data we need from day to day, than like living and creative elements of identity. We blink dumbly at the other powers of memory?its haunting retentiveness, its impish selectivity, its ability to barrage us with unnecessary information or to desert us completely in hours of need, its profound intercourse with the unconscious?without trying to comprehend or benefit from these functions. This uneasy relationship with a rich and voluminous intellectual resource is a sign of our distance from ourselves, and more particularly of our failure to recognize our own extensions in time. Our memories take their revenge for this lack of respect and cultivation with slowdowns, walkouts, bitter satires, and outrageous midnight rallies.

The recalling of beautiful things, whether they are your own experiences or the achievements of others, is a creative act. Simple ideas can be restated by rote; but profound ideas must be recreated by will and imagination.

We struggle with, agonize over and bluster heroically about the great questions of life when the answers to most of these lie hidden in our attitude toward the thousand minor details of each day.

The years forget our errors and forgive our sins, but they punish our inaction with living death.

What liberates the imagination is the sense that work in its theory and practice holds aesthetic possibilities, that jobs can be elegantly conceived and gracefully done. This sense of beauty unlocks feelings of pleasure and love and breaks down the barrier between worker and work and commit to work not merely the "thinking" consciousness but the full resources of mind.

Those who labor for bread or money alone are condemned to their reward.

Written truth is four-dimensional. If we consult it at the wrong time, or read it at the wrong place, it is as empty and shapeless as a dress on a hook.

Time is everywhere, yet eludes us. Time is so bound up in our universe and ourselves that it resists our efforts to isolate and define it. Time haunts our experience like some invisible spirit of things, some irretrievable truth. And when we try to manage our own time, setting new goals, cleaning and rearranging the little houses of our days, time gently mocks us?not so much because we lack wit as because time operates on a deeper psychological level than conscious effort can normally reach.

You may cure yourself of a depression by forcing yourself to perform, in rapid order and with excruciating concentration, half a dozen or so unpleasant chores, especially if they have long been postponed. This is a kind of homeopathic purgative, a treatment of like with like.

Time is one of the few basic variables of all our measurement. That is why the rise of modern science and technology depended, to a large extent, on the precise measurement of time. The other, more figurative and personal definitions of time all grow out of this.

To those of us who spend entire days, if not lifetimes, concentrating on a series of brief and insignificant things, the present has barely any meaning at all; we become tiny timorous things, caught in the inch of space between the ?in? box and the ?out? box. While we may share the common illusions about a mobile present and a free future, we spend most of our lives housecleaning the past - maintaining commitments, counterbalancing errors, living up to expectations, mopping up our own postponements. In this sense, as in others, we shuffle backward into the future, unaware of our enslavement to time or of the simple freedom of new beginnings.

True intimacy is a human constant. People of all types find it equally hard to achieve, equally precious to hold. Age, education, social status, make little difference here; even genius does not presuppose the talent to reveal one's self completely and completely absorb one's self in another personality. Intimacy is to love what concentration is to work: a simultaneous drawing together to attention and release of energy.

True teachers not only impart knowledge and method but awaken the love of learning by their own reflected love.

Truth is rhythmical: if it implies stasis, it is platitude. Truth is syncopated: if it supplies all the terms, there is one term too many. Truth is barbed: if it comforts, it lies. Truth is an armed dancer.

Two quick and easy ways of growing old are (1) to resist change obstinately and (2) to worship it abjectly... Those who remain fresh and vital, as though they floated in time, are people who understand permanence as a balance of dynamics rather than a constitution of detail, who retain the youthful mechanism of converting change into growth.

We are not great connoisseurs of the two twilights. We miss the dawning, exclusably enough, by sleeping through it, and are as much strangers to the shadowless welling-up of day as to the hesitant return of consciousness in our slowly waking selves. But our obliviousness to evening twilight is less understandable. Why do we almost daily ignore a spectacle (and I do not mean sunset but rather the hour, more or less, afterward) that has a thousand tonalities, that alters and extends reality, that offers, more beautifully than anything man-made, a visual metaphor or peace? To say that it catches us at busy or tired moments won't do; for in temperate latitudes it varies by hours from solstice to solstice. Instead I suspect that we shun twilight because if offers two things which, as insecurely rational beings, we would rather not appreciate: the vision of irrevocable cosmic change (indeed, change into darkness), and a sense of deep ambiguity?of objects seeming to be more, less, other than we think them to be. We are noontime and midnight people, and such devoted camp-followers of certainly that we cannot endure seeing it mocked and undermined by nature. There is a brief period of twilight of which I am especially fond, little more than a moment, when I see what seems to be color without light, followed by another brief period of light without color. The earlier period, like a dawn of night, calls up such sights as at all other times are hidden, wistful half-formless presences neither of day nor night, that draw up with them similar presences in the mind.

The future is like the daytime moon, a diffident but faithful companion, so elegant as to be almost invisible, an inconspicuous marvel.

We are wistful about the golden days of the past and dream of a distant future unclouded by necessity. But I suspect that if our inner souls were asked what in life they really missed, the answer would be primal danger and stress.

Author Picture
First Name
Last Name
Birth Date

American Writer and Philosopher