Alan Lightman quotes

  • 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

    #Ambition #Suffering #World

  • 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

    #Real #Moving #Fate

  • 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.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Live Life #Butterfly #Sadness

  • 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

    #Time #Years #Law

  • 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

    #Writing #Our World #Interesting

  • 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

    #Past #Islands #People

  • In our constant search for meaning in this baffling and temporary existence, trapped as we are within our three pounds of neurons, it is sometimes hard to tell what is real. We often invent what isn't there. Or ignore what is. We try to impose order, both in our minds and in our conceptions of external reality. We try to connect. We try to find truth. We dream and we hope. And underneath all of these strivings, we are haunted by the suspicion that what we see and understand of the world is only a tiny piece of the whole.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Dream #Real #Order

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

    #World #Imagine

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

    #Roots #Fiction #Draws

  • 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

    #Spiritual #Atheist #Believe

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

    #Circles #Bending #World

  • No one knows the nature of God, or even if God exists. In a sense, all of our religions are literary works of the imagination.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Imagination #God Exists

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

    #Interesting #Target #Quantity

  • The history of science can be viewed as the recasting of phenomena that were once thought to be accidents as phenomena that can be understood in terms of fundamental causes and principles.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Fundamentals #Causes #Principles

  • 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

    #Voice #Numbers #People

  • 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

    #Law #Knowing #Long

  • 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.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Determination #Achievement #Age

  • People are content to live in contradictory worlds, so long as they know the reason for each.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Long #People #World

  • The world is moving faster and faster, but where are we going?
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Moving #World #Faster

  • Everyone shares the same fate.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Fate #Share

  • 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

    #Running #Teaching #Organization

  • 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

    #Children #Cutting #Emotional

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

  • Time is the clarity for seeing right and wrong.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Clarity

  • 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

    #Philosophy #Borders #Ethical

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

    #Discovery #Imagine #Humans

  • A life is a moment in season. A life is one snowfall. A life is one autumn day. A life is the delicate, rapid edge of a closing door's shadow. A life is a brief movement of arms and of legs.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Life #Autumn #Doors

  • So many little lives, amounting to nothing. I ask you: What is infinity multiplied by zero? It is hardly worth our discussion.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Life #Zero #Infinity

  • 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

    #Sadness #Law #Brain

  • The relationship between science and the humanities is two-way. Science changes our view of the world and our place in it. In the other direction, the humanities provide the store of ideas and images and language available to us in understanding the world. The exploding star of A.D. 1054, the Crab Nebula, was sighted and documented by the Chinese, but nowhere mentioned in the West, where the Aristotelian notion of the immortality of stars still held sway. We often do not see what we do not expect to see.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Stars #Views #Ideas

  • Order is the law of nature, the universal trend, the cosmic direction. If time is an arrow, that arrow points toward order. The future is pattern, organization, union, intensification; the past, randomness, confusion, disintegration, dissipation.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Past #Law #Organization

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

    #Book #Reading #Should

  • If you over-plot your book you strangle your characters. Your characters have to have enough freedom and life to be able to surprise you.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Book #Character #Plot

  • 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

    #Spiritual #Appreciation #Atheist

  • When the first mechanical clocks were invented, marking off time in crisp, regular intervals, it must have surprised people to discover that time flowed outside their own mental and physiological processes. Body time flows at its own variable rate, oblivious to the most precise hydrogen master clocks in the laboratory. In fact, the human body contains its own exquisite time-pieces, all with their separate rhythms. There are the alpha waves in the brain; another clock is the heart. And all the while tick the mysterious, ruthless clocks that regulate aging.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Heart #People #Brain

  • Nature is purposeless. Nature simply is. We may find nature beautiful or terrible, but those feelings are human constructions. Such utter and complete mindlessness is hard for us to accept. We feel such a strong connection to nature. But the relationship between nature and us is one-sided. There is no reciprocity. There is no mind on the other side of the wall.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Beautiful #Strong #Wall

  • 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

    #Reflection #Technology #Thinking

  • Although technology is proceeding at a dizzying pace, I believe that the human mind will always have control of itself. And since the human mind has a degree of infinity and imagination unlikely to be matched by a machine for a very, very long time, I don't think that we will become the machines of the machines.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Believe #Technology #Thinking

  • 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

    #Love Is #Thinking #Brain

  • 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

    #Writing #Thinking #Creating

  • 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

    #Journey #Thinking #Asking Questions

  • 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

    #Powerful #Father #Book

  • I am spellbound by the plays of Shakespeare. And I am spellbound by the second law of thermodynamics. The great ideas in science, like the Cro-Magnon paintings and the plays of Shakespeare, are part of our cultural heritage.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Law #Play #Ideas

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

    #Forever #Facts #Scientist

  • 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

    #Thinking #Years #Feelings

  • 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

    #Thinking #Race #Differences

  • Despite our strongly felt kinship and oneness with nature, all the evidence suggests that nature doesn't care one whit about us. Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions happen without the slightest consideration for human inhabitants.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Earthquakes #Oneness #Eruption

  • I would think that you are more fluent with the rational. It has its appeal. But the irrational permits a greater exercise of ... shall we say, power.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Exercise #Thinking #Permit

  • 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

    #Needs #Answers #Might

  • Continents of memory had been lost.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Memories #Lost #Continents

  • 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

    #Wells #Universe

  • 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.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Book #Creative #Different

  • No one ever expects poetry to sell.
    -- Alan Lightman

  • The time-deaf are unable to speak what they know. For speech needs a sequence of words, spoken in time.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Needs #Speech #Speak

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

    #Feelings #Harmony #Made

  • Unfortunately, public debates do not have much room for subtlety. The audience wants a quick thrust at your opponent, not a slow and convoluted series of moves. Whenever Obama uses subtleties in discussing a complex issue, he gets creamed.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Moving #Issues #Use

  • A good book changes for you every few years because you are in a different place in your own life. That's a sign of a good novel. Not only will two different readers get something different but so will a single reader at different points in his life.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Book #Years #Two

  • We often do not see what we do not expect to see.
    -- Alan Lightman

  • I've taken a philosophical position on e-mail. Although I think it's a wonderful communication technology, and it has a lot of good uses, it is abused quite a lot.
    -- Alan Lightman

    #Communication #Philosophical #Taken