The Wisdom of Ursula K. Le Guin
In celebration of the life of one of the world's greatest authors, who died recently, I re-present this updated blog item last posted in July 2016:
Ursula K. Le Guin, born in 1929, who died in 2018, published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation. She received the Hugo and Nebula Awards, National Book Award, and many others. From the treatment of gender (The Left Hand of Darkness, The Matter of Seggri), to political systems (The Telling, The Dispossessed) and ‘otherness’, her imagined societies, drawing on her knowledge of anthropology gained from growing up with her father, the famous anthropologist, Alfred Krober, she used science fiction and fantasy to highlight a range of themes and ideas. This wide range led to some fascinating insights, as seen in this selection of quotes:
'While we read a novel, we are insane—bonkers. We believe in the existence of people who aren't there, we hear their voices... Sanity returns (in most cases) when the book is closed.'
'Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.'
'Belief is the wound that knowledge heals.’
'The creative adult is the child who has survived.'
'The law of evolution is that the strongest survives!' 'Yes, and the strongest, in the existence of any social species, are those who are most social. In human terms, most ethical...There is no strength to be gained from hurting one another. Only weakness.'
'People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.'
'It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.'
'I do not care what comes after; I have seen the dragons on the wind of morning.'
'We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel... is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.'
'As you read a book word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation, just as a cellist playing a Bach suite participates, note by note, in the creation, the coming-to-be, the existence, of the music. And, as you read and re-read, the book of course participates in the creation of you, your thoughts and feelings, the size and temper of your soul.'
'We're each of us alone, to be sure. What can you do but hold your hand out in the dark?'
'Children know perfectly well that unicorns aren’t real, but they also know that books about unicorns, if they are good books, are true books.'
'Truth is a matter of the imagination.'
'Light is the left hand of darkness
and darkness the right hand of light.
Two are one, life and death, lying
together like lovers in kemmer,
like hands joined together,
like the end and the way.'
'When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.'
'Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk's flight
On the empty sky.
—The Creation of Éa'
'What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?'
'It is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul.'
'A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.'
'The book itself is a curious artifact, not showy in its technology but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn't have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, and a human mind. It is not one of a kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable. If a book told you something when you were fifteen, it will tell it to you again when you're fifty, though you may understand it so differently that it seems you're reading a whole new book.’
'But it is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them.'
'Nobody who says, "I told you so" has ever been, or will ever be, a hero.'
'The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.'
'You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.'
'My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.'