The Book of Barely Imagined Beings will be published by Chicago University Press later this month. From next week I will post new notes on the text, chapter by chapter. These will follow an earlier series posted around the time of UK publication last year.
Most real creatures that we think we know embody wonders we have hardly dreamed of. And there are other beings, equally real, which for most of human experience have been beyond imagining. As Zhuangzi wrote some 2,300 years ago, “all the creatures in this world have dimensions that cannot be calculated.”
The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. misattributed to Bertrand Russell
Since we cannot predict how ethics will develop, it is not irrational to have high hopes. Derek Parfit
We are never 'at home': we are always outside ourselves. Michel de Montaigne
We are monkeys with money and guns. Tom Waits
All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike – and yet it is the most precious thing we have.
If you look into infinity what do you see? Your backside! Tristan Tzara
Imagine a child playing in a woodland stream, poking a stick into an eddy in the flowing current, thereby disrupting it. But the eddy quickly reforms. The child disperses it again. Again it reforms, and the fascinating game goes on. There you have it! Organisms are resilient patterns in a turbulent flow.
When you're young, all evolution lies before you...If you compare yourself with the limitations that came afterwards, if you think how one form excludes other forms, of the monotonous routine where you finally feel trapped, well, I don't mind saying, life was beautiful in those days. 'Qfwfq' 75 percent to 90 percent of all living species may remain unknown to science. IIES
Human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past nor be reproduced in the future. Roger Revelle (1957)
The rate of change of ocean acidity is many times faster than anything experienced in the last 55 million years. EPOCA
One cannot reasonably compare the K/T extinction with the current human destruction of the biosphere. The first was a relatively minor setback.
When the buffalo went away, the hearts of my people fell to the ground and they could not lift them up again. After this, nothing happened.
The unfolding of intelligence and complexity still has immensely far to go here on earth and probably far beyond. Martin Rees
Our quest, as a civilisation [is] to answer the question, how do we save ourselves from ourselves without losing ourselves?
If you yourself want to become really happy...I suggest you save the albatross from extinction. It can be done.
There is just one real problem -- the problem of human relations.
Antoine de Saint Exupéry
The amazing wonder of the deep is its unfathomable cruelty.
"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
'The Walrus and the Carpenter'
We abandon our own language because we need extra words, for things we had never imagined; and because there are superfluous words in it, for things we cannot imagine any more.
'The Giant, O'Brien'
We take almost all of the decisive steps in our lives as a result of slight inner adjustments of which we are barely conscious.
Those were his first steps on a white sheet/Clutches of wriggling letters in black lead/Like tracks of worms on the Precambrian mud.
The mind does not err from the fact that it imagines.
We are as much automaton as mind. Blaise Pascal
Much that is intelligent in us is not specifically human. Alasdair MacIntyre
What knows he, this New England colt, of the black bisons of distant Oregon?Herman Melville
There is no counting the possible ways to the Millennium and the route to it. Norman Cohn
By the time human beings start the global nuclear war that will destroy our civilization, there won’t be any great apes left for Earth to become the Planet of the Apes. But chances are there will still be plenty of rhesus macaques around. Dario Maestripieri
Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. George Orwell
The astounding comes towards us, outrider of death and birth. John Berger
We are so far from denying there is any Unicorn at all, that we affirm there are many kinds thereof.
Even that old horse
is something to see
this snow-covered morning
We cannot see the visible except with the invisible.
Eckhart von Hochheim
You don't have to believe in God, but you should believe in the Book. Paul Erdős
If, as the poets say, life is a dream, I am sure in a voyage these are the visions which serve best to pass away the long night.
But only when someone starts up the spiralling stairs is the A Bao A Qu brought to consciousness, and then it sticks close to the visitor's heels, keeping to the outside of the turning steps, where they are most warn by the generations of pilgrims.
Jorge Luis Borges
The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Let Peter rejoice with the MOON FISH who keeps up the life in the waters by night. Let Andrew rejoice with the Whale, who is array'd in beauteous blue and is a combination of bulk and activity. Let James rejoice with the Skuttle-Fish, who foils his foe by the effusion of his ink. Let John rejoice with Nautilus who spreads his sail and plies his oar, and the Lord is his pilot. Let Philip rejoice with Boca, which is a fish that can speak.