I have been thinking a lot about love, these days, my hatred of the word, my constant recurrence to it, and it occurs to me, one of insomnia’s perishable revelations, that before we love something we must make a kind of replica of it, a memory-body of glimpses and moments, which then replaces its external, rather drab existence with a constellatory internalization, oversimplified and highly portable and in the end impervious to reality’s crude strip-mining.
What distinguishes us from animals?
Being aware of being aware of being. In other words, if I not only know that I am but also know that I know it, then I belong to the human species. All the rest follows – the glory of thought, poetry, a vision of the universe. In that respect, the gap between ape and man is immeasurably greater than the one between amoeba and ape. The difference between an ape’s memory and human memory is the difference between an ampersand and the British Museum library.
Judging from your own awakening consciousness as a child, do you think that the capacity to use language, syntax, relate ideas, is something we learn from adults, as if we were computers being programmed, or do we begin to use a unique, built-in capability of our own – call it imagination?
The stupidest person in the world is an all-round genius compared to the cleverest computer. How we learn to imagine and express things is a riddle with premises impossible to express and a solution impossible to imagine.
Interview by James Mossman, BBC, 1969
Strong Opinions (1973)
Screenshots: HAL the computer and Bowman the astronaut in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Related: When Siri Met HAL
The price of being gifted is being ungifted much of the time, and just because the gift is so ravishing, so exhausting. This explains why Keats died young, why Beethoven was ill-tempered, why Dante was vindictive and full of hate.
The destruction of this planet would have no significance on a cosmic scale: to an observer in the Andromeda nebula, the sign of our extinction would be no more than a match flaring for a second in the heavens: and if that match does blaze in the darkness there will be none to mourn a race that used a power that could have lit a beacon in the stars to light its funeral pyre. The choice is ours.
Playboy interview, 1968
Screen capture from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)