Tom Robbins Quotations
When the mystery of the connection goes, love goes. It’s that simple. This suggests that it isn’t love that is so important to us but the mystery itself. The love connection may be merely a device to put us in contact with the mystery, and we long for love to last so that the ecstasy of being near the mystery will last. It is contrary to the nature of mystery to stand still. Yet it’s always there, somewhere, a world on the other side of the mirror (or the Camel pack), a promise in the next pair of eyes that smile at us. We glimpse it when we stand still.
The romance of new love, the romance of solitude, the romance of objecthood, the romance of ancient pyramids and distant stars are means of making contact with the mystery. When it comes to perpetuating it, however, I got no advice. But I can and will remind you of two of the most important facts I know:
My personal motto has always been: Joy in spite of everything. Not just [mindless] joy, but joy in spite of everything. Recognizing the inequities and the suffering and the corruption and all that but refusing to let it rain on my parade. And I advocate this to other people.
The price of self-destiny is never cheap, and in certain situations it is unthinkable.But to achieve the marvelous, it is precisely the unthinkable that must be thought.
“Neoteny”is “remaining young”, and it may be ironic that it is so little known, because human evolution has been dominated by it. Humans have evolved to their relatively high state by retaining the immature characteristics of their ancestors. Humans are the most advanced of mammals – although a case could be made for the dolphins – because they seldom grow up. Behavioral traits such as curiosity about the world, flexibility of response, and playfulness are common to practically all young mammals but are usually rapidly lost with the onset of maturity in all but humans. Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.
Society had a crime problem. It hired cops to attack crime. Now society has a cop problem.
If it is committed in the name of God or
You don’t have to be a genius to recognize one. If you did, Einstein would never have gotten invited to the White House.
Religion is not merely the opium of the masses, it’s the cyanide.
Young girls are the biological equivalent of “new car smell.”
To be or not to be isn’t the question.
What I try to do, among other things, is to mix fantasy and spirituality, sexuality, humor and poetry in combinations that have never quite been seen before in literature. And I guess when a reader finishes one of my books — provided the reader does finish the book — I would like for him or her to be in the state that they would be in after a Fellini film or a Grateful Dead concert. Which is to say that they’ve encountered the life force in a large, irrepressible and unpredictable way and as a result their sense of wonder has been awakened and all of their possibilities have been expanded.
The bottom line is that (a) people are never perfect, but love can be, (b) that is the one and only way that the mediocre and vile can be transformed, and (c) doing that makes it that. We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love.
Any half-awake materialist well knows – that which you hold holds you.
Just because you’ve got the cutest ass west of Chicago and north of L.A.
doesn’t mean you have to go around with your head up it. Leaves no room for me.
“Listen, Larry,” you say, doing your best to coat
your singsong with a with a husky phlegm, “it just isn’t going to work out
with you and me.”
“Work out?” He seems genuinely puzzled.
“Yes, you know, isn’t going to lead anywhere.”
“Oh, you’d be surprised where it might lead.”
“I bet I would. But it isn’t I mean, as a relationship, it
has zero future.”
“Future? Oh, I get it. You mean you don’t foresee a pot of
gold at the end of our juicy rainbow. You mean that our intimacy isn’t likely to
yield a dividend You disappoint me, Gwendolyn. I hoped you might have a watt or
two more light in your bulb than those poor toads who look on romance as an
investment, like waterfront property or municipal bonds Would you complain
because a beautiful sunset doesn’t have a future or a shooting star a payoff?
And why should romance ‘lead anywhere? Passion isn’t a path through the woods.
Passion is the woods. It’s the deepest wildest part of the forest; the grove
where the fairies still dance and obscene old vipers snooze in the boughs.
Everybody but the most dried up and dysfunctional is drawn to the grove and
enchanted by its mysteries, but then they just can’t wait to call in the chain
saws and bulldozers and replace it with a family-style restaurant or a new S and
L. That’s the payoff, I guess. Safety. Security. Certainty. Yes, indeed. Well,
remember this, pussy latte: we’re not involved in a ‘relationship’, you and I,
we’re involved in a collision. Collisions don’t much lend themselves to secure
futures, but the act of colliding is hard to beat for interest. Correct me if
My life’s hectic enough right now. I’m not sure I could even
handle a normal relationship, but certainly the last thing in the world I need
is some kind of ‘collision.
“Au contraire. A collision is exactly what you do need, because
collisions are transformative. A relationship can occasionally fulfill a person,
but only a collision can transform them. It’s the same for cultures as it is for
individuals. Shall I cite historical examples?”
“What makes you think, Mr. Arrogant, that I need to be
“Because that’s what we’re here for. It’s obvious. Or do
you think we’re here to service our debt?”
“I’m a growing person. I’ve grown a lot. How would you
know whether I’ve grown or not?”
“I’m not talking about growth. Little tadpoles don’t just
grow into big tadpoles and call themselves frogs, the way little children grow
into big children and call themselves adults. Tadpoles are transformed into
something entirely other.”
We, with our propensity for murder, torture, slavery, rape,
cannibalism, pillage, advertising jingles, shag carpets, and golf, how could we
seriously be considered as the perfection of a four-billion-year-old grandiose
“There’s no such thing as security in this life,
sweetheart; and the sooner you accept that fact, the better off you’ll be. The
person who strives for security will never be free. The person who believes that
she’s found security will never reach paradise. What she mistakes for security
is purgatory. You know what purgatory is, Gwendolyn? It’s the waiting room, it’s
the lobby. Not only does she have the wrong libretto, she’s stuck in the lobby
where she can’t see the show.”
You should never hesitate to trade your cow for a handful of
Another Roadside Attraction
The scientist keeps the romantic honest, and the romantic keeps
the scientist human.
“There are three mental states that interest me”,
said Amanda, turning to the lizard doorknob. They are: one, amnesia; two
euphoria; three ecstasy.”
She reached into the cabinet and removed a small green bottle
of water-lily pollen. “Amnesia is not knowing who one is and wanting
desperately to find out. Euphoria is not knowing who one is and not caring.
Ecstasy is knowing exactly who one is – and still not caring.”
Real courage is risking something that you have to keep on
living with, real courage is risking something that might force you to rethink
your thoughts and suffer change and stretch consciousness. Real courage is
risking one’s cliches.”
Logic only gives a man what he needs. Magic gives a man what he
Nature isn’t stable. Life isn’t stable. Stability is unnatural.
The only stable society is the police state. You can have a free society or a
stable society. You can’t have both. Take your choice.
It is content, or rather the consciousness of content, that
fills the void. But the mere presence of content is not enough. It is style that
gives content the capacity to absorb us, to move us; it is style that makes us
Somewhere in the archives of crudest instinct is recorded the
truth that it is better to be endangered and free than captive and comfortable.
The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish,
admittedly, is the more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the
fire of discontent not passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs
through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.
The aroma of flowers, from which we have borrowed our perfumes,
while extremely powerful, has been from the beginning entirely seductive in its
intentions. A rose is a rose is a rogue. Perfume, fundamentally, is the sexual
attractant of flowers, or, in the case of civet and musk, of animals. Squeezed
from the reproductive glands of plants and creatures, perfume is the smell of
creation, a sign dramatically delivered to our senses of the Earth’s
regenerative powers–a message of hope and a message of pleasure.
Birth and death were easy. It was life that was hard.
I journey to the east, where I have been told, there are men
who have taught death some manners.
You don’t have to be a genius to recognize one. If you did,
Einstein would never have gotten invited to the White House.
Louisiana in September was like an obscene phone call from
nature. The air – moist, sultry, secretive, and far from fresh – felt as if it
were being exhaled into one’s face. Sometimes it even sounded like heavy
She needed help, but God was in a meeting whenever she rang.
The Middle Ages hangs over history’s belt like a beer belly. It
is too late now for aerobic dancing or cottage cheese lunches to reduce the
Middle Ages. History will have to wear size 48 shorts forever.
My lunar sign is in Virgo. Every month when the moon is full,
I’m driven to balance my checkbook and straighten up my apartment. I can’t help
myself. Instead of a werewolf I turn into an accountant.
If you insist on leaving your fate to the gods, then the gods
will repay your weakness by having a grin or two at your expense. Should you
fail to pilot your own ship, don’t be surprised at what inappropriate port you
will find yourself docked.
Zippers are primal and modern at the very same time. On the one
hand, your zipper is primitive and reptilian, on the other, mechanical and
slick. A zipper is where the Industrial Revolution meets the Cobra Cult.
A sense of humor, properly developed, is superior to any
religion so far devised.
A lot of progress was being made there at MIT. Those guys had
molecules jumping through hoops like poodles in a circus.
The price of self-destiny is never cheap, and in certain
situations it is unthinkable. But to achieve the marvelous, it is precisely the
unthinkable that must be thought.
The highest function of love is that it makes the loved one a
unique and irreplaceable being. Still, lovers quarrel. Frequently, they quarrel
simply to recharge the air between them, to sharpen the aliveness of their
relationship. To precipitate such a quarrel, the sweaty kimono of sexual
jealousy is usually dragged out of the hamper, although almost any excuse will
do. Only rarely is the spat rooted in the beet-deep soil of serious issue, but
when it is, a special sadness attends it, for the mind is slower to heal than
the heart, and such quarrels can doom a union, even one that has prospered for a
very long time.
Politics is for people who have a passion for changing life but
lack a passion for living it.
Reality is subjective, and there’s an unenlightened tendency in
this culture to regard something as ‘important’ only if it’s sober and severe.
Your Cheerful Dumb are not so much happy as lobotomized. But your Gloomy Smart
are just as ridiculous. When you’re unhappy, you get to pay a lot of attention
to yourself. And you get to take yourself oh so very seriously. Your truly happy
people, which is to say, your people who truly LIKE themselves, they don’t think
about themselves very much. Your unhappy person resents it when you try to cheer
him up, because that means he has to stop dwelling on himself and start paying
attention to the universe. Unhappiness is the ultimate form of self-indulgence.
Skinny Legs And All
To emphasize the afterlife is to deny life. To concentrate on
Heaven is to create hell. In their desperate longing to transcend the
disorderliness, friction, and unpredictability that pesters life; in their
desire for a fresh start in a tidy habitat, germ-free and secured by angels,
religious multitudes are gambling the only life they may ever have on a dark
horse in a race that has no finish line.
If the world got any smaller, we’d all have to go on a diet.
What is politics, after all, but the compulsion to preside over
property and make other peoples’ decisions for them? Liberty, the very opposite
of ownership and control, cannot, then, result from political action, either at
the polls or the barricades, but rather evolves out of attitude. If it results
from anything, it may be levity.
When a person accepts a broader definition of reality, a
broader net is cast upon the waters of fortune.
Mockingbirds are the true artists of the bird kingdom. Which is
to say, although they’re born with a song of their own, an innate riff that
happens to be one of the most versatile of all ornithological expressions,
mockingbirds aren’t content to merely play the hand that is dealt them. Like all
artists, they are out to rearrange reality.
The inability to correctly perceive reality is often
responsible for humans’ insane behavior. And every time they substitute an
all-purpose, sloppy slang word for the words that would accurately describe an
emotion or a situation, it lowers their reality orientations, pushes them
further from shore, out onto the foggy waters of alienation and confusion.
Of the seven dwarves, only Dopey had a shaven face. This should
tell us something about the custom of shaving.
It occurred to her that despite the failure of her marriage,
the failure of her career, despite her hangover and chronic horniness, she
suddenly was feeling rather light and giddy. She couldn’t understand it. Was she
simply too shallow to suffer indefinitely, or was she too wise to become
attached to her suffering, too feisty to permit it to rule her life? She voted
for wise and feisty, and walked on, kicking leaves.
This is the room of the wolfmother wallpaper. This is the room
where the boys slept inside their blowguns to avoid being bitten by the bats,
for whom the girls sewed tiny velvet suits.
This is the room where Jezebel frescoed her eyelids with
history’s tragic glitter, where Delilah practiced for her beautician’s license,
the room in which Salome dropped the seventh veil while dancing the dance of
ultimate cognition, skinny legs and all.
People tend the take everything too seriously. Especially
themselves. Yep. And that’s probably what makes ’em scared and hurt so much of
the time. Life is too serious to take that seriously.
Jerusalem is not caught between a rock and a hard place.
Jerusalem is a rock and a hard place
During periods of so-called economic depression, societies
suffer for want of all manner of essential goods, yet investigation almost
invariably discloses that there are plenty of goods available. Plenty of coal in
the ground, corn in the fields, wool on the sheep. What is missing is not
materials but an abstract unit of measurement called ‘money.’ It is akin to a
starving woman with a sweet tooth lamenting that she can’t bake a cake because
she doesn’t have any ounces. She has butter, flour, eggs, milk, and sugar, she
just doesn’t have any ounces, any pinches, any pints.
Religion is a paramount contributor to human misery. It is not
merely the opium of the masses, it is the cyanide.
Anybody who maintains absolute standards of good and evil is
dangerous. As dangerous as a maniac with a loaded revolver. In fact, the person
who maintains absolute standards of good and evil usually is the maniac with the
In their desperate longing to transcend the disorderliness,
friction, and unpredictability that pesters life, in their desire for a fresh
start in a tidy habitat, germ-free and secured by angels, religious multitudes
are gambling the only life they may ever have on a dark horse in a race that has
no finish line. Theirs is a death wish on a very grand scale…
If there were something else I’d rather be doing, I’d damn well
be doing it.
A world leader who’s convinced that life is merely a trial for
the more valuable and authentic afterlife is less hesitant to risk starting a
nuclear holocaust. A politician or corporate executive who’s expecting the
Rapture to arrive on the next flight from Jerusalem is not going to worry much
about polluting oceans or destroying forests. Why should he? Thus to emphasize
the afterlife is to deny life. To concentrate on heaven is to create hell.
…the male had gone to ludicrous and often violent lengths to
compensate for what struck the more insecure of men as an inferior sexual role.
One of the lengths to which they went was the establishment of patriarchal
religion and the recasting of a father figure as the producer of the show,
although from the very beginning, the cosmogonic principal had been feminine.
Those men, envious and anxious, not only fired the Great Goddess (who smiled
upon all manner of sexual expression, including that which moderns were to label
“promiscuous” and “pornographic”), but the also spent
thousands of years and billions of dollars trying to conceal the fact of her
Religion was an attempt to pin down the Divine. The Divine was
eternally in flux, forever moving, shifting shape. That was its nature. It was
absolute, true enough: absolutely mobile. Absolutely transcendent. Absolutely
flexible. Absolutely impersonal. It had its god and goddess aspects, but it was
ultimately no more male or female that it was star or screwdriver. It was the
sum of all those things, but that sum could never be chalked on a slate. The
Divine was beyond description, beyond knowing, beyond comprehension. To say that
the Divine was Creation divided by Destruction was as close as one could come to
definition. But the puny of soul, the dull of wit, weren’t content with that.
They wanted to hang a face on the Divine. They went so far as to attribute petty
human emotions (anger, jealousy, etc.) to it, not stopping to realize that if
God were a being, even a supreme being, our prayers would have bored him to
death long ago.
The Divine was expansive, but religion was reductive. Religion
attempted to reduce the Divine to a knowable quantity with which mortals might
efficiently deal, to pigeonhole it once and for all so that we never had to
reevaluate it. With hammers of cant and spikes of dogma, we crucified and
crucified again, trying to nail to our stationary altars the migratory light of
Thus, since religion bore false witness to the Divine, religion
was blasphemy. And once it entered into its unholy alliance with politics, it
became the most dangerous and repressive force that the world has ever known.
If one yearns to see the face of the Divine, one must break out
of the aquarium, escape the fish farm, to go swim up wild cataracts, dive in
deep fjords. One must explore the labyrinth of the reef, the shadows of the lily
pads. How limiting, how insulting to think of God as a benevolent warden, an
absentee hatchery manager who imprisons us in the ‘comfort’ of artificial pools,
where intermediaries sprinkle our restrictive waters with sanitized flakes of
Religion is nothing but institutionalized mysticism. The catch
is, mysticism does not lend itself to institutionalization. The moment we
attempt to organize mysticism, we destroy its essence. Religion, then, is
mysticism in which the mystical has been killed. Or, at least diminished.
Is it not finer, however, to sizzle whole in the flame of
freedom than to slowly stew to pieces in one’s own diminishing juices,
constrained and constricted before the veil?
The ones who’re so upset about everybody not being the same,
about competition, about standards of quality, about art objects having ‘auras’
around them, they’re usually people with average abilities and average minds.
And below average senses of humor. Whether it’s a matter of lifting the deprived
up or dragging the gifted down, they want everybody to function on their level.
Some fun that would be.
The trick is this: keep your eye on the ball. Even when you
can’t see the ball.
If there’s a thing, a scene, maybe, an image that you want to
see real bad, that you need to see but it doesn’t exist in the world around you,
at least not in the form you envision, then you create it so you can look at it
and have it around, or show it to other people who wouldn’t have imagined it
because they perceive reality in a more shallow, predictable way. And that’s it.
That’s all an artist does
They don’t get it. Can’t they comprehend that not everything is
done for a paycheck? That sometimes you just make a thing ’cause you wanna see
how it’ll turn out, ’cause you have a feeling it oughta be made?
Don’t trust anybody who’d rather be grammatically correct than
have a good time.
On the staircase of the haunted house of life, art is the one
board that doesn’t creak.
Even Cowgirls Get The Blues
I believe in nothing, everything is sacred. I believe in
everything, nothing is sacred.
One has not only an ability to perceive the world, but an
ability to alter one’s perception of it; more simply, one can change things by
the manner in which one looks at them.
“I wasn’t really shot with a silver bullet,” she
confessed to no one in particular.
“Or was I?”
She smiled the deliciously secretive smile of one who
instinctively recognizes the reality of myth.
If civilization is ever going to be anything but a grandiose
pratfall, anything more than a can of deodorizer in the sh*thouse of existence,
the people are going to have to concern themselves with magic and poetry.
Purpose! Purposes are for animals with a hell of a lot more
dignity than the human race! Just hop on that strange torpedo and ride it to
wherever it’s going
The author isn’t altogether certain that there is any such
thing as exaggeration. Our brains permit us to use such a wee fraction of their
resources that, in a sense, everything we experience is a reduction. We employ
drugs, yoga techniques and poetics – and a thousand more clumsy methods – in an
effort just to bring things back up to normal.
Perhaps a person gains by accumulating obstacles. The more
obstacles set up to prevent happiness from appearing, the greater the shock when
it does appear, just as the rebound of a spring will be all the more powerful
the greater the pressure that has been exerted to compress it. Care must be
taken, however, to select large obstacles, for only those of sufficient scope
and scale have the capacity to lift us out of context and force life to appear
in an entirely new and unexpected light.
For example, should you litter the floor and tabletops of your
room with small objects, they constitute little more than a nuisance, an
inconvenient clutter that frustrates you and leaves you irritable; the petty is
mean. Cursing, you step around the objects, pick them up, knock them aside.
Should you, on the other hand, encounter in your room a nine
thousand pound granite boulder, the surprise it evokes, the extreme steps that
must be taken to deal with it, compel you to see with new eyes. Difficulties
illuminate existence, but they must be fresh and of high quality.
“You have taught us much. Come with us and join the
“This movement of yours, does it have slogans?”
inquired the Chink.
“Right on!” they cried. And they quoted him some.
“Your movement, does it have a flag?” asked the
“You bet!” and they described their emblem.
“And does your movement have leaders?”
“Then shove it up your butts,” said the Chink.
“I have taught you nothing.”
“So you think that you’re a failure, do you? Well, you
probably are. What’s wrong with that? In the first place, if you’ve any sense at
all you must have learned by now that we pay just as dearly for our triumphs as
we do for our defeats. Go ahead and fail. But fail with wit, fail with grace,
fail with style. A mediocre failure is as insufferable as a mediocre success.
Embrace failure! Seek it out. Learn to love it. That may be the only way any of
us will ever be free.”
Kissing is the supreme achievement of the Western world.
If you take any activity, any art, any discipline, any skill,
take it and push it as far as it will go, push it beyond where it has ever been
before, push it to the wildest edge of edges, then you force it into the realm
Poetry is nothing more than an intensification or illumination
of common objects and every day events until they shine with their singular
nature, until we can experience their power, until we can follow their steps in
the dance, until we can discern what part they play in the Great Order of Love.
How is this done? By f*cking around with syntax.
As a child, I was an imaginary playmate.