Why Call Them Back From Heaven? by Clifford D. Simak

★★★☆☆ (3/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

Aphorisms

  • It had solitude, all right, but it had little else.
  • Memories don’t run that long or bitter.
  • There is no way of winning. But our conscience tells us that we must bear witness.

“You take faith,” Frost said, “and make a virtue of it. A virtue of not knowing…”

  • Hell, that’s all we’re doing—filling up the hours.
  • Man had fled from this land and now it should be left alone, it should be allowed to rest from man’s long tenancy.
  • There was never more than one way and now it doesn’t work.

Humanity & the Self

  • Standing there, he wrestled with his conscience and tried to look into his soul and into the immutable mystery of that area which stretched beyond his soul, and which still remained illusive of any understanding. And there was still no insight and there was no answer, as there had never been an answer.
  • And I further contend that in any mechanical contrivance there is one lacking quality essential to all justice—the sense of mercy and of human worth.
  • The newsmen sat in the front row seats, watching for the slightest flicker of emotion, for the tiny gesture of significance, for the slightest crumb upon which to build a story.
  • And he knew it was this woman sitting in the room who gave it warmth and light, but a dying warmth and light, like the warmth and light given off by a dying fire. In time, when she had left, once the memory had worn thin, the room again would become cold and dingy, as it had been before.
  • It was too nice a night, he told himself, to go back into his room. But even as he told it to himself, he knew that it was not the beauty of the night, for here, in this ramshackle neighborhood, there was nothing that held any claim to beauty. It was not, he knew, the attractiveness of the night that had turned him back, but a strange reluctance to go back into the room. Wait a while, perhaps, and its emptiness might wear off a little, or his memory might become slightly dulled so that he could accept the emptiness the better.
  • He had fled from people. He had turned his back on life. He had come to this place where he’d be safe from both life and people. But the world intrudes even so, he thought, in the form of a man paddling a canoe up and down the river

Once you’ve touched reality, once you’ve felt the reality of the naked land, once you’ve lived with dawn and sunset…

  • And lost causes. She was a sucker for lost causes, an inevitable and unremitting champion of misfortune. And what had it gotten her?
  • And that is right, he thought. We are we? A mere dot of consciousness that stood up in arrogance against the vastness and the coldness and the emptiness and the uncaring of the universe? A thing (a thing?) that thought it mattered when it did not matter? A tiny, flickering ego that imagined the universe revolved around it—imagined this when the universe did not know that it existed, nor cared that it existed?
  • She had fled, not to protect herself, but to protect the world. She walked the lonely road because she could not bear to let mankind know it had been wrong for almost two centuries.
  • Cautiously, he straightened up and fear touched one corner of his brain, whispering a suspicion of what had caused the pain.
  • There was no sign that he was aware of her and her heart welled up with pity at the sight of him, for there was about him a lostness and an emptiness that robbed existence of all meaning.

Faith & Science

  • There were times, on stormy mornings, when the view was cut off by the clouds that swirled about its top, but on a clear morning such as this the great slab of masonry went up and up until its topmost stories were lost in the blue haze of the sky. A man grew dizzy looking at it and the mind reeled at the thought of what the hand of man had raised.
  • Hurry and huddle—hurry so that one could gather all the assets he could manage, then huddle in his idle time so that he would not spend a single penny of those assets.

Could he seek for a spiritual eternity while he still clung to the promise of a physical eternity?

  • With cars powered by longlife storage batteries, there was no longer any need of service stations.
  • We either colonize other planets or we build satellite cities out in space or we turn the earth into one huge apartment house—or we may have to do all these things. Time was the easy way, of course. That’s why Forever Center was so interested…
  • They dug into the fact and the purpose of the universe and to do this they developed mathematics that they used not only to support their logic but as logic tools.

And that kind of thinking, he told himself, could have been justified at one time. But not any longer. Not if what Mona Campbell said was true. For if what she said was true, then each little flickering ego was a basic part of the universe and a fundamental expression of the purpose of the universe.

  • Would there be no end to it? he asked himself. Would there ever be an end? Was there no limit to the debasement that a man must heap upon himself?

And in that awful moment he knew that he had lost, that he was wanting in that essential capacity for humility that would unlock the gates of understanding he had sought so earnestly and, now it seemed apparent, priced at a cost too high—a cost that his basic brute humanity would never let him pay.

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