An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

★★★★★ (5/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

The Dark Side of Fame

  • I hated it because I knew I was just doing it for money, and I hated it because they asked the staff to treat it like their whole life rather than like a day job
  • It’s just that there are a lot of people doing a lot of amazing things, so eventually you get a little jaded.
  • So here’s a really stupid thing about the world: The trick to looking cool is not caring whether you look cool. So the moment you achieve perfect coolness is simultaneously the moment that you actually, completely don’t care.
  • A person’s fame is in everyone’s head except their own.

  • This forced me to realize that, while I wanted to be fiercely myself, I also wanted someone around to see me do it.
  • Even knowing that I would go down in history as the person who made First Contact with an alien, that was somehow fleeting. Those things felt good, but they couldn’t keep feeling as good as they had felt when they first happened. And as they receded, even in the moments immediately after they happened, I felt the hole they left behind growing inside of me.
  • Dehumanization is usually a metaphor, but for a certain segment of folks, it had become reality. I was not human.
  • This is what rock stars feel like after their concerts . . . This is why they have after-parties with groupies and cocaine. You want to keep the high going, but you can’t rock forever, I guess.
  • She came to see herself not as a person but as a tool. And if that tool wasn’t being used, sharpened, refined, or strengthened at every opportunity, then she was letting the world down.

The Abyss of News & Social Media

  • It is amazing how disconcerting a single vile, manipulative person can be even if you have never and (hopefully) will never see them. The power that each of us has over complete strangers to make them feel terrible and frightened and weak is amazing.
  • It turns out pundits don’t want to talk about what’s happened; they want to use what’s happened to talk about the same things they talk about every day. Eventually, I realized that almost all of these people were talking on the news for free. And they weren’t doing it because they wanted to change the world, or because they wanted to do something interesting. They were doing it because it got their face and their name into the world.

  • Andy was into the spectacle of it. He believed in entertainment culture in a way I never have. There’s an appreciation that stretches beyond enjoying content and into worshipping all the bits that come together to make the content. I still saw it mostly as a necessary chore.
  • He was one of thousands of people who scraped by filtering reality through their ideology and then yelling really loudly at the internet.
  • We went from being a thing that everyone knew about to a thing that everyone could have an opinion on.
  • And that’s how I came to spend months of my life being exactly the thing I hated most in the world: a professional arguer, a pundit. Not because I was good at it or because I needed the money but because I was mad and scared and I didn’t know what else to do.
  • Why was it always “this country” with this guy, as if the whole world wasn’t in this one together?
  • Reasoned, caring conversations that considered the complexity of other perspectives didn’t get views. Rants did. Outrage did. Simplicity did. So, simple, outraged rants is what I gave people.

  • It’s so much easier for people to get excited about disliking something than agreeing to like it.
  • The news media is almost always in a bizarre frantic resting state. During these rests it tries to make distant and vague threats seem up close and menacing in order to give you some reason to watch their advertisements.

On Humanity

  • What is reality except for the things that people universally experience the same way? The Dream, in that sense, was very, very real.

  • For the first time ever, humanity was literally sharing a dream. It felt more like we were sharing a planet than ever before, and to me that felt like a gift given to us by the Carls.
  • “I think the Carls, maybe they didn’t pick you because of who you were but because of who you could become.”
  • Probably the Carls would just sit there forever, waiting for the Earth to get its shit together enough to do this one stupid, simple little thing.
  • I struggled to rephrase the question. “Humanity, what do you think of us?” “Beautiful,” Carl replied. We sat inside of that moment for a very long time. I thought maybe he would say more, but he didn’t.

On Art

  • If you’re wondering what the difference is, well, fine art is like art that exists for its

    Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #56

    own sake. The thing that fine art does is itself. Design is art that does something else. It’s more like visual engineering.

  • Much of the best art is about balancing between reflecting culture while simultaneously being removed from it and commenting on it. In the best case, maybe an artist gets to say something about culture that hasn’t been said and needs to be said. That’s a lofty goal, but not a bad one.

Wise Gems

  • Every black person who spends time with a lot of white people eventually ends up being asked to speak for every black person.
  • You do the things you have to do in the order you have to do them.
  • Drug addiction is a health problem, not a crime problem.
  • Knowing something is a bad idea does not always decrease the odds that you will do it.
  • Just because someone has power over you doesn’t mean they’re going to use it to hurt you. People who believe that tend to either be: People who have been victims of that sort of behavior, or . . . People who, if given power, will use it to hurt you.

  • Anticipation always negates grogginess

Beautifully Constructed Sentences

  • I say it “ran” because that’s the closest word I have to what it did, which was that it pushed itself up on the tips of all five fingers and then skittered away, clicking rapidly down the sacred marble of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, causing yelps and leaps of surprise as tourists spotted it.
  • You can basically summarize Manhattan living by the number of doors you have. If you only have one door, the one that leads into your apartment, that’s not ideal, but at least you’re not living in Jersey. Two doors, though—the front door and the bathroom door—that’s luxury!

  • It happened, it was official, the president of the United States had confirmed it, the scientists had been consulted: The Carls were aliens and we were not alone in the universe. “Goddamn,” Andy said afterward. “Goddamn,” I confirmed.
  • The cash register tray opened, revealing a bunch of money that I would not have recognized but knew from reading about it online was from Pakistan. The money, to my eyes, was useless, but a Pakistani Dreamer who Maya had found online determined that a number of letters were missing from the notes. Those missing letters spelled out the Urdu words for “floor” and “under.”
  • The weirdest thing about being in the ambulance (aside from being half naked under the blanket and having just been stabbed) was the steadiness of the siren. You hear sirens all the time, but they’re always either coming or going—getting louder or quieter, and pitch-shifted by the Doppler effect. You never just hear a siren steadily for a long time.

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