The Notebooks of Lazarus Long
Text Copyright © 1973 by Robert A. Heinlein
Illustrations Copyright © 1978 by D. F. Vassallo
All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof,
may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Published simultaneously in Canada by
Longman Canada Limited, Toronto.
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Heinlein, Robert Anson, 1907-
The notebooks of Lazarus Long.
Aphorisms from Heinlein ’s Time enough for love,
hand-lettered by D. F. Vassallo.
1. Aphorisms and apothegms. I. Vassallo, D.F.,
1936- II. Title.
PS3515.E288T52 1978 813'.5'4 78-8050
Printed in the United States of America
Introduction to the Notebooks of Lazarus Long.
Of all the memorable characters created in the works of Robert A. Heinlein, Lazarus Long, the immortal, stands out beyond the rest. Lazarus first appeared in Methuselah’s Children in 1941, the central character of that novel which helped to establish the Golden Age of science fiction in Astounding magazine, and to establish Heinlein’s future history series as a pinnacle of achievement in science fiction down to the present. But Heinlein’s fans had to wait thirty years, until the publication of Time Enough for Love, for Lazarus to return to center stage.
Heinlein’s future history, the massive series of stories and novels collected in The Past Through Tomorrow and Orphans of the Sky, was not completed until the appearance of Time Enough for Love, the longest and most highly developed of all Heinlein’s novels, in which Lazarus Long, the oldest living member of the human race, lives and travels through time and space and unifies the great series.
Lazarus will never die. Humanity’s dream of immortality is embodied in this wily lovable character who is, most of all, wise. His experience, over the thousands of years of his life, his continued zest for life, his ironic appreciation of the successes and failures of human society make his observations in his notebooks, originally published as interludes in Heinlein’s huge novel of eternal life, essential reading. And the notebooks of Lazarus Long are entertaining. From the smallest details of daily life to overarching abstractions on the nature of the human condition, Lazarus’ comments are acute, lively and intelligent.
So here are The Notebooks of Lazarus Long (alias Woodrow Wilson Smith; Mr. Justice Lenox; Corporal Ted Bronson; Proscribed Prisoner No. 83M2742; His Serenity Seraphin Above; et al., ad infinitum)—oldest living member of the human race by virtue of a unique set of chromosomes, clonal and other rejuvenation techniques, and a finely tuned sense of rational self-interest —who has pioneered eight planets, survived at least one lynch mob and many wives, fought in fifteen interstellar wars, made and lost numerous fortunes, and fathered a progeny which numbers in the billions. Lazarus’ observations are illuminated for your delight by the noted calligrapher D.F. Vassallo. Read them for sheer enjoyment or to ponder their didactic message.
David G. Hartwell
Always store beer in a dark place.
By the data to date, there is only one animal in the Galaxy dangerous to man—man himself. So he must supply his own indispensable competition. He has no enemy to help him.
Men are more sentimental than women. It blurs their thinking.
Any priest or shaman must be presumed guilty until proved innocent.
Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done, and why. Then do it.
Get a shot off fast. This upsets him long enough to let you make your second shot perfect.
If it can’t be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion.
It has long been known that one horse can run faster than another—but which one? Differences are crucial.
A fake fortuneteller can be tolerated. But an authentic soothsayer should be shot on sight. Cassandra did not get half the kicking around she deserved.
Most “scientists” are bottle washers and button sorters.
If you don’t like yourself, you can’t like other people.
Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate—and quickly.
A motion to adjourn is always in order.
No state has an inherent right to survive through conscript troops and in the long run, no state ever has. Roman matrons used to say to their sons: “Come back with your shield, or on it.” Later on, this custom declined. So did Rome.
Of all the strange “crimes” that human beings have legislated out of nothing, “blasphemy” is the most amazing —with “obscenity” and “indecent exposure” fighting it out for second and third place.
Cheops’ Law: Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget.
It is better to copulate than never.
All societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children. All else is surplusage, excrescence, adornment, luxury, or folly which can—and must—be dumped in emergency to preserve this prime function. As racial survival is the only universal morality, no other basic is possible. Attempts to formulate a “perfect society” on any foundation other than “Women and children first!” is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal. Nevertheless, starry-eyed idealists (all of them male) have tried endlessly—and no doubt will keep on trying.
All men are created unequal.
Money is a powerful aphrodisiac. But flowers work almost as well.
A brute kills for pleasure. A fool kills from hate.
There is only one way to console a widow. But remember the risk.
It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a live lion. And usually easier.
One man’s theology is another man’s belly laugh.
Sex should be friendly. Otherwise stick to mechanical toys; it’s more sanitary.
Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.
Little girls, like butterflies, need no excuse.
Avoid making irrevocable decisions while tired or hungry. N.B.: Circumstances can force your hand. So think ahead!
Place your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark.
An elephant: A mouse built to government specifications.
Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or [as sometimes happens] is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as “bad luck.”
In a mature society, “civil servant” is semantically equal to “civil master.”
The second best thing about space travel is that the distances involved make war very difficult, usually impractical, and almost always unnecessary. This is probably a loss for most people, since war is our race’s most popular diversion, one which gives purpose and color to dull and stupid lives. But it is a great boon to the intelligent man who fights only when he must—never for sport.
A zygote is a gamete’s way of producing more gametes. This may be the purpose of the universe.
There are hidden contradictions in the minds of people who “love Nature” while deploring the “artificialities” with which “Man has spoiled ‘Nature.’” The obvious contradiction lies in their choice of words, which imply that Man and his artifacts are not part of “Nature”—but beavers and thei
In the case of “Naturists” such self-hatred is understandable; they are such a sorry lot. But hatred is too strong an emotion to feel toward them; pity and contempt are the most they rate.
As for me, willy-nilly I am a man, not a beaver, and H. sapiens is the only race I have or can have. Fortunately for me, I like being part of a race made up of men and women—it strikes me as a fine arrangement and perfectly “natural.”
Believe it or not, there were “Naturists” who opposed the first flight to old Earth’s Moon as being “unnatural” and a “despoiling of Nature.”
“No man is an island—” Much as we may feel and act as individuals, our race is a single organism, always growing and branching—which must be pruned regularly to be healthy. This necessity need not be argued; anyone with eyes can see that any organism which grows without limit always dies in its own poisons. The only rational question is whether pruning is best done before or after birth.
Being an incurable sentimentalist I favor the former of these methods—killing makes me queasy, even when it’s a case of “He’s dead and I’m alive and that’s the way I wanted it to be.”
But this may be a matter of taste. Some shamans think that it is better to be killed in a war, or to die in childbirth, or to starve in misery, than never to have lived at all. They may be right.
But I don’t have to like it—and I don’t.
Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How’s that again? I missed something.
Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let’s play that over again, too. Who decides?
Any government will work if authority and responsibility are equal and coordinate. This does not insure “good” government; it simply insures that it will work. But such governments are rare—most people want to run things but want no part of the blame. This used to be called the “backseat-driver syndrome.”
What are the facts? Again and again and again—what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history”—what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!
God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent—it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these divine attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills.
The truth of a proposition has nothing to do with its credibility. And vice versa.
Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as “empty,” “meaningless,” or “dishonest,” and scorn to use them. No matter how “pure” their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Masturbation is cheap, clean, convenient, and free of any possibility of wrongdoing—and you don’t have to go home in the cold. But it’s lonely.
Beware of altruism. It is based on self-deception, the root of all evil.
The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.
The second most preposterous notion is that copulation is inherently sinful.
Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of—but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.
$100 placed at 7 percent interest compounded quarterly for 200 years will increase to more than $100,000,000— by which time it will be worth nothing.
Dear, don’t bore him with trivia or burden him with your past mistakes. The happiest way to deal with a man is never to tell him anything he does not need to know.
Darling, a true lady takes off her dignity with her clothes and does her whorish best. At other times you can be as modest and dignified as your persona requires.
If men were the automatons that behaviorists claim they are, the behaviorist psychologists could not have invented the amazing nonsense called “behaviorist psychology.” So they are wrong from scratch—as clever and as wrong as phlogiston chemists.
The shamans are forever yacking about their snake-oil “miracles.” I prefer the Real McCoy—a pregnant woman.
If the universe has any purpose more important than topping a woman you love and making a baby with her hearty help, I’ve never heard of it.
Thou shalt remember the Eleventh Commandment and keep it Wholly.
A touchstone to determine the actual worth of an “intellectual”—find out how he feels about astrology.
Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed.
When the ship lifts, all bills are paid. No regrets.
The first time I was a drill instructor I was too inexperienced for the job—the things I taught those lads must have got some of them killed. War is too serious a matter to be taught by the inexperienced.
A competent and self-confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything. Jealousy is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity.
Money is the sincerest of all flattery.
Women love to be flattered.
So do men.
You live and learn. Or you don’t live long.
Peace is an extension of war by political means. Plenty of elbowroom is pleasanter—and much safer.
One man’s “magic” is another man’s engineering. “Supernatural” is a null word.
The phrase “we (I) (you) simply must—” designates something that need not be done. “That goes without saying” is a red warning. “Of course” means you had best check it yourself. These small-change clichés and others like them, when read correctly, are reliable channel markers.
Rub her feet.
If you happen to be one of the fretful minority who can do creative work, never force an idea; you’ll abort it if you do. Be patient and you’ll give birth to it when the time is ripe. Learn to wait.
Never crowd youngsters about their private affairs—sex especially. When they are growing up, they are nerve ends all over, and resent (quite properly) any invasion of their privacy. Oh, sure, they’ll make mistakes—but that’s their business, not yours. (You made your own mistakes, did you not?)
Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.
Always tell her she is beautiful, especially if she is not.
If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for…but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.
If this is too blind for your taste, consult some well-meaning fool (there is always one around) and ask his advice. Then vote the other way. This enables you to be a good citizen (if such is your wish) without spending the enormous amount of time on it that truly intelligent exercise of fra
Sovereign ingredient for a happy marriage: Pay cash or do without. Interest charges not only eat up a household budget; awareness of debt eats up domestic felicity.
Those who refuse to support and defend a state have no claim to protection by that state. Killing an anarchist or a pacifist should not be defined as “murder” in a legalistic sense. The offense against the state, if any, should be “Using deadly weapons inside city limits,” or “Creating a traffic hazard,” or “Endangering bystanders,” or other misdemeanor.
However, the state may reasonably place a closed season on these exotic asocial animals whenever they are in danger of becoming extinct.
An authentic buck pacifist has rarely been seen off Earth, and it is doubtful that any have survived the trouble there…regrettable, as they had the biggest mouths and the smallest brains of any of the primates.
The small-mouthed variety of anarchist has spread through the Galaxy at the very wave front of the Diaspora; there is no need to protect them. But they often shoot back.
Another ingredient for a happy marriage: Budget the luxuries first!
And still another—See to it that she has her own desk—then keep your hands off it!
And another—in a family argument, if it turns out you are right—apologize at once!
“God split himself into a myriad parts that he might have friends.” This may not be true, but it sounds good— and is no sillier than any other theology.
To stay young requires unceasing cultivation of the ability to unlearn old falsehoods.
Does history record any case in which the majority was right?
When the fox gnaws—smile!
A “critic” is a man who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men. There is logic in this; he is unbiased—he hates all creative people equally.
Money is truthful. If a man speaks of his honor, make him pay cash.
Never frighten a little man. He’ll kill you.
Only a sadistic scoundrel—or a fool—tells the bald truth on social occasions.
In handling a stinging insect, move very slowly.
To be “matter of fact” about the world is to blunder into fantasy—and dull fantasy at that, as the real world is strange and wonderful.