Butler writer famous for some pithiness

By Dennis Minich

I learned something this week. Although I have seen the signs to the “Robert A. Heinlein Boyhood Home” hundreds of times while driving through Butler, I have never taken the time to go see the house. I did not even realize the Robert A. Heinlein was the same guy who wrote one of my favorite “campy” movies, “Starship Troopers.”

As I am oft to do, when I get on a topic, I start reading related topics, which leads to more related topics, etc. Upon my perusing of Robert A. Heinlein, I came across a series of famous quotes attributed to him. A couple I had heard, although I did not know he was the source, a few I found quite insightful.

If I were to pick one axiom on which to base my life, it would be: “Never attempt to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

A pig was not his only animal topic: “Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.” “Never try to outstubborn a cat.” “Butterflies are self-propelled flowers.”

While I greatly admire Benjamin Franklin, he always bothered me with one quote: “Early to bed and early to rise help make a man healthy, wealthy and wise. Fortunately, Heinlein provided a thought I find to be a far more insightful “Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.”

Here are a few of his other thoughts: “A critic is a man who creates nothing …” “Money is truthful. If a man speaks of honor, make him pay cash.” “Belief gets in the way of learning.” “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” “No matter where or what, there are makers, takers, and fakers.”

“Learning isn’t a means to an end; it is an end in itself.” “Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done and why. Then do it.” “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” “You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity.” “A prude is a person who thinks that his own rules of propriety are natural laws.” “Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.”

Some of his insights were more in depth: “Jealousy is a disease; love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy – in fact, they are almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other.”

“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.”

His political observations could very well be written today. “A generation which ignores history has no past and no future.” “You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don’t ever count on having both at once.” “Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.” “There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men.”

He also has two phrases which pretty-well summarize my life. The first is: “Happiness consists in getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more.” The other: “Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”

And while he often seemed to be cynical in his writing, he did have a softer side: “May you live as long as you wish and love as long as you live.”

Since I have been quoting a famous Libertarian, I will use my final appeal in a personal manner rather that of passing along a government edict: please wear a mask, let’s get life back to normal.


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