A Few Asimov Quotes for Today

Just yesterday I mentioned that, while this book is immeasurably enjoyable, I didn’t think I. Asimov was very quotable. And then today I find three quotes in one hour’s reading. Such is life. Several passages over the last few days have made me smile, laugh out loud, or relate to him, but I hadn’t found anything that really stood out strong enough to invite more of my own thoughts.

Today they came flooding in and I had to whittle them down to the few most remarkable. It may be the book, or it may be my mood and focus that has changed, but I’ll take it either way.

I generally don’t partake in the “books are better than tv or movies” argument. I believe they all have their place, their own strong points and drawbacks. It’s all a matter of taste, need, and personality anyway. I love some books, and I love the movies or series based on them. Sometimes I love the movie and hate the book. Sometimes I’m in the mood to watch. Sometimes I want quiet to read. One thing I know is that I can’t read and knit at the same time, so I’m happy tv exists.

I thought this was funny though, and typical Asimov. Filling in for a speaker at a conference in 1972, he brought this up:

“In my talk, I took up the subject of tv cassettes and pointed out how bulky and inconvenient the equipment was but insisted (quite correctly) that it would be rapidly simplified. I then speculated how far it would be simplified – made small and portable, self-contained, with no energy source, and with controls that could start and stop it or move it back and forth with little more than a mental effort, and so on. And, behold, I pointed out, this was a book.” From I. Asimov – A Memoir

Cassettes! Remember those? You can’t take those in the car, plane, or train. Camping? Probably not. But a book? Yes! One book can be hours of entertainment. Bring a classic and you’ll be reading for weeks.

Today, we have our phones with internet access, so things are different. I can have just about any visual entertainment I want at the touch of a finger, as long as I have a little power to charge it and a wifi connection. AND I could also use my e-reader to have any book I like downloaded to read even if I don’t have a connection. Pretty darn nice.

I still prefer a physical book though and typically bring the one I’m reading, along with my journal, wherever I go. If I’ll be spending the night, I’ll bring a back up book just in case!

“I keep anticipating derailments with who knows what dreadful consequences. My fears also reflect a hyperactive imagination. Dreadful consequences are forever presenting themselves to my eyes in solid and realistic three-dimensional form, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” From I. Asimov – A Memoir

When I read this, I scribbled, “yeah, me too” in the margin. This has always happened to me, and sometimes the vision is so real, I physically react to it. Just recently, I was sitting at a train crossing in the middle of the desert, my youngest son at the wheel. We were commenting on the train and the delay. We were on the last leg of a very long journey and ready to be home.

As I lazily gazed in the direction the train was going, the whole scene played out in front of me. A horrific sound from behind me, I turn my head and see the freight cars buckling and tumbling towards us. My son frantically trying to put the truck in gear and back away from the burning wreckage as it tears through the cars ahead of us.

I jerked to attention, gasping out loud. My son turns to look at me, “You ok?” I’d turned white, my heart racing. An active imagination can be a real psycho to live with.

Here’s my question though. Why does an active imagination always lean toward fear and horror? Why can’t I actively imagine the train coming to a stop directly in front of us, and a handsome game show host stepping down to award us a million dollars?

“I have indeed lectured to all my nearest and dearest on the necessity of doing what you have agreed to do with good grace and a smile. The trouble is that I am one of that common breed of human being who finds it very easy to strew noble little homilies for and wide but considerably less easy to follow those homilies himself.” From I. Asimov – A Memoir

This is why I love reading him. He feels so human that I can’t help but connect with him. He’s brilliant, imaginative, and a great man, but he knows his flaws.

I’m guilty of this very thing. It’s advice we could all take to heart. If you don’t think you can do something someone wants you to do with grace, then simply say no to the request. And, for those asking, please take that no for an answer. If you don’t, and I end up acquiescing, you’ll probably get the attitude from me.

I recently had an episode like this over my husband’s company Christmas party. Come hell or high water, we must attend every year. His employer insists on it. To be totally honest though, HE has to go every year, but in my mind that means I have to go as well. And I have gone. I say that I want to go to support him. It would be mean to make him go alone. And besides, we usually have a good time.

But every year, when the invite comes out, I spend the next several weeks grumbling about it. It’s a pain to go. I have to spend money on clothes I don’t want, leave the desert, socialize with people I don’t know.

I know that Asimov understands this complaint perfectly.

This year my husband insisted, after a rather involved argument, that I not go with him. He’d rather go alone, get it over with, and return that same night than deal with me and my bad attitude. Yeah, that hurt, but I earned it. I stayed home and I think I learned something.

Next year, I’ll do my best to be nicer about going. There are reasons I do enjoy it. It’s a night out together, we usually have a great dinner, free booze, and we spend the night in a hotel. It’s almost always scheduled for the week of my birthday, so I like to pretend it’s a party just for me…even though if were my party it would be at a place that I can wear jeans and tennis shoes. Then again…maybe next year that’s exactly what I’ll wear!

I realized this morning that Asimov died in 1992 and this book was published in 1994. I’m curious to know how it ends and I’m sure to find out in the next few days as I’m about 120 pages away. I’ll also be looking up how he died, and who published this book after his death.

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