Tag Archives: optimism

Beautiful quotes from The Last Man

The Last Man by Mary ShelleyThe Last Man by Mary Shelley, 1826

As the last of the human race suffer:

“They were sad, but not hopeless.  Each thought that someone would be saved; each, with that pertinacious optimism, which to the last characterized our human nature, trusted that their beloved family would be the one preserved.”

And later,

“We have a power given us in any worst extremity, which props the else feeble mind of man, and enables us to endure the most savage tortures with a stillness of soul which in hours of happiness we could not have imagined.  A calm, more dreadful in truth than the tempest, allayed the wild beatings of my heart — a calm like that of the gamester, the suicide, and the murderer, when the last die is on the point of being cast — while the poisoned cup is at the lips, — as the death-blow is about to be given.”

And as the last man gazes upon the countryside:

“Yes, this is the earth; there is no change — no ruin — no rent made in her verdurous expanse; she continues to wheel round and round, with alternate night and day, through the sky, though man is not her adorner or inhabitant.”

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Heinlein’s Interplanetary Patrol

Book:  Space Cadet by Robert A. Heinlein (1948)

Space Cadet by Robert A. HeinleinAfter reading a handful of Heinlein novels, I’ve come to view him as a realist when it comes to human behavior.  But his optimistic side is also quite apparent, not just with the idea that humans can make it into space and travel all over the solar system and galaxy, but also the way he organizes his future societies.

The “Interplanetary Patrol” in this book is a military organization that keeps the peace, partly with the threat of being the only organization that wields nuclear power (called atomic power by Heinlein).  But the Patrol’s ultimate goal is to protect the inhabitants of the solar system (humans have colonized planets and aliens inhabit some of them also), and they take their jobs seriously.  This is the oath they take:

“Of my own free will, without reservation –

I swear to uphold the peace of the solar system –

to protect the lawful liberties of its inhabitants –

to defend the constitution of the Solar Federation –

to carry out the duties of the position to which I am now appointed –

and to obey the lawful orders of my superior officers.

To these ends I subordinate all other loyalties and renounce utterly any that may conflict with them.”

Heinlein also describes how people who go into the “Patrol” have a higher purpose than marines or money-seeking individuals.  Marines value loyalty and obedience, while the Patrol goes to great lengths to keep the peace, using negotiation over brute force and not sending troops until all else has been exhausted.

It’s nice to think that humans would not immediately send troops into a skirmish on Venus, that they would have rules to reign in their own violent tendencies, but it’s hard to fathom in light of all the violence in the world today.  I’m all for Heinlein’s optimism though.  Great fun read for young adults as well as for those who are not so young like me.  🙂