Top 71 William S. Burroughs Quotes

There is no intensity of love or feeling that does not involve the risk of crippling hurt. It is a duty to take this risk, to love and feel without defense or reserve.


Whether you like it or not, you are committed to the human endeavor. I cannot ally myself with such a purely negative goal as avoidance of suffering. Suffering is a chance you take by the fact of being alive.


Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.


A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what’s going on.


The first and most important thing an individual can do is to become an individual again, decontrol himself, train himself as to what is going on and win back as much independent ground for himself as possible


Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.


Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.


when I become death. Death is the seed from which I grow.


Fear of death is form of stasis horrors. The dead weight of time.


I began to get a feeling (…) of being the only sane man in a nut house. It doesn’t make you feel superior but depressed and scared, because there is nobody you can contact.


You know a real friend?Someone you know will look after your cat after you are gone.


The dream is a spontaneous happening and therefore dangerous to a control system set-up by the non-dreamers


Oh be careful! There they go again!” said the old queen as his string broke spilling his balls over the floor…. “Stop them will you, James, you worthless old shit! Don’t just stand there and let the master’s balls roll into the coal-bin!


Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it ‘creative observation.’ Creative viewing.


The best way to keep something bad from happening is to see it ahead of time… and you can’t see it if you refuse to face the possibility.


Rock and Roll adolescent hoodlums storm the streets of all nations. They rush into the Louvre and throw acid in the Mona Lisa’s face.


We are the cats inside. We are the cats who cannot walk alone, and for us there is only one place.


How long does it take man to realize that he cannot want what he wants? You have to live in hell to see heaven.


The price an artist pays for doing what he wants is that he has to do it.


Panic is the sudden realization that everything around you is alive.


I began to get a feeling familiar to me from my bartending days of being the only sane man in a nuthouse. It doesn’t make you feel superior but depressed and scared, because there is nobody you can contact.


Intelligence and war are games, perhaps the only meaningful games left. If any player becomes too proficient, the game is threatened with termination.


Jesus Christ said ‘by their fruits ye shall know them,’ not by their disclaimers.


Man is an artifact designed for space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present biologic state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole.


Thinking is not enough. Nothing is. There is no final enough of wisdom, experience–any fucking thing. No Holy Grail, No Final Satori, no final solution. Just conflict.


The word has not been recognized as a virus because it has achieved a state of stable symbiosis with the host.


The study of thinking machines teaches us more about the brain than we can learn by introspective methods. Western man is externalizing himself in the form of gadgets.


But you’re an artist. You don’t believe in decency and honesty and gratitude.


Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.


home is where your ass is and if you want to move you move your ass the first step is learning to change homes with someone else and have someone else’s ass.


As one judge said to another judge: be just. And if you can’t be just, be arbitrary


There are no innocent bystanders … what are they doing there in the first place?


Cat hate reflects an ugly, stupid, loutish, bigoted spirit. There can be no compromise with this Ugly Spirit.


For the last four years of her life, Mother was in a nursing home called Chateins in St. Louis … [S]ix months before she died I sent a Mother’s Day card. There was a horrible, mushy poem in it. I remember feeling “vaguely guilty.


Poverty, hatred, war, police-criminals, bureaucracy, insanity, all symptoms of The Human Virus.


I am trying like Klee, to create something that will have a life of its own, that can put me in real danger, a danger which I willingly take on myself.


Well, as you can plainly see, the possibilities are endless like meandering paths in a great big beautiful garden.


A cat’s rage is beautiful, burning with pure cat flame, all its hair standing up and crackling blue sparks, eyes blazing and sputtering.


The cat does not offer services. The cat offers itself. Of course he wants care and shelter. You don’t buy love for nothing.


The cat does not offer services. The cat offers itself.


I prefer cats to people, for the most part. Most people aren’t cute,& if they are cute they rapidly outgrow it


Whether you sniff it smoke it eat it or shove it up your ass the result is the same: addiction.


A junkie runs on junk time. When his junk is cut off, the clock runs down and stops. All he can do is hang on and wait for non-junk time to start. A sick junkie has no escape from external time, no place to go. He can only wait.


I have learned the junk equation. Junk is not, like alcohol or weed, a means of increased enjoyment of life. Junk is not a kick. It is a way of life.


You need a good bedside manner with doctors or you will get nowhere.


When you stop growing you start dying. An addict never stops growing. – A user is a continual state of shrinking and growing in his daily cycle of shot-need for shot completed.


To my way of thinking the function of the poet is to make us aware of what we know and don’t know we know.


There is in fact something obscene and sinister about photography, a desire to imprison, to incorporate, a sexual intensity of pursuit.


Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact.


The boy looks into Mugwump eyes blank as obsidian mirrors, pools of black blood, glory holes in a toilet wall closing on the Last Erection.


Abandon all nations, the planet drifts to random insect doom.


Most of the trouble in this world has been caused by folks who can’t mind their own business, because they have no business of their own to mind, any more than a smallpox virus has.


The way to kill a man or a nation is to cut off his dreams, the way the whites are taking care of the Indians: killing their dreams, their magic, their familiar spirits.


Happiness is a byproduct of function, purpose, and conflict; those who seek happiness for itself seek victory without war.


This is a war universe. War all the time. That is its nature. There may be other universes based on all sorts of other principles, but ours seems to be based on war and games.


After one look at this planet any visitor from outer space would say ‘I want to see the manager.’


In my writing I am acting as a map maker, an explorer of psychic areas, a cosmonaut of inner space, and I see no point in exploring areas that have already been thoroughly surveyed.


The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.


Virtue is simply happiness, and happiness is a by-product of function. You are happy when you are functioning.


Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.


You must learn to exist with no religion, no country, no allies. You must learn to live alone in silence.


You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.


Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative.


No body of knowledge needs an organizational policy. Organizational policy can only impede the advancement of knowledge. There is a basic incompatibility between any organization and freedom of thought.


Most serious writers refuse to make themselves available to the things that technology is doing. I’ve never been able to understand this sort of fear.


In deep sadness there is no place for sentimentality.


The purpose of technology is not to confuse the brain but to serve the body.


Thinking is not enough. There is no final enough of wisdom, experience – any… thing.


Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact.


After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.


There couldn’t be a society of people who didn’t dream. They’d be dead in two weeks.



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