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100 Great Ken Kesey Quotes That Help You Develop A Different Perspective

Famous As: Novelist & Essayist Known for His Novels: ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest’ & ‘Sometimes a Great Notion’
Born On: September 17, 1935
Died On: November 10, 2001
Born In: La Junta, Colorado, United States
Died At Age: 66

Novelist Kenneth Elton Kesey, fondly remembered as 'Ken' was an important link between 1950's Beat Generation and 1960's Hippie Culture. The world remembers him as a counter-cultural icon, novelist and essayist that ushered the American society into an era of psychedelic drugs. He compiled his personal experiences in his first novel 'One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest'. It was followed by more incredible works like 'Genesis West', 'Sometimes a Great Nation' and 'Demon Box' that captured his beautiful transformation from a revolutionary novelist to the founder of hippie generation. His book 'Cuckoo' was an account of abuses inflicted by the system on individuals. It was later enacted as a movie directed by Milos Forman. Though Kesey was not pleased with the idea, apparently the audience liked it. The movie became a hit in America, subsequently winning five Academy Awards. Kesey bonded with like-minded individuals to form "Merry Prankster", a group that helped promote liberal ideas. The group set out on a wild adventure, conducting Acid tests and treating unsuspecting viewers with The Warlock band's performances. He was put in jail for illegal possession of drugs. Following this, he spent a quite family life as an author and teacher until his death. We have collected his most famous quotes and thoughts from his most famous 'One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest' and other writings. Presenting a collection of some great Ken Kesey quotes about love, life, failure, success, humor, truth, and much more.

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Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.

Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.

Ken Kesey
All I know is this: nobody's very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down.

All I know is this: nobody's very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down.

Ken Kesey
But it's the truth even if it didn't happen.

But it's the truth even if it didn't happen.

Ken Kesey
You can't really be strong until you can see a funny side to things.

You can't really be strong until you can see a funny side to things.

Ken Kesey
He knows that you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy.

He knows that you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy.

Ken Kesey
If you don't watch it people will force you one way or the other, into doing what they think you should do, or into just being mule-stubborn and doing the opposite out of spite.

If you don't watch it people will force you one way or the other, into doing what they think you should do, or into just being mule-stubborn and doing the opposite out of spite.

Ken Kesey
To hell with facts! We need stories!

To hell with facts! We need stories!

Ken Kesey
That ain't me, that ain't my face. It wasn't even me when I was trying to be that face. I wasn't even really me them; I was just being the way I looked, the way people wanted.

That ain't me, that ain't my face. It wasn't even me when I was trying to be that face. I wasn't even really me them; I was just being the way I looked, the way people wanted.

Ken Kesey
What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or somethin'? Well you're not! You're not! You're no crazier than the average asshole out walkin' around on the streets and that's it.

What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or somethin'? Well you're not! You're not! You're no crazier than the average asshole out walkin' around on the streets and that's it.

Ken Kesey
The stars up close to the moon were pale; they got brighter and braver the farther they got out of the circle of light ruled by the giant moon

The stars up close to the moon were pale; they got brighter and braver the farther they got out of the circle of light ruled by the giant moon

Ken Kesey
They can't tell so much about you if you got your eyes closed.

They can't tell so much about you if you got your eyes closed.

Ken Kesey
Plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom.

Plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom.

Ken Kesey
Rules? PISS ON YOUR FUCKING RULES!

Rules? PISS ON YOUR FUCKING RULES!

Ken Kesey
He Who Marches Out Of Step Hears Another Drum

He Who Marches Out Of Step Hears Another Drum

Ken Kesey
No, my friend. We are lunatics from the hospital up the highway, psycho-ceramics, the cracked pots of mankind. Would you like me to decipher a Rorschach for you?

No, my friend. We are lunatics from the hospital up the highway, psycho-ceramics, the cracked pots of mankind. Would you like me to decipher a Rorschach for you?

Ken Kesey
Good writin' ain't necessarily good readin'.

Good writin' ain't necessarily good readin'.

Ken Kesey
What makes people so impatient is what I can't figure; all the guy had to do was wait.

What makes people so impatient is what I can't figure; all the guy had to do was wait.

Ken Kesey
People think love is an emotion. Love is good sense.

People think love is an emotion. Love is good sense.

Ken Kesey
You had a choice: you could either strain and look at things that appeared in front of you in the fog, painful as it might be, or you could relax and lose yourself

You had a choice: you could either strain and look at things that appeared in front of you in the fog, painful as it might be, or you could relax and lose yourself

Ken Kesey
But he won’t let the pain blot out the humor no more’n he’ll let the humor blot out the pain.

But he won’t let the pain blot out the humor no more’n he’ll let the humor blot out the pain.

Ken Kesey
I don't think you fully understand the public, my friend; in this country, when something is out of order, then the quickest way to get it fixed is the best way.

I don't think you fully understand the public, my friend; in this country, when something is out of order, then the quickest way to get it fixed is the best way.

Ken Kesey
I listened to them fade away till all I could hear was my memory of the sound.

I listened to them fade away till all I could hear was my memory of the sound.

Ken Kesey
He's the sort of guy that gets a laugh out of people.

He's the sort of guy that gets a laugh out of people.

Ken Kesey
He who walks out of step hears another drum.

He who walks out of step hears another drum.

Ken Kesey
He knows that there's no better way in the world to aggravate somebody who's trying to make it hard for you than by acting like you're not bothered.

He knows that there's no better way in the world to aggravate somebody who's trying to make it hard for you than by acting like you're not bothered.

Ken Kesey
To Vik Lovell who told me dragons did not exist, then led me to their lairs ...

To Vik Lovell who told me dragons did not exist, then led me to their lairs ...

Ken Kesey
We can count how many seeds are in the apple, but not how many apples are in the seed.

We can count how many seeds are in the apple, but not how many apples are in the seed.

Ken Kesey
He knew you can't really be strong until you can see a funny side of things.

He knew you can't really be strong until you can see a funny side of things.

Ken Kesey
The secret of being a top-notch con man is being able to know what the mark wants, and how to make him think he's getting it.

The secret of being a top-notch con man is being able to know what the mark wants, and how to make him think he's getting it.

Ken Kesey
People don't want other people to get high, because if you get high, you might see the falsity of the fabric of the society we live in.

People don't want other people to get high, because if you get high, you might see the falsity of the fabric of the society we live in.

Ken Kesey
Of offering more than what I can deliver, 
I have a bad habit, it is true. 
But I have to offer more than I can deliver,
To be able to deliver what I do.

Of offering more than what I can deliver, I have a bad habit, it is true. But I have to offer more than I can deliver, To be able to deliver what I do.

Ken Kesey
I had to keep on acting deaf if i wanted to hear at all.

I had to keep on acting deaf if i wanted to hear at all.

Ken Kesey
You've got to get out 
and pray to the sky 
to appreciate the sunshine; 

otherwise 
you're just a lizard 
standing there 
with the sun shining on you.

You've got to get out and pray to the sky to appreciate the sunshine; otherwise you're just a lizard standing there with the sun shining on you.

Ken Kesey
Like a cartoon world, where the figures are flat and outlined in black, jerking through some kind of goofy story that might be real funny if it weren't for the cartoon figures being real guys...

Like a cartoon world, where the figures are flat and outlined in black, jerking through some kind of goofy story that might be real funny if it weren't for the cartoon figures being real guys...

Ken Kesey
But I tried though,

But I tried though," he says. "Goddammit, I sure as hell did that much, now, didn't I?

Ken Kesey
More was revealed in a human face than a human being can bear face to face.

More was revealed in a human face than a human being can bear face to face.

Ken Kesey
The world news might not be therapeutic.

The world news might not be therapeutic.

Ken Kesey
I'd take a look at my own self in the mirror and wonder how it was possible that anybody could manage such an enormous thing as being what he was.

I'd take a look at my own self in the mirror and wonder how it was possible that anybody could manage such an enormous thing as being what he was.

Ken Kesey
Sometimes I looked at them and sometimes they looked at me, but rarely did we look at one another.

Sometimes I looked at them and sometimes they looked at me, but rarely did we look at one another.

Ken Kesey
But at least I tried

But at least I tried

Ken Kesey
The fundamentalists have taken the fun out of the mental.

The fundamentalists have taken the fun out of the mental.

Ken Kesey
This world… belongs to the strong, my friend! The ritual of our existence is based on the strong getting stronger by devouring the weak.

This world… belongs to the strong, my friend! The ritual of our existence is based on the strong getting stronger by devouring the weak.

Ken Kesey
Memory whispers someplace in that jumbled machinery.

Memory whispers someplace in that jumbled machinery.

Ken Kesey
They wouldn't be so cocky if they knew what me and the moon have going.

They wouldn't be so cocky if they knew what me and the moon have going.

Ken Kesey
The man who seeks revenge digs two graves.

The man who seeks revenge digs two graves.

Ken Kesey
To hell with that. A man goin' fishing with two whores from Portland don't have to take that crap.

To hell with that. A man goin' fishing with two whores from Portland don't have to take that crap.

Ken Kesey
Because he knows you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy.

Because he knows you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy.

Ken Kesey
Take what you can use and let the rest go by.

Take what you can use and let the rest go by.

Ken Kesey
Ocean, Ocean I'll beat you in the end.

Ocean, Ocean I'll beat you in the end.

Ken Kesey
Then the trembling starts to get worse. This must be how they begin, he thinks. Freak-outs. Breakdowns. Crack-ups. Eventually shut-ins and finally cross-offs. But first the cover-up . . .

Then the trembling starts to get worse. This must be how they begin, he thinks. Freak-outs. Breakdowns. Crack-ups. Eventually shut-ins and finally cross-offs. But first the cover-up . . .

Ken Kesey
It's the truth, even if it didn't happen...

...if they don't exist, how can a man see them?

It's the truth, even if it didn't happen... ...if they don't exist, how can a man see them?

Ken Kesey
I been away a long time.

I been away a long time.

Ken Kesey
You're making sense, old man, a sense of your own. You're not crazy the way they think. Yes...I see...

You're making sense, old man, a sense of your own. You're not crazy the way they think. Yes...I see...

Ken Kesey
You get your visions through whatever gate you're granted.

You get your visions through whatever gate you're granted.

Ken Kesey
There’s no doubt in my mind that McMurphy’s won, but I’m not sure what.

There’s no doubt in my mind that McMurphy’s won, but I’m not sure what.

Ken Kesey
I'd think, maybe he truly is something extraordinary. He's what he is, that's it. Maybe that makes him strong enough, being what he is.

I'd think, maybe he truly is something extraordinary. He's what he is, that's it. Maybe that makes him strong enough, being what he is.

Ken Kesey
You're either on the bus or off the bus.

You're either on the bus or off the bus.

Ken Kesey
What a Life: Give some of us pills to stop a fit, give the rest shock to start one.

What a Life: Give some of us pills to stop a fit, give the rest shock to start one.

Ken Kesey
You seem to forget, Miss Flinn, that this is an institution for the insane.

You seem to forget, Miss Flinn, that this is an institution for the insane.

Ken Kesey
...you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy

...you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy

Ken Kesey
It's fogging a little, but I won't slip off and hide in it. No...never again...

It's fogging a little, but I won't slip off and hide in it. No...never again...

Ken Kesey
Billy here has been talkin' about slicin' his wrists again, so is there seven of you guys who'd like to join him and make it therapeutic?

Billy here has been talkin' about slicin' his wrists again, so is there seven of you guys who'd like to join him and make it therapeutic?

Ken Kesey
He hadn't let what he looked like run his life one way or the other, any more than he'd let the Combine mill him into fitting where they wanted him to fit.

He hadn't let what he looked like run his life one way or the other, any more than he'd let the Combine mill him into fitting where they wanted him to fit.

Ken Kesey
Because sometimes the only way to keep from losing everything is to give everything up. Because sometimes strength must for the sake of winning give in to--

Because sometimes the only way to keep from losing everything is to give everything up. Because sometimes strength must for the sake of winning give in to--

Ken Kesey
Man is certain of nothing but his ability to fail. It is the deepest faith we have, and the unbeliever- the blasphemer, the dissenter- will stimulate in us the most righteous of furies.

Man is certain of nothing but his ability to fail. It is the deepest faith we have, and the unbeliever- the blasphemer, the dissenter- will stimulate in us the most righteous of furies.

Ken Kesey
It's the truth, even if it didn't happen.

It's the truth, even if it didn't happen.

Ken Kesey
He couldn't seem to get his teeth into anything. Except books. The things in books was darn near more real to him than the things breathing and eating.

He couldn't seem to get his teeth into anything. Except books. The things in books was darn near more real to him than the things breathing and eating.

Ken Kesey
The best of all possible cages.' Ben stepped back to regard the job with a sad smile. 'What more can one ask?

The best of all possible cages.' Ben stepped back to regard the job with a sad smile. 'What more can one ask?

Ken Kesey
I don't seem able to get it straight in my mind....

I don't seem able to get it straight in my mind....

Ken Kesey
I want to touch him because I'm one of these queers!

I want to touch him because I'm one of these queers!

Ken Kesey
They're out there...One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

They're out there...One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Ken Kesey
In any given situation there will always be more dumb people than smart people. We ain't many!

In any given situation there will always be more dumb people than smart people. We ain't many!

Ken Kesey
When I die pin me up against the sky.

When I die pin me up against the sky.

Ken Kesey
Always stay in your own movie.

Always stay in your own movie.

Ken Kesey
One flew east, one flew west, one flew over the cuckoo's nest.

One flew east, one flew west, one flew over the cuckoo's nest.

Ken Kesey
Society is what decides who's sane and who isn't, so you got to measure up.

Society is what decides who's sane and who isn't, so you got to measure up.

Ken Kesey
Does the Spearmint lose its flavor on the bedpost over night?

Does the Spearmint lose its flavor on the bedpost over night?

Ken Kesey
They are in contact on a high-voltage wavelength of hate...

They are in contact on a high-voltage wavelength of hate...

Ken Kesey
The trouble with superheroes is what to do between phone booths.

The trouble with superheroes is what to do between phone booths.

Ken Kesey
The game goes round and round, to the rattle of dice and the shuffle of play money.

The game goes round and round, to the rattle of dice and the shuffle of play money.

Ken Kesey
I was actually going out of the hospital with two whores on a fishing boat; I had to keep saying it over and over to myself to believe it.

I was actually going out of the hospital with two whores on a fishing boat; I had to keep saying it over and over to myself to believe it.

Ken Kesey
But it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.

But it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.

Ken Kesey
. . .sometimes reading the same page over and over, until one sleepy afternoon something clicked, like a lock unlocking, and she saw those printed doors swing open on a vast house of words.

. . .sometimes reading the same page over and over, until one sleepy afternoon something clicked, like a lock unlocking, and she saw those printed doors swing open on a vast house of words.

Ken Kesey
But I remember one thing: it wasn't me that started acting deaf, it was people that first started acting like I was too dumb to hear or see or say anything at all.

But I remember one thing: it wasn't me that started acting deaf, it was people that first started acting like I was too dumb to hear or see or say anything at all.

Ken Kesey
They're out there. First line of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

They're out there. First line of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Ken Kesey
He’s got hands so long and white and dainty I think they carved each other out of soap.

He’s got hands so long and white and dainty I think they carved each other out of soap.

Ken Kesey
...you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep in balance.

...you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep in balance." [Chief Bromden]

Ken Kesey
Good writing ain't necessarily good reading.

Good writing ain't necessarily good reading.

Ken Kesey
Ah, ah, ahhh ... first one gets mad, then one goes mad

Ah, ah, ahhh ... first one gets mad, then one goes mad

Ken Kesey
You can make a mark across the night with the tip of an embered stick, and you can actually see it fixed in its finity. You can be absolutely sure of its treacherous impermanence. And that is all.

You can make a mark across the night with the tip of an embered stick, and you can actually see it fixed in its finity. You can be absolutely sure of its treacherous impermanence. And that is all.

Ken Kesey
He's what he is, that's it. Maybe that makes him strong enough, being what he is.

He's what he is, that's it. Maybe that makes him strong enough, being what he is.

Ken Kesey
We are the culture. All those people that are doing those dumb TV things and promoting hate…that’s the ‘counter’culture.

We are the culture. All those people that are doing those dumb TV things and promoting hate…that’s the ‘counter’culture.

Ken Kesey
Man is certain of nothing but his ability to fail

Man is certain of nothing but his ability to fail

Ken Kesey
McMurphy tied a chunk of meat to each end of a four-foot string, tossed it into the air, and sent two squawking birds wheeling off,

McMurphy tied a chunk of meat to each end of a four-foot string, tossed it into the air, and sent two squawking birds wheeling off, "Till death do them part.

Ken Kesey
What a cheery atmosphere, don't you agree?

What a cheery atmosphere, don't you agree?

Ken Kesey
I'd give something to see that. Mostly, I'd just to look over the country around the gorge again, just to bring some of it clear in my mind again. 

I been away a long time.

I'd give something to see that. Mostly, I'd just to look over the country around the gorge again, just to bring some of it clear in my mind again. I been away a long time.

Ken Kesey
I will be a sonofabitch if he ain't in here at eleven-thirty at night, fartin' around in the dark with a pair of scissors and a paper sack.

I will be a sonofabitch if he ain't in here at eleven-thirty at night, fartin' around in the dark with a pair of scissors and a paper sack.

Ken Kesey
I forget sometimes what laughter can do.

I forget sometimes what laughter can do.

Ken Kesey
He's safe as long as he can laugh, he thinks, and it works pretty fair.

He's safe as long as he can laugh, he thinks, and it works pretty fair.

Ken Kesey
They’re out there. Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them.

They’re out there. Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them.

Ken Kesey