excited mind, thoughts, and connections

by ryancappakelly

cover art

Having facilitated the Philosophy demonstration several times now I am feeling inspired to revisit some of my own favorite philosophical ideas. Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living is one philosophical work that has had a profound impact on my thinking. The Importance of Living was Lin Yutang’s attempt to present his take on classic Chinese philosophy to American readers. Originally published in 1937 it was a best seller at the time. Anyway, here are a few quotes that speak to me! Please respond with your own favorites!

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“There is always a flavor of disenchantment about philosophy. The philosopher looks at life as an artist looks at a landscape- through a veil or a haze. The raw details of reality are softened a little to permit us to see its meaning…The philosopher is therefore the direct opposite of the complete realist who, busily occupied in his daily business, believes that his successes and failures, his losses and gains, are absolute and real.”

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On the four characteristics of the scamp, who was Lin’s ideal character. “They are: a playful curiosity, a capacity for dreams, a sense of humor to correct those dreams, and finally a certain waywardness and incalculability of behavior.”

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“Talking with you for one night is better than studying books for ten years” (old Chinese saying)

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from Thomas Merton’s translation of Chuang Tzu’s poems (a Chinese philosopher I discovered while reading Lin’s book)

The Man of Tao

The man in whom Tao

Acts without impediment

Harms no other being

By his actions

Yet he does not know himself

To be ‘kind,’ to be ‘gentle.’

The man in whom Tao

Acts without impediment

Does not bother with his own interests

And does not despise

Others who do.

He does not struggle to make money

And does not make a virtue of poverty.

He goes his way

Without relying on others

And does not pride himself on walking alone.

While he does not follow the crowd

He won’t complain of those who do.

Rank and reward

Make no appeal to him;

Disgrace and shame

Do not deter him.

He is not always looking

For right and wrong

Always deciding ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’

The ancients said, therefore:

The man of Tao

Remains unknown

Perfect virtue

Produces nothing

‘No-Self’

Is ‘True-Self.’

And the greatest man

Is Nobody.

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Are you still reading? Wow! Good work! Here are some more tidbits from The Importance of Living

“From my own observation of life, this Buddhist classification of life’s humbugs is not complete, and the great humbugs of life are three, instead of two: Fame, Wealth, and Power. There is a convenient American word which again combines these three humbugs into the One Great Humbug: Success. But many wise men know that the desires for success, fame, and wealth are euphemistic names for the fears of failure, poverty, and obscurity, and that these fears dominate our lives. There are many people who have already attained both fame and wealth, but who still insist on ruling others. They are the people who have consecrated their lives to the service of their country. The price is often very heavy. Ask a wise man to wave his silk hat to a crowd and make seven speeches a day and give him a presidency, and he will refuse to serve his country…There are a few select souls who can wear their reputation and a high position with a smile and remain their natural selves; they are the ones who know they are acting when they are acting, who do not share the artificial illusions of rank, title, property and wealth, and who accept these things with a tolerant smile when they come their way, but refuse to believe that they they themselves are thereby different from ordinary human beings.”

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“There is the wisdom of the foolish,

The gracefulness of the slow,

The subtlety of stupidity,

The advantage of lying low.”

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Well, congratulations! You made it! Thanks for reading. Whadaya think?

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