“To know what you prefer
instead of humbly saying ‘Amen’
to what the world tells you
you ought to prefer
is to have kept your soul alive.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson
Twenty years ago, I was a twenty-year-old fresh out of technical college. I’d landed a job as the under-worked Administrative Assistant of a printing company and, between begging my boss for more work, I was bored, bored, bored. To wile away the time between incoming switchboard calls, I read psychology books and collected great words to wisdom, hoping they would guide me in mindfully building a happy adult life.
Yesterday, I stumbled across this forgotten collection of wise sayings in a box of old paperwork. What a treasure! They have stood me in good stead and I hope they will guide your steps as they happily guided mine.
We begin with the topic of Relaxation. Apparently, I had a penchant for feeling that I had to be busy all the time even back then (and nothing’s changed much) so this first set of quotes drive home the concept for us perfectionists that it’s okay to relax.
“Tension is who you think you should be.
Relaxation is who you are.”
— Chinese proverb
“Besides the noble art of getting things done,
there is the noble art of leaving things undone.
The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”
— Lin Yu Tang
If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon
in a perfectly useless manner,
you have learned how to live.”
—Lin Yu Tang
“The time you enjoy wasting
is not wasted time.”
— Bertrand Russell
“How beautiful it is to do nothing
and then rest afterward.”
— Spanish Proverb
“Beware the barrenness
of a busy life.”
A field that has rested gives a beautiful crop.”
$$$ Isn’t Everything
After two plodding years at the printing company, I was fed up. Informed by some great quotes and a whole lot of Frank Capra movies like You Can’t Take It With you, I gave up my income for a “gap” of sixteen months. I became a “lily.” In retrospect, it was the right decision.
Grandpa Vanderhof (pictured above): What are you doing that for?
Mr. Poppins: I have to add up these figures to see if they’re right.
Grandpa Vanderhof: Why?
Mr. Poppins: Why? Because they have to check against these figures.
Grandpa Vanderhof: Say, do you like this?
Mr. Poppins: Like it?
Grandpa Vanderhof: This work you’re doing.
Mr. Poppins: No, my goodness, no. Land’s sake, what am I saying?
Grandpa Vanderhof: Well, why do you do it?…
Everybody over at our place does just what he wants to do.
Mr. Poppins: Really? That must be wonderful. But how would I live?
Grandpa Vanderhof: The same way we do.
Mr. Poppins: The same way? Well, who takes care of you?
Grandpa Vanderhof: The same One that takes care of the lilies of the field, Mr. Poppins.
Except that we toil a little, spin a little, have a barrel of fun.
If you want to, come on over and become a lily, too.
Frank Capra Movie: You Can’t Take It With You (1938)
based on the George Bernard Shaw play
“Poverty is a state of mind
and I don’t happen to be that way.”
“To know you have enough is to be rich.”
— Tao Te Ching
“Enjoy the little things, for one day
you may look back
and realize they were the big things.”
— Robert Brault
During my self-imposed sabbatical, I did a lot of reading about England’s fondness for their eccentrics. It seems that the happiest, most creative people are the ones who raise eyebrows and are dismissed as “eccentric.” So I started following my own eccentric inclinations, buoyed by the following sayings. Turns out, you meet all kinds of nice people when you eccentrically wear a gold brocade opera coat to the grocery store. Conversely, those bent on mischief give eccentrics a wide berth!
The world is desperate for the unique, the authentic, the brutally honest.
“The man who does not relax
and hoot a few hoots voluntarily, now and then,
is in great danger of hooting hoots
and standing on his head
for the edification of the pathologist and trained nurse, a little later on.
The madhouse yawns for the person who always does the proper thing.”
— Elbert Hubbard
“You’re not an average person.
How can you expect
to lead an average life.”
— Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Life will be very good for you if you hold onto these sayings and live by them. I can personally attest to that. The only time life became grim was when I forgot them. For four years, I forgot. I lost my way. I bowed in fear to the corporate system and it sucked the marrow from my soul, just as I had feared that it would. At work, I accepted abuse in exchange for money. At home, I traded my freedom for so-called safety. I forgot to live by my Creed and nearly lost my will to live.
Now I’m back on the track. It takes time, courage and hard work, but you can keep your soul alive and free if you remember these wise and liberating sayings!