Lin Yutang - The Importance of Living

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Read Books, 2008 - Biography & Autobiography - 480 pages
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T JOHN DAY book REYNAL HITCHCOCK NEW YORK is not truth that makes man great, but man that makes truth great. CONFUCIUS Only those who take leisurely what the people of the world are busy about can be busy about what the people of the world take leisurely. CHANG CHAO. PREFACE: THIS is a personal testimony, a testimony of my own experience o thought and life. It is not intended to be objective and makes no claim to establish eternal truths. In fact I rather despise claims to objectivity in philosophy the point of view is the thing. I should have liked to call it A Lyrical Philosophy, using the word lyri cal in the sense of being a highly personal and individual oudook. But that would be too beautiful a name and I must forego it, for fear of aiming too high and leading the reader to expect too much, and because the main ingredient of my thought is matter-of-fact prose, a level easier to maintain because more natural. Very much con tented am I to lie low, to cling to the soil, to be of kin to the sod. My soul squirms comfortably in the soil and sand and is happy. Sometimes when one is drunk with this earth, ones spirit seems so light that he thinks he is in heaven. But actually he seldom rises six feet above the ground. I should have liked also to write the entire book in the form of a dialogue like Platos. It is such a convenient form for personal, inadvertent disclosures, for bringing in the significant trivialities of our daily life, above all for idle rambling about the pastures of sweet, silent thought. But somehow I have not done so. I do not know why. A fear, perhaps, that this form of literature being so little in vogue today, no one probably would read it, and a writer after all wants to be read And when I say dialogue, I do not mean answers and questions like newspaper interviews, or those leaders chopped up into short paragraphs I mean really good, long, leisurely dis courses extending several pages at a stretch, with many detours, and coming back to the original point of discussion by a short cut at the most unexpected spot, like a man returning home by climbing over hedge, to the surprise of his walking companion. Oh, how I love to reach home by climbing over the back fence, and to travel on bypaths At least my companion will grant that I am familiar with the way home and with the surrounding countryside ., . But I dare not. I am not original. The ideas expressed here have been thought and expressed by many thinkers of the East and West over and over again those I borrow from the East are hackneyed truths there They are, nevertheless, my ideas they have become a part of my being. If they have taken root in my being, it is because they express something original in me, and when I first encountered them, my heart gave an instinctive assent. I like them as ideas and not because the person who expressed them is of any account. In fact, I have traveled the bypaths in my reading as well as in my writing. Many of the authors quoted are names obscure and may baffle a Chinese professor of literature. If some happen to be well known, I accept their ideas only as they compel my intuitive ap proval and not because the authors are well-known. It is my habit to buy cheap editions of old, obscure books and see what I can dis cover there. If the professors of literature knew the sources of my ideas, they would be astounded at the Philistine. But there is a greater pleasure in picking up a small pearl in an ash-can than in looking at a large one in a jewelers window, I am not deep and not well-read. If one is too well-read, then one does not know right is right and wrong is wrong. I have not read Locke or Hume or Berkeley, and have not taken a college course in philosophy. Technically speaking, my method and my training are all wrong, because I do not read philosophy, but only read life at first hand. That is an unconventional way of studying philosophy the incorrect way...

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About the author (2008)

LIN YUTANG was born in 1895 to a mission family and became one of the best-known Chinese scholars and writers.

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