Mar 30, 2011

Retro - Robert Louis Stevenson

Everyone who has blogged knows that it is a time consuming habit (sometimes addictive, but definitely time consuming) . . . in blogging there is competition for attention against other bloggers [there is also collaboration] . . . the most successful bloggers talk about current issues and present and/or analyze the newest thing in town . . . every now and then I will include a retro post. In the retro post I will present abstracts of essays or pieces of writing that are not current at all, but that are very important [at least for me] to give perspective to the business of the day a day blogging . . . 

I start with the classic "An apology for idlers" by Robert Louis Stevenson. Here
Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life. 
And if a man reads very hard, as the old anecdote reminds us, he will have little time for thought.
[i]f a lad does not learn in the streets, it is because he has no faculty of learning. 
He may pitch on some tuft of lilacs over a burn, and smoke innumerable pipes to the tune of the water on the stones. A bird will sing in the thicket. And there he may fall into a vein of kindly thought, and see things in a new perspective. Why, if this be not education, what is? 
As a matter of fact, an intelligent person, looking out of his eyes and hearkening in his ears, with a smile on his face all the time, will get more true education than many another in a life of heroic vigils. 
Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality; and a faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense of personal identity. There is a sort of dead-alive, hackneyed people about, who are scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation.
But it is not only the person himself who suffers from his busy habits, but his wife and children, his friends and relations, and down to the very people he sits with in a railway carriage or an omnibus. Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things. 
And it is not by any means certain that a man's business is the most important thing he has to do.
A happy man or woman is a better thing to find than a five-pound note.
He or she is a radiating focus of goodwill; and their entrance into a room is as though another candle had been lighted. We need not care whether they could prove the forty-seventh proposition; they do a better thing than that, they practically demonstrate the great Theorem of the Liveableness of Life.

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