Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lin Yutang "On Having a Mind"

As some of you know, my current fascination is with the Chinese philosopher, Lin Yutang. Here are some insights from the chapter, "On Having a Mind", in his book The Importance of Living.

"All novels would be unreadable did we know exactly how the mind of each character was going to work and were we able consequently to predict the exact outcome. The reading of a novel is but the chase of a wayward and unpredictable mind making its incalculable decisions at certain moments, through a maze of evolving circumstances."

"The human mind is charming in its unreasonableness, its inveterate prejudices, and its waywardness and unpredictability."

"My conception of the human brain, as of all animal brains, is that it is like an octopus or a starfish with tentacles, tentacles for feeling the truth and eating it."

"We all labor under the misconception that the true function of the mind is thinking, a misconception that is bound to lead to serious mistakes in philosophy unless we revise our notion of the term 'thinking' itself."

"I prefer to have our mind charmingly unreasonable as it is at present. I should hate to see a world in which we are all perfectly rational beings. Do I distrust scientific progress? No, I distrust sainthood. Am I anti-intellectualistic? Perhaps yes; perhaps no. I am merely in love with life, and being in love with life, I distrust the intellect profoundly."

"But the very charm of biography, its very readability, depends on showing the human side of a great character which is so similar to ours. Every touch of irrational behavior in a biography is a stroke in convincing reality."

"I consider the education of our senses and our emotions rather more important than the eduction of our ideas."


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