Quote of the Day: The Impossible Theme

 

‘Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.’ – Samuel Johnson.

It occurred to me, not for the first time, that Winston Churchill had a point when he said that it was no bad thing for an uneducated man to read a book of quotations; you certainly learn a lot. Even just preparing this little Quote of the Day post, I learned that I could do with reading more Samuel Johnson, who also said, apparently, that ‘self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings’ and ‘whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o’clock is a scoundrel’ – which seems to pretty soundly establish his bona fides, if you ask me.

If you need further proof of this man’s heart being in the right place, listen to this: ‘There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern.’ He also adds (I assume not in the same essay – or saying scribbled down by faithful Boswell[1]), ‘He who waits to do a great deal of good at once will never do anything’ – which, together with the opening quotation really forms the basis of this post.

If you wait until you’ve thought out all the difficulties before doing anything, chances are it won’t get done. If you try to do everything at once, you may just forget to start. Which is funny, given that that’s nearly the direction this post could have ended up going in. The good doctor also sayeth, for the nice rounding up of this little essay, ‘To strive with difficulties, and to conquer them, is the highest human felicity.’ Congratulate me, gentlemen, I feel we have made steps along the mighty path of the Impossible Theme and the cause of Heavy Mettle:

[1] Print the legend.

Published in Group Writing
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 16 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    Andrew Miller: ‘whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o’clock is a scoundrel’

    It’s half past four in the morning here. I’m thinking of sleeping soon. Just got to clear up one or two more things.

    I make no claims against scoundrelhood. 

    • #1
  2. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher (View Comment):

    Andrew Miller: ‘whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o’clock is a scoundrel’

    It’s half past four in the morning here. I’m thinking of sleeping soon. Just got to clear up one or two more things.

    I make no claims against scoundrelhood.

    Ah, the quest for rest of a wandering night. Pleasant dreams when yet the hour drifts into place!

    • #2
  3. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Andrew Miller: Winston Churchill had a point when he said that it was no bad thing for an uneducated man to read a book of quotations.

    Interesting.  A book of Winston Churchill’s speeches, which I read during some of the darkest days of my life, inspired me to turn my life to a new and ultimately successful direction.

    • #3
  4. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Andrew Miller: Winston Churchill had a point when he said that it was no bad thing for an uneducated man to read a book of quotations.

    Interesting. A book of Winston Churchill’s speeches, which I read during some of the darkest days of my life, inspired me to turn my life to a new and ultimately successful direction.

    I’m glad that you found that book. Interestingly enough, it’s something that he sort of touches on in another of his that I like, Painting as a Pastime (which I think I discovered here some years ago) — talking about what’s a man to do with all these books if he hasn’t got time to read them — well, he can at least take them down, let them fall open at a page and see what catches his eye, among other things. I like Terry Pratchett for a similar purpose, and I’ve been known to press the recommendation of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files on people, on a slightly similar tangent. I’ll have to see whether I’ve still got that book of Churchill’s speeches (edited by his grandson, I think). 

    • #4
  5. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    This post reminds me of another Johnson quote, “My dear friend, clear your mind of cant.”  It’s a quote which has taken on a new life in our vocabulary-challenged times, and appears regularly as the following (or similar) meme:

    My dear friend clear your

    As with this entire post, an admirable sentiment!  But not what Johnson was suggesting.   (We’ve had issues of this sort on Ricochet in the past.  I’m reminded of a member who precipitated a running battle with one of the editors over his (correct) use of the word “wont” in a post.)

    ***

    This is the Quote of the Day. Our sign-up sheet for May is here.  If you’re new at this game, it’s a easy way to get your feet wet and start a conversation; if you’re an old-timer, you already know the ropes.  Either way, please sign up to speak up.

    Another ongoing project to encourage new voices is our Group Writing Project. May’s theme is “May Day, Mayday, May Days.” If you’re looking to share your own thoughts rather than those of others, please sign up for Group Writing too!

    • #5
  6. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Be careful with that advice. Legislators pass a lot of bad legislation on the basis of, “We have to do something,” and not sweating the details. 

    • #6
  7. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    She (View Comment):

    This post reminds me of another Johnson quote, “My dear friend, clear your mind of cant.” It’s a quote which has taken on a new life in our vocabulary-challenged times, and appears regularly as the following (or similar) meme:

    My dear friend clear your

    As with this entire post, an admirable sentiment! But not what Johnson was suggesting. […]

    […]

    To be fair, that variation occurred to me when I saw that one browsing through Samuel Johnson quotes on the way to this post. But I may also have been thinking of a line or two of Pratchett that deal with similar themes.

    • #7
  8. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Be careful with that advice. […] on the basis of, “We have to do something,” and not sweating the details.

    Careful, all this good sense is sending me off into Gilbert and Sullivan as an automatic reaction: 

    ♪ Good fellow, you have given timely warning — sing hey the kindly fellow that you are . . . ♫

    • #8
  9. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Be careful with that advice. Legislators pass a lot of bad legislation on the basis of, “We have to do something,” and not sweating the details.

    Very true.  But I think it’s possible to do both–sweat the details while still allowing forward progress.  Sometimes you do have to acknowledge that those who object to what you’re doing may have a point.  Sometimes, it actually is necessary to do it anyway.  Perhaps it has something to do with one’s internal compass.  I think the reason legislators feel they “have to do something,” and NOW, generally has to do with self-interest and the degree to which “doing something,” whatever it is, is necessary to secure their power and guarantee their re-election among their block of reliable voters. When that overweening self-absorption isn’t present, when a person is just struggling over how to do the right thing, or how to get something done, it’s probably less of an issue.

    Andrew Miller: If you wait until you’ve thought out all the difficulties before doing anything, chances are it won’t get done. If you try to do everything at once, you may just forget to start.

    Perhaps we add the third alternative here, something to the effect that if you dive into something without thinking and without listening, and just start flailing around, you may make things worse.

    But I think Johnson (and @andrewmiller) aren’t at any of these extremes.  As with most things, it’s usually best to avoid the worst of them.

    • #9
  10. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    Speaking of:

    Me just now: “Hmm, looks like a thunderstorm, I’d better get these seedlings that it’s too warm in the house for down to the greenhouse.”

    *Gets down to greenhouse.*

    *Great flash of lightning.*

    Hmm . . .

    News you can use, folks! 

    Still, I got the seedlings safely to the greenhouse.

    • #10
  11. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Andrew Miller: ‘whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o’clock is a scoundrel’

    Which 12:00? Sometimes I sleep from about 8:00 PM to Midnight, then get up and work for eight hours before getting a bit more sleep, maybe twenty minutes or an hour, and then working to 2:00 PM and having another short nap.

    • #11
  12. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Andrew Miller: ‘whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o’clock is a scoundrel’

    Which 12:00? Sometimes I sleep from about 8:00 PM to Midnight, then get up and work for eight hours before getting a bit more sleep, maybe twenty minutes or an hour, and then working to 2:00 PM and having another short nap.

    I daresay that would be fine too. If pots of tea are involved and the sort of good humour which seems, from my scanty reading, to be a in a very Johnsonian mode, so much the better. 

    • #12
  13. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):
    I daresay that would be fine too. If pots of tea are involved and the sort of good humour which seems, from my scanty reading, to be a in a very Johnsonian mode, so much the better.

    Check and check. And I also have Johnson as a character in one story, Boswell in multiple, although he’s not technically the same Boswell.

    • #13
  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Andrew Miller: ‘whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o’clock is a scoundrel’

    Which 12:00? Sometimes I sleep from about 8:00 PM to Midnight, then get up and work for eight hours before getting a bit more sleep, maybe twenty minutes or an hour, and then working to 2:00 PM and having another short nap.

    Just tick the scoundrel box and get it over with.

    • #14
  15. Midwest Southerner Coolidge
    Midwest Southerner
    @MidwestSoutherner

    Two thoughts:

    1. My Dad always says: “Can’t never did anything.”
    2. Apparently my sleep patterns aren’t as weird as I thought they were.
    • #15
  16. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Reagan
    GLDIII Temporarily Essential
    @GLDIII

    For a moment I though you were going to quote Samuel L. Jackson.

    “And You Will Know My Name Is The Lord When I Lay My Vengeance Upon You!” – Pulp Fiction.Jun 16, 2020

    • #16