Happy Birthday Emperor, and Thanks for the Good Advice

Marcus Aurelius Was Multi-Talented

2019 0426 Marcus Aurelius Lit Quote

Today marks what would have been Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius’ 1898th birthday. That’s after some minor adjustment for a little Julian calendar anomaly hundreds of years ago. Adjusted or not, he lived a really long time ago. Apparently Marcus had a bit of influence back then.

Did you know he wrote a book?  Not surprising, given his philosophical bent. He entitled his work “To Himself”, it is now known as Meditations. I suspect how-to-be-a-good-writer books weren’t so common back then. I’ll even suggest that self-help books were relatively unknown in the Roman Empire.

Timeless Advice from the Emperor

Despite that, Aurelius offers sound advice for would-be authors.

If you’re like me, you’ve got little notebooks and random scraps of paper, and maybe index cards with flashes of brilliance on them.  If you’re like me, they may be populating your glovebox, crinkling in your handbag, nestled in between bills and magazines. Great little gems, scenes, starting points, mental pictures, scattered amidst regular life and that paying job.

What good are they doing you?  Well, other than helping kick in that declutter urge.  You’ve jotted down that great bit of inspiration, but it won’t gain much traction scribbled on the back of a Walgreens receipt.

Just Do It

More recently, some Nike marketers paraphrased the great philosopher and (snicker) ran with it. Apologies, sometimes I just can’t help myself. But you cannot deny that this advice works. It worked for selling ridiculous quantities of casual footwear. And it’ll work for you, too.

That novel or poem, short story, memoir or even flash piece will never see the light of day if you just think about it.  Get pen in hand or fingers on keyboard and start saving those words rattling around in you head. Sit down and do so regularly, and if you do, as Marcus reminds us, “thou wilt have finished”.

Well done!







V.S. Naipaul Quote and Headshot

Humor, Tragedy, And a Nobel Prize for Literature

Today, August 17, 2018, Sir. V.S. Naipaul celebrates his 86th birthday.

Recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001, British author Sir V.S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad to parents of Indian descent. Sir Naipaul earned a government scholarships, attended Oxford and worked for the BBC for a short time. His early novels and short stories received a number of recognitions and awards.  A House for Mr Biswas (1961), was based on his father’s life in Trinidad and received high praise.  Later in his career, he wrote about colonial and post-colonial societies and alienation of the individual in the process of decolonization. Sir Naipaul was knighted in 1989 and holds honorary doctorates from Cambridge University and Columbia University in New York, and honorary degrees from the universities of Cambridge, London and Oxford.

“One always writes comedy at the moment of deepest hysteria” ~ Sir. V.S. Naipaul

An insightful man, Sir. Naipaul.  And he nails it, doesn’t he?  Humor and tragedy are a mere knife-edge apart, and comedy emerges in force when things seem to be at their very worst.

My thoughts….

V.S. Naipaul Quote and HeadshotComedy cushions the blow. Humor can be used to soften an intimidating (or terrifying) message. The reality may not be any easier, but swallowing the pill is less unpleasant.

For as long as governments have existed, satirists have used humor not only to poke fun at leaders, but to call them out.

Humor helps normalize overwhelming experiences and nudges us to look at a situation from different angles. That may reduce some of the stress and fear.

As with shorter skirts during wartime, humor offers a distraction.  A bit of silliness, maybe some physical comedy provide an opportunity to turn away from the awfulness around us and just smile a bit.  At the darkest times, those little bits of light sustain us.

And finally, humor draws us together, providing a bond with others. We’re all in this together, after all, right?

And with that, I will refrain from sharing further my thoughts on the buckets of funny stuff emerging in these last few years. Because, even with humor, that is just a depressing place to go. Instead, I’ll share that A House for Mr Biswas has been added to my ever-growing to read list.

You can learn more about Sir V.S. Naipaul here.

Photo credit JackNL under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.  Quote from brainyquotes.com