Advanced Reading Survey: The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang

I’ve decided that on Mondays I’m going to revisit the books I read for a course in college called Advanced Reading Survey, taught by the eminent scholar and lovable professor, Dr. Huff. I’m not going to re-read all the books and poems I read for that course, probably more than fifty, but I am going to post to Semicolon the entries in the reading journal that I was required to keep for that class because I think that my entries on these works of literature may be of interest to readers here and because I’m afraid that the thirty year old spiral notebook in which I wrote these entries may fall apart ere long. I may offer my more mature perspective on the books, too, if I remember enough about them to do so.

Lin Yutang, or Lin Yu-t’ang, was a Chinese American author born in China and educated in Christian schools there. He later moved to New York and still later to Singapore. He also moved from a childhood immersed in Christianity to a sort of joyful paganism and then back to a deep commitment to Christ and to the church. At the time that his most famous book of essays, The Importance of Living, was written (1937), Mr. Lin was in the happy Chinese pagan chapter of his life. He later wrote another book, From Pagan to Christian, in 1959 that detailed his return to Christianity and the reasons for it. Lin Yutang was a best-selling author, and he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature several times in the 1970’s. He is said to have been a writer who bridged Eastern and Western cultures. Oh, and he also invented and patented a Chinese typewriter.

“Somehow the human mind is forever elusive, uncatchable, and unpredictable and manages to wriggle out of mechanistic laws or a materialistic dialectic that crazy psychologists and unmarried economists are trying to impose upon him.”

“The world, I believe, is far too serious, and being far too serious, it has need of a wise and merry philosophy.”

“A plan that is sure to be carried out to its last detail already loses interest for me.”

“Somewhere in our adult life, our sentimental nature is killed, strangled, chilled, or atrophied by an unkind surrounding, largely through our own fault in neglecting to keep it alive or our failure to keep clear of such surroundings.”

“No one should aim at writing immortal poetry, one should learn the writing of poems merely as a way to record a meaningful moment, a personal mood, or to help the enjoyment of Nature.”

“Scholars who are worth anything at all never know what is called “a hard grind” or what “bitter study” means. They merely love books and read on because they cannot help themselves.”

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”

I really would like to re-read Mr. Lin’s essays on living a good and wise and simplified life. Maybe when I simplify my life . . .

4 thoughts on “Advanced Reading Survey: The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang

  1. Me wee blog speaks much of our transitory-ness

  2. this sounds like such an intriguing book.

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