This Is To Have Succeeded

To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

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6 thoughts on “This Is To Have Succeeded”

  1. The old fundamentalist me would have read this a immediately started judging that this quote is too humanistic--after all, it doesn't even mention God. How can one say that a life lived this way is successful, if God is left out of the equation? (Is He?) Not to mention that, aren't we supposed to turn our laughter into mourning? And aren't the "wise of this age" to be pitied if not avoided? And what "good in others"...aren't they all depraved and worth destruction?

    Now, I see much beauty and truth. Hoping that's okay. ;-)

  2. A big and healthy "AMEN" to Emerson's quote above and to Silvana's comment below. It is refreshing when religious folks can say, without fear or paranoia, that intelligence and wisdom are good; that there are honest critics to make us think one more time; and, that the redemption of society is always the call for the child of God. Along with loving children and a nice little garden where stands a statue of St. Francis, which my wife and I have, these things give mornings a purpose. By the way, "Religious" is OK too. If anyone has been sickened by it, may I suggest Abraham Joshua Heschel and Thomas Merton. Their books take away the shame and remind us of the integrity in honest religion.

  3. The only bit of the quote I don't really resonate with is "to win the respect of intelligent people." I LOVE the last part of that sentence, "to win...the affection of children," but I don't like the first part so much.

    To be sure, I want to be respected by intelligent people, but I don't know if, when I look back on my life, that will be a part of the metric I will use. I'd rather be respected by good people, intelligent or not, educated or not. But I pretty much agree with everything else in the quote. Especially the last:

    To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

  4. I would hazard to guess that Ralph's definition of 'intelligent people' might not be the same as our contemporary definition.

  5. Richard, I can see where you are coming from. However, for me it is not so much wanting to win the respect of intelligent people as much as it is respecting the intelligent that our religious tradition once mistrusted, and still do in some quarters. I can recall any reference to the intelligence and wisdom of an outsider, especially one who was progressive or liberal, inviting disdain and ridicule. After all, when we still hear Christians say that the earth is only 6000 years old, or that African Americans were happier before the Civil Right movement, though it may not speak of the person's actual intelligence, it does make us shake our heads and want to run to where good thinking is held in high regard.

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