Words To Live By

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. – Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

But what about the critics?

Don’t pay any attention to the critics – don’t even ignore them...
– Samuel Goldwyn (1879-1974)

Always remember, there is no city in the world that has erected a statue to a critic. – Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

They do seem to have strong opinions...

The Sound of Music is a sugar-coated lie people seem to want to eat…we have been turned into emotional and aesthetic imbeciles when we hear ourselves humming the sickly, goody-goody songs. – Pauline Kael (1919-2001)

The Beatles are not merely awful, I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music, even as the imposter popes went down in history as “anti-popes.”
– William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925-2008) from “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah…They Stink!!!”
National Review (September 1964)

Rock is the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the Earth. – Frank Sinatra (1915-1998)

Of course, sometimes they have a point…

Where are the bards that pleasured me,...
Where are the rhymes of yesteryear?...
Alas, in Nashville, Tennessee,
Twanging their cliché hearts away…
Woe to the culture that woos TV
Where sponsors flourish and songs decay,
Where clay is hailed as cloisonné
And catch-penny poet is sage and seer.
– E.Y. “Yip” Harburg (1896-1981)

Regardless, we can succeed in spite of them…

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

People of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things. - Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Wealth, like happiness, is never attained when sought after directly. It comes as a byproduct of providing a useful service. – Henry Ford (1863-1947)

But does success mean happiness?

To the spoils go the victor. - F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

Let's ask Schopenhauer:

Awakened to life out of the night of unconsciousness, the will finds itself an individual, in an endless and boundless world, among innumerable individuals, all striving, suffering, erring; the desires of the will are limitless, its claims inexhaustible, and every satisfied desire gives rise to a new one. No possible satisfaction in the world could suffice to still its longings, set a goal to its infinite cravings, and fill the bottomless abyss of its heart.
– Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

Are we even free to choose happiness?

A man can do what he wants, but not want what he wants.
- Arthur Schopenhauer

What we have is not free will, but free won’t.
- Vilayanur Ramachandran (B. 1951)

And is happiness really what we want, or should the "pursuit of happiness" be our real aim?

Everything great in the world comes from neurotics. They alone have founded our religions and composed our masterpieces.
- Marcel Proust (1871-1922), Within A Budding Grove

Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind - Marcel Proust

Never say you know the last word about any human heart.
- Henry James (1843-1916)

Can we learn from the past?

The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.
– L. P. Hartley (1895-1972), The Go-Between

The great geniuses of the past still rule over us from their graves; they still stalk or scurry about in the present, tripping up the living, mysteriously congesting the traffic, confusing values in art and manners, a brilliant cohort of mortals determined not to die, in possession of the land.
- Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957)

And was the past really better?

Ancient Athens:

Future ages will wonder at us, as the present age wonders at us now.
– Pericles (1495-1429 BC)

The Renaissance:

What a century! What literature! How good it is to be alive!
- From a letter written in 1518 by Ulrich von Hüteen

The Belle Epoque:

The Wonderful Century
- Title of a book written in 1898 by Alfred Wallace

The Present:

Who, in their right mind, could possibly deny the twentieth century was entirely mine?
- Satan, as portrayed by Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate

Perhaps we could never even agree on what “better” really means…

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.
– Marcus Tulius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)

Gratitude is merely the secret hope of further favors.
- Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)