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)

Music criticism should be to musicians what ornithology is to birds.
- Yuja Wang (Born 1987)

If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them with which to hang him.
– Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642)

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?

I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. No matter what. How did he know that?"
- Will Smith, from The Pursuit Of Happyness (2006)

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)

Ah, the French…

We confess to little faults only to persuade ourselves that we have no great ones.
– Francois de la Rochefoucauld (1613 – 1680)

It is not enough that I succeed. My friends must also fail.
- Marquis de Sade (1740 - 1814)

On the other hand... Ah, the French!

If you wish to prosper, let your customer prosper. When people have learned this lesson, everyone will seek his individual welfare in the general welfare. Then jealousies between man and man, city and city, province and province, nation and nation, will no longer trouble the world.
– Claude Frédéric Bastiat (1801 – 1850)

Among all our musical masters, l should say, Claude Debussy was the least weighed upon by the dead hand of formula. Yet neither was he an improviser. This latter art, indeed, among all the compositional techniques, is the one most servile to rules of thumb. Debussy's operation was more thorough. Like any Frenchman building a bridge or cooking a meal, painting a picture or laying out a garden, he felt, he imagined, he reasoned, he constructed--and in that order.
- Virgil Thomson (1896 - 1989)

A clever people with shrewd insights…

Democratic institutions awaken and foster a passion for equality that they can never satisfy.
- Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)

If ever the free institutions of America are destroyed, it may be attributed to the unlimited authority of the majority.
- Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 - 1859)

And they weren't alone…

The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. And one of the games to which it is most attached is called "Keep tomorrow dark," and which is also named (by the rustics in Shropshire, I have no doubt) "Cheat the Prophet." The players listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clever men have to say about what is to happen in the next generation. The players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely. They then go and do something else. That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun.
- G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), The Napoleon of Notting Hill