Never Permit a Dichotomy to Rule Your Life

Pablo Picasso? Edward L. Bernays?

dichotomy09Dear Quote Investigator: Achieving happiness is often challenging. Some people intensely dislike their work life and attempt to obtain joy elsewhere. There is a quotation that cautions against allowing this type of dichotomy to rule one’s life, and this valuable guidance has been attributed to the famous painter Pablo Picasso, but I have never seen a good citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: This advice about avoiding a pernicious dichotomy was formulated by Edward L. Bernays who was an important pioneer in the controversial disciplines of public relations, advertising, and propaganda.

Bernays contributed a short untitled essay to a 1986 book called “Are You Happy?: Some Answers to the Most Important Question in Your Life” compiled by Dennis Wholey. Bernays suggested that colleges should offer a course called “Personal Happiness”, and he emphasized the value of psychological tests to help the job selection process. Bernays also gave the following warning. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

I say, “Never permit a dichotomy to rule your life, a dichotomy in which you hate what you do so you can have pleasure in your spare time. Look for a situation in which your work will give you as much happiness as your spare time.”

QI has found no substantive evidence that Pablo Picasso ever made a matching remark. Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 2007 “The Commercial Appeal” newspaper of Memphis, Tennessee published a video game review that began with a quotation implausibly ascribed to the well-known artist Picasso: 2

Never permit a dichotomy to rule your life, a dichotomy in which you hate what you do so you can have pleasure in your spare time.
– Pablo Picasso

During the past sixteen years, Dr. Mardy Grothe has published a series of books filled with sayings and quotations that have been beautifully curated and cleverly categorized. In 2011 Grothe released “Neverisms: A Quotation Lover’s Guide to Things You Should Never Do, Never Say, or Never Forget”, and he included the quotation by Bernays after having carefully traced it to the 1986 book mentioned above. Grothe remarked that the statement was “commonly misattributed to Pablo Picasso”, and he provided the following analysis: 3

When I first came upon this sentiment, I was struck by the intriguing choice of words. But it was only after reading the entire observation that I realized how masterfully Bernays—the father of public relations—had expressed the danger of “either-or” thinking when applied to work and play.

In conclusion, Edward L. Bernays can be credited with the comment presented in the 1986 citation. The linkage to Picasso was spurious.

Image Notes: Happy/Sad drama masks from Nemo on Pixabay. Image depicting the assembly of puzzle pieces from PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay.

(Great thanks to Seth Trueger whose tweeted inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Special thanks to Mardy Grothe.)

Notes:

  1. 1986, Are You Happy?: Some Answers to the Most Important Question in Your Life, Compiled by Dennis Wholey, Section: Edward L. Bernays, Start Page 94, Quote Page 94, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified on paper)
  2. 2007 April 27, The Commercial Appeal, Section: Playbook, Storyline contrived, graphics outdated by Bryan Robinson, Quote Page G16-17, Memphis, Tennessee. (NewsBank Access World News)
  3. 2011, Neverisms: A Quotation Lover’s Guide to Things You Should Never Do, Never Say, or Never Forget by Mardy Grothe, Quote Page 44, Published by Collins Reference: An Imprint of HarperCollins. (Amazon Look Inside)