Tag Archives: Charles Bukowski

The Best Lack All Conviction While the Worst Are Full of Passionate Intensity

William Butler Yeats? Bertrand Russell? Charles Bukowski?

doubt11Dear Quote Investigator: Have you ever been absolutely certain about a fact and later determined that you were completely wrong? If you learn from that experience you become less arrogant and more empathetic. I wish more people would achieve this form of personal growth. Here are three versions of a relevant saying:

The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent full of doubt.

This thought has been linked to the Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet W. B. Yeats, the prominent British philosopher Bertrand Russell, and the notable American writer Charles Bukowski. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The three individuals you mentioned each expressed different versions of this idea, and detailed citations are given below.

In 1920 W. B. Yeats published the poem “The Second Coming”, and the final two lines of the first section presented an instance of the saying. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. Date: 1920 November, Periodical: The Dial, Article Title: Ten Poems, Poem: The Second Coming, Author: William Butler Yeats, Quote Page: 466, Publisher: The Dial Publishing Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

Find What You Love and Let It Kill You

Charles Bukowski? Kinky Friedman? Van Dyke Parks? Anonymous?

leap07Dear Quote Investigator: The following grimly comical paean to romanticized self-destruction is often attributed to the poet, novelist, and imbiber Charles Bukowski:

Find what you love and let it kill you.

I have been unable to locate a poem or story written by Bukowski containing this line. Another candidate for authorship is the musician and mystery writer Kinky Friedman. Who do you think crafted this eccentric advice?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in the “Houston Chronicle” newspaper of Houston, Texas in 1986. The humorist, singer, and songwriter Kinky Friedman was profiled by the paper because he had branched out into a new field. Friedman had recently authored his first mystery novel, and while discussing his colorful career he employed the adage. Interestingly, the expression contained the word “like” instead of “love”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Friedman is a little proud of himself that he got past the self-destruct phase of booze and drugs without going any of the usual mystical routes.

“I did it on my own, without AA or Jesus; but, then, I think we all have to find the Jesus of our choosing. I’ve always said: Find what you like, and let it kill you.

The saying with the word “love” has been credited to Charles Bukowski in recent years, but QI has located no substantive evidence to support this ascription.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1986 September 18, Houston Chronicle, Section: Houston, “‘Just another side of me’ – Friedman swaps music for mystery” by Michael Spies (Houston Chronicle Staff), Quote Page 1, Houston, Texas. (NewsBank Access World News)