Anne Herbert? Chuck Wall? Ann Landers? George Carlin? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Anyone listening to the news is confronted by disheartening phrases such as “random act of violence” and “ugly act of cruelty”. Yet, these phrases have been creatively reconstructed to produce uplifting suggestions. Here are three versions:
- Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.
- Commit acts of random kindness and senseless beauty.
- Today I will commit one random act of senseless kindness.
Would you please explore the history of these sayings?
Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match known to QI appeared in the July 1985 issue of the influential countercultural journal “Whole Earth Review”. The California-based writer Anne Herbert penned an article titled “Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty”. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
Anything you think there should be more of, do it randomly. Don’t await a reason. It will make itself be more, senselessly.
Scrawl it on the wall: RANDOM KINDNESS AND SENSELESS ACTS OF BEAUTY
I used to have fantasies of positive vandalism. Breaking into the school and painting a dirty room bright colors overnight. Fixing broken glass in people’s houses while they’re gone. Leaving full meals on tables in the struggling part of town.
QI believes that Anne Herbert deserves credit for this expression. The citation above is listed in the important references “The Quote Verifier” by Ralph Keyes 2 and “The Yale Book of Quotations” edited by Fred R. Shapiro. 3
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1985 July, Whole Earth Review, Number 47, Random kindness senseless acts of beauty by Anne Herbert, Subsection: RK/SAB, Start Page 92, Quote Page 96, Point Foundation, San Francisco. (Academic One File Gale) ↩
- 2006, The Quote Verifier by Ralph Keyes, Quote Page xiii, 176, and 320, St Martin’s Griffin, New York. (Verified on paper) ↩
- 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section: Anne Herbert, Quote Page 356, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified with hardcopy) ↩