Life Is Not About Finding Yourself. Life Is About Creating Yourself

George Bernard Shaw? Mary McCarthy? Thomas Szasz? Sydney J. Harris? Helen A. De Rosis? Victoria Y. Pellegrino? Karen Horney? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: For decades pop-psychology has emphasized the task of “finding yourself”, i.e., identifying your deepest values, abilities, feelings, and desires. Yet, these qualities are not immutable. Instead, living fully means endlessly recreating yourself. Here are two versions of a pertinent saying:

(1) Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

(2) The self is not something you find; it is something you create.

This notion has been attributed to playwright George Bernard Shaw, novelist Mary McCarthy, psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, and journalist Sydney J. Harris. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Tracing this saying is difficult because it can be expressed in many different ways. QI has found no substantive evidence that George Bernard Shaw who died in 1950 employed this saying; also, QI has seen no substantive evidence that Mary McCarthy who died in 1989 used this saying.

The earliest match located by QI appeared in 1969 within the syndicated column of Sydney J. Harris. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Young people searching for their “real self” must learn that the real self is not something one finds as much as it is something one makes; and it is one’s daily actions that shape the inner personality far more permanently than any amount of introspection or intellection.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Life Is Not About Finding Yourself. Life Is About Creating Yourself

Notes:

  1. 1969 April 18, Record-Gazette, Strictly Personal by Sydney J. Harris (Syndicated), (newspaper has misspelling: Sidney) Quote Page 1, Column 10, Banning, California. (Newspapers_com)

Education Is What You Get from Reading the Small Print in a Contract. Experience Is What You Get from Not Reading It

Pete Seeger? Vesta M. Kelly? Mr. Minnick the Cynic? Old Timer? Bill Gold? Evan Esar? Saul Lavisky? Laurence J. Peter? Sydney J. Harris? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Comprehending the details of a complex legal contract is a daunting task. Yet, entrapment by an unnoticed provision of an agreement is a terrible experience. Here is a pertinent saying:

Education is what you get from reading the small print. Experience is what you get from not reading it.

This saying has been attributed to folk singer activist Pete Seeger. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: This quip can be expressed in many ways; hence, it is difficult to trace. The earliest match located by QI appeared in “The Wall Street Journal” within the long-running humor column called “Pepper and Salt” in February 1961. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Candid Comment
People may get an education from reading the fine print, but what they get from not reading it is usually experience.— Vesta M. Kelly.

Currently, Vesta M. Kelly is the leading candidate for originator of this joke. Pete Seeger did use the expression during an interview published in October 1979. See the citation given further below:

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Education Is What You Get from Reading the Small Print in a Contract. Experience Is What You Get from Not Reading It

Notes:

  1. 1961 February 14, The Wall Street Journal, Pepper and Salt, Quote Page 12, Column 6, New York. (ProQuest)

To My Embarrassment I Was Born in Bed with a Lady

Mark Twain? Groucho Marx? Wilson Mizner? Sydney J. Harris? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A funny man once said that he was embarrassed to discover that his behavior had always been scandalous; he had been born in bed with a lady. This line has been connected to Mark Twain, Groucho Marx, and Wilson Mizner. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI occurred in the 1930 book “Beds” by Groucho Marx. One section contained letters sent by Groucho in response to questions. The ellipsis in the following appeared in the original text: 1

It is Wilson Mizner, and not I, who recalls his embarrassment when he first came into the world, and found a woman in bed with him. . . . I wasn’t embarrassed.

Thus, Groucho credited the playwright, rogue, and wit Wilson Mizner. This citation is listed in the valuable reference “The Yale Book of Quotations” edited by Fred R. Shapiro. 2

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading To My Embarrassment I Was Born in Bed with a Lady

Notes:

  1. 1976 (Copyright 1930 on original edition), Beds by Groucho Marx, Quote Page 70 and 71, Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Verified on paper)
  2. 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section: Wilson Mizner, Quote Page 526, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)

Regret for the Things We Did Can Be Tempered by Time; It Is Regret for the Things We Did Not Do That Is Inconsolable

Sydney J. Harris? Sydney Smith? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Different types of regret may be experienced when you do something and when you refrain from doing something. A statement on this topic has been attributed to two disparate Sydneys: the English wit Sydney Smith and the U.S. columnist Sydney J. Harris. Would you please determine the correct ascription?

Quote Investigator: The column of Sydney J. Harris appeared in many newspapers. In 1951 he wrote a piece that included the saying. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

PURELY PERSONAL PREJUDICES: Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.

QI has found no substantive evidence that Reverend Sydney Smith who died in 1845 employed the quotation.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Regret for the Things We Did Can Be Tempered by Time; It Is Regret for the Things We Did Not Do That Is Inconsolable

Notes:

  1. 1951 January 5, Akron Beacon Journal, Syd Cannot Stand Christmas Neckties by Sydney J. Harris, Quote Page 6, Column 5, Akron, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)

Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler

Albert Einstein? Louis Zukofsky? Roger Sessions? William of Ockham? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The credibility of a quotation is increased substantially if it can be ascribed to a widely-recognized genius such as Albert Einstein. Hence a large number of spurious quotes are attributed to him. I would like to know if the following is a real Einstein quote or if it is apocryphal:

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

I like this saying because it compactly articulates the principle of Occam’s razor.

Quote Investigator: The reference work “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” published in 2010 is the most comprehensive source for reliable information about the sayings of Albert Einstein, and it states [UQUE]:

This quotation prompts the most queries; it appeared in Reader’s Digest in July 1977, with no documentation.

The earliest known appearance of the aphorism was located by poet and scholar Mark Scroggins and later independently by top-flight quotation researcher Ken Hirsch. The New York Times published an article by the composer Roger Sessions on January 8, 1950 titled “How a ‘Difficult’ Composer Gets That Way”, and it included a version of the saying attributed to Einstein [AERS]:

I also remember a remark of Albert Einstein, which certainly applies to music. He said, in effect, that everything should be as simple as it can be but not simpler!

Since Sessions used the locution “in effect” he was signaling the possibility that he was paraphrasing Einstein and not presenting his exact words. Indeed, Einstein did express a similar idea using different words as shown by the 1933 citation given further below.

In June of 1950 the maxim appeared in the journal Poetry in a book review written by the prominent modernist poet Louis Zukofsky. The saying was credited to Einstein and placed inside quotation marks by Zukofsky [EPLZ].

There is also the other side of the coin minted by Einstein: “Everything should be as simple as it can be, but not simpler” – a scientist’s defense of art and knowledge – of lightness, completeness and accuracy.

The wording used by Sessions and Zukofsky is the same, and it differs somewhat from the most common modern version of the quote. Professor Mark Scroggins who has specialist knowledge of Zukofsky believes that the poet probably acquired the aphorism by reading the article by Sessions. Zukofsky also incorporated the saying in section A-12 of his massive poem titled “A”.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order starting in 1933.

Continue reading Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler