March 5


Today's Quotation:

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today's Meditation:

This is one of the most well known passages of all time, and there's a very similar one attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson.  It's a beautiful lesson on perspective, for without condemning or criticizing more popular visions of success (wealth, power, fame), it gives us a set of criteria that definitely can help us to "succeed" in life.  More importantly, if we can use these criteria for success in our lives, we can lay down to sleep each night and feel a deep sense of satisfaction as we know that we're doing something very important on this planet, whether we're on the pages of the newspaper or not.

This passage tells me that satisfaction and a happy life can be easy for us to attain--if we maintain a truly healthy and simple idea of what success means to us.  We may still have longings for more, but as long as our satisfaction doesn't depend on the fulfillment of those longings, we can live with a sense of balance, knowing that happiness does not depend upon fame and fortune, but on our perspective of just what's important.

I truly believe that if I reach the end of my life and I can say that I have done the things that Emerson gives us here, I will have lived a happy and fulfilling life.  More importantly, if I can tell myself each day that I've worked at accomplishing these things, all of the successful days will combine to create a successful life, no matter how others may or may not define "success" for me.

This is about respect for others, and it's about maintaining a healthy perspective about just what's important in life.  It's also about not beating ourselves up if we don't achieve the types of success that others say are necessary, for we must be true to ourselves and our own definitions of what's important in life.

Questions to ponder:

1.  How many people try to get us to accept their visions of success?  Why?

2.  Is it always easy to see the importance of the small things we do?  What steps can we take to make it easier?

3.  What's more important--achieving fame and fortune, or helping others to live their lives fully?  Which is more fleeting?

For further thought:

There are no secrets of success.  Success is doing the things you know you should do.  Success is not doing the things you know you shouldn’t do.  Success is not limited to any one area of your life.  It encompasses all the facets of your relationships:  as parent, as wife or husband, as citizen, neighbor, worker and all of the others.  Success is not confined to any one part of your personality but is related to the development of all the parts:  body, mind, heart and spirit.  It is making the most of your total self.

Wilferd A. Peterson

They have achieved success
who have lived well,
laughed often, and loved much;

who have enjoyed the trust of
pure men and women,

the respect of intelligent people and
the love of little children;

who have filled their niche and accomplished their tasks;

who have left the world better than they found it
whether by an improved poppy,
a perfect poem or a rescued soul;

who have never lacked appreciation of Earth's beauty
or failed to express it;

who have always looked for the best in others and
given them the best they had;

whose lives were an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.

--Bessie Anderson Stanley, 1904

"Success" was written as the winning entry in a contest run by Brown Book Magazine in 1904.  Bessie won a cash prize of $250 which paid off the mortgage on the house, among other things.  It was included in Bartlett's Book of Quotations for decades, and if you can find an old edition from the 30's or 40's, it should be in there.  They dropped it, I think in the 60's, but I don't know why.

The family isn't sure how the poem got mangled and attributed to Emerson, but it was further confused by Ann Landers and her sister Abby.  Ann Landers used to (mis)quote it all the time and cite Emerson as the source.  My great-uncle Art, a retired federal judge who died last March, and she had a decade-long correspondence as he argued for a public correction.  She finally conceded and in her book, The Ann Landers Encyclopedia, prints the whole story.

~~Bethanne Larson, a granddaughter of Bessie Stanley



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