Quitting the Rat Race #3: Inspiration from Lin Yutang

Lin Yutang

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I guess the world is divided in two clearly distinct classes: the working class & the leisure class. Money, outward success, status, materialism, consumerism, expensive cars & homes are what appeals to the former & things like loafing, spending quiet time with self, introspection,idling, gazing at the ceiling, contemplating the navel, simplicity, frugality, reading & solitude are the things valued by later.  ‘The Importance of living’ by Lin Yutang is the Bible of the leisure class. Here we don’t find any advice on how to be more efficient or how to get rich but instead it contains idiosyncratic observations on the art of lying in bed, lolling in chairs, enjoying reading just for sheer pleasure & enjoying a cup of tea. This book celebrates idleness unapologetically.

It contains Delightful nuggets & observations like:

It is not when he is working in the office but when he is lying idly on the sand that his soul utters, “Life is beautiful”. 

I do not think that any civilization can be called complete until it has . . . made a conscious return to simplicity.

To me personally the only function of philosophy is to teach us to take life more lightly and gaily than the average businessman does, for no businessman who does not retire at fifty, if he can, is in my eyes a philosopher. 

Human life can be lived like a poem.

I have always assumed that the end of living is the true enjoyment of it. 

Every man born into this world . . . should order his life so that he can find the greatest happiness in it.

What can be the end of human life except the enjoyment of it? 

To cut with a sharp knife a bright green watermelon on a big scarlet plate of a summer afternoon. Ah, is this not happiness?

 I suspect that the American hustler admires the Chinese loafer.

Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise. The wisest man is therefore he who loafs most gracefully.

If men fail to enjoy this earthly existence we have, it is because they do not love life sufficiently and allow it to be turned into a humdrum routine existence.

The illusive rewards of fame are pitched against the tremendous advantages of obscurity.

He who is not wanted by the public can be a carefree individual.

Efficiency, punctuality and the desire for achievement and success . . . are . . . things that make people unhappy and so nervous.

The inability to loaf comes directly from his desire for doing things and in his placing action above being.

Women as a whole, as seen in the parks and in the streets, have better figures and are better dressed, thanks to the continuous tremendous daily efforts of women to keep their figure to the great delight of men. But I imagine how it must wear on their nerves. 

In China, the first question a person asks the other on an official call, after asking about his name and surname is, “What is your glorious age?” . . . Enthusiasm grows in proportion as the gentleman is able to report a higher and higher age, and if the person is anywhere over fifty, the inquirer immediately drops his voice in humility and respect.

It is amazing how few people are conscious of the importance of the art of lying in bed.

Those people who agree with me in believing in lying in bed as one of the greatest pleasures of life are the honest men. 

“Those who take leisurely what the people of the world are busy about can be busy about what the people of the world take leisurely.” – Chang Ch’ao.

“Leisure enables one to read, to travel to famous places, to form beneficial friendships, to drink wine, and to write books. What greater pleasures can there be in the world than these?” – Chang Ch’ao.

“Reading books in old age is like looking at the moon on an open terrace . . . the depth of benefits of reading varies in proportion to the depth of one’s own experience.”- Chang Ch’ao.

A true traveler is always a vagabond, with the joys, temptations and sense of adventure of the vagabond . . . The essence of travel is to have no duties, no fixed hours, no mail, no inquisitive neighbors, no receiving delegations, and no destination.

The point is whether one has got the heart to feel and the eyes to see. If he hasn’t, his visits to the mountains are a pure waste of time and money; on the other hand, if he has got “a special talent in his breast and a special vision below his eyebrows,” he can get the greatest joy of travel even without going to the mountains, by staying at home and watching and going about the field to watch a sailing cloud, or a dog, or a hedge, or a lonely tree.

There are so many kinds of laughter: the laughter of happiness, the laughter at some one falling into one’s trap, the laughter of sneer or contempt, and most difficult of all, the laughter of despair.

A good cup of tea makes (the reading) still more perfect. Or perhaps on a snowy night, when one is sitting before the fireside, and there is a kettle singing on the hearth

A good reader turns an author inside out.


September 12, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Happiness, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Quitting the Rat Race, Quotations, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Slacking, Wisdom.


  1. manonmona replied:

    manonmona reblogged this from Espacio de MANON.

  2. ponpesalukhuwwah replied:

    ponpesalukhuwwah reblogged this from ponpesalukhuwwah and commented:

    terima kasih ini sangat menginspirasi

    Read More

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  7. Book: The Importance of Living | jameskennedybeijing replied:

    […] Quitting the Rat Race #3: Inspiration from Lin Yutang (ritusthoughtcatcher.wordpress.com) GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_bg", "ffffff"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_border", "dddddd"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_text", "333333"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_link", "#1b8be0"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_url", "#1b8be0"); GA_googleAddAttr("LangId", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "books"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "book-review"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "china"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "confucius"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "culture"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "lin-yutang"); GA_googleFillSlot("wpcom_sharethrough"); Rate this: Share this:EmailPrintFacebookLinkedInLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Books and tagged book review, China, Confucius, culture, Lin Yutang by James Kennedy. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  8. Second Breath « burnt embers replied:

    […] quote from a book review I read recently (must get the book; see also this great post, where I first came across it) […]

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