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Record My Mind: Banal Records of a Pedestrian Life

Suffering and evil overwhelm me and I stew in my own juice. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

2/16/2005 11:46:00 pm - The idle philosopher on the importance of taking a good dump


While browsing in a Chinese bookstore at Bras Brasah yesterday afternoon, I bought Lin Yutang's Mingliaotse's Travels.

lin yutang

This is the picture of the author who "avoids having his pictures published because he says he doesn't want to spoil his readers' illusion of him as a grand old wise man of the East, with a flowing beard".

Besides his sense of humour, I also enjoyed Lin Yutang's writing style. He wrote in a leisurely way, with a rhythm that was as calming and natural as relaxed, unhurried breathing. Reading him was like enjoying a leisurely sip of hot tea. He had a way of charming his readers through his "let you in on a secret" way of confessing and unabashedly stating his views.

I was first drawn by his Importance of Living, which articulated many things I was very sympathetic to, such as his praise of loafing and idleness, which he called the idle philosophy of an idle life. In that book he also, ahem, reminded the reader how important it was to take a good shit:

All happiness is biological happiness...Happiness for me is largely a matter of digestion. I have to take cover under an American college president to insure my reputation and respectability when I say that happiness is largely a movement of the bowels. The American college president in question used to say with great wisdom in his address to each class of freshmen, "There are only two things I want you to keep in mind: read the Bible and keep your bowels open." What a wise, genial old soul he was to have said that! If one's bowels move, one is happy, and if they don't move, one is unhappy. That is all there is to it.

More on Lin Yutang:

According to this biography here (zipped word document), Lin Yutang was once an internationally popular writer who strove to explain China to the West and did it so well that according to a New York Times reviewer, "he made thousands of Americans almost regret that they were not Chinese and therefore members of the most truly civilized of all peoples". Lin Yutang also made American literary history when his My Country and My People topped the New York Times best-seller list, a first for a Chinese author. He also later became the Head of the Arts and Letters division at UNESCO. His idle idol profile is found here.


Anonymous Chris said...

Many interesting figures - both fictional and real - have unabashedly celebrated visceral concerns, such as the hero of James Joyce's Ulysses, Leopold Bloom.

I think we all do the same in our lives to varying extents, but only make a fuss about it when someone famous like Lin Yutang comments on it.

Yes, good dumps are important, but this is hardly news.  


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