Lin YuTang and The Importance of Living – 09/06/2011

For Your Entertainment (FYE)

“Yutang has a very specific philosophy for living life which will bring genuine contentment, and he begins with the idea of detachment, which is similar to Buddhist philosophy. Yutang says that in order to be happy, man must go through life with a certain amount of nonchalance, and distance himself from outcomes and results. He feels that we could be a lot happier if we were more like the country squire and less like the Wall Street banker.
To Yutang, humans are influenced by two great forces, idealism and realism, and the valuable characteristic of humor is essential for toning down our dreams (i.e. idealism) into reality. Yutang thinks that we need humor for the right perspective in life, and for reasonableness in living. With humor, we learn to never expect too much or too little.”

“Yutang espouses a philosophy of moderation, which he calls the philosophy of half and half . . . half action and half non-action. And for those of us who are doers, this idea of inaction may seem troublesome, but Yutang says we must learn to be magnificent idlers, spinning for spinning’s sake.”

“Yutang also believes that we are more animal than angel and that we are not made in the image of God, but in the image of the monkey. He goes on to describe two types of humans: herbivorous and carnivorous, the former being the artist and peace-maker; the latter, the warrior and brute among us. He thinks that the salvation of man lies in the warrior and brutes becoming herbivores, “chattering like women.” He says that unless we bring our lives into harmony with our instincts and educate our senses and emotions, rather than educating our ideas, we will never be fulfilled or truly evolved.”

“He has many more thoughts on how to live a happier, more fulfilled life, everything from what constitutes a good family life, drinking and wine games, to growing old gracefully. This book is an excellent roadmap for the disquieted, modern soul. You’ll discover not to take things so seriously, and to enjoy yourself without feeling guilty for not doing enough. ”

” Lin Yutang’s ideal is the ‘scamp’ – an amiable loafer who wanders through life, learning, loving, living. He is a good-natured Renaissance Man, dabbling here and there, connoisseur of nothing, dilettante extraordinaire. He is earthbound, a man of his biology and of his senses. (For Lin, happiness is “largely a matter of digestion.” He favorably quotes a college president who admonished his freshmen that “There are only two things I want you to keep in mind: read the Bible, and keep your bowels open.”) Lin’s loafing scamp is a profoundly embodied mind, not a brain on a stick. And most of all, he’s eminently ‘reasonable’ – a trait Lin mentions throughout, and points to as the very foundation of the Chinese character.”

“The Chinese love of leisure arises from a combination of causes. It came from a temperament, was erected into literary cult, and found its justification in a philosophy. It grew out of an intense love of life, was actively sustained by an underlying current of literary romanticism throughout the dynasties, and was eventually pronounced right and sensible by a philosophy of life, which we may, in the main, describe as Taoistic.

The romantic cult of the idle life, which we have defined as a product of leisure, was a decidedly not for the wealthy class, as we usually understand it to be. That would be unmitigated error in the approach to the problem. It was a cult for the poor and unsuccessful and humble scholar who either had chosen the idle life or had idleness enforced upon him.

In this sense I regard this romantic cult of the idle life as essentially democratic. On the whole, the enjoyment of leisure is something that decidedly costs less than the enjoyment of luxury. All it requires is an artistic temperament, which is bent on seeking a perfectly useless afternoon, spend in a perfectly useless manner. ”


“The Chinese romanticists were gifted with a high sensibility and a vagabond nature, poor in their worldly possessions, but rich in sentiments. They had an intense love of life, which showed itself in their abhorrence of all official life and a stern refusal to make the soul serf of the body. The idle life, so far from being the prerogative of the rich and powerful and successful, was in China an achievment of high-mindedness. A high-mindedness very near to the Western conception of the dignity of the tramp who is too proud to ask favors, to independent to go to work, and too wise to take the world’s success too seriously.

This cult of idleness was always bound up with a life of inner calm, a sense of carefree irresponsibility and an intense wholehearted enjoyment of the life of nature. “

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