“Some people read for instruction, which is praiseworthy, and some for pleasure, which is innocent, but not a few read from habit, and I suppose that this is neither innocent nor praiseworthy. Of that lamentable company am I. Conversation after a time bores me, games tire me and my own thoughts, which we are told are the unfailing resource of a sensible man, have a tendency to run dry. Then I fly to my book as the opium-smoker to his pipe. I would sooner read the catalogue of the Army and Navy Stores or Bradshaw’s Guide than nothing at all, and indeed I have spent many delightful hours over both these works. At one time I never went out without a second-hand bookseller’s list in my pocket. I know no reading more fruity.
“Of course to read in this way is as reprehensible as doping, and I never cease to wonder at the impertinence of great readers who, because they are such, look down on the illiterate. From the standpoint of what eternity is it better to have read a thousand books than to have ploughed a million furrows? Let us admit that reading with us is just a drug that we cannot do without—who of this band does not know the restlessness that attacks him when he has been severed from reading too long, the apprehension and irritability, and the sigh of relief which the sight of a printed page extracts from him?—and so let us be no more vainglorious than the poor slaves of the hypodermic needle or the pint-pot.
“And like the dope-fiend who cannot move from place to place without taking with him a plentiful supply of his deadly balm I never venture far without a sufficiency of reading matter.”
-W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), “The Book-Bag,” Collected Short Stories, Vol. IV
Four in the afternoon is a more pleasant time to take a walk in this season. It’s hard to stop whatever project I’ve gained some momentum on, but I was craving the outing…
…and that means I have established a good habit, which I consider a miracle.
It had been a few days since I had been on the creek path, enough time for more colors to appear, or to fade. The fennel has faded, even while its seeds are ripening.
While I was admiring the turning leaves, I spied a ladybug who had the same impulse as I, to catch the warm rays on its back.
Each one of these quotes contains some truth about our humanity and this way we have of creating strong predispositions in ourselves. If we have any good habits, of course we don’t worry about them being too strong, or try to fight against them. But most of the thoughts I’ve collected seem only to apply to the habits we feel are “bad,” or at least not promoting our goals. From what I’ve seen, the majority of us fallen humans are all too prone to lay aside what appear to be the bonds of good character in what is known as The Moment of Weakness. Don’t trust in these habits! Pray and seek God, and live.
Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables. – Spanish proverb
Every grown-up man consists wholly of habits, although he is often unaware of it and even denies having any habits at all. – Georges Gurdjieff
The strength of a man’s virtue should not be measured by his special exertions, but by his habitual acts. – Blaise Pascal
The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.
– Samuel Johnson
It is no mean contest to overcome one’s bad habits, for custom, strengthened by enduring a long time, takes on the force of [second] nature.
– St. Basil the Great
Man is not imprisoned by habit. Great changes in him can be wrought by crisis – once that crisis can be recognized and understood. – Norman Cousins
Lord, have mercy on us!