"The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to
love, and something to hope for."
I've always liked that quote. In fact I used it in a book of mine twenty
years ago. At the time I didn't know who the author was. I think I'd
seen it in one of those Thought for the Day things in a magazine at a
dentist's office somewhere. But, I liked it and I'd remembered it pretty
accurately. Except for the author. Google wasn't around back then to
figure this stuff out, so rather than plagiarize the thing I used the
old stand-by "They say a person needs just three things to be truly
happy in this world. Someone to love, something to do, and something to
Some years later I bought a quotation dictionary and discovered the
quote in its original form attributed to someone named Allen K.
Chalmers. It appears it is the only thing he ever said. You can Google
him into the wee hours and find no other words, books or papers with his
name on it. And this is why I feel so bad.
You see, awhile ago I noticed this quotation popping up all over the
place attributed to me. I've seen it on several internet based quotation
websites. I've seen it as the chapter opening in self-help books. I'm
waiting to see my name drive by on a bumper sticker next to Al Chalmers'
For awhile I tried to correct matters. I wrote to the mistaken websites
and authors and asked them to give credit where credit is due. I heard
from no one, and nothing changed. And now something stranger is
I'm finding even more quotations attributed to me. There is this one
that keeps turning up: "The difference between school and life? In
school you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life you're
given a test that teaches you a lesson." That sounds just like some of
the hackneyed crap I was writing fifteen years ago, but to know for
sure, I'd have to go reread it all. I think I'll let that one stand.
Then there's this little gem which was forwarded to me through a
colleague from an old friend of his: "You can make a new friend, but you
can't make an old one."
I kinda like that one. It's the sort of thing I can fantasize myself
someday saying to my son in paternal tones while we work through some
life crisis of his. But again, I don't know if I wrote it, and I'm not
sure why all of a sudden I'm getting the credit for this stuff.
Because in truth I have far more dark thoughts than inspirational ones.
I suspect it has something to do with the general decline of American
culture. It used to be that when people didn't know the author of a
clever quotation they wanted to drop into a speech or dinner story, they
would prop it up by attributing it to Mark Twain or Will Rogers. But
these days, since Huckleberry Finn is banned in the schools, and people
don't know Will Rogers from Mister Rogers, all those loose scraps of
folk wisdom are being given to the first plain-spoken guy that springs
to mind. Like I've always said, the dumbing down of American popular
culture has never hurt my career any.
So, where does this leave Allan K. Chalmers and the grand essentials of
happiness? Beats me. Damn the torpedoes -- full speed ahead, I say.
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth when you can have your cake and eat
"Get somebody else to blow your horn and the sound will carry twice as
far." Will Rogers said that. Remember, Will Rogers said that. Or didn't
I just say that?
as heard on XM Radio's Bob Edwards Show
November 30, 2005
This is for georgevna, who asked to see Tom Bodett. Hope
this does the trick!