John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

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Poet's Corner: Reader Request Month, day 1

Quote Me

"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 hope for."

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' big idea.

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 happening.

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 it too.

"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?

Tom Bodett
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!

Tags: poet's corner

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