THE ART OF LIVING, THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING
AN AMUSING SOOTHING RELAXING BOOK
VIKRAM WAMAN KARVE
[ Book Review of THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING by LIN YUTANG ]
Whenever I want to unwind and relax, I pick out one of my favorite books from my bookcase, settle down in my easy-chair, put my feet up, and open the book to any random page, or thumb through the pages, and dip into whatever arrests my attention, and as I begin reading I experience a soothing feeling and a calm tranquil sensation of absolute and perfect relaxation. From time to time, I let myself drift off into sweet slumber, and when I come around I begin my relaxed reading again. So the cycle continues till my mind recaptures the harmony it has lost during the hustle and bustle of daily life, and my inner self feels soothingly nourished.
The book is called THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING and is compiled by Lin Yutang, who is more famous for his magnum opus THE IMPORTANCE OF LIVING, the classic seminal philosophical masterpiece on The Art of Living [ do read my book review on the links below ] :
or somewhere on this blog of mine].
I’ve got a hardcover copy of the book, published by Heinemann London in 1961, which I obtained, by a stroke of luck, from a raddiwala a few years ago. The book comprises translations from the Chinese. There are essays, reflections, poems, ancient wit and wisdom, literature, writings on The Art of Living, Enjoyment of Life and Zen, parables, epigrams and proverbs. The writings focus on the simple joys of living and distinction between the practical and the poetic vision of life.
There is wit and subtle humor throughout the book. Here is a story titled “Prohibition” from the chapter on Ancient Wit and Wisdom.
In the time of the ruler of Shu, Shienchu (third century AD) there was prohibition on wine on account of a drought…There were people who were arrested for having vats and distillery apparatus in their houses, punishable in the same terms as those actually caught making illegal liquor. Chien Yung was driving in the country with the ruler when they saw a young man.
“Have that man arrested,’ cried Chien Yung.
“What has he done?” asked the ruler in puzzlement.
“He is going to commit adultery.”
“How do you know?”
“He has the organs of adultery, just as those people have their vats.”
The ruler broke out into a loud laugh and ordered that the people arrested for mere possession of vats released.
The meat of the book is the section on “Home and Daily Living” which encompasses a wide range of facets of the art of living and enjoyment of daily life.
I’ll end with an epigram of Yuan Chunglang – Beware of the man who has no hobbies. If he is not sincere in loving what he loves, he is also probably not sincere in hating what he professes to hate.
Dear Reader. First read The Importance of Living and then read The Importance of Understanding. And I’m sure you will see your life from a different perspective.
VIKRAM WAMAN KARVE