The Thought for the Day – Alex Haley

‘Cause you ain’t done nothin’ new…Time you settled down and made de best of things de way de is… – Alex Haley, Roots: The Saga of an American Family


Alex Haley (1921-92) was an American writer, best known for his 1977 book Roots: The Saga of an American Family. We would have preferred that Haley had not admitted to plagiarizing portions of Roots, but History’s verdict on this has been kind and by any meas, re Roots remains one of American letters most profound and lasting works and it is one of the best books we’ve ever read.  

Haley began writing in the Coast Guard, where he spent 20 years. Originally a mess attendant, one of the few jobs open to blacks back then, Haley had a knack for writing and later became a journalist in the Coast Guard.

‘Cause you ain’t done nothin’ new…

Circumstantially, this is true. We aren’t anything new. We’re humans, put on this earth to fulfill Mother Nature’s mandate to produce more humans just like our parents did. We live and then we die. The death rate for us humans will always be 100 percent.  

Intrinsically, however, this is false. We are something new because each one of us is utterly distinct from those humans that preceded us and we are different from those that will follow.

Time you settled down and made de best of things de way de is…

We got it pretty good in this country, though it might not seem like it sometimes. Livings must be earned and problems dealt with and our fellow humans tolerated. However none of us have ever been chained in the hold of a ship wallowing in our own filth waiting for transport to a foreign land to begin a career in slavery, a part of Roots that got me to swear never to whine about anything ever again, a vow I violate daily. 

Those who make a go of it in this life make the best of the way things are. It takes work to do this. We can’t wake up each day and mindlessly fritter away our time. We must have the wisdom to know ourselves and realize what we are about. We must have the courage to go and live the life we were meant to live and the patience to see it through to the very end. Every day there are a hundred and one things to distract us from this and it can sometimes be supremely challenging to make the best of the way things are. 

When we do this, however, when we put the way things are to advantage, then we are well on the way to having a good day. Enough good days and we’ve had a good year and a succession of good years leads to a good life.

The Thought for the Day runs regularly. Quotes are from Gaylon’s private stock.

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