The Thought for the Day – James Russell Lowell

One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning.  – James Russell Lowell


James Russell Lowell (1819-91) was an American poet, critic and diplomat. As a poet he was one a group of New England poets known as the Fireside Poets because people read their poems by the fireplace and the were one of the first American poets to rival British poets in popularity. In addition to writing poetry, Lowell would also serve his fellow citizens as ambassador to both Spain and England.

One thorn of experience…

There is no substitute for experience. Thorns, however, hurt and draw blood and it’s well within human nature to avoid them. But if we avoid the thorns we’ll never smell the flowers. We must go out in life and take our risks and make our mistakes. A good example of this, one we are familiar with, is sports officiating. You can take all the instruction there is, from local clinics to professional umpire school, and read rulebooks left and right but until you actually go out and blow a call or two or three you are you ever going to withdraw the benefits the trade offers. It’s the same with any other aspect of our human experience. You can read books and attend lectures on an awful lot of things, but until you’ve actually gone out and seen what value it has in your own life, the books and lectures aren’t going to do you any good.

…a whole wilderness of warning.

People give us advice all the time. Some we ask for and a lot is unsolicited. Advice is similar to a recipe: of little use until we’ve cooked them in our own kettle. We must go out and prove its veracity in our own lives because the only way we will know what is on the other side of the river to cross it and find out for ourselves.

Thorns, while painful for a small while, generally yield dividends if we are open to discovering them. So let’s not avoid life’s thorns. They allow us to sharpen our abilities on the metal of experience. This allows to live the lives we were meant to live – life’s great prize.

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

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