The Thought for the Day – Alex Haley

When you clench your fist, no one can put anything in your hand, nor can your hand pick anything up. – Alex Haley, Roots

Alex Haley was an American writer, the author of the monumental work Roots. Haley, interestingly, did not start writing professionally until well into his 20-year career in the United States Coast Guard and we were dismayed to note Haley’s admission that some passages from another book made it into Roots. Novelists ourselves, we find it beyond comprehension that one writer would use someone else’s work without attribution. Despite this, however, Roots remains a landmark in American letters.

Roots is a historical novel, an account of Haley’s ancestry, which he traces back to a man named Kunta Kinte in The Gambia. Today’s Thought was uttered by Omoro, Kunta’s father, who was, if we recall correctly, counseling his impetuous son about the dangers of anger.

When you clench your fist, no one can put anything in your hand…

A clenched fist is never a sign of graciousness. It is a sign of anger, a reflection of a mind that is closed to any other emotion. As nothing can be put into a hand that is closed, so nothing can be put into a mind that is closed.

…nor can your hand pick anything up.

A clenched fist cannot do anything except act in anger. It can’t hold anyone’s hand and it can’t caress the downtrodden and it certainly can’t reach out and grab life’s fruits.

We all have 24 hours every day, the only commodity each of us issued in equal measure. What we get out of our lives is dependent on getting the most out of those hours. If our fists are clenched and our minds are closed, nothing can be added, causing us to squander our time on this planet. Unclenching your fist, however, leads to an open hand, which leads to grasping what nature and circumstance put in front of us, the first steps to a life well lived.

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


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