The Thought for the Day – Robert Penn Warren

What is man but his passion? – Robert Penn Warren

Robert Penn Warren (1905-89) was an American poet and writer and was the poet laureate for the Library of Congress in 1944 and earned three Pulitzer Prizes, one for fiction and two for poetry.

Penn’s thought cuts right to the heart of our human experience. We harp on this seemingly every hour on the hour here at the Thought for the Day: all of us were born with certain talents and ambitions. Individual lives and our collective human experience go infinitely smoother when we are getting the most out of those talents and ambitions.

That we all have talents is one of the earliest lessons we can remember learning. We grew up near Los Angeles and we were taught this both at Emmaus Lutheran School and at the Boys Christian League where we played ball:

Everyone can do something well.

In school there those who were good at science and those who excelled at math and those who where good at English. A disgusting few were good at everything. Personally, we always had a knack for writing and memory work and we were the civics geeks who always knew who their elected leaders were. I was, and still am, one of the worst singers anyone has ever heard.

In sports it was no different. Some could hit a baseball and some could hit a jumper and some could throw the discus. An annoying few, as in the classroom, could do everything well.

The key to a good life is putting what we do well to work for us. If we were meant to fix cars we aren’t going to do anybody any good by trying to design skyscrapers. If we take over the family business because we feel obliged to even if we’d rather do something else, life will be unsatisfactory. If we spend our life mindlessly pursuing money and position when we should really be teaching third graders, the money and position won’t lead to a contended life.

Men’s passions are as numerous as men themselves. What interests others might not interest us. That’s OK. Many spokes lead to the hub of a contented life. The primary aim of our life must be to find the path leads to our hub.


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