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From Between Tears and Laughter

Lin Yutang quotations The following was written by Lin Yutang when he stayed in America during the Second World War. Between Tears and Laughter was on the whole a bitter plea for the West to change its perspective of the world order. There are entertaining observations too. The full book references are put at the bottom of the page.


Nothing impresses me more in American civilization than the fact that soap here is good and cheap and available to all. (1943:62)

What do civilized men do, and what should civilized nations do? . . . The spirit of courtesy and accommodation is the very antithesis of the spirit of strife and contention. (1943:84-85)

Common sense is so uncommon. (1943:63)

Disagreement is not only profitable, but necessary to thinking. (1943:1)

General education in good manners and music . . . is the basic teaching of Confucianism. It is the central, basic, and fundamental teaching of Confucian philosophy, which merges political and moral problems into one. (1943:66)

The human mind is a curious thing. (1943:5)

I have a hunch that if we leave the planning of world peace to women, we shall have it. (1943:75-76)

The air must be chock full of . . . smell particles. (1943:78)

"Now" has mathematically no meaning and no boundary. (1943:12)

Evil breeds sorrow and good breeds happiness . . . We have to be satisfied with some such statement of the moral laws of the universe. (1943:14)

It almost seems that the enjoyment of music provides the aim and end and raison d'etre of culture itself. (1943:69)

[By] the lambs of Europe . . . I mean the Norwegians, the Swedes, the Danes, the Swiss . . . pioneers in social legislation and standards of enlightenment. (1943:88-89)

The efforts of the common people . . . I respect. (1943:94)

I am not anti-English; I am anti-idiots. (1943:34)

How did the white man go about conquering the world . . . ? The white man had guns. (1943:21)

Rituals and music [could] help to achieve [a] social harmony by establishing the right likes and dislikes. (1943:71)

It is too late now to strangle Russia and China. (1943:50)

To bring the people's inner feeling and external conduct into balance is the work of rituals and music. (1943:72)

Economic thinking has superseded all other forms of thinking. (1943:62, abr)

The age we are living in . . . there is little evidence of regeneration and a great deal of decay. (1943:58)

Social "facts" . . . are a blending of judgments, prejudices, and piecemeal information. (1943:97)

Not the objective facts of physical science . . . it is exactly on this type of facts that diplomatic thinking is based. (1943:141)

Peace has already been achieved between Canada and the United States. (1943:144)

We are talking more and more about the right to a job, right to an income . . . and are talking less and less about the right to be free . . . and the right of the individual. (1943:164-65)

We are told to give up more and more freedom. (1943:167)

The machine has been substituted for the man. (1943:167)

The winter begins strictly on summer solstice. (1943:191)

I say, "this" emanates from "that," and "that" also derives from "this." (1943:192)

The voice of the heart is proof itself of "human dignity". (1943:207)

I would not have life at any price. (1943:209)

There is a common love for flavors in our mouths, a common sense for sounds in our ears, and a common sense for beauty in our eyes . . . What is that thing that we have in common in our hearts? (1943:210)

Reason and the sense of right please our minds as beef and pork and mutton please our palates. (1943:210)

Who has not a sense of shame is not a man . . . who is without a sense of right and wrong is not a man. (1943:211)


On the Wisdom of America

One mind seeks the learning of ancients and moderns; / Two legs straddle the cultures of East and West. - Lin Yutang

After ten years in the United States, Lin Yutang published On The Wisdom Of America (New York: The John Day Company) in 1950. In it, he cites many well-known Americans and elaborates on their output, reflecting Chinese values. The result can be rewarding. Among his many themes are "Psychoanalysis, Woman, When the Practical Man Becomes a Lover, Thoreau and Confucius, The Joys of Common Life, The Heroism of Common Toil, The Art of Doing Nothing, Society and Nature, Benjamin Franklin, Humor, Woodrow Wilson, and Einstein's credo."


The important thing is . . . to enjoy the voyage on which we are likely to be a long time. (1950:xiii)

To know one has good ancestors; it's a kind of subconscious feeling that makes for strength and pride. (1950:xiii)

Simplicity and sweet serenity have not been literary fashions during the last decades. (1950:29)

Is it too much to say that . . . fraud is not Freud? (1950:51)

Myself and my ancestors . . . we are at least full of zest. (1950:55)

Curiosity is a valuable trait. (1950:56)

A young farmer was urged to set out some apple-trees. No, said he, they are too long growing, and I don't want to plant for other people. The young farmer's father was spoken to about it, but he, with better reason, alleged that apple-trees were slow and life was fleeting. At last some one mentioned it to the old grandfather of the young farmer. He had nothing else to do, so he stuck in some trees. He lived long enough to drink barrels of cider made from the apples that grew on those trees. . . . (1950:83)

I doubt that the pleasure of a woman who sees her carrots grow is excelled by that of an artist in seeing his completed painting. (1950:225)

The question indeed comes down to this: Is it possible to be at once sweet and sophisticated? . . . can one be at once honest and kindly, intelligent and courteous, informed and gay? (1950:234)

"I've done nothing to-day." What! Have you not lived? That is . . . the most illustrious of your occupations. (1950:241)

Dr Lin about Americans of too desperate eagerness and anxiety or of too intense responsiveness and good-will: "What intelligence it shows! How different from the stolid cheeks, the codfish eyes, the slow, inanimate demeanor we have been seeing in the British Isles!" . . . The American over-tension and jerkiness and breathlessness and intensity and agony of expression are primarily social . . . phenomena. (1950:242)

The beauty of a conversation is that the other side always has a chance. (1950:247)

It seems simpler, and safer, to eat one guinea-fowl now on earth than wait for two in heaven tomorrow. (1950:256)

The great thing about laughter is laughter. (1950:397)


Lin Yutang quotations, Lin Yu-tang quotes Literature  

Yutang, Lin. Between Tears and Laughter. New York: The John Day Company, 1943.

Yutang, Lin. On The Wisdom of America. New York: The John Day Company, 1950.

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