Sunday, December 18, 2011


The sermon this morning was on "Beating the Daily Grind", and the first thing advised was to learn to be content.  That was also part of what we studied in Ecclesiastes in morning Bible Study.  It reminded me of a passage from Jerome K. Jerome's "Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)".  This book, written in 1889, is still in print today, but since it's in the public domain you can read it for free on Project Gutenberg, or download it for free to your Kindle. (You could even check it out from the library :)   I have an old hardcover edition which I happened across years ago in a thrift shop, printed by Geo.M.Hill Co., Chicago, in 1889 (and I also have it on my Kindle :)  )  If you've never read it, I heartily recommend it.  It has a universal and timeless appeal.  The first time I read it, I had to get up and leave the library because I was laughing so hard out loud.  It has some more serious little gems, too, as well as humor.

Anyway, one of my favorite passages in "Three Men in a Boat" is the one where George and Harris and J are writing up a list of what to take with them on their proposed boating trip:

"The first list we made out had to be discarded.  It was clear that the upper reaches of the Thames would not allow of the navigation of a boat sufficiently large to take the things we had set down as indispensible; so we tore the list up, and looked at one another.

George said:
"You know we are on a wrong track altogether.  We must not think of the things we could do with, but only of the things that we can't do without."

George comes out really quite sensible at times.  You'd be surprised.  I call that downright wisdom, not merely as regards the present case, but with reference to our trip up the river of life generally.  How many people, on that voyage, load up the boat till it is ever in danger of swamping with a store of foolish things which they think essential to the pleasure and comfort of the trip, but which are really only useless lumber.

How they pile the poor craft mast-high with fine clothes and big houses; with useless servants, and a host of swell friends that do not care twopence for them, and that they do not care three ha'pence for; with expensive entertainments that nobody enjoys, with formalities and fashions, with pretense and ostentation, and with ---- oh, heaviest, maddest lumber of all! --- the dread of what will my neighbor think, with luxuries that only cloy, with pleasures that bore, with empty show that, like the criminal's iron crown of yore, makes to bleed and swoon the aching head that wears it!

It is lumber, man --- all lumber!  Throw it overboard.  It makes the boat so heavy to pull you nearly faint at the oars.  It makes it so cumbersome and dangerous to manage, you never know a moment's freedom from anxiety and care, never gain a moment's rest for dreamy laziness --- no time to watch the windy shadows skimming lightly o'er the shallows, or the glittering sunbeams flitting in and out among the ripples, or the great trees by the margin looking down at their own image, or the woods all green and golden, or the lilies white and yellow, or the somber-waving rushes, or the sedges, or the orchids, or the blue forget-me-nots.

Throw the lumber over, man!  Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need --- a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.

You will find the boat easier to pull then, and it will not be so liable to upset, and it will not matter so much if it does upset; good, plain merchandise will stand water.  You will have time to think as well as to work --- time to drink in life's sunshine --- time to listen to the Aeolian music that the wind of God draws from the human heart-strings around us --- time to ---

I beg your pardon, really.  I quite forgot.

Well, we left the list to George, and he began it.

"We won't take a tent," suggested George; "we will have a boat with a cover.....

Interested?  Get hold of a copy and curl up with a big bowl of nice salty popcorn (popped in olive oil on the stove in your large-size pan)(don't forget the secret to tender popcorn --- lift the lid a crack when it begins to pop to let the steam escape), and enjoy!  

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