What Is Man? is a powerful book written by Mark Twain that was sent to me by the heavens at the exact time I needed it. It advised me to look inside at what my mind was telling me to do instead of continuing to re-live behaviors that gave me happiness in the past.
Here is the wisdom I learned:
1. “Whatsoever a man is, is due to his make, and to the influences brought to bear upon it by his heredities, his habitat, his associations. He is moved, directed, commanded, by exterior influences—solely. He originates nothing, not even a thought.”
2. Your thoughts are instantly formed without any work on your part, the result of thousands of influences that shape you into who you are. No thought of yours is truly original—it has all been influenced. All men do is observe and combine.
3. A man can only achieve the top of his society, not another’s. A French musician can produce the finest of French music that is deeply enjoyed by his peers, but he will never produce music that is enjoyed by Chinese people.
4. A writer or artist is nothing more than a machine that is built up by influences. If an artist produces richer work than another, it’s because he used brighter paint or finer threads. In other words, his influences were better.
5. Self-improvement is a form of training that takes raw material (knowledge) and turns it into something beautiful (finished product), like taking iron ore from a mountain and turning it into steel that constructs skyscrapers.
6. You are motivated only to benefit your own good, not to help others. Those who decide to help others do so because it satisfies something within. Everything you do is for your own approval, even selfless acts that benefit strangers.
7. A man will never do anything which goes against what gives him true comfort. His behavior secures him peace of mind that has been determined by his training and temperament “He will always do the thing which will bring him the most mental comfort—for that is the sole law of his life.”
8. “There is no act, large or small, fine or mean, which springs from any motive but the one—the necessity of approving and contenting one’s own spirit.”
9. Inner turmoil is a result of not doing what brings you comfort. Close your eyes and let your mind direct your behavior to that which it wants. It is your master—a master created by training and make.
10. We are indifferent to another person’s pain unless that pain causes us pain.
11. Men do make sacrifices but it is for their own sake first, to please his spirit in some way.
12. Once a man thinks he has found truth, he puts up high walls to defend it. He is no longer open to different ideas or thought.
13. Your master (mind) is fickle and indecisive. Sometimes it makes you do things that make you feel pain. It is not perfect.
14. A good man will train himself in a way that his behaviors content him and also benefit those around him.
15. A man committing a horrible crime is actually an act that took many years and countless negative influences to accomplish. It was not a spontaneous behavior.
16. “Temperament is born, not made.”
This book was absolutely brilliant and ranks aside Walden as a work that helped right my wobbly balance. I did sense a touch of Eastern philosophy within its pages, particular how thought is independent of self. While I do think that genetics play a larger role than Twain suggests, it’s a mere minor fault in one of the best book’s I’ve ever read. Highly recommended.
23 thoughts on “16 Things I Learned From Mark Twain”
Going to get this today, thanks. One minor point: #3 is empirically false in today’s world.
totally espically if its western(american in particular) music/culture/influnce/clothing/etc in other traditional countrys….dam globalization
Yeah I read it and thought the same thing. This man proved the point. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0 (joking… kind of).
You are thinking too literally. Twain is saying that mastery of anything is only relevant in a particular milieu. There is no absolute, for-all-time mastery.
He also said “it is easier to fool someone, than to convince them they have been fooled”
Consider how that idea might be applied to interactions with women…
“15. A man committing a horrible crime is actually an act that took many years and countless negative influences to accomplish. It was not a spontaneous behavior.”
How relevant is this to Christopher Dorner….hmm?
Some of these are spot on, but many are heavily cynical, and belie the possibility of anyone ever performing a selfless act. I can think of many people I have personally known that contradicted a lot of these points.
Twain’s philosophy shows strong influences from Herbert Spencer, an influential philosopher at the time Twain wrote his book (early 1900s).
The one big thing I’ve learned from exposure to philosophy is that it is critical to sample many different philosophers. Ancient, medieval, and modern philosophy should all play a part in our intellectual development. Rarely does any one writer have the last word, and no school of thought has all the answers.
Every second book I read is from Roosh’s library, I don’t know if that’s good or bad.
Tweak the sub-heading of that headline. As it now reads, apparently there are great Americans who didn’t live.
Many pearls of wisdom indeed. I:ll have to pick a copy. I agree with Chase on 3 however. Good stuff. I have a growing addiction to ROK.
There is a philosophy which asserts that we ultimately manifest into what we think about and desire. There is no point in fighting it as it, it should be embraced and developed to its full potential. Don’t be steered away by the conventions of others. Even Popeye said “I am who I am.”
Check out Determinism and Laplace’s demon. You’re edging closer…looking forward to you diving into hard philosophy brah.
Sqapo.com is a reader friendly summary to dip your foot.
Great post. I’ve been getting into Benjamin Franklin lately, as you may have noticed in my forum comments. There’s a lot to be learned from the great men that came before us.
Women, dogs and the chestnut tree, the more you bash’em the better they be. Mark Twain
point #2 inspired me to write a piece on the nature of influence
My fav Twain quotes:
“If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.”
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
“Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed often and for the same reason.”
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose that you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”
“It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land. ”
And finally, here’s one particularly apropos to ROK and the denizens of the RVF:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”
Roosh, you forgot the Twain quote best suited for this site!
Mark Twain said of women swearing (think of all the femcunts who love saying “fuck”), “They know the words, but not the music.”
(I just did a search for the exact quote, and couldn’t find a precise match. But I did find him saying, “You got the words right, Livy, but you don’t know the tune.” So the same thing. My phrasing from above is from a George Will book.)
René Girard, a philosopher, has developed the “mimetic theory”. Search for it.
What is man and many other free books.
3 is wrong. Look at how the world reacted when Michael Jackson died. Read “Of the Standard of Taste” by David Hume. There is a lot of cross-cultural appreciation of art and literature.
Those are fantastic insights. I confess that I was not aware of this book by MT. Talk about a gifted and insightful chap.