SMITH COLUMN: Wisdom of Mark Twain

Published 10:30 am Friday, March 11, 2022

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Mark Twain’s time, 1835-1910, was a different time. People didn’t need to lock their doors. Politicians, even back then, got the back of the hand treatment. Travel by railroad was the ultimate adventure. Everybody had a garden. Reading, writing, arithmetic and the hickory stick were staples of a society where a good name was preferred over great riches. When it came to extending a helping hand, the poor pitched in.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Twain’s birth name, lived through the Civil War. He lived to see all the original 48 states, except New Mexico and Arizona, admitted into the union. He enjoyed train travel and experienced movies created by Thomas Edison and the Wild West Show of Buffalo Bill Cody.

William Faulkner said Twain was “the father of American literature.” He gave us the “Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”  Less celebrated, but financially rewarding was, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” His writings and lectures brought him a lot of money which he lost by making bad investments.

With the help of Henry Huttleson Rogers, an industrialist and philanthropist, he regained solvency after declaring bankruptcy. While bankruptcy did not require him to pay back his creditors, Twain chose to do so. Perhaps, that tells you more about him than his literary achievement and sage wit.

He was a writer, lecturer and humorist who once said, “No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot.”

His commentary back then would resonate if he were living, writing and lecturing today. His insightful commentary and his sharp wit would make headlines just as they did in his prime years more than a hundred years ago.

Recently, I allowed Mr. Google to put me in touch with the musings of this Great American. I will be going back for more.

Here is a sampling of the best of Mark Twain:

  • Success is a journey, not a destination. It requires constant effort, vigilance and reevaluation.
  • If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.
  • Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.
  • When I was 17, my father was so stupid, I didn’t want to be seen with him in public. When I was 24, I was amazed how much the old man had learned in just seven years.
  • Why waste your money looking up our family tree? Just go into politics and your opponent will do it for you.
  • Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
  • Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.
  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and starting on the first one.
  • Don’t wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it.
  • Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.
  • If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you are misinformed.
  • To be great, truly great, you have to be the kind of person who makes others around you great.
  • Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.
  • I was educated once. It took me years to get over it.
  • Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.
  • A little more kindness, a little less speed, a little more giving, a little less greed; A little more smile, a little less frown, a little less kicking a man while he’s down; A little more “we,” a little less, “I,”a little more laugh, a little less cry; A little more flowers on the pathway of life and fewer on the graves at the end of the strife.

Even though the Internet may destroy us, it can make your day, especially when you connect with a Mark Twain who truly had something to say.