Friday, November 27, 2009

One Man's Take on the Happy Life

'Great effort from great motives is the best definition of a happy life.'
--William Ellery Channing. Don't recognize that name? Neither did we. But no less a figure than Emerson called this 19th-century Unitarian minister from Boston "a kind of public conscience." It doesn't get much better than that, folks.


At 1:15 PM, Blogger Kass said...

I really like this quote. I have a plaque on my wall that says, "It takes courage to live a simple, honest decent life."
Either way, it does take effort to have a sense of well-being and it always involves motives which affect the greater good.
(you always say 'we' in your posts. To whom else are you referring?)

At 1:30 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Glad you liked it, Kass. And that "we" question has come up before, with one reader even assuming it meant my wife co-writes this blog, which I found hilarious.

No, I use it in what's known as the "editorial 'we'" fashion. I was pleasantly surprised that this phenomenon even has its own Wikipedia entry (link below), which does at least a passable job of describing it:'s entry notes that this form has been in use at least as far back as "Beowulf":

But I suppose the best parallel I can cite to how I intend it is the luminous way in which the saintly E.B. White wrote for years in his unsigned New Yorker magazine "notes and comments" essays. It was a device that helped take the attention away from the writer and focus it exclusively on the argument and the subject(s) about which one was writing. So there's some element of an homage to E.B. in my using it. In the end, it just sounds and feels right to me, and so I use it.

Anyway, I hope that answers your question, Kass. Now, aren't you sorry you asked?

At 4:14 PM, Anonymous Mike Q said...

I've always found it interesting when a person substitutes for "I" or "me" by using the third person, as in a news report when the writer refers to "a reporter" or even "a visitor" who obviously is the writer:

"A man who would not identify himself told a visitor the family was not at home."

At 10:50 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That's a journalistic convention that defies all common sense, but nevertheless remains in force at most newspapers. The new journalism of the sixties reacted against it by including use of I to inject some realism into things, but that then often became overdone (Hunter S. Thompson comes immediately to mind). Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes-either pretending the writer doesn't exist or the writer's sensibility taking precedence over the material--is where it should be.


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