Six great lessons from literatureGood writers spend their whole careers – if not their whole lives – contemplating the fundamental nature of living. They examine, minutely, the human condition and express it with imagination and heart. If the tales they tell have any hope at touching you, they need to know a lot about the world. They need to be the kind of people worth listening to.

“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great. – Author of famous stories The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain is widely celebrated as one of the great American writers. He has a lot of famous, inspiring quotations attached to his name. This one is one of those that is important to remember in choosing your heroes, your idols, your friends. Hold onto the people who don’t undermine you, who don’t act like they’re better than you, who encourage you to be all that you can be, who believe in you in ways that you don’t always yourself.

“Love doesn’t make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” — These words from Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning come from harsh experience. Raised in a devoutly religious household, she fell in love in secret for fear her family would disapprove. When she finally married Robert Browning, she was disowned by her father. This is a woman who knew what it is to sacrifice huge things for love and still believe it to be worth fighting for. Love an enormous part of human existence. While it alone won’t go solving any crises, it is something well worth cherishing.

“Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.” — While the world lauds all kinds of quotations from William Shakespeare, this one is short, simple and eternal. No matter what your calling, hobby or career, let your pleasure come from the things you earn. The things you do will bring you far more satisfaction as you see them come to fruition than as you look back on them many years after they are finished and you have done nothing exciting since. As long as you are always striving towards a worthy goal, the satisfaction you experience will continue to fulfil you.

“There is an alchemy in sorrow. It can be transmuted into wisdom, which, if it does not bring joy, can yet bring happiness.” —This deep thought comes from American novelist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Pearl Buck. Her most famous works were award-winning depictions of peasant life in China. Her biographical works looked very closely at the human condition, at how poor Chinese people experienced the world. Her words are important to remember, no matter your status or situation. Bad things happen to everyone, and everyone equally is capable of using their misfortunes wisely to bring good, to themselves and to others.

“People are lovely because we love them, not the other way around.” — From British-born, award-winning writer Alan Hollinghurst, this sentiment is a deeper one than it may at first seem. It reminds us that beauty can be found wherever it is sought. There is loveliness in all of us, if only someone looks for it in the right place. Love is not about finding a person that is perfect, but about finding little pieces of perfection in flawed, fallible people and celebrating them.

“It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.” – Author of the original Fight Club novel, among other equally soul-searching books, Chuck Palahniuk is a writer who consistently digs deep into the darknesses of humanity in his work. This is a poignant reminder that people have evolved to be able to learn from pain, but to take joy for granted – which, in turn, is something most people don’t acknowledge enough. Palahniuk’s message here is about gratitude and mindfulness and holding onto whatever happiness we are lucky enough to experience.

Kirstie Summers,

Daily Zen.