Archive for October 12th, 2022

Do It Again

Early Sketch 1990's

The happiness of most people we know is not ruined by great catastrophes or fatal errors, but by the repetition of slowly destructive little things.

–Ernest Dimnet, What We Live By, 1932

I think about repetition quite often. There’s the repetition of history, for example, where we seem doomed to continuously relive every mistake made in the past by our forebearers. Like we, somehow, are going to achieve different results than those in the past.

Or on a smaller scale, the repetition of destructive behaviors by individuals, even though they often know that the outcome will not be any better than it was in their past. We all know those people. Hell, we may be those people.

I guess that would be the kind of repetition that Ernest Dimnet was writing about in the excerpt at the top. Dimnet was a French priest who had a worldwide bestseller in the 1920’s with his book The Art of Thinking. It was an early self-help book that placed Dimnet’s works at the time on the same level of that from Dale Carnegie and his eternally classic How to Win Friends & Influence People.

Dimnet didn’t have the lasting power of Carnegie and few know the name now. I read several recent reviews of his books online and was surprised at how relevant those reviewers found Dimnet’s observations and advice.

I guess human nature hasn’t changed much in the past century.

Repetition, see?

Then there’s the repetition of small non-destructive behaviors like those exhibited by us creatures of habit. I find them to be coping devices, things that provide an orderliness to stave off chaos. Even writing this blog on a daily basis for the past 13 or 14 years has become a repeated exercise on which I depend in order to stay upright.

I also think of repetition in terms of my work. I repeat forms and themes endlessly. It’s done both consciously and subconsciously. I accept and embrace it but sometimes worry about it. However, I seem incapable of changing my pattern. I often feeling like I am in an eternal Groundhog’s Day as though I know that there is something I need in those same forms and themes and that the next one will somehow reveal that vital information to me.

Maybe today will be the day…

Here’s a song from Steely Dan that sums up Dimnet’s words pretty well. It’s Do It Again.

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