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Posts Tagged ‘Dr. David Viscott’

9921076 To the Limit sm

To the Limit“- Part of the upcoming West End Gallery show



The purpose of life is to discover your gift.
The work of life is to develop it.
The meaning of life is to give your gift away.

— Dr. David Viscott



I wasn’t going to write about this today but I came across a tweet yesterday from a well known law professor who I highly respect using the quote above. Well, he used the shorter version– The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away— which cuts out the developmental stage in the middle.

All fine and dandy. However, he attributed it to Pablo Picasso. Things immediately stirred my interest because I like Picasso and he has actually said some very noteworthy things that end up as oft used quotations. But this just didn’t sound right.

So, off to Quote Investigator and, sure enough, there it was. No evidence of Picasso ever saying this nor Billy Shakespeare — I can call him that as we go way back– who is also often given credit for this quip.

No, it turns out that the first evidence in print came from a radio/TV psychiatrist who was very popular in the 1980’s and early 90’s, Dr. David Viscott. He died in 1996 at the age of 58. I don’t really remember him but he was pretty well known  for his fast diagnoses of callers problems and his in depth discussions on the required pharmacology. He even entered popular culture with his voice being the inspiration for the cartoon psychiatrist Dr. Marvin Monroe, who appeared regularly on the first seven seasons of The Simpsons

The earliest mention of the same sort of sentiment but in different, more specific words comes from an 1843 essay titled Gifts from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a stone; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing.

Perhaps Emerson was the David Viscott or Dr. Marvin Monroe of his era? His advice is very much the same though it is a bit dated with females, half the population, being relegated to sewing handkerchiefs. Thankfully, today females populate every field of endeavor and can do much more than sew hankies. I don’t want to offend any hankie sewers out there but how many hankies do we really need?

But the idea of giving of yourself, to share what you do best with those you love as well as the rest of the world, is the idea here. The idea that thought, effort, and time have went into a gift make them all the more precious. Even now, as I sit here, I have several gifts within sight that have been given to me over the years. Each is precious to me for just those reasons.

The tragedy is that so many of us never find that gift or overlook it when it is right in front us. Or even more tragically, that for whatever reasons, we never try to follow the hints to our gift that we do recognize. 

So, now that we’ve cleared up the origins of the advice at the top, get out there and do something that you love and share it with friends or family or the rest of the world.

It’ll make your day as well as that of someone else.



The painting at the top, To the Limit, is a new piece that is included in my upcoming show, Through the Trees, that opens next Friday, July 16th, at the West End Gallery in Corning. I used this painting for this post because the blowing tree often represents for me self-sacrifice and the giving of all to an effort. I guess that would make for a splendid gift.

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