5 Unforgettable Things I Learned From ‘Of Human Bondage’

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I’m currently reading Anna Karenina,a masterpiece,and the last book I finished reading was Of Human Bondage.As I said in my review,Of Human Bondage has taught me many things about life and given me a new outlook on it.Here are the 5 main things that I learned from the book and that I will never forget.

1. On atheism
Like me,Philip Carey is an atheist.Like me,he believed that atheism was the mere disbelief in God.One day,Cronshaw,an English poet,enlightens Philip about his atheism: ”You have thrown aside a creed, but you have preserved the ethic which was based upon it.”  I have never come across a better definition of atheism.Religion* with its countless activities and stories has lost sight of the point of its existence.On the other hand,atheism focuses on that part which religion has too often overlooked: the ethical and thus the right way of living.Since the day I encountered this line,I have given greater importance to ethics and morality.

*Religious folks,please don’t be offended.I’m merely generalizing.

2.On religion
Later in the book,Philip meets Thorpe Athelny.He too is an atheist,but surprisingly,he says it is important for his wife and children to go to the Church regularly,for religion is beautiful.He believes that religion is the perfect agent of morality,which is very true.I will extrapolate: religion is the best agent of morality but people must never lose sight of the real purpose of religion ; they should act and apply,instead of listening and nodding. 

3.On failure
Philip at one point in his life wanted to become an artist and attended art classes in Paris.There he made a bunch of new friends,among whom was Fanny Price.The latter was a poor,talentless and unsympathetic young girl.She was also certain that she was very talented,worked hard with much determination to improve her paintings and never listened to critics.In the end,her money ran out and she could not even afford a piece of bread.She committed suicide.Her miserable death struck both Philip and me.Sometimes you just are not made for a certain kind of job,regardless of your determination,work-rate and will to improve.Bizarrely I know a guy with the same mindset as Fanny.He wants to be a writer and believes that using flowery language in excess is the way to go.I have subtly suggested to him that hardly any writer uses that kind of English which almost nobody understands,but it was to no avail.

4.Life,a carpet.
At the start of the book,Philip asks Cronshaw what he believes is the meaning of life.The latter tells him to look at a carpet and he will find the answer.It wasn’t until the final stages of the book that Philip understood what was meant.The design on a carpet is made of different patterns.Likewise,the world is made of different lives; some go on living an ordinary life,hence a normal pattern,while others pursue ideals and lead a life difficult to follow,hence a complex pattern.At the time of death,the design will be complete and will be a representation of the person’s life.Throughout the story,Philip has witnessed the miserable downfall of people he had known since long and who wished to weave a complex pattern in their carpet.Thus he reaches the conclusion that “the simplest pattern, that in which a man was born, worked, married, had children, and died, was likewise the most perfect.”

5.The story of the Eastern King 
The story below was written by Anatole France but was cited in Of Human Bondage.

An Eastern King,desiring to know the history of man,was brought by a sage five hundred volumes; but with affairs of state,he bade him to go and condense it; in twenty years the sage returned and his history was in no more than fifty volumes,but the King,too old then to read so many ponderous tomes,bade him go and shorten it once more; twenty years passed again and the sage,old and gray,brought a single book in which was the knowledge the King had sought; but the King lay on his death-bed,and he had no time to read even that; and then the sage gave him the history of man in a single line; it was this: he was born,he suffered and he died.

Pain is inevitable in life and is yet another thread in our carpet.As strange as it may sound,pain is essential for the uniqueness of our design.It is no more or less important than the thread of happiness.This is why people should avoid complaining about this or that and move on and weave their own unique design in the carpet of life.

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7 thoughts on “5 Unforgettable Things I Learned From ‘Of Human Bondage’”

  1. I love this post really makes sense and gets one thinking not just about one’s own life but the whole picture, earth, humans, the universe, what are we and how do we conduct ourselves as a masse in this life we are given.

    1. I’m really glad this post touched you.
      That is why I blog.I want to share what I’ve learned from books with as many people as possible.So I’m always over the moon when a post of mine has touched at least 1 person! 🙂

  2. Found your blog through eclecticoddsnsods.

    I am a Christian. I’m not at all offended by your statements or opinions. And I totally agree with you on #2 above. But then so did James – “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (KJV James 2:26).

    Very thought provoking.

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