“Sing like no one is listening, love like you never been hurt, dance like no one is watching and live like it is heaven on earth.”

― Mark Twain‘s Famous Quote Interpreted #poetry

2/8/21: “Sing like no one is listening, love like you have never been hurt, dance like no one is watching and live like it is heaven on earth.” – Mark Twain’s Famous Quote Interpreted #poetry

Sing like no one is listening …

You should not write with any thought of other people. It’s not honest or free. You can only listen to what people have to say about what you have said, after you have said it. I was originally going to write that this quote sounded like it was from a self-help book and not the great Mark Twain, but that would have been an unnecessary apology, worrying about what people think. I share this quote because it reveals something about me and the way that I think things are, and if it is deemed less than hip or sophisticated in some circles, so be it.

… love like you have never been hurt …

The word “encouragement” has been strong in my mind for the last couple of days. Twain had many problems in his life, particularly in the latter part of his life. I was first drawn to his writing about the death of a child, and his raging condemnation of American imperialism in the early 20th century. The quote is a sly one. It seems sunny and sentimental, but only a spirit that had experienced the darkest depths could have written it. People with the greatest capacity for joy have a correspondingly great capacity for sorrow. Twain advises courage here, and implies that hurt has to be processed in order to prepare yourself for new love. You have to go through hurt, you can’t just jump over it.

… dance like no one is watching …

Twain makes a distinction between song and dance. This is not just a repetition of the same idea with a slightly different metaphor. The song is one’s art, one’s work. The dance is one’s life. We have to live and create without self-consciousness. The life is the basis of the art. The art clarifies the meaning of the life. The art transcends reflection upon oneself, and uses oneself to reflect upon existence. A writer has to live authentically, and write about his life honestly, and in so doing he or she transcends therapy or self-promotion and illuminates the journey of us all. The same laws govern a cell in our body that govern the wide expanse of the universe. We, and everything else is energy and matter. Consciousness of the approval or disapproval or interpretation of others while we are in the act of living, perverts and alters our trajectory. Here’s another line that sounds like self-help and is actually profound — if you follow anyone else’s path, you will cease living your own. We are all species unto ourselves. Life happens when we live out our peculiar destinies. Love happens in the mutual recognition that the other odd creature before us is also a metaphor for our own lives. So I can see myself in a movie about two ladies who write about cooking …

… and live like it is heaven on earth.

I wrote this in my last installment yesterday —

Her movies are about success

and I have always distrusted that

but that is my problem, not Nora Ephron’s

I have had the misfortune of knowing too many people who pursued career success at the expense of their humanity

and not observing closely enough the people who made their humanity the source of their success.

That’s one permutation of what Twain was talking about.

Twain was such a great writer.

He wanted people to be happy.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

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