Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle on Your Work

Today is a Final Word (at least for awhile) from Mr. Carlyle. Here it is. 

Thomas Carlyle quote On the choice of books  work  vocation meaning and purpose of work

Once again we see how rooted Carlyle is in the Christian worldview. For that worldview has a VERY HIGH view of work. Created in God's image, we are creators, workers, doers, makers of artifacts, artisan of culture, laborers in the marketplace vineyards of endless occupations.

We are created to do this. Much of the meaning and purpose of your life is to find out what you are made to do and what is made for you to do. At that intersection you discover identity, calling and vocation. Carlyle says this is one of the first problems every one of us must confront. What is the work we are to do in the universe?

Thomas Carlyle on Walking Against the Tide

Today and tomorrow - just two more from Carlyle. I hope you have been moved by this insightful author, as I am. Today's thought is one that describes the essence of being a follower of Christ. First, here is Carlyle and then I'll have a thought to add.

Thomas Carlyle quote On the choice of books  world obstructing you

That is the Christian journey. In the world but not of the world. The Book of Hebrews describes us as sojourners who are looking for a "better city." We are nomads making our way through this world that is out of sync (okay - full rebellion against) the kingdom of God. We are citizen-ambassadors of the Other Kingdom. We are Followers of the WAY. The Way is narrow, hard, difficult and only a few follow it. The Cultural Highway is broad, wide, busy and is life in the fast lane.

Thomas Carlyle on Speaking Truth

Speak the truth or don't speak at all.
Certainly never conclude a person is a good speaker just because they have mastered the art of oratory, passionate proclamation, or clever communication. We are so often drawn to those who are best at spin doctoring the truth. Or presenting personal opinion as if it is the truth delivered once and for all to the saints! All you have to do is recall so much of the recent conversation on "church" by those who have a grievance against it.

When I read some of the just silly or angry words about the church, the passage that came to mind was simply, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone at the church." For some of the loudest critics (at least the ones I know personally) are also some of the most grievous offenders. 

Thomas Carlyle on Why and How to Read

Carlyle says it so eloquently and compellingly - I have nothing to add.

Thomas Carlyle quote On the Choice of Books, reading

Well, I do have something to add. Two things.

First - Amen!
Second - run right now and get a book if you do not have one you are currently reading. Then, immediately - START reading.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International


Thomas Carlyle on Making Mistakes

It is a fact of life. There is nothing you can do about it.
You are going to fail. You will fall short. You will make mistakes. You will stumble in your work. You will err. You will take wrong turns. I have had some doozies. I have fallen and fallen hard. Wham - flat on the face. And that is not just ancient history many years old. I am thinking about this past week! 

Failure is not the failure...unless you fail to learn from the failure. Failing is part of the learning process. That is not the problem.

Thomas Carlyle on Humble Learning

Be Modest. Be Humble. Be Diligent.

Be these things when it comes to learning. This is not all we need be as learners. Curiosity is good. Passion also. Debate and rigorous critical analysis of the ideas set forth is not only useful - it is vital. Still, there is the great benefit of a humble demeanor for life long learning.

You know your limits. You know that you don't know MOST of what there is to know. You know you have many opinions, some of which have little substance of content or rigor of process supporting them. You understand the power of personal bias. You know you can't easily rise above your presuppositions, but at least you have awareness of them. You know others (many who are MUCH smarter than you) hold oppositive positons. You also know you have changed your mind (a time or two) in the past; and you will surely change your mind again in the future.

Thomas Carlyle "The Engraver"

Leaders Lead.
They lead by making an imprint on others.
They lead by "leaking" into the organization around them - values, beliefs, dreams, ethos...
They lead by influence.

Carlyle was such a Leader. Here is an observation about Carlyle's person and how others experienced him. It is spoken with warmth and respect by Richard Herne Shepherd who wrote the long introduction to the published inaugural address - On the Choice of Books.

Thomas Carlyle quote  On the Choice of Books  leaders imprint and influence

Thomas Carlyle and the Dishonest Man

Carlyle came from a Scottish-Calvinist background. While he turned away from much of the faith, still there was embedded within him, that essential worldview way of understanding life. At the core of that was a profoundly religious-moral understanding of truth, beauty and goodness. So much of Carlyle's writings were to expose VICE and to encourage VIRTUE. Here is one of his observations.

Thomas Carlyle quote  On the Choice of Books, dishonest man

Whether the dishonest man is a politician, preacher, educator, businessmen or friend - they "darken counself by words he utters."

When our culture allows such people to be in positions of leadership - well, the old biblical word WOE - comes to mind.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International


Thomas Carlyle on Books (Good and Bad)

I read a lot. There is never enough time to read. I have a long list of books I want to read. I have a number of unread books sitting on my "To Read Shelf." So I must be selective. For according to Carlyle, not all books are created equal. There are good books and bad books. There are books that edify and books that disturb with their mischief. There are books full of wisdom and there are books full of deception. There are books that are well written and books hastily scribbled (some by well known Christian celebrity authors who are rushed to get another book in print). 

A well known name does not a Good or Wise Book Ensure!

So Carlyle counsels discernment and cautions us to be discriminating (alert, sensitive, perceptive) readers. 

Thomas Carlyle quote  books are like sheep and goats  On the Choice of Books

What is a really good book that turned out to be a very great advantage in teaching you wisdom?
And have you read any books that seemed to the cause of a wild mischief?

Thomas Carlyle on Books and Work

I love quotes. I collect them. When I find really, really good ones, I go looking for images and I mash the quote and image together. 

I have some favorite authors who are eminently quotable. C. S. Lewis is one of them. G. K. Chesterton another. Thomas Carlyle is one author who is much less known to most of you, but who is inspiring and witty. Thomas Carlyle is one of the old writers (of the 1800s), philosoher, historian, cultural critic and in all things wide and deep sage, as well as a fine writer. To learn more about Carlyle, read this article. 

For the next several days, I will give you one or two of his quotes to consider. They are all from his inaugural address at Edinburgh University when he was installed at the Rector on April 2, 1866. The lecture was published as an essay - On the Choice of Books.


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