May 05 2016

The Benefits of Routine

Published by at 10:20 am under John Cowper Powys

From A Philosophy of Solitude (1933), by John Cowper Powys.

A well-managed solitary life, whether surrounded by people or protected from people, is a very delicate and a very difficult work of art.

Routine plays the leading part. Men and women who do not insist on routine in their lives are sick or mad. Without routine all is lost. Just as without some kind of rhythm all is lost in poetry. For routine is man’s art of copying the art of Nature. In Nature all is routine. The seasons follow one another in sacred order; the seed ripens, the leaf expands, the blossom and the fruit follow, and then comes the fall.

Routine is the rhythm of the universe. By routine the harvests are reaped, by routine the tides rise and ebb; by routine the Constellations march in their sublime order across the sky. The feel of routine is the feel of the mystery of creation. In the uttermost abysses of life it holds sway. Beautiful and tragic is its systole and diastole. Without routine there can be no happiness; for there can be no endurance, no expectation, no security, no peace, no old or new, no past or future, no memory and no hope.

But after routine has been attained the most important achievement in the art of a solitary life is having the right thoughts, that is to say having thoughts that give you a calm happiness, in place of thoughts that prick you and sting you and bite you and corrode you!

It is astonishing to think how long humanity has existed, and yet how little we have advanced in gaining control over our thoughts. To control your thoughts—that is the most important thing you can do; far more important than to control your children or your food or your drink or your wife or your husband or your business or your work or your reputation. He who can control his thoughts is at the key-position of the Cosmos. He has the clue, the secret password. Down into the depths of the sea he can dive and find pearls and coral and drowned gold. Over the grassy prairies he can follow the wind till he feels as if he were clutching the rim of the horizon with his crooked fingers.

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