Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dream Big and Believe!

Photo from

Despite my skepticism regarding the Law of Attraction (LOA), sometimes cynically referred to as the fLaw of Attraction, I am a proponent of certain things which sound an awful lot like LOA, namely:

  • Thoughts become things
  • Attitude is everything
  • Dream big and believe

And that's why I was drawn to this quote attributed to W.H. Murray on page 382 of Mark Nepo's amazing day book, Awakening

"The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision which no one could have dreamed would have come their way." 

I found this quote evocative, Pantheistic, and ennobling--and not the least bit flaky. It immediately reminded me of the best aspects of the LOA. I had never even heard of W.H. Murray. Googling, I discovered William Hutchison Murray (18 March 1913 – 19 March 1996) was a Scottish mountaineer and writer.

Notice how differently Murray's quote appears in the original (emphasis added)!

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I have learned deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."

The foregoing passage occurs near the beginning of Murray's The Scottish Himalayan Expedition published in 1951. Two things jump out at me. I am interested in just how Nepo modified the original when he republished it in his book. I am not just talking about the reshuffling and recrafting of words. Notice how Nepo capitalized Providence, and made the statement gender-neutral. That's interesting. Providence is personified, and all people are included.

The second aspect of the passage that attracts me is the couplet attributed to Goethe. I wondered, "When and under what circumstances did Goethe say that?" Come to find out, Goethe did not actually say this at all! According to the Goethe Society of North America, what Goethe actually wrote (Faust, 214-30) was this:  

Was heute nicht geschieht, ist morgen nicht getan,
Und keinen Tag soll man verpassen,
Das Mögliche soll der Entschluß
Beherzt sogleich beim Schopfe fassen,
Er will es dann nicht fahren lassen
Und wirket weiter, weil er muß.

OK, my German is a little rusty. In Stuart Atkins' translation (Goethe. The Collected Works. Vol. 2: Faust I & II. Ed. and trans. Stuart Atkins. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1994. 7), those lines read:

What's left undone today, is still not done tomorrow;
to every day there is a use and purpose;
let Resoluteness promptly seize
the forelock of the Possible,
and then, reluctant to let go again,
she's forced to carry on and be productive.

The lines Murray attributed to Goethe actually come from John Anster's "very free translation" of Faust from 1835. The lines in question are spoken by the "Manager" in the "Prelude at the Theatre":

Then indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting over lost days.
Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute;
What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

The point, and at long last I do have one, is this: 
  • Truth is universal--and independent of human construction. 
  • Our human minds are imperfect, transmitting and receiving only a small portion of the full spectrum of reality.
  • When some image or some words or some feeling resonates with us, it's because we recognize a glimpse of universal truth it both the thing observed and in us.
  • The words Nepo attributed to Murray resonate with me (and maybe with you?). The value of Nepo's words do not come from the accuracy of his attribution, but from the glimpse of universal truth in them.
  • The words Murray attributed to Goethe are valuable, too. Goethe's words and the accurate translation left me cold. Anster's version connects deeply.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

We all have just this one life to live. Nothing holds us back but our own perceptions of reality. Maybe Goethe did not write these words, but he could have. And you could have, too!

Dream Big and Believe! 


At the outset, I referred to my skepticism of the Law of Attraction (LOA).

I am not a proponent of the so-called "Law" of Attraction, as it is very often a merely means for unscrupulous people to make money off the misery of others. The idea of manifesting a parking space (or a fat bank account) by simply expressing this wish to the Universe is absurd. If you don't get that parking space, you obviously were not clear enough in your intention, since the Universe always responds to clear signals.


The Secret is a deeply flawed film and book, even though (or perhaps because) it has made Rhonda Byrne a very rich lady.

For a decidedly practical and "un-woo-woo" book about LOA, see Deanna Davis, The Law of Attraction in Action.

For a more scientific look at the benefits of positive thinking, look into the Positive Psychology movement led by such pioneers as Donald O. Clifton,  Martin Seligman, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

If you want to study and examine a "Law" of another sort which explains how the universe really works, I recommend Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology, and Social Organization, by Adrian Bejan and J. Peder Zane.

Health, happiness, and prosperity to all!