Gaining from Brilliant Thoughts
by Tom Goodman
April 22, 2009
Exactly how many brilliant thoughts are there in the world?
Over 10,000. And according to the Wall Street Journal, you have to pay to use them. Such as:
"No man is an island, but some of us are long peninsulas."
"Before I knew the best part of my life had come, it had gone."
"Doing it wrong fast is at least better than doing it wrong slowly."
"I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once."
"If you want a kind answer, you should ask a kind question."
Those are from Ashleigh Brilliant, who lays claim to being history's only full time, professional published epigrammatist.
To qualify as a Brilliant Thought (his label), the Santa Barbara resident says an epigram must conform to a rigid code: It can only be 17 words -- a tribute to the number of syllables in Japanese haiku. Also, to ensure that an epigram will make
the transfer across time, he makes no reference to fads or fashion, and he avoids rhymes and puns.
Reader's Digest has paid him $50 each time they have used a Brilliant Thought in their "Quotable Quotes." But there's more money in selling merchandise with his epigrams and threatening lawsuits against those who use the sayings without
permission. By the time the Wall Street Journal wrote about him, he had written more than 350 threatening letters to alleged infringers, and had filed and won a half dozen copyright cases. At the time of the article, his business was
generating about $100,000 a year.
I like a lot of Mr. Brilliant's epigrams, and I'm impressed that he's made a successful business from his work. But I've been studying another set of brilliant thoughts -- and they are absolutely free to use.
Under divine inspiration, ancient wise men collected pithy sayings into the Old Testament book we call "Proverbs." At Hillcrest, we've started a study through this ancient book in a Sunday morning series called "Bumper-Sticker Wisdom." You can catch up with the series at our website, and then join us at 10am this Sunday for the next installment: "How to Keep Your Mouth From Getting You Into Trouble."
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