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Excerpts from
"The Selected Writings of Louis E. Armstrong"
Edited and published by Karen Armstrong Carter


Man does not have to accept either himself or his surroundings as they are, for it is within his power to change both.

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One must be aware of the tendency of the human mind to distort stimuli to fit preconceived ideas. One tends to perceive what one wants and needs to perceive. One alters one's perceptions when one needs or wants to do so.

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We are forever distorting whatever happens to us to fit in conveniently with whatever we now think or want to think, and letting what we think be determined by what we want to think as opposed to what the facts might say.

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Experience isn't doing much to some of you, and I'll tell you why. It's because you already have a place to put whatever happens to you. You twist and distort experiences to fit into your already present prejudices and points of iew, and you won't change. This is one of the greatest weaknesses of the human mind.

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The thing about Pal, my dog, that's significant and makes him a dog is that he cannot stop his fleeting thoughts. They're forever racing, with one following the other in rapid sequence. Man, on the other hand, was given a mind that can create symbois. He has in his possession the concept that everything has a name. Furthermore, man can hold that name in his mind. You see, the greatness of your mind emerges out of the fact that you can hold a thought, and you can reflect on a thought. This is why man was given dominion over the lower creatures.

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Quietness of mind is the first prerequisite of learning to love learning.

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Most of the things that we really truly understand down in our blood and bones, we learned without really knowing that we learned it.

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We can't change the facts that have happened to us, but we can change the meaning these facts have for us.

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Try looking at life from a different perspective. Don't get too impatient if you flounder awhile and don't seem to know where you're going. At least you're trying to go somewhere other than where you are.

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Take note of the expressions on the faces of people someday at a busy street intersection, and what you will observe will likely dramatize the proposition that many, if not most, people do not go on learning. If you will classify what you see as: "Here is a person who finds life dull and frustrating," or as "Here is a person who finds life exciting and interesting," you may be surprised by the results.
Your classification of people by expressions on their faces will be erroneous in many instances, but you will have gained some insight into the fact that many people do find it difficult to go on learning, to go on changing and growing in accordance with their potentiality for growth and change.

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Activity can loose a flood, but it takes intelligence to build a system of irrigation.

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We need to develop big pictures in our minds from which we can organize, select, and group our thoughts. We need to construct large frames of references.
Have you ever stopped to think about such a simple thing as a map and that a map often shows more by showing less? I always like to pick up a map that leaves out a lot of the detail, so that I can see what the big picture is. You throw a map at me that shows a lot of detail, and it won't do anything but infuriate me. First, let me look as a map that has some big things on it, and then I can see better because I'm seeing less.

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I was teaching one day, and after class I heard some of the boys talking about what I had been saying. I went up to one of them and inquired, "Sammy, how much do you know about what I said today?" He said, "Hell, know?! I don't even suspect anything!" I suspect that is more true than we teachers know or want to admit.

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The number one enemy of creative thought, and of learning itself, is passivity.

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I feel sure that one hour of conscious solitude will enrich a person's capacity for creativity far more than hours of trying to learn the creative process.

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It is your freedom of choice to decide what to think and what to do, which is the source of both your majesty and misery.

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Dictators come to power because they know a secret about people. The secret they know is that people do not want to decide for themselves.

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All great religions and philosophies are in agreement with respect to what constitutes a good rule or guide that human beings find helpful when they find themselves in situations where judgements between "right" and "wrong" must be made. Here is the rule of guide: One, assume that the life you are not leading is not your first but your second life; two, assume that in your first life you made the same stupid or wrong decisions that you are now about to make; now, make your decision. The substance of this rule is simple: do not knowingly repeat the errors of the past.

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There is no right or wrong for the game of life you play now or later, except as you accept the fact that you are the source of it all. You and you along are responsible for your life and the cause of all your learning and experience.

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Your behavior is purposeful when you direct your energies and thinking toward the achievement of some worthwhile goal. Do not cheat yourself with excuses.

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We should cease and desist from the practice of trying to place responsibility for failure on someone other than ourselves, and instead, follow a policy of assuming that we are a part of all the problems that we seek to solve.

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You do not have to worry about moving your life out of the shallows and into the depths so long as you utilize the mistakes you make as grist for grinding in your own intellectual mill, and within the context of your own emotional life.

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Profit from the mistakes you make. Know that to live is to make mistakes. The fear of failure is a powerful obstacle to growth. Know that fumbling and fooling, trial and error, is a necessary part of any worthy undertaking.

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It is not always easy to know when one's motives are good. We often think that we want to do good when in fact we actually desire to do evil. This is to say that it is not always easy to know what one's deep-down motives are in a given situation.

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This page created by M.D. Smith on June 12, 2002 and last modified on June 12, 2002