On Lying in Bed

What follows is one of my favorite passages in Lin Yutang's playfully serious book on Chinese philosophy: "The Importance of Living," :

"It is amazing how few people are conscious of the importance of the art of lying in bed, although actually in my opinion nine-tenths of the world's most important discoveries, both scientific and philosophical, are come upon when the scientist or philosopher is curled up in bed at two or five o'clock in the morning.

Some people lie in the daytime and others lie at night. Now by "lying" I mean at the same time physical and moral lying, for the two happen to coincide. I find that those people who agree with me in believing in lying in bed as one of the greatest pleasures of life are the honest men, while those who do not believe in lying in bed are liars and actually lie a lot in the daytime, morally and physically. Those who lie in the daytime are the moral uplifters, kindergarten teachers and readers of Aesop's Fables, while those who frankly admit with me that a man ought to consciously cultivate the art of lying in bed are the honest men who perfer to read stories without a moral like Alice in Wonderland.

Now what is the significance of lying in bed, physically and spiritually? Physically, it means a retreat to oneself, shut up from the outside world, when one assumes the physical posture most conducive to rest and peace and contemplation. There is a certain proper and luxurious way of lying in bed. Confucius, that great artist of life, "never lay straight" in bed "like a corpse," but always curled up on one side. I believe one of the greatest pleasures of life is to curl up one's legs in bed. The posture of the arms is also very important, in order to reach the greatest degree of aesthetic pleasure and mental power. I believe the best posture is not lying flat on the bed, but being upholstered with big soft pillows at an angle of thirty degrees with either one arm or both arms placed behind the back of one's head. In this posture any poet can write immortal poetry, any philosopher can revolutionize human thought, and any scientist can make epoch-making discoveries."

I better seek permission before quoting anymore of this wonderful book, from the Permissions Department, William Morrow and Company, Inc.,1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY. 10019.

References: Lin, Yutang, (1937), "The Importance of Living," New York:William Morrow, reprinted in 1996, 462 pages.

Last updated 20 March 1999

by Duen Hsi Yen

E-mail: yen@noogenesis.com

Return to the wordmap.
about wordmap