reaching and crying out

One of the most profound sentences in the great 1953 novel Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis, seems so simple as to be unworthy of stating. And yet it is, after all, eminently worthy of stating. Here it is:

“It was one more argument to support his theory that nice things are nicer than nasty ones.”

The protagonist of the novel, Jim Dixon, has been ruminating about the fact that he just made a daring move in search of luck . . . in search of something good, something he really wants, something that’s purportedly off limits but powerfully wonderful.

He’s striving to get something nice.

Nice things are nicer than nasty ones. Well, obviously, and by definition! But what is Lucky Jim really getting at here?

What he means is that you won’t have nice things if you don’t strive to get nice things. You might have to take a big risk to get them. But it’s also risky to not take a risk and settle for nasty things. Not taking a risk is risky because you might get unlucky anyway, and even if you don’t, you are stuck with the nasty things.

Therefore, nice things are nicer than nasty ones, and worthy of pursuit, despite the risk.

Are you striving to get them?

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