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Despite being published almost 70 years ago, Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis, feels as modern and relevant as anything published today. I was astounded by the perfection of this novel. It is a comical work, and it had me laughing aloud all the way through. It also contains many deep wisdoms, some of which I am sharing on this blog. If you haven’t read this one, I urge you to add it to your bedside table. This novel is not to be missed. I stumbled upon it by accident, and how lucky I was! It’s easy to find good books, but hard to find great ones. This is a great one.

Here’s a final piece of wisdom from the book that I’d like to share with you. Lucky Jim is going after his dream, despite his fears of venturing into the unknown, and despite his perceived obligations to stay within the status quo, to never transgress the boundaries proscribed for him by others. He has just made a series of daring moves, and plans to continue making more. This is how he feels while in the thick of it all:

“And yet he felt an undefined hope: he had no charts for these waters, but experience proved that it was often those without charts who got the furthest.”

Ah, yes. This reminds me of sailors exploring the New World. If there’s a chart for it, someone else got there first, right? Charts also have the disadvantage of locking your thoughts into proscribed tracks, stifling the creativity of the moment.

Lucky Jim gives hope to all of us. He’s a man of many flaws—flaws which get him into egregious and hysterically funny trouble throughout the book. But we love him despite his flaws, in large part because he is afraid and yet takes risks anyway.

When I was young, I used to read books and magazines voraciously and try to use their prescriptions to guide my social interactions. Obviously, I believe that much knowledge and wisdom can be gained from the printed word; otherwise, I wouldn’t be here blogging. But hold onto prescriptions too tightly and things go awry. There is no book that can tell you what to say next when you’re in the midst of a social interaction. The social world is complex and ever-changing. The social world requires in-the-moment creativity; it must be approached with a guiding light, yes—but without a chart.

We don’t need the crutch. It can only hold us back.

Are you in the habit of tossing away the charts and flying with your instincts?

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