From Pushkin to Pausch: Dreams, Habits and Happiness

Привычка свыше нам дана,
замена счастию она.

Heaven sends us habit
to take the place of happiness.

from Eugene Onegin, by Alexander Pushkin, Book 2, Stanza 31 


Taking that quote out of its narrative context (preserved for obsessive-compulsive posterity, below) and giving it a generalized interpretation:   We start out young and foolish, ambitious with pie-in-the-sky dreams. Then, over the course of, say, 15 to 25 years, many of us get grinded down by reality and its attendant demands. Our mental and spiritual survival mechanism is to find comfort and contentment in the routines that make up our daily lives. 

Routines lead to habits and vice versa. In the working world, the analog of  “Routine/Habit” is called “Process.”  Process is neccessary for survival, but it is often hated by people with strong Expressive/Visionary  tendencies — the Romantic poets of business. In Eugene Onegin, Pushkin was clever enough to recognize and parody himself in the hopeful/hopeless character of the poet Lensky, even while acknowledging the tragedy of a mediocre, stifled life.

Unfulfilled dreams and missed opportunities don’t have to be a sad thing, and we don’t have to resign ourselves to mediocrity just because we’re not going to acheive all those dreams exactly the way we had hoped. As Randy Pausch said today in his Last Lecture, quoting a popular maxim of a former employer, “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.” 

 Predated Entry (Icon)


Рвалась и плакала сначала,
С супругом чуть не развелась;
Потом хозяйством занялась,
Привыкла и довольна стала.
Привычка свыше нам дана:
Замена счастию она .

She pined and wept at first, of course,
Nearly insisted on divorce,
Then took up household management,
Grew habituated and became content.
Habit is given us by heaven’s bequest:
It is almost as good as happiness.

(Chapter 2, Stanza 31)


Always contented with his life,
and with his dinner, and his wife.
(Chapter 1, Stanza 12)

Habit is Heaven’s own redress:
it takes the place of happiness.

(Chapter 2, Stanza 31)


from Eugene Onegin, Scene 1, by Pyotr Tchaikovsky:

I busied myself with the household,
became resigned and settled down.

And God be thanked!

Habit is sent us from above
in place of happiness.
Yes, that is how it is:
Habit is sent us from above,
in place of happiness.

Привычка свыше нам дана,
замена счастию она.



About danspira

My blog is at: My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on September 18, 2007, in Art, Business, Learning, Life. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply -- for humans only, no spambots

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: