My all-time favorite American ‘thinker’ is unquestionably Ralph Waldo Emerson.
I am still working my way through all of his writings, but what I have read strikes a chord. I will refer to some of his well-known ‘truisms’ often; they are short nuggets that seem to capture big, honest assessments of life in simple terms.
Here is one I read that is particularly fitting to start with:
“Our best thoughts come from others.”
This one strikes me today because (1) By using the quote I’m actually fulfilling its message; (2) I sometimes honestly wonder if I have ever had an original thought in my entire life. If I am truthful about it, almost every opinion that I have, observation that I make, or idea that I spout has been taken directly from some other mind that happened to strike me as true when I first heard/read it. Even when I think I come up with a unique insight, I eventually realize that it was just some rephrasing of something else I had gotten from others.
I don’t think this is a bad thing. But I’m learning that it is particularly true. Even Emerson got most of his ideas from things that had been written before (i.e. The Bhagavad Gita).