Proverbial Thursday- Global Proverbs

I find there to be profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and I marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and from across cultures. They speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.

Each Thursday, I post a Proverb or Saying and a quote that I find thought-provoking. 

I hope you will too.

Bättre en fågel i handen än tio i skogen.

Better a bird in hand then 10 in the forest – Swedish


and the quote this week, is a departure from Nietzsche’s words of previous weeks:

“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.” – Boris Pasternak

and this also from the author of Dr Zhivago:

Literature is the art of discovering something extraordinary about ordinary people, and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary.

[Boris L. Pasternak was a Russian poet, novelist, and literary translator. His… first book of poems, My Sister, Life, is one of the most influential collections ever published in the Russian language.- Wikipedia]

Do you agree with today’s words? Is surprise the greatest of all gifts from life?

Was Boris correct about the purpose of literature?

And what do you make of the wry humour in the Swedish proverb?

I would love to hear your thoughts so please share them.

Proverbial Thursday – Something to Ponder About


20 thoughts on “Proverbial Thursday- Global Proverbs”

  1. The first quote: I can’t help but feel I’ve heard this quote somewhere before, but just can’t put my finger on exactly where. It has me scratching my head. I’m sort of thinking along the lines of: it’s better to take care of one rare thing that you have, rather than having a lot of something and not being able to show your appreciation towards all of them. In simpler terms, the quote might mean avoiding greed.

    On the second quote, I agree with that to some degree. Surprises can certainly turn our world upside down for the good. It often comes with change, whether a change in lifestyle or we come to (suddenly) find out about a different perception. For instance, we might find it surprising and flattering when a person whom we think doesn’t like us turns out to admire us. On the other hand, surprises isn’t always fine and dandy. Curve balls are part and parcel of life.

    I totally didn’t get why “literature” was used at the beginning of the sentence. When I think of literature, I think about works of art, passion and creativity. But I do think that the smallest words and actions are the ones that speak the loudest and leave the most impact at the end of the day.


    1. Hi Mabel,
      “… the smallest words and actions are the ones that speak the loudest and leave the most impact at the end of the day.” Well chosen words, there Mabel. I like them and fully agree!
      I found the Swedish proverb a little cheeky, but also some advice in it for us. Better to appreciate what you have, than lust for more. So I concur with your assessment on a simple level. I do think it refers to a warning against greed. I like the added layer that you saw in the proverb.
      Surprises are really what makes life interesting I think. Sometimes they are not desirable but even then, we can learn something from them, and it often does keep us on our toes. In this way, it is a parallel to change, that dynamic, intangible and often uncontrollable force that surrounds us. A curve ball?….. yes surprises can definitely be those!
      I suppose Boris confuses us when he relates the “art” of literature to extraordinary characteristics amongst people. He must refer to ideas, and the transformation of those into a great work of literary art. ( I am not much of a Pasternak fan) but many regard him with awe. And I do like his quote on life! Have you read any of his works, Mabel? If so, what did you think of them?


      1. I like your take on the Swedish proverb, and the element of lust certainly makes sense. In a sense, what is in the palm of our hand is valuable and we should take note of that rather than always chasing something else.

        I’ve never read Pasternak’s work. This is the first I’ve heard of him. His quote did confuse me there. From the sounds of it, he must be a deep thinker and perhaps uses a number of analogies or metaphors in his work, like a true artist.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The Swedish proverb is an alternative version of the one I know: ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’.As a schoolchild, we had it stressed to us that we should be thankful for things we have now (bird in hand) and not crave things that seems inaccessible to us (bird in bush/ten in the forest. Be content with what we have.
    I don’t totally agree with the Pasternak saying. For a start, not all surprises are nice, or desirable. Everyone enjoys a nice surprise, but to say that even pleasant surprises are life’s greatest gift, is pushing it a bit. Having a wonderful family and friends ranks higher to me – and such people often treat us to nice surprises. Good health and happiness also mean more to me. I can accept that sometimes a surprise can work wonders and lift us up when we’re down, or break the monotony of life. on a less personal level, a surprise event could even change the course of the world, although it might not always be for the better.
    Re. quote three…I agree that literature opens our minds to so many things in life. A good writer has the skill to make ordinary people extraordinary by the creative use of words and his/her use of the knowledge acquired through research. Words are the writer’s tool, which he/she must weave into each extraordinary – or just plain interesting (!) – sentence.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Surprises may, I agree not always be nice or desirable, but I do think they make life interesting and may provide us with a challenge, or problem to solve. Gosh, that statement probably sounds like I have the most boring life!! But I do think we could possibly become apathetic if life was predictable everyday. Change isn’t always welcome, surprises aren’t always welcome, but I do think it is an essential aspect of life. Are they the greatest gift of life? Probably not; so in that respect I do agree with your assessment of the quote, Millie. A loving wonderfully supportive and caring family is probably closer to the mark of bein a great gift.


      1. Yes, I think you’ve summed that up really well. The main thing I as disputing in the quote was the phrase ‘the greatest gift in life’. Family etc, is a greater gift to me than surprises – which do break the tedium of life, as you say. (No, my life isn’t that boring, either). 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Perhaps not … I haven’t got the time to be bored. Sometimes I wish I had. Now that I’ve retired, I cram a lot into each day. The difference is that now I do it all because I want to. The ‘world of work’ is a different matter, and fitting personal interests into a life with a busy career can be almost impossible – as you know only too well.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve grown up with “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, too.

    I wonder if it was coined to discourage adventurism and is an assurance you should just put up with what you have and not strive to better yourself. As a child, I think it was explained to me that while you were off chasing those two birds in the bush, you might lose the bird you already had.

    Surprises jolt one out of complacency. One is living that moment. If we lose our ability to be surprised, then we are no longer paying attention, and I think that is what Boris means. I think surprises can be separated from shocks in this context. You know, he could be right. It is a gift.

    I like to think I’m stringing together ordinary words to make something extraordinary in my work-in-progress but my fantasy novel will never appear in the same sentence as literary. However, it is still literature. I love being transported to another time and place in our world, or in a fantasy one.

    Thanks for making me think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi again Christine and thank you for your input to Proverbial Thursday. I love comments that analyze our quotes and proverbs!
      I like that you pointed out the potential loss of what we have whilst we are chasing the bird in the forest, or the ten birds as the Swedish proverbs suggested. We could apply this analogy to lots of things. If we are off chasing our pipedreams, our friends or lovers may be gone by the time we return from our journeys. Many of us are endless chasing things we don’t have, such as more money, a better house, another car, holiday somewhere special and in the meantime, we miss the most important aspect, the journey to this destination!!! To refer to your point about the Pasternak quote, we might also apply it to the Swedish proverb. Appeciate the here and now, rather than be overly focused on our future and the “maybe ifs” of life!
      In regard to Pasternak, I think we would definitely be lacking attention if we failed to be surprised. It reminds me of the celebrities who begin to feel that public appearances are tiresome, for them, who have seen so much, become bored with everyday surprises. Some people on the other hand, have a great fear of the unknown and unpredictable, and as a consequence, dislike surprises intensely. I am glad that I can see surprises as a gift.
      A fantasy novel? How exciting! The fact that we can feel transported to an imaginary world, by virtue of words on a page, is extraordinary!!! Millie, a prevous commenter here, is also working on a novel atm! I will check in on your blog to follow your progress in this regard.
      I am glad you found the post here thought-provoking. It sure is fun for me to dissect the words with my blogging community!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love Millie’s books, having read both!

        I taxed my brain looking for how I felt about the aspects of your post. I nearly liked and ran, but you often take the time to visit and comment on my blog. Thanks for making me welcome.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You are always welcome and I hope the Proverbial Thursday isn’t too taxing!! But that is really the object !!! To make us think, that is. I do find the sayings so fascinating. There are so many layers!!!! Have a great week.

          Liked by 1 person

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