“Never did so great a mind produce so little.”

Nothing was ever achieved without discipline: and many an athlete and many a man has been ruined because he abandoned discipline and let himself grow slack. Coleridge is the supreme tragedy of indiscipline. Never did so great a mind produce so little. He left Cambridge University to join the army; but he left the army because, in spite of all his erudition, he could not rub down a horse; he returned to Oxford and left without a degree. He began a paper called The Watchman which lived for ten numbers and then died. It has been said of him: “He lost himself in visions of work to be done, that always remained to be done. Coleridge had every poetic gift but one — the gift of sustained and concentrated effort.” In his head and in his mind he had all kinds of books, as he said himself, “completed save for transcription.” “I am on the eve,” he says, “of sending to the press two octavo volumes.” But the books were never composed outside Coleridge’s mind, because he could not face the discipline of sitting down to write them out. No one ever reached any eminence, and no one having reached it ever maintained it, without discipline.” — William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the creative genius behind classic poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Christabel and Kubla Khan was notorious for his meager literary output, in spite of this towering gifts. Perhaps his opium addition contributed to his slothful approach to life and work.

While I lack his abilities, I find all too often that I can relate to poor work ethic. Though I don’t have Coleridge’s fondness for opium, I do have diversions that numb me to more important pursuits.

What about you? Is there anything that has helped you grow in self discipline?


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5 Responses to “Never did so great a mind produce so little.”

  1. Great post, Dave. I regularly need to be reminded about discipline. One of Spurgeon’s proverbs regularly encourages me – “A little each day is much in a year.”

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Sigmon, Mark Altrogge. Mark Altrogge said: "Never did so great a mind produce so little.": http://t.co/zt2xA7M […]

  3. BooBoo says:

    EXCELLENT POST! It really speaks to me about the necessity of focused efforts, and the importance of following through with the ideas that are conceived in one’s mind.

    It has been said that what the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve. I know there are limits; as a man, I can believe with all my heart that I can get pregnant and deliver a baby but it ain’t gonna happen. Number one, I ain’t stupid enough to want to deliver a baby through my penis. My goal is to seek God’s will, and believe with all my heart that I can achieve it! I believe that God is going to lay just a bit more on us than we can bear, and that’s a GOOD thing! If all we have on us is all we can bear, then we wouldn’t need God.

  4. David Wilson says:

    I wonder if you’re thinking of 1 Corinthians 2:9: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard,no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”

    As far as a guy delivering a baby … dude, that’s just weird.

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