RIP Hugh Prather

Through the Publishers Weekly blog I see Hugh Prather died. While I’m quite skeptical contemptuous of most self-help, touchy feely or pop psychology books, I’ve probably read Hugh Prather’s Notes to Myself: My Struggle to Become a Person more than any other book in the last 35 or so years.

Written in a journal style, Prather’s book essentially consists of jottings or notes, some short and others longer, of his thoughts on a variety of life’s important — and not so important — issues. It probably resonated with the public because it expressed thoughts many of us have at various stages of our lives. I know every time I’ve read the book over the last three plus decades, parts of it spoke to me and not always the same parts. It is, in fact, one of my Desert Island Books.

First published in 1970, people of my era are probably familiar with it. Even though it is still in print, I’m guessing it isn’t on the radar of younger individuals. Most of the book is timeless, though, and so I gave each of my children their own copy. Here are three passages that always struck me. In fact, the first may be my favorite from the entire work.

  • “There is a part of me that wants to write, a part that wants to theorize, a part that wants to sculpt, a part that wants to teach…. To force myself into a single role, to decide to be just one thing in life, would kill off large parts of me.”
  • “My trouble is I analyze life instead of live it.”
  • “I live from one tentative conclusion to the next, thinking each one is final. The only thing I know for sure is that I’m confused.”

With Prather’s death, I have no doubt I’ll read it again this week — and it will become perhaps even more dogeared and underlined.

Perfectionism is slow death.

Hugh Prather, Notes to Myself

2 comments to RIP Hugh Prather

  • Your skepticism is appreciated.

  • Goodness! I haven’t thought about Prather’s books since shortly after my SDSU days. My evening plans? A little attic digging just to find my copies. Then I think a glass of wine and some time holding them close, reading them once again, and reflecting on what they mean to me now–so many years later.