Tao Te Ching
THE TAOISM OF LAO TZU
Fake Lao Tzu Quote
"As soon as you have made a thought..."
This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:
"As soon as you have made a thought, laugh at it."
My first reaction to this quote was: do you make a thought, isn't it so that you have it? We will get to that, but let's start with the message of this quote as it is written and what it suggests. Should you laugh at a thought that appears in your mind, whatever it is? That's like saying you should reject all your thinking. It will not get you anywhere.
The earliest appearance I have found of this exact quote in a book is in Fellini on Fellini, a collection of texts by the movie director Federico Fellini translated by Isabel Quigley, from 1976. It says, in regard to Fellini's 1970 film The Clowns (page 124):
The next book with the quote is Silver Departures: a Collection of Quotations from 1983, by Richard Kehl, ascribing the quote to Lao Tzu (page 40). Kehl might have gotten it from the Fellini book, but he gave no information about it.
The oldest appearance of the quote I have found on the Internet is a blog post from October 2006 by the writer Roger von Oech, accrediting it to Lao Tzu. He had previously published the quote in his book A Whack on the Side of the Head in its 1990 edition (page 91), but not in the first edition from 1983. Therefore, I find it likely that he got the quote from Kehl's book mentioned above.
Now, let us move on to a shorter version of the quote that makes more grammatical sense:
On the web I have found one occurrence of the quote older than Millman's book. It is in a column by Joey Garcia in a Sacramento news website, already from February 26, 2004. She accredited it to Lao Tzu. It would be very interesting to know where she got it from, since it cannot have been Millman. Being a journalist, she might have seen the quote with "made a thought" and edited it, which is totally understandable.
So, I have to settle for the most plausible source to this false Lao Tzu quote being Fellini. It could be worse.
September 13, 2020.
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