“I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.”
~ Jack London
Jack London (born in America in 1876, and died in 1916) was a novelist, journalist, short-story writer, social activist and pioneering farmer.
Although London could not continue with his schooling due to financial struggles early on in his life, he still went on to become the most poplar, best selling and highest paid writer of his time.
Jack London’s most well known books are Call of the Wild (1903), The Sea Wolf (1904) and White Fang. These books, among other literary writings very quickly became internationally acclaimed.
To this day, London is considered by many to be America’s finest author. He has become an iconic figure, with his strikingly handsome looks, his craving for adventure, romantic idealisms and his aim to understand the struggles within society.
Keeping to a disciplined writing regime, London penned on average 1,000 words per day, resulting in a fine collection of work which spanned 18 years. Overall, he published more than 50 books and hundreds of articles and short-stories, many of them becoming all time classics.
In 1905 London purchased a ranch in California, named Wolfe House, and described his reason for writing as, “I would write a book for no other reason than to add three or four hundred acres to my magnificent estate.”
London’s plan was futuristic and was based on the ideas that came from the Asian sustainable agriculture, with a desire to install more humane farming practices and pioneering methods for preserving the land. The aim was to create a model so that other farmers could be inspired to also see an alternative way of farming. Sadly, the ranch mysteriously burnt down in 1913 a month before London was due to move in, this hurt him not only financially, but hit very hard emotionally too. Although he tried his best to rebuild his farm, unfortunately, London only lived for three more years after the fire.
The ruins of the still house still stand today and the ranch, named Beauty Ranch, can be visited in Glen Ellen, California.
Jack London was not only a writer and farmer, he was also an activist for the fair treatment of animals and included in his writing information about acts of cruelty within circuses, with hope that the public would be more informed about the practices within them and think twice about buying into it. In 1918 The Jack London Club was formed with aims to encourage people to protest against circuses. The support they received led to a temporary cessation of trained animal acts at Ringling-Barnum and Bailey in 1925.
During his lifetime London was considered by many as a charismatic living figure for rugged individualism, due to the struggles he endured and the passion and devotion he gave to turning his dreams to reality.
In London’s own words, taken from “What Life Means to Me” in Revolution and Other Essays (1910):
“From when I was born in the working-class. Early I discovered enthusiasm, ambition, and ideals and to satisfy these became the problem of my child-life. My environment was crude and rough and raw. I had no outlook, but an uplook rather. My place in society was at the bottom. Here life offered nothing but sordidness and wretchedness, both of the flesh and the spirit; for here flesh and spirt were alike starved and tormented.”
The following are some of the quotes that I feel showcase Jack London’s character and style of writing perfectly. He was a genius, an icon, a revolutionary and a man that still inspires millions across the world, even though it has been almost 100 years since his death;
“I’d rather sing one wild song and burst my heart with it, than live a thousand years watching my digestion and being afraid of the wet.” ~ Jack London, The Turtles of Tasman.
“Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.” ~ Quoted in the Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior (1991) Dan Millman p.78
“And how have I lived? Frankly and openly, though crudely. I have not been afraid of life. I have not shrunk from it. I have taken it for what it was at its own valuation. And I have not been ashamed of it. Just as it was, it was mine.” ~ Jack London.
“Ever bike? Now that’s something that makes life worth living!…. Oh, to just grip your handlebars and lay down to it, and go ripping and tearing through streets and road, over railroad tracks and bridges, threading crowds, avoiding collisions, at 20 miles or more an hour, and wondering all the time when you’re going to smash up. Well, now that’s something! And then go home again after three hours of it… and then to think that tomorrow I can do it all over again!” ~ Jack London
“But I am I. And I won’t subordinate my taste to the unanimous judgement of mankind.” ~ Jack London, Martin Eden.
“He was a silent fury who no torment could tame.” ~ Jack London, White Fang.
“Fear urged him to go back but growth drove him on.” ~ Jack London, White Fang.
“Limited minds can recognise limitations only in others.” ~ Jack London, Martin Eden.
“A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.” ~ Jack London.
“I do not live for what the world thinks of me, but for what I think of myself.” ~ Letter to Charles Warren Stoddard (21 August 1903)
“He lacked the wisdom, and the only way for him to get it was to buy it with his youth; and when wisdom was his, youth would have been spent buying it.” ~ “A Piece of Steak” in The Best Short Stories of Jack London (1962)
“The wild still lingered in him and the wolf in him merely slept.” ~ Jack London, White Fang.
“A million years ago, the cave man, without tools, with small brain, and with nothing but the strength of his body, managed to feed his wife and children, so that through him the race survived. You on the other hand, armed with all the modern means of production, multiplying the productive capacity of the cave man a million times—you are incompetents and muddlers, you are unable to secure to millions even the paltry amount of bread that would sustain their physical life. You have mismanaged the world, and it shall be taken from you!” ~ Jack London, speech to a gathering of wealthy New Yorkers during his unsuccessful mayoral campaign in 1900.
“Here was intellectual life, he though, and here was beauty, warm and wonderful as he had never dreamed it could be. He forgot himself and stared at her with hungry eyes. Here was something to live for, to win to, to fight for-ay, and die for. The books were true. There were such women in the world. She was one of them. She lent wings to his imagination, and great, luminous canvases spread themselves before him whereon loomed vague, gigantic figures of love and romance, and of heroic deeds for woman’s sake—for a pale woman, a flower of gold. And through the swaying, palpitant vision, as through a fairy mirage, he stared at the real woman, sitting there and talking of literature and art. He listened as well, but he stared, unconscious of the fixity of his gaze or of the fact that all that a was essentially masculine in his nature was shining in his eyes. But she, who knew little of the world of men, being a woman, was keenly aware of his burning eyes.” ~ Jack London, Martin Eden.
“The life that is demanding to be born is limitless. Nature is a spendthrift. Look at the fish and their millions of eggs. For that matter, look at you and me. In our loins are the possibilities of millions of lives. Could be but find time and opportunity and utilise the last bit and every bit of the unborn life that is in us, we could become the fathers of nations and populate continents.” ~ Jack London, The Sea-Wolf.
“Let us suppose the loved one is as madly impelled toward the lover. In a few days, in an hour, nay, in an instant —for there is such a thing as love at first sight—this man and woman, two unrelated individuals, who may never have seen each other before, conceive a passion, greater, intenser than all other affections, friendships, and social relations. So great, so intense it is, that the world could crumble to star-dust so long as their souls rushed together. If necessary, they would break all ties, forsake all friends, abandon all blood kin, run away from all moral responsibilities. There can be no discussion… We see it every day, for love is the most perfectly selfish thing in the universe.” ~ Jack London, The Kempton-Wace letters.
Author: Alex Sandra Myles
Editor: Travis May