5 Pieces of Eternal Hemingway
We seek the ideal version of ourselves, and popular culture enforces that every day. Captain
America is the perfect character of a man with a clear conscious who always knows to make the
right decisions. On magazine racks across the nation, women are told what body types are
acceptable and which are unacceptable. If there ever was a popular figure in recent American
history who tried to live to both the physical and emotional forms of perfection, it was Ernest
Hemingway who, by his own admission, failed to reach the level of perfection he had set even
for himself. As we remember the writer, the hunter, the wordsmith who defined heroism for a
generation, here are five quotes to help drive home some wisdom that will live on forever in the
hearts of those who knew of the immortal Ernest Hemingway.
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being
superior to your former self.”
You’ve probably heard this saying in one way, shape, or form over the years, but big Papa
Hemingway was the one who coined it first. This is perhaps the most humble of his famous
sayings since for once he was focusing on the eternal struggle of the human condition instead
of just focusing on being more macho or more successful than other people. The truth is in any
field you might be on top in, there is someone who's going to top you eventually, that's just a
fact of life. However, how do you know if you’re growing as a person unless you measure
yourself against your biggest obstacle- yourself?
Hemingway knew as a writer especially, he was constantly having to compete for not just
against other up and coming authors, but ultimately he had to produce better work than his last
piece because his audience deserved more out of him, not just more of the same. Lastly, life
isn’t a sprint, it's a marathon race where the goal is to finish on our terms, and that means
knowing where we are weak, knowing where we want to go, and measuring up against
ourselves every day we look in the mirror and ask “have I grown past the poor habits of
“There are only three sports: mountain climbing, bull fighting, and motor racing. All the
rest are merely games.”
First, we spoke of something humble, now we’re are gonna talk about full on egotistical
bravado. Hemingway grew up with a mother who desperately wanted a daughter, so she treated
Ernest as such. This emasculating relationship damaged Hemingway for the rest of his life, so
he desperately tried to become as macho of a man as possible so the praise he received for his
masculinity from the outside world could perhaps heal his innermost issues.
This also provides some extra insight as to what he deemed a real challenge; situations where if
he didn’t win, he could perhaps sustain serious injuries or perhaps death itself. Whether it was a
thrill of the competition or a death wish in which he could go out in a blaze of glory, Hemingway
was always chasing that false ideal of the perfect man, even when it involved putting himself at
very grave risks.
“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
Rumor has it, Ernest said this to wife number three, Martha Gellhorn, as they were embarking
on their historic adventure documenting the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War for their
documentary “Spanish Earth.” Whether he was trying to seduce her or really give her some
good advice, Hemingway knew more than most people from his time in Spain all the way back
to his service in WWI, that sometimes you have to do nothing more than take a leap of faith and
see where the chips land.
Whether you know you can trust someone or doubt your own judgment, trust in another
individual gives them a whole new opportunity to shine and perhaps give you a strong new bond
in the process. The person who ultimately has the decision to take a chance on someone else is
ultimately you, so choose wisely the next time you want to take that leap of faith with someone
new or old in your life.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
For all the writers, authors, bloggers and poets reading this, there is perhaps nothing truer than
this quote alone. Often we are trapped by the pursuit of perfection and ignore the true process
of sheer, raw creation. Hemingway didn’t just stand up while typing, he never threw away any of
his drafts since he feared something he thought was trash would eventually turn out to spark a
moment of inspiration. His whole style was focused on constantly moving forward and never
focusing on previous mistakes.
“Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth
I think there is always something we wish we could take back, Hemingway included. Often we
speak without thinking and hear without listening. The truth of life is that your words have a real
impact on the world around us, and often have lasting effects we don’t see coming. Learning
when not to speak is perhaps a great skill, and can help us maintain our cool in tense situations
while also keeping ourselves in check from decisions we may regret later.