Sunday Snippet: Victor Hugo

“A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor.”

In previous editions of the Sunday Snippet, we’ve discussed issues surrounding our attitudes and the nature of intelligence. This week, we turn our attention to Victor Hugo and the “invisible labor” of deep thought. Thinking is still hard work.

Best known for authoring such classics as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Les Miserables, Victor Hugo was a prominent French writer in the 19th century and he was a major advocate of the Romantic movement during that time. A contemporary of William Wordsworth and Richard Wagner, Hugo was also a human rights activist and much of his work approaches the political and social issues that faced France during the 1800s.

If you look around online for pictures, you’ll find that this bearded man is oftentimes depicted with his hand on his forehead or on his chin. It’s almost as if he was always in a contemplative state and some people may have perceived this as laziness or inactivity. That could not be further from the truth. Hugo reminds us that there is visible labor and invisible labor. When a man is lost in thought, he’s putting in just as much effort as a man who picks up a sledgehammer. That’s why I reward the efforts of top thinkers on this blog.

By the same accord, some people may assume that freelance writers like me lead a leisurely lifestyle. We can work from home in our pajamas and we partake in very minimal physical labor, but does that mean that we are working any less in quantity or quality? I don’t think so.

The single greatest thing that has changed human civilization is thought. Ideas move people, innovate our lives, and change the world. What are you thinking about?