Sunday Snippet: William Bruce Cameron

“It would be nice if all of the data which sociologists require could be enumerated because then we could run them through IBM machines and draw charts as the economists do. However, not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

One of the most convenient ways to measure different aspects of your life is to quantify them. This is something that is highly encouraged when setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, for instance. You might say that you want to save $10,000 this year or that you might want to lose 15 pounds. Even in the context of social media, we seem to seek out a sense of self-worth based on the number of followers that we have on Twitter or the number of likes we get on an Instagram photo.

But not everything in your life can be quantified, nor should it be. How do you quantify the strength of your relationship with a loved one? How do you adequately quantify how “happy” you are? How can you attach a number to how creative your most recent poem or painting may be? These are all aspects that matter, but our evaluation of them is largely qualitative in nature rather than quantitative.

That’s the sentiment captured in the quote above, though it is oftentimes attributed incorrectly to one Albert Einstein. The scientist surely had many wise words to share over the course of his lifetime and he has provided us with many fantastic insights. The quote above, however, is not his.

After a little searching on the Internet, I learned that the line comes from Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking, written by a sociologist named William Bruce Cameron in the 1960s. From what I can gather, this is a different William Bruce Cameron than the humorist who authored such books as 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter and A Dog’s Journey: Another Novel for Humans. At least I imagine that should be a different guy.

We are led back to an interesting connection. The love that a parent has for his daughter cannot be counted, but it surely counts, just as the companionship that dogs can provide is surely beyond measure. And you might be able to count the number of blades of grass in your lawn, but does that really matter at all? Focus on what is truly important and valuable in your life and forget about the rest.