"Leading time by the forelock." is from Farmers of Forty Centuries, by F. H. King.
Farmers of Forty Centuries is a cult classic among organic gardeners. While I admire organic gardeners and think they have many good ideas, I am not a True Believer. I take what I find useful and move on.
The actual passage reads:
Time is a function of every life process, as it is of every physical, chemical and mental reaction, and the husbandman is compelled to shape his operations so as to conform with the time requirements of his crops. The oriental farmer is a time economizer beyond any other. He utilizes the first and last minute and all that are between. The foreigner accuses the Chinaman of being always "long on time", never in a fret, never in a hurry. And why should he be when he leads time by the forelock, and uses all there is? -Introduction to Chapter XI
I am still working on this concept.
According to a cross word puzzle site, the original meaning of the phrase was to: Act decisively to exploit an opportunity. F. H. King uses the phrase in the sense of: Preparing in advance (with a minimum of fuss and bother) to exploit an expected opportunity. An example would be the habit of always carrying a mesh bag in one's pocket in case one stumbles across mushrooms or other, choice edibles during the course of the day.
"Busy" is a Western concept, and while useful it has its limitations. The "lead time by the forelock" concept suggests that we can experience a joyful stroll through the day and as long as our path is 'effective', appropriate and orderly we will accomplish more by the end of the day than if we attack it with a frenetic, surprised flailing of arms.
The G-rated, country-boy version of this is the old bull advising the young bull, "Let's walk down there and get to know them all."
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