Friday, September 24, 2010

In Defiance of Emerson

After nearly three decades, I have finally filled my quote book.

When I was in 9th grade it occurred to me that I did not have a quote for my senior yearbook. I have no idea why this thought occurred to me three years in advance. It’s not like I’m all that good at planning ahead for stuff that actually matters, let alone figuring out what pithy little thing I was going to have them print under my yearbook picture when I left high school. But for some reason, this struck 14-year-old me as a crisis that needed to be addressed.

So I started writing down quotes that struck me as interesting, or particularly well said, or simply evocative of larger things. For a while I kept this collection on random scraps of paper, but even at that age the random-scrap-of-paper quotient in my world was high enough that the various categories of random scraps were hard to keep straight, and eventually I went out and bought a blank book to write them down.

It was a lot easier to keep track of than the random scraps, at least.

The thing is, though, that I discovered that I enjoyed collecting quotes. Sometimes I liked them because of what they said or how they said it, and sometimes it was just the context in which I discovered them – reading a book I particularly liked, or hearing them from certain people at certain times of my life. There are a number of quotes in there that probably won’t mean anything to anyone but me, but I remember where I was and who I was with when I heard them, and you know, it’s my book.

But now it’s full and I need to go out and find another one.

In the meantime, here are some of my favorites:

  • Sometimes I would rather have people take away years of my life than to take away a moment. (Pearl Bailey)
  • Learn what the magician knows and it’s not magic anymore. (Richard Bach)
  • I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use. (Galileo)
  • Is it progress if a cannibal uses a knife and fork? (Stanislaw Lec)
  • Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you, and be silent. (Epictetus)
  • On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time. (George Orwell)
  • Not knowing what they are dealing with, they understandably have small success in dealing with it. (Erving Goffman)
  • Real men don’t own pink cats. (Keith McKay)
  • You think you can put up a kind of shield. But remembering don’t come to a man face forward – it corners around sideways. (Carson McCullers)
  • You live and learn, and you die and forget. (Ray Lum)
  • Peace is an idea we have deduced from the fact that there are intervals between wars. (Gwynne Dyer)
  • You can’t simplify complicated things, but you can make them understandable. (John Madden)
  • Wherever they burn books, they will also, in the end, burn people. (Heinrich Heine)
  • When skating on thin ice, one’s safety is in one’s speed. (Martin Greenberg)
  • God writes a lot of comedy. The trouble is He’s stuck with a lot of bad actors who don’t know how to play funny. (Garrison Keillor)
  • If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers. (Thomas Pynchon)
  • Never try to sell a house that’s full of termites to a guy with a wooden leg. (Bud Grace)
  • Life is short. Live it up. (Nikita Khrushchev)
  • You don’t know what good advice is until you know what you wish you had known before you did something. (Mike Naragon)
  • You think what I do is playing God, but you presume you know what God wants. Do you think that’s not playing God? (John Irving)
  • When a well-clothed philosopher on a bitter winter’s night sits in a warm room well-lighted for his purpose and writes with pen and ink in the arbitrary characters of a highly developed language the statement that civilization is the result of natural laws and that man’s duty is to let nature alone so that untrammeled it may work out a higher civilization, he simply ignores every circumstance of his existence and deliberately closes his eyes to every fact within range of his faculties. (Lester Ward)
  • Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away. (Philip K. Dick)
  • It is a black art, the writing of history, is it not? To resurrect the dead and animate their bones, as historians do? I think historians must be melancholy creatures, rather like poets, perhaps, or doctors. (Patrick McGrath)
  • It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues. (Abraham Lincoln)
  • My father taught me to work. He did not teach me to love it. (Abraham Lincoln)
  • Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed. (G. K. Chesterton)
  • Children see magic because they look for it. (Christopher Moore)
  • I believe there is a God. I believe that God is merciful and just. But if man desires to destroy himself, I believe God will not save him. (Whitney R. Harris, prosecutor, Nuremburg War Crimes Trials)
  • One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. (Bill Moyers)
  • There are times when everything that you can do has been done and there’s nothing for it now but to curl up and wait for the thunder to die down. (Terry Pratchett)
  • When you mix politics and religion, you get politics. (Rev. Gene Carlson)
  • The tree of nonsense is watered by error, and from its branches swing the pumpkins of disaster. (Nick Harkaway)
  • You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them. (Malcolm Forbes)

That’s enough for now. Probably too much, but I call “author’s prerogative” and declare that I’m leaving them in anyway.  Being a blogger comes with very little in the way of powers, but this is one of them.

And my senior quotes?

I started with one that I typed it up and turned in before deciding that it was just too cynical (no matter how appropriate or valid) and replacing it with two others.

The one I replaced was, “If you keep your mind sufficiently open, people will throw a lot of rubbish into it.” (William A. Orton).

The ones that took its place were “Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon,” (Susan Ertz) and an in-joke reference to one of my dad’s favorite sayings at the time, “Teach a donkey a few tricks and you’ve got a smart-ass on your hands.”

And so you do.


Katherine McKay said...

Here's one for your new notebook: "I read the newspaper avidly. It is my one form of continuous fiction." Aneurin Bevan

Beatrice Desper said...

It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues. (Abraham Lincoln)
This one is GREAT!

My gramp had almost a hundred sayings. Most of them were borrowed. Before one of my cousin's weddings, I gathered them, typed them up and gave them to her. I wish I could find that document.

Beatrice Desper said...

sorry for the typos. One wedding!