What’s Your Favorite Quote?

When were the first words of wisdom spoken?  Maybe it was a cave-dweller making some guttural noise passing for a word, a sound the equivalent of today’s “No,” to warn an infant from putting their hand in fire.   Maybe that was the first famous quote.  Nowadays, of course, no monosyllabic words can possibly qualify as quotations, or can they?  However, with so many “inspirational quotes” appearing in social media posts,  I’m sure many wouldn’t take exception if a two word quote qualified, eg. “Let’s go!” One standard still seems to apply though and that is that it must be concise.   Another is that for the words to be quotable it must express some truth or moral instruction.   Take the still somewhat quotable phrase, “Haste makes waste,” and you get the point.  These rhyming ones, although somewhat trite and cliche have good staying power.   I don’t like to employ these too much in speech but they often pop up and roll off my tongue unsolicited.    

These days there are thousands of so-called quotes on the Internet blurring the distinction lines between what counts as quotations and what is merely a reflective statement.  Be warned of the sunset or someone dancing on the beach as these background images are often the sign of a nice sentiment disguised as a memorable quote.  They can get lots of “likes” on Instagram too.   Try this one I found from a random sampling on Google: “A strong person is not the one who doesn’t cry, a strong person is the one who cries and sheds tears for a moment then gets up and fights again.”  There is no question that this may have helped someone out when they read it.   On that basis alone, it has great value because anything capable of lifting the human spirit deserves attention.   And yet, I don’t like it.  I much prefer, the universally recognized, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” which is attributable to a Scottish king.  I must say in fairness to the former social media post’s author, it’s possible this wasn’t “lifted” from the famous aforementioned quote; they may have thought of this entirely themselves and more importantly, it may have arisen from their own experience of finding strength from adversity.  

And who knows, maybe their quote will gain traction such that it will enter our society’s collective conscience and inhabit the elusive territory of the “repeatable.”  Or, more likely, it will fall into oblivion, as just another mediocre quotation.   I’m a bit of a quote snob so it probably will fall into my category of the “Uninspirational.”   Then again, who am I to judge? If something comes from the heart that’s more important than artistic considerations.      

If you’re mining the Internet for good quotations, the trouble isn’t finding good ones; rather it is finding ones that resonate with you.   For some a museum picture of a solid red line does more than the Mona Lisa.  If you’re like me, when you discover a quote you really like, it sticks with you.   After some time, the novelty of it may wear off.    Many years may go by and you may forget it.   Then one day, it’s back like an old friend.   Something or someone brings it to mind.  On the rare chance someone speaks it in your presence, prepare to be amazed as those powerful words may take you back to when they were first discovered by you.  A really good quote can challenge and even change the way you think.  Some may change your life.   I am reminded of an adage that I read in a fortune cookie long ago that went like this: “If you don’t change the direction you are heading, you will end up where you are going.”  Puzzled, I had to repeat it several time before the profound meaning of it became apparent to me.   (I will let you decipher it.) 

The “Still Waters Run Deep” quotation has been a favorite in my arsenal  

The quote was so powerful.  I remember it helped me make a crucial decision to act at a time when I was paralyzed by doubt and fear.   Many of the authors of these quotes must have learned the lessons expressed in their quotations the hard way: they lived them.  Some took the quote as a motto, one they credit as being the difference between success and failure.   Ironically, others did just the opposite.   Only through defiance of the wisdom, did they realize it’s truth.  Imagine the incredible pain and misfortune some suffered as a result of rejecting moral advice and warning us of doing the same.  For others still, they were not afforded the  opportunity of practicing the words they preached.   Through no fault of their own, they led an oppressive life, one fraught with adversity, illness or just plain misfortune.  

An author finding herself in the face of such dire challenges can find meaning though in providing relief to others through their words of hope, which is often the form these quotes generally take.   The example of their struggle as embodied in the message of their quote, becomes the opportunity for another to take up their cause.   The words they leave behind– the quotes– are the treasure of their lasting legacy, a way to offer lessons learned in navigating our uncertain lives and avoiding pitfalls.

If wisdom comes from the wise, it follows that the quotes we read took time to discern and distill for the less experienced to digest.   You can imagine the author awakening at some ripe age, a divine muse instructing them: Write this down! For yourself and posterity to learn from!  I am thinking of a quote that would have made no sense to me in my teens.    Instead, it waited to be gifted to me, for had it come sooner, I would not have unwrapped it.  These are the proverbial words: “The secret awaits eyes unclouded by longing.”   This was one of those messages, the deepness and timing of which, seemed governed by random chance.  However, I did not come upon it so passively.   For some time, I could not discern the meaning and once I did, it seemed to have little relevance on my life at the time.  That is, until circumstances forced me to pay attention.   At the time, I was craving and attaching too much value to things, objects and above all, thoughts, as a way of distracting myself from unresolved problems buried deep inside.   It was at this time that I understood the “longing” to mean the constant desire for things external to myself and in the way of discovering a clear or “unclouded” pathway to the “secret” which I interpreted to mean happiness.   This then was one of those quotes which may appear to have no apparent significance until you are ready.   

For me, the quotes I have learned, originate from authors who know that what is true of their condition is true of humanity.   They have studied or learned the ways of humans enough to know that our essence is their essence.   Their words can speak to our souls, of our underlying need for courage, hope, and love especially in times of despair and uncertainty.   They know moreover that simple truths are all around us and nature may be the greatest teacher.  They are able to state in a few incisive words what can take years to realize and achieve, packaging their wisdom for future generations to learn from.   

One of my favorite quotes is by Albert Einstein.  He said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”   I love this quote.   Every now and then I will say it in conversation to see how others react.   Sometimes I say it just because borrowing someone else’s words can be if nothing else, amusing.  Mostly though I like to say this quote because I believe imagination is more important than knowledge, or at least Einstein and me do.   I also like how it often elicits wonder, the typical reply being, “wait, what do you mean?” This usually leads a lively talk and when the other doesn’t agree, a friendly debate.   I can always end with, “Well, I didn’t say it, Einstein did!”  

When I come across a great quote I have this need to memorize it because I never know when I am going to need to to draw upon it’s truth.

As you may have guessed, the simple but profound are my favorite type.  Here’s one of my favorites: “still waters run deep.”  Maybe that’s an adage.   Whichever it is, I like it.  I remember the time I used it.  I was in Las Vegas sitting on a couch in a hotel room with a group of friends talking about football.   One of them named Dan approached me and said, “Eddie, what are you doing?”  

I replied, “Dan, still waters run deep,” and he said, “Wow, okay.  That’s great.  I love that!”   The last two quotes resonate with me.   They each appeal to a personality trait of who I am.  I have a big imagination and “still waters” has to do with deep thinking which I tend to do.   Sometimes, “my head is in the clouds” as they say, and I need to “come back down to earth,” to borrow two overused idioms.   If it, “rings true,” then it must sound good to your ears when you hear the quote.   Sometimes though I need to “open up my ears” a bit more to let in the “winds of change” and build my small walking library of quotations.   

What is your favorite quotation?

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1 year ago

In my class we look at quotes often. Typically about kindness, working hard, acceptance, courage… After reading a quote the kids have to decide what it means to them. Throughout the year I often hear kids use a common adage to explain a quote: “Treat others the way you want to be treated” such a simple phrase that we have all heard hundreds of times. It has become almost cliché, but Imagine our world if we all actually followed this golden rule.

Shalini Kaushik
Shalini Kaushik
1 year ago

Really enjoyed reading … one of my fav quote/ proverb is “”Hope sustains the world.” This is a translation of “Umeed par duniya kaayam hai,” which is an Indian proverb.

It means that hope is what keeps us going in life.
Despite all the hardships we face, we can find hope and optimism in the future.

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