On quotes

Throughout history there have been many memorable people who have done, believed, and said many memorable things. The passage of time removes context and intent, and we are left with quotes.

Quotes are pulled out willy-nilly by all and sundry, from prominent politicians to youtube commenters, and are used to explain or justify anything at all. They are often used in a fragmentary form, or with a word or two changed, or simply in context not originally intended, and these factors can change the meaning or implication of the quote.

And yet we still treat quotes like authorities. If somebody famous said it, and it has been remembered for so long, we seem to reason, it must be right. Never mind that somebody equally famous said something entirely contradictory!

But it makes life easier. If we are quoting somebody, we don’t need to think. A quote is a short-cut going straight from premise to conclusion, bypassing explanation. It is a replacement of reason and critical analysis.

When presenting an argument or a point of view, do try to make it your own. Justify yourself in your own words. It will gain you more respect, and will demonstrate that you’ve really thought about what you’re saying. It will also hold more relevance for your topic and circumstances.

Always remember that Gurdjieff said, ‘You must go on trying to be sincere.’ But Lowell said, ‘Sincerity is impossible.’

And you can quote me.

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4 thoughts on “On quotes

  1. amysworlds says:

    Sometimes though a quote can be expressing what your feeling when you can’t find a way to put it into words. When you can’t think what you want to say and you see a quote that says it ‘bing’! that’s exactly how i feel! 🙂 aka http://amysworlds.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/missing/

  2. Awanthi Vardaraj says:

    I like quotes that make me think about things and that sometimes (very rarely) offers perspective on what I’m going through at a certain point in time. For instance I have these printed off and hanging in my study:

    And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~Sylvia Plath

    I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all. ~Richard Wright

    If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. ~Toni Morrison

    I like them. They encourage, they chide (gently), they support, and throughout my writing process they have (as odd as this may sound) been there for me.

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