This particular idea I stole from My Quirky Friend. In the late 18th C, it was the fashion for readers to keep little journals full of quotations gathered from books. I should have started doing this years ago because I’m always finding stunning quotes in books — and not usually the ones that are already highlighted 300 times in Kindle versions. The weirdest things make me laugh or pause. If I could only find a way to pass on the weirdness to other people, I might become a more popular writer myself. But short of that, I’m going to highlight a few favorite quotes:
1. “An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it is also more nourishing.” –H.L. Mencken
I can’t hardly read a few sentences of Mencken without wanting to write it all down. His prejudices against idealists, puritans, and socialists are spot on and fit right in with my own distaste for small-minded revolutionaries. And then he couches these prejudices with the pithy punch they so deserve.
2. “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” –G.K. Chesterton
Chesterton is yet another thinker whose quotes could easily fill my own imaginary journal of quotations. This quote works for me on two levels. The first: we are a society that is in love with credentials. So much so that a young woman might get an advanced degree in early childhood education and believe she knows better how to raise toddlers than an uneducated mother who stays at home and, out of love, hugs and swats her children without consulting a textbook. It’s the love component that makes the unpaid mother better than the upstart with the degree, who acts “according to science.” Really, the little upstart is an idealist, a socialist, and a puritan. See previous quote.
3. “No one in the world ever gets what they want
And that is beautiful
Everybody dies frustrated and sad
And that is beautiful” –They Might Be Giants
Oddly, I’ve gotten in blow-up fights over this simple song quotation, by people who’ve called it — mysteriously — satanic. While it’s true that the two Johns who make up the band aren’t Christians, at least that I’m aware of, the quote still resonates with truth. People want things that are evil and destructive. That the vast majority of humans are frustrated in the fulfillment of their schemes or desires is a beautiful thing. Furthermore, the song explains itself: “They want what they’re not, and I wish they would stop singing [nonsense lyrics].” People chase ghosts and mirages that don’t belong to them. The fact that they can’t be something they’re not is a thing of beauty because when they try, destruction follows in their wake. And no doubt, even more frustration and sadness.
4. “Hindsight is always 20/20.”
This is an aphorism, obviously, but I have a different take on it from most people. Most see it as a harsh look at a lack of forethought. When a person looks back, they can see their mistakes, but if they’d possessed forethought, they could have succeeded the first time aound. Hopefully, they will use their hindsight to be successful in the future. The problem with humans, however, is they don’t really have clear hindsight because they’re too clouded with ego. Of course, they might be able to see their mistakes honestly if they let go of ego, but that’s a big if.
For me, hindsight 20/20 is both spiritual and comforting. It allows me not to just see my mistakes (hopefully honestly), but much more than that, I can see God’s hand in my struggles in a way I couldn’t while in the midst of them. I had a basic lack of trust. — cynicism, even nihilism because that’s the way the evil one can get at me. That’s my weakness. Looking back, I’m astonished at how God was not only taking care of me and my family, but others as well. Through us. If God had just answered our prayers immediately and in the way we wanted, eased our struggles, it would have changed the current reality for other people, too. Hindsight 20/20 has, then, become a comfort and faith builder for me.
Those are my quotes for today. I’d like to do a few more if I have time later this afternoon.