What Makes You Come Alive?

A Quotation Worth Repeating by Harold Whitman

I used this quotation a few days ago when my twenty-five year old grandson came for an infrequent visit. He has had a number of low-paying jobs and I could see that he is still trying to figure out the path he wants to take in life.

At lunch he mentioned he had read some books about inventors and leaders who made a difference in the world. That made me wonder whether he would like to watch a couple episodes from a PBS DVD of How We Got To Now with Steven Johnson. He is a best-selling author who has discovered extraordinary stories behind six remarkable ideas — clean, time, glass, light, cold, and sound — that made modern life possible, and the unexpected and bizarre consequences each of these innovations triggered.

Since he was interested, we watched the first two programs. Then I turned to him and used the above quotation, saying I didn’t know what he would end up doing, but that I thought he would soon discover he had a gift to give the world.

His response pleased me when he replied, “Thanks for having faith in me.”

He knew I understood that he had been floundering, but that I saw something in him that others may not have. My advice reflected Joseph Campbell’s advice to “find your bliss.” I hoped my grandson could see that there was strength and creativity deep inside that he simply hadn’t yet discovered.

I tell you this story in order to illustrate how quotations from famous people — and from that ubiquitous author named “Anonymous” — can help us see ourselves and others in a way we’d not known before.

Why Quotations Are So Appealing 

I am using this story to introduce a new series of posts on quotations and to explain why I like quotations.

I think the best way to do that is to use a quotation from Citations: A Brief Anthology by Jasper Siegel Seneschal:

“Perhaps the most powerful and appealing aspect of another’s words, however, is simply their convenience. Whether distilled in the briefest apophthegm, or spread out across some voluminous tome, the thought is ready-made, the heavy lifting done. It’s there to be used like a weapon or tool, and as time wanders on, seemingly leaving us fewer and fewer new things to say, it becomes ever more useful.

As technology moves forward, as well, it also becomes much easier. Indeed, in this “information age” where so much is available to so many so quickly that enlightenment nearly verges on light pollution, it can sometimes appear that expression has been reduced to nothing more than a mad race to unearth and claim references. As such, the citation is also there to be donned, like some article of fashion from which we may reap the praise of discriminating taste without ever exerting ourself in the actual toil of manufacture.”

Look for another “Quotation to Remember” next month. Then pass it on to someone who would appreciate the sentiment it expresses.

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