Posts Tagged ‘Cicero’
Quotations and aphorisms are generally just verbal Christmas presents; enticingly done up in pretty paper and ribbons, but once you get them open they generally turn out to be just socks. Tom Holt (2007)
I frequently have a rant about the uselessness of quotes on Twitter. Not ‘quotes ON Twitter’ as in “He who tweeteth quotes shall be deemed as wise as the person he tweeteth” because that’s just silly and most of the people who are quoted were dead many hundreds of years before Twitter came into being.
There is nothing so ridiculous but some philosopher has said it. Cicero (106-43 BC)
No, I mean the endless, indiscriminate parade of stuff that is so saccharin it makes you want to throw up, has no interest or meaning for most of the people who receive it and in many cases is just bullshit.
Some recent examples are “Thoughts become things so choose the good ones.” This is an example of such sloppy thinking that I’d like to slap the originator but instead devoted a separate post to it.
She had a pretty gift for quotation, which is a serviceable substitute for wit…W. Somerset Maugham (1926)
The next one was something along the lines of “Before starting a journey don’t ask advice of someone who has never left home”. Now, I get the idea of this but, you know, there are circumstances when the person who has never left home might be exactly the right person to ask. They may have studied the place you’re going to or they may have the best maps. Hell, they might have invented Google Earth! Does anyone really believe that the only person to consult on anything is someone who has had personal experience of it? (Pause until the screams of many coaches has died down). Frankly, I’d rather consult a doctor who is healthy than one who has the same illness as me.
At all events, the next best thing to being witty one’s self, is to be able to quote another’s wit. Christopher N. Bovee (1857)
Another was “The person who wants to demolish a mountain starts by moving a few stones.” You know what? If I wanted to demolish a mountain I’d hire a bulldozer. Even taking it literally, if I had a job that seemed insurmountable, I’d get help. Wrapping things up in allusions and metaphore doesn’t necessarily make them more powerful.
In a pinch, any orphan quote can be called a Chinese proverb. Ralph Keyes, “Nice Guys Finish Seventh”:
Then there was a quote from Einstein. Now Einstein was a great scientist but deeply flawed in other respects. He was widely regarded as oversexed, immature and lousy at sustaining meaningful relationships so forgive me if I don’t follow his advice unless it’s directly related to science.
Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. Oscar Wilde (1905)
Quotations can be used to great effect when used in articles or essays. They serve as really good hooks or attention-grabbers and can give emphasis to a particular point but on their own, with no reference point to their significance, they are just brain fluff.
Given all this, why do people feel compelled to share a quote, apropos of nothing, with their whole list of contacts?
Famous dead people make excellent commentators on current events. Ralph Keyes, “Nice Guys Finish Seventh”
I guess its because something in that quote spoke to them, which means that they probably need to take action on something that’s happening in their lives. It most likely doesn’t have any significance to anyone else unless they are sharing the same issues.
The great writers of aphorisms read as if they had all known each other very well. Elias Canetti (1942–1972)
What would be interesting would be to hear what folk did as a result of reading a quote but sadly, I expect the answer would be not a lot except nod wisely and pass it on.
Meanwhile nothing changes. Its thinking for ourselves AND TAKING ACTION that changes things not taking someone else’s thinking and believing it can change anything.
Immortality. I notice that as soon as writers broach this question they begin to quote. I hate quotation. Tell me what you know. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (May 1849)
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