This month, we Quills set out to share with you, great book quotes that have inspired us, and why. There are so many, a person can get carried away quickly with this one. But in the end, we restrained ourselves . . .
First up today is Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies. Take it away, Robin!
I am a lemon in the book quotation collection department. Oh, I have accumulated scores of quotes, but mostly in the line of pithy truisms. Like, “All of us could take a lesson from the weather; it pays no attention to criticism.” Or "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for." They are little reminders to myself that I need to buck up, knuckle down, stop being overly sensitive, work toward my goals, and remember to breathe. Those reminders get jotted down on post-it notes and stuck around my workspace. Bright, rich butterflies whispering directions I would otherwise forget.
Great stuff, Robin. Thank you!
Next is P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse. What have you for us this time, Parker?
The quotes with the most meaning to me personally have come from within stories themselves, as opposed to quotes from an author or prominent individual. I think that's because for me a quote can capture the essence a story--suddenly a snippet evokes an entire journey. The sentence is no longer a disassociated fragment, it has a context. It becomes the story itself, capturing some essential element that inspires me to consider, at least for a moment, the entire narrative from a single perspective.
The best part of Quills day for me is reading what my fellow authors have set out. Thank you, Parker.
Finally, I have some thoughts . . .
It’s interesting to consider those things that catch one’s attention. For my part, they are often obscure lines that most people likely pass by without a second thought. Occasionally when I find a gem tucked in amidst all the words surrounding it, I grasp it, then adopt it for my own for later use. No, I don’t mean that I copy and use it in my written works, I just say it from time to time. For example, back as a young adult, I read some of Robert A. Heinlein’s science fiction. From his works, one line stood out that I’ve revised—just a bit—and repeated many times over the years (giving Heinlein credit, of course). My version reads thusly: Man is not a rational, rather, a rationalizing being.” All too often, that seems to be the case . . . So if you like, you can count that as my first choice, but I can’t say that it has inspired me so much as that it has intrigued me.
As to the quotes that have inspired me and why, I will reach to my all time favorite, Les Miserables (1862), by Victor Hugo, who also wrote other works I’ve read and loved. (They include Notre-Dame de Paris, better known as Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) (which is not the story Disney told!), and Les Travailleurs de la Mer (Toilers of the Sea) (1866), which, like Les Miserables, also tells a story of great self-sacrifice.)
Hugo lived in a time of social upheaval and his works reflect that, as they include commentary on social issues, misery and poverty. He greatly influenced later writers, far and wide, including Charles Dickens and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Not only is Les Miserables replete with beautiful, poetic prose (such as, by way of example, the following: “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words, and that which cannot remain silent.”), but it also speaks out about “speaking out.” Perhaps because it seems difficult to engage in genuine discussion about hearty issues these days, I though I'd share a few of my favorites on that topic:
Not being heard is no reason for silence.
You ask me what forced me to speak? A strange thing: my conscience.
It is not easy to keep silent when silence is a lie.
Add to that a thought on the need and value of education, and you get a good feeling for why I so admire Hugo:
As with stomachs, we should pity minds that do not eat.
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse ... A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself . . .
Of course, no one “likes” war. In my estimation, however, it is not something to be avoided at all costs. If brought to me, and I have a choice between fighting (and retaining my freedom or that of my brothers and sisters) or passively accepting servitude, bondage, oppression, I hope I will be strong enough to choose the former. In the meantime, my gratitude for our men and women in uniform knows no bounds.
I’ve one more quote here (sometimes attributed to John Locke, other times to other sources), before I move on because it is another I’ve repeated many, many times over the years. It is: “Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins.” Or as I like to say it: “Your rights stop where my nose starts.” The idea here is that “rights” are something a person possesses innately, by reason of existence, through no doing of that person’s own, and having required nothing from anyone else. Thus, “rights” include, for example, the right to speak your mind, to practice your religion of choice, and to defend yourself. When you exercise those things, you take nothing from anyone else. It costs your neighbor nothing to allow you to speak; it costs your community nothing for you to worship in your chosen way; it costs your fellow citizens nothing to allow you to defend your life. By contrast, something is not a right and cannot be a “right,” if it requires anything from anyone else. To demand that another provide something to you would be, essentially, for you to make a slave of your neighbor. And so, “your right stops where my nose starts” means that you do not have the “right” to demand anything from me, including my labor or the fruits of it, for your benefit, nor may I demand the like from you. That doesn't mean that we should not help one another. Rather, it means that we cannot force others using the power of the state (which really means, at the threat of the loss of liberty or life), to give from the fruits of our labor to others ... So in the end it seems that this simple quote evokes deep meaning ...
Finally, I will take a quote from another personage not generally considered an author. Still, he did write things, including many speeches and letters that have been collected into books. I speak of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the U.S. His words remain profoundly impactful to this day. Thus, I note:
Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and under a just God, cannot long retain it.
Add to that, this:
The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.
Those words are every bit as true today as they were in Lincoln’s time. And if that doesn’t get you thinking, I really and truly do not know what could.
What great quotes would you like to share?