I was just updating my “Fine Words and Wisdom” page with a quote from one of The Accidental Chef‘s posts and started wondering about what quotes mean to and about people. I realized, in rereading mine, that they provide a snapshot of who I am, what I believe and what I value.
In a recent post I wrote about an annual list I kept as a child — well into my 20s, actually. It’s a time capsule of who I was then and what I thought and felt. The similarity to the habit I have today of keeping a journal of quotes and pieces of writing that I identify with, just occurred to me as I reread some of those quotes this morning.
About the time I stopped keeping those update lists, I began keeping quotes. Written on scraps of paper or into my journal or stuffed into files of my writing — scattered, but always there. I’ve become more organized over the years because I kept finding them in odd places, reading and reflecting on them and finally decided I needed one place to gather them. I began a journal specifically for this purpose, adding all the scraps I could find.
For some unknown reason, I dated all those quotes when I committed them to paper. I hope it was that some part of me recognized, even then, that they would come to be more important. And, so they are. They are another time capsule of my life and they, too, reflect the changes in me over the years. I can see myself develop in them.
These lines from Hamlet, William Shakespeare’s tragedy of revenge, have been with me for more than 40 years and are still among my favorites.
What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals . . . .
The quote ends with
—and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.
The language is beautiful. Eloquent. I love it without the last lines because I think it speaks to the incredible miracle of the human body and spirit. Still, no matter how amazing, Hamlet is disappointed. And, sometimes, so am I.
Another quote I like has been with me since I was a little girl and is also from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
This quote and the Golden Rule were my mom’s best words of wisdom. (Did you know that some form of the Golden Rule is found in nearly every religion?) Well, those two and the advice she gave me to marry a man who made me laugh. I try hard at the first two, but at least I got the last one right!
What quotes or lines resonate with you? Do they speak to who you are or have some other special meaning for you?