An Essay On Quotes

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People on FB love to quote famous people (who lend support to their cause) but I’m not a big fan of quotes. And there is a reason why I am often not impressed with famous adages.

Let’s take a famous quote ostensibly uttered by none other than Socrates himself.

“An unexamined life is not worth living.”

First of all, what a crock of crap this quote is. There are countless ways a person can spend his or her life. Perhaps a person is an extreme extrovert that pushes the envelope when it comes to new experiences, just for the thrill of it all.  There is no search for life’s deeper meaning beyond the present moment. This type of personality may never seek answers to profound questions because they don’t give a hoot about what Socrates thinks.

Let me paraphrase my favorite philosopher: philosophers are mostly cut from the same cloth. They write books and treatises on various topics they believe should apply to everyone. They proport to know the deeper meaning of life in broad general terms. And then they share these profound insights, with the world, as guidelines on how best to live one’s life. In their heart of hearts, they proport to have discovered the true meaning of things and wish for all of us to know what this entails – when in reality, all they’re really doing is telling us how the inside of their own inimitable brain works. That’s it. It’s just their journey. But of course, they think more highly of themselves than that.

I’ve always thought that famous quotes from well-known sources only inspire people to take action if these soundbites resonate deep within a person who already believes the quote to be true, or they already have a passion for its message. Quotes only serve to inspire folks who are already on board with the content of the famous saying.

While on the topic of quotes, let me expand on the subject by introducing a famous author and world renown expert in the field of mythology in literature. His name is Joseph Campbell; he is well published and one of his better-known quotes is “follow your passion.”

Whenever an author uses this Campbell quote, he or she is appealing to a sub-section of the population who have restless spirits.  She is talking to non-conformists.  She encourages free spirits to do what makes them happy.  In other words, if you are an unfulfilled corporate attorney who loves to make pottery, then quit your $300,000 a year salary job and open up a pottery shop.

It doesn’t matter if your new job only nets you thirty grand a year.  You’re doing what you like and if you are forced to live a much more frugal life then so be it.  At least you’re following your passion, and this should be sufficient for you to feel fulfilled.

Once again, this advice is more bullshit.  It has limited appeal.  It’s not universal advice.  If you are a father of five, let’s say, and you’re paying for your mom’s nursing home residency, you simply cannot meet your financial responsibilities owning a small retail shop or business.  Additionally, if you are wired to make money and have the talents and abilities to do so, not being financially successful would lead to a frustrating life.

I am thoroughly convinced we are all born with a pre-wired (hard-wired) disposition, which we cannot change regardless of how hard we try.  Thus, at best, we can discover what this disposition is and then gently guide ourselves along its path.

In closing, the first step in following the advice of others is to understand what drives you.  What sorts of things or activities fulfill you?  If you get to a place in life where you know who you are at the core level, then you can make more informed decisions about what sorts of information you should consume and meditate on or to consciously think about during your downtime.

With the above said allow me to end with a quote (haha).

“There is only one person who can guide you through the maze of possibilities you will encounter over the course of your life and the only person who can accomplish this is you.  You can thus dismiss the advice of most people.  You are simply too unique to walk their path.”

But

Disregard the quote above if it does not immediately resonate with your soul.

I believe I would be remiss if I did not end this post with my own favorite quote.  The quote comes from the wife of James Joyce.

“Honey, why don’t you write books that people can understand?

A J Clarkman, “the little engine that could.”