I keep a little “Book of Quotes.” It’s a thin hardbound journal with a psychedelic calico design and pages made from recycled pulp. It was a gift from a dear friend back in 1993. Obviously, I’m not very good about making entries. I mean, it’s not like you hear or read a great line or bit of wisdom every day, but considering it’s more than 20 years old, I should have filled it up by now. I should, by all rights, be on my second or third Book of Quotes
But it’s just this one. And the quotes inside must have really hit home somehow, because I took the time to blow the dust off and make an entry in my sacred annal.
I love a good quote. The kind that stirs the consciousness simultaneously with comforting familiarity, and the lonely idea that every possible thought has already been thought, and every combination of words to describe it have been made cliche. There are no new ideas. Just maps constructed of them that we seem obligated to follow.
Still, great quotes are like trophies which illuminate the most beautiful and insightful uses of our human language. They are a missive from a universal catalog which acknowledges when someone has dipped into the source, even if it is just for a moment that we glimpse it. Even if it is just for a moment that we remember it.
This is one of my short days, when I have to be at the job in the afternoon, and as I sit here struggling to come up with my daily offering, I realize that I need to make it simple. So I’m pulling out the secret weapon: my Book of Quotes. This is not all of them, but a good selection of lines that must have represented a moment of epiphany for me at one time.
Twelve quotes, and a selection of photographs I took today, and none of them are necessarily related.
“To be joyous is to be a madman in world of sad ghosts.” —Henry Miller, from Sexus
“The hero keeps going, and even his ruin was only a subterfuge for achieving his final birth” —Rainer Maria Rilke, from Duino Elegies
“Come down off the cross, we can use the wood.” —Tom Waits, from the song Come On Up to the House
“It don’t take long to kill things. Not like it does to grow.” —Melvyn Douglas, as Homer Bannon, in the film Hud
“The truth knocks on the door, and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. Puzzling.” —Robert Pirsig, in Lila
“I’ll begin where the hero is awakened by the sound of rain, and throw out all the rest.” —Treplev (via Chekhov), in The Seagull
“I am the false character that follows the name around.” —Don DeLillo, in White Noise
“Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.” —Ionesco
“When you look long enough into the abyss, the abyss looks into you.” —Nietzsche
“Don’t bother trying to be better than your contemporaries or your predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” —William Faulkner
“I want to be captain of a ship and I want to be an artist of music and I will have my piano on the top of the ship and I will make stairs going up to it so I can climb up and play to the fishes.” —Diane Arbus, in a private notebook
“This doll is extremely dangerous—it has voodoo qualities.” —Ralph Brown, as Danny, in the film Withnail and I