Quotations: my first great love

I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself.
– Marlene Dietrich

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a sucker for quotes. I apply quotes to my career, to my personal life, to comedic situations, to (my attempts to) exercise, and to my relationships. I have a quote for almost anything and everything. My room has quotes, my desk at work has quotes, my diary has quotes, and my Tumblr operates on an almost words-only basis.

Why do I love quotes so much? Because they encapsulate, succintly and so accurately, a certain thought or emotion. There is a quote for anything and everything. They are the documentation of words, paragraphs, and pages that have been spoken or written aloud by people before us, and people who exist now. They have the power to motivate and inspire, or to simply make you think in a way that you have never thought before.

The most powerful quotes are those that are malleable – ones that are able to be molded to fit with whatever situation we are dealing with. We have all come across thousands, or maybe tens of thousands of quotes that describe and explain things to us. For me, however, these three have changed who I am, the way I think, and the way I act, and their effect was a ripple that has continued to resound throughout every day of my life.

The pursuit of happiness

On the last day of high school, my English teacher brought in a pile of quote cards and wrote us a note on the back of each one. I was one of the last to choose a quote card, and by this time, I was scared that there would be no quotes left and these words from my favourite teacher would be meaningless if the quote didn’t resonate with me.

As I sifted through the sad, small pile of quotes, I stumbled across this one.

Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy - Guillaume Apollinaire
The exact quote card from four years ago.

As a person who constantly sacrifices today for a better tomorrow, this quote stopped me cold.

Why are we always in the pursuit of happiness? When do we stop chasing this happiness and just be happy, or is it an eternal chase, like the dog that can never catch its own tail?

We don’t necessarily have to live only for the moment and forego the future, but why can’t we be happy with what we have now? We are in the present but what we really do is spend all of our present time in the future; we live now in the idea of a future happiness, but what is truly valuable and tangible is what we have right now.

You don’t have to stop chasing. But do me a favour: stand still for a minute. Stop whatever you are doing. Put down everything, close your eyes, take a deep breath in, and just be.

I still carry this around in my walletl, after four long years and three different wallets – and every time I see it, I remember to stop for a minute, and enjoy my existence right here, right now.

We don’t need to know everything

Albert Einstein once famously said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible.”

With all of our technological prowess and our thirst for knowledge, we have started to think that we know it all. Heck, all of us Gen Yers are accused of thinking that we know anything and everything. Everything has an explanation now, and everything has to have a reason.

But does it? 

Do we really need to understand everything, or can we just accept some things as they are, without any explanations? When we look around us at all of the beautiful, lush landscapes and the flowing oceans, sometimes it’s more beautiful to allow the world to mystify you.

The Hunter Valley
Beautiful and mystifying – the Hunter Valley

A child of the universe

The final and most powerful quote is not really a quote, but a series of quotes, poems, passages, and images.

I am going to confess right now: I am not religious, and I also have a fear of dying. This can make life difficult sometimes – I constantly have an awareness that, like Ed Norton said, “this is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time”, and I struggle day-to-day with the fact that no matter what I do, eventually I am going to cease to exist. I am terrified of the thought that one day, I won’t be able to wake up, breathe in the beautiful air outside or talk to the people I love.

I know it is something I cannot do anything about. I have talked to multiple people about this and all have tried to say different things to help me, but to no avail. One day, however, I came across this poem called Desiderata by Max Ehrmann.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

As I read and re-read this, I felt comforted. I felt calm. I felt like, for once, I could feel as though I was one with this universe, and the more I started to look into this idea, the more I became overwhelmed and relieved at the same time.

First, I discovered that I want a physicist to speak at my funeral. Then I remembered that nothing is created or destroyed – it only changes form. Then I saw this:

Now, every time I look up at the flecks of stars in the sky, I know that this is where I came from, and this is where I will someday return. I know that the universe is my home.

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