While I was browsing in a bookstore the other day, I noticed a book of quotations. It got me thinking about some of my favorite quotations, and what they meant to me.
1. "If they give you ruled paper, write the other way."
This is a quote by the Spanish Poet Juan Ramón Jiménez. Ray Bradbury used it as the epitaph for his book Fahrenheit 451, which is where I first heard it. I love this quote because it succinctly points out the mindless conformity that is inflicted on us in a thousand different ways, large and small. Though writing the other way may seem like a small act of rebellion, small rebellions can help us recognize the larger and more dangerous ways that we accept the status quo without thinking critically about it's effects.
2. When the ax came to the forest, the trees said, "The Handle is one of us."
This is an old quote that can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. There are different interpretations about what it means. In some versions, it translates to "don't give succor to your enemies." However, what I like about the version above is how treacherous it can be to trust someone just because they are superficially like you. For example, misogynists often point to women like Anne Coulter or others who agree with their hateful venom as support for their arguments. But women are perfectly capable of attacking other women. The fact that some people of a given race or sex might agree with mean-spirited stereotypes or oppressive laws doesn't make those thing any less awful--it just means that those sad individuals have bought into some nasty beliefs about themselves (or more likely, think they are special, while others of their gender or sex deserve unequal treatment).
3. "Fear is the Mind-killer"
Ahh, Dune. It's a classic of science fiction, and Frank Herbert created many memorable characters. But the litany against fear is still one of my favorite parts of the book. As a musician, I struggled with stage fright and other fears for a long time. But I chose to face my fears and work through them. This quote helped me recognize how destructive fear can be, and it gave me the courage to "turn my inner eye to see its path," instead of giving in and giving up.
4. "It's better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness"
This quote is associated with Amnesty International, an international human rights organization I worked with in college. It's so easy to complain, or say that nothing ever changes or gets better. But even small acts of kindness, love, generosity, and goodness can make an enormous difference. And when enough people do those things, it can change the world. As Margaret Mead wrote: