Thursday, December 08, 2011

Meme Generator: Five Quotes

I had this idea recently, and so I'll launch it upon the world. It's probably too complicated and time-consuming to really become a meme, but what the hell.

The Rules:
Pick five quotes that mean something to you personally. Explain why.
1) "Fortune favors the prepared mind."
My high school Latin teacher -- a wild-haired ex-monsignor with a faint resemblance to Groucho Marx but the absolute opposite affect (except in intensity) -- would say this incessantly, usually starting with the Latin "Fortes fortuna adiuvat" (Fortune favors the bold) and then refuting it immediately with what I thought was his revised version. (I didn't learn it was from Pasteur until much later.)

And I've found it to be absolutely true, but hard -- good things happen only when you're ready for them. Not in some namby-pamby New Age way, but by actually working hard on something and knowing your stuff backwards and forwards. If you're prepared, the world can't sneak up behind you.
2) "Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
This one I only heard a year or so ago -- it's from Samuel Beckett -- but it instantly clicked with my depressive, pessimistic heart. Nothing we ever do will be a complete success; your dreams will never come true. But we can all keep trying, and fail a little better each and every time.
3) "I meant what I said and I said what I meant; an elephant's loyal, one hundred percent."
From Horton Hatches the Egg, by Dr. Seuss; I probably heard this, and imprinted on it, long before any of the others I'm listing. My wife used to tell me that I couldn't lie to her -- until I concealed her bridal shower from her by telling her to her face that it was happening right now -- but I haven't heard that in a long time. But I still don't ever want to say I'll do something if I'm not sure I can do it, which probably comes across as diffidence sometimes. This quote, to me, was always about the unbreakable link between saying and doing; an adult is someone, simply, who does what has been promised.
4) "Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, 'In this world, Elwood, you must be,' — she always called me Elwood — 'In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me."
I'm probably not as smart as I think I am -- who is?

But I gave up on trying to score points by looking smart many years ago. I find that it's more common that I pretend not to remember something, or to be just remembering it, even when it's right there in my head. No one likes a know-it-all. It's so much better to be pleasant.

(This is from the movie/play Harvey, by the way.)
5) "A lot of people don't think a phrase like 'Tone of voice' can be a rule; most rules would include a verb, for instance. People who don't think 'tone of voice' can be a rule are people who don't have any children."
I had to have something by Calvin Trillin here, and I can't quote the entire essay that this comes from -- "Enough's Enough" -- since that would be too long. I first read Trillin, and especially his essays about his family life, years before I had sons of my own.

But once those boys did come along, I found that my parenting style came pretty heavily from Trillin -- blended with the dad from Calvin & Hobbes -- and that my rules matched up reasonably closely to his, when I re-read that essay recently after fifteen years or so. 

And what are the quotes that stick in your heads?

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