Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Confessions of a Quote Collector

by Mike Crawmer

I collect quotes. Most end up in a ever-expanding computer file. But some go public. One quote serves as my screen saver on my home computer. Others decorate my cube walls at work. Some quotes make me laugh. Most make me think, which I appreciate, especially on those days when I’m depressed with the state of the union or the latest drop in my battered retirement account.

My quote collection doesn’t include ads or commercials. While quotable, these snappy lines were created by professionals paid big bucks to think creatively. The quotes that strike my fancy were not created to sell a product. Rather, they capture an idea or mood or some truism. They may be inspirational but they’re not preachy. Pithy helps, but that’s not a prerequisite.

I use the word “inspirational” with caution. The powers-to-be at work decided long ago that the employees would benefit from a daily dose of “inspirational” quotes, displayed on wall-mounted monitors located on every floor. (A bit 1984-ish, but I suspect very few people, if any, even notice them anymore.) These quotes tend to be inane or insulting. Here are two recent ones:

· “Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting someone else to do the work.” J.G. Pollard (Who? And why would our quote-meisters think this would inspire the staff, 98-plus percent of whom do the work the executive won’t--or can’t--do!)

· “Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than the ability to decide.” Napoleon Bonaparte (long-dead, unsuccessful emperor)

I am a fickle collector. I keep them or toss them out as the mood strikes me. Here are a few that have withstood the test of time, what I call my “keepers”:

· “With or without religion, good people will do good, and evil people will do evil. But for good people to do evil, that takes religion.”—Steven Weinberg, Nobel Prize-winning physicist

· “Yet it is often the trivial that hurts the most, inside the monastery and out.”—from The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton

· “Any idiot can face a crisis; it is this day-to-day living that wears you out.”—Anton Chekhov, Russian playwright

· “Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back.”—Babe Ruth

· “When things are going well, reflect. When things are going poorly, be brave.”—Korean proverb

· “The discipline of the writer is to learn to be still and listen to what his subject has to tell him.”—Rachel Carson

· “Youth is a blunder; manhood a struggle; old age a regret.”--Benjamin Disraeli, British prime minister and writer

One of these is my computer’s scrolling screen saver. Can you guess which one? The last quote I’d like to use in my next book. It fits the story and characters perfectly. So, what are your favorite quotes?


Tory said...

I'm guessing Chekov's on your screensaver.

Quote next to my computer:
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Very appropriate for a psychotherapist, I think.

Annette said...

I'm voting for the Babe Ruth quote as your screensaver, Mike. But they're all excellent.

Joyce said...

I love the Chekhov quote--it is so true!

My favorite quotes are on this site: http://demotivators.com/viewall.html

nancy said...

Here's something I recewntly read from Barack Obama (mention does not mean endorsement. Go,
Hillary!!) in a speech early in his career which was intended, I believe, to
inspire African-Americans to success: "...we faced three challenges. First,
competence, which was expected. Second: excellence, which only some seek.
Third: mastery, which very few ever tried for. It was a level of proficiency and
skill so high it allowed you to do something better than anyone else."

I wish it weren't so wordy, but I like the sentiment.

Martha Reed said...

Mike, here's a quote so simple I posted it on my computer:

Do or Do Not. There is no try. - Yoda

I'm not a Star Wars geek, but that still resonates after 25 years.

Gina said...

Many years ago, the corporation I worked for put up inspirational posters and required employees to wear a stick pen that read: "Attitude." We had an attitude, all right.

I admit to having a few quotes posted in my writing room. One, for example, reads:

I am now what the great God made me, pure spirit.

Not much to do with writing, but very powerful nonetheless. In general, though, I have trouble stomaching the nausea most inspirational quotes inspire, so I tend to go for the crude and despairing. My all-time favorite, which I found on a bathroom wall, is both: Life is a lover's penis. When it's soft you get bored and when it's hard you get screwed.

Gina said...

I must have writing on the mind - either that, or pigs. The above should read: stick pin.

Joyce said...

Gina, something tells me you'd love the demotivator site.

Some examples:

Despair--It's always darkest before it goes pitch black.

Failure-when your best just isn't good enough.

Leaders--Leaders are like eagles; we don't have any of them here.

JennieB said...

"Why bother with a cunning plan when a simple one will do?"

mike said...

Joyce--I love the "failure" demotivator quote! Can use that at the office. And Martha, the Yoda quote, how apt. As for my screensaver, it's the Rachel Carson quote.

lisa curry said...

Mike, my favorite of your keepers is the Steven Weinberg quote!

My favorite quote is, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." (Attributed to Confucius.) It reminds me that any day I get paid to write is a good day, even when I'm on the sixth revision of what was supposed to be a simple four-page brochure because the client can't make up their mind about what they want in it. :-)

I think that so-called inspirational quote about executive ability being to decide quickly and get someone else to do the work is offensive and de-motivating. You really have to wonder who comes up with some of these ideas!

Anonymous said...

Some People should not roam this Earth by themselves ... who wrote that one?