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The joy of quoting famous dead people
Words are like a slice of chocolate cake
When a visitor I esteem comes to see me, I like to offer him a slice of the nearby German bakery’s best chocolate cake. Understand, I can bake a cake. I hope you like a heavy, poorly risen, lop-sided chunk of soggy carbohydrates topped with runny icing. No, not for you, dear visitor. You deserve the best I can find, which in this case would be the light but moist, sweet but not overly so, ever so delectable, old fashioned chocolate cake from the Bavaria Bakery – and oh, yes please, the one with cream cheese and black cherry filling.
I won’t lie to you and pretend I made it myself. That would be dishonest.
I feel the same way about words. I’m an adequate wordsmith, reasonably clever but certainly not endowed with a sparkling wit. I don’t have that knack for voicing things so succinctly the reader leaps from his chair in one of those ‘Eureka’ moments. ‘Aha, now I fully understand. How these magic words have made it all so crystal clear.’
Not my words.
When it comes to chocolate cake and words, only the best will do for my dear visitors.
Oh, how can I describe the sheer fun it is to select from all the words ever spoken and find that rare gem that best defines what it is I wish to say? Well, let a famous dead person say it for me:
“He who trains his tongue to quote the learned sages, will be known far and wide as a smart ass.” -- Howard Kandel (Except I don’t know if he’s dead. Or famous. Well he is famous for saying, “Two can live as cheaply as one – for half the time.” Does that count?)
Quotes from famous dead (or soon to be) people are often read and considered with far more weight by the reader than my poor efforts. I mean, who’s ever convinced of a thing because Lynda said it? But if good old Tom Jefferson, or Bill Shakespeare, or Julius Cesear, or Socrates did, why then it must be so. Of course, one must be sure to get it right, and to give credit where due. (Otherwise, what’s the point?)
“Quoting: the act of repeating erroneously the words of another.” -- Ambrose Bierce (1842 – 1913) an American editor, journalist, short story writer, and satirist
One should select both quote and quoter carefully. After all, it wouldn’t do to quote Goebbels thoughts on propaganda to a meeting of the B’Nai Brith fund drive for trees for Israel. Nor does one make a good impression when quoting Churchill in a paper on American politics. (A sensitive people, Americans.) Certainly, Oscar Wilde makes a poor choice for an address to a Texas School Board. Definitely, when choosing quotes it is well worth considering the advice below.
“Wise men make proverbs, but fools repeat them.” -- Samuel Palmer, 1805-1880, English painter and writer
As I said, it’s best to choose carefully who to quote and to whom. These days, living in the U.S., I find there’s a grand choice of possibilities within the bounds of this great land, and as I’m patiently waiting on my immigration status, it’s good to pander to national pride.
Do you know one of my favorites? Abraham Lincoln. Now there’s a man with whom I’d love to have shared a drink. He had such a dry wit. Here’s one I find admirable:
“He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.” -- Abraham Lincoln, (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) served as the 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865 (It’s also a good idea to cram as much information into the attributes as you can – shows how much you know. Always impressive.)
What a beaut! Says it all, I think, and don’t we all know a number of people to whom this applies -- this hub included. Want some more?
“I can make more generals, but horses cost money.”
“If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”
But in case you’re thinking he was a mere happy wag of a fellow, consider some of his more profound quotes. Here’s some as applicable today as they were two hundred years ago, and still deserving of thoughtful consideration.
“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
“The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.”
“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”
“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
And finally, my very favorite of all Abe Lincoln quotes:
“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”
Now why can't I dream up words like that. Pure chocolate cake, these ones.
Three eminent and highly quotable Americans
Now, if you’re looking for quotes about government, the ideals of the republic, the words of a great thinker, and all round man of his times, you can’t do better than Thomas Jefferson. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a modern-day man of his times, try George W. Bush (Okay, I know he’s not dead.).
“It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.” -- Thomas Jefferson
“It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it.” -- George W. Bush
Yeah – how times have changed. Can you envision these two in a televised debate? Here’s another fiscal G.W. quote I simply had to throw in here. "You work three jobs? ... Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that." --to a divorced mother of three, Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 4, 2005.
If I had a spare smiley face, I’d put it here. :D
“If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour?” -- Thomas Jefferson
“See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda." –George W. Bush, Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005
They’re both telling the truth, as befits the office.
“If there is one principle more deeply rooted in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest.” -- Thomas Jefferson
"There is no doubt in my mind when history was written, the final page will say: Victory was achieved by the United States of America for the good of the world." --George W. Bush, addressing U.S. troops at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Jan. 12, 2008
I had to force myself to stop here, because I started reading G.W. quotes and the next thing I knew it was 3:00 A.M. I had tears running down my face from laughing so hard. Truly, I have to put a link here to this site called Bush quotations and share the good time.
Now onto another of my favorite quotable Americans. If sarcasm is your thing, go with Samuel Clemens. Here is one man I probably would not want to chat up over a drink. His wit is razor sharp, and I’d be mopping up my own blood. Here are some of my favorite Samuel Clemens’ delicious slices of chocolate cake. I had to practice great restraint, because this man’s words are so quotable, this hub could go on forever.
“The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them.”
“Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.”
“The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.”
“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
“Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
“We have a criminal jury system which is superior to any other in the world; and its efficiency is only marred by the difficulty of finding 12 everyday men who don't know anything and can't read.”
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
And last but not least, here is a snippet of a description he once wrote about a man he didn’t like very much, evidently:
“... A solemn, unsmiling, sanctimonious old iceberg who looked like he was waiting for a vacancy in the Trinity.”
Oh, if only I could write like that. Perhaps it has something to do with using a computer – can’t sharpen anything to a point.
Quotes of spiritual worth and goodness
Are there any quotes more worthy of repetition than the simple loving words of Mother Teresa? These are slices of chocolate of the non-fattening kind, to be ingested at any available opportunity.
“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.”
“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”
“There must be a reason why some people can afford to live well. They must have worked for it. I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things that we could use.”
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
I have nothing to offer that feels worthy in light of these truly humble but noble sentiments. I feel insignificant before them.
If you’ve ever noticed, in every picture or image you see of the Dalai Lama he is smiling. Never do we find him otherwise, not even when decrying the suffering in his homeland. For this alone, I am intrigued by the man, and his words seem to express much of what I carry in my own heart.
“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.”
“It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives. If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is to desist from harming them.”
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”
“The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual's own reason and critical analysis.”
“All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness. The important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.”
Why would I even consider substituting my own paltry dry words for gems such as these – gems, not in their brilliance but in the complete peace this man always carries with him.
As a girl of ten or eleven, I read of the life of the Mahatma, Mohandas Gandhi and his teachings had a profound effect on my soul-in-development. Strange for a girl growing up on the prairies of Western Canada, perhaps, but Gandhi was a strong influence on my young mind. His words always speak to me, and I could never state with greater clarity any of these thoughts. That’s why I often choose to quote him.
“I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill.”
“Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.”
“An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so.”
“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
“Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.”
“God is, even though the whole world deny him. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self-sustained.”
I might add, I adopted his philosophy of passive resistance against tyranny, but failed. While Gandhi had only the might of the British Empire against him, I faced a much tougher foe – my mother.
Quotable Roman quotes
Everything has all been said before, you know. And most of it by these guys – the brains of the Roman Empire. Now, I’m not going to pretend this is anywhere near a complete list, just a few of my favorites. Whenever discussing a universal truth, it’s worthwhile to quote an ancient Roman. Not only did they practice a remarkable efficiency of words, repeating them gives one the air of having had a classic education … You know, makes you look ‘enlightened.’ Here are a few throwaway quotes to get you started.
“Brevity is a great charm of eloquence” -- Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Orator, statesman and lawyer. (Strange sentiment for a lawyer, but I do like this quote.)
Here are some more of Cicero’s famous words:
“While there's life, there's hope.”
“To live is to think.”
“The more laws, the less justice. “
“The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and assistance to foreign hands should be curtailed, lest Rome fall. “
What most people think of when they want to quote Julius Ceaser, aside from ‘I came, I saw, I conquered,’ are actually words written by Shakespeare. But here are a few of his well known quotations:
“Men are nearly always willing to believe what they wish.” -- Gaius Julius Caesar 13 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC
“Cowards die many times before their actual deaths.”
“It is better to create than to learn! Creating is the essence of life.”
“It is not these well-fed long-haired men that I fear, but the pale and the hungry-looking."
But if you are looking for some truly memorable and impressive ancient Roman quotes, seek the words of Marcus Aurelius:
“Begin - to begin is half the work, let half still remain; again begin this, and thou wilt have finished.” --Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 161AD to 180AD
“Be content to seem what you really are.”
noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than
himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces
aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man aspires.”
in any way beautiful derives its beauty from itself and asks nothing beyond
itself. Praise is no part of it, for nothing is made worse or better by praise."
To close off our visit with the Roman words. I offer this little sliver of chocolate cake:
“Hasten slowly” – Augustus Caesar (The first Emperor of Rome and heir to Julius Caesar)
No more room or time ...
All those other quotable quotes … no room or time for them here. We’ve yet to
touch Shakespeare (at least two hubs all by himself) or Voltaire, Camus or
Plato, no Socrates, none of the literary greats both old and new.Nor Bart Simpson. Or Yoda. (Is it okay to consider those that never lived but were successful as famous dead people? I don't know the rules.) Sigh...
Well, I guess we’ll just have to see how much you all like this serving of ‘The joy of quoting famous dead people. ‘ Maybe we should have version 2, 3 or 4.
Should we have more 'Joy of quoting famous dead people?'
One last quote
“The more you blog about me, the higher you drive my google rating, so even if it’s hateful – thank you very much.” – Lynda M. Martin (neither dead nor famous)