Great musicians are sometimes quoted saying they are always searching for the perfect note. For me, it’s the same with words.
I’m not sure I have, or ever will, write the perfect words, but I'm always looking for great writing and speech all around me. Describing what elevates a collection of words, written or spoken, to greatness would be difficult and time-consuming, but one of the necessary elements is that it should mean something special. Like wonderful poems, great quotes can distill complex thought into wit, wisdom, humor or profound insight. The experts call it "compression."
"An important characteristic of poetry is compression, or concentrated language," the writing teachers at creative-writing-now.com suggest. "I don't mean 'concentrated' in the sense of paying close attention. I mean it in the sense of concentrated laundry detergent, or concentrated orange juice. A half-cup of concentrated laundry detergent does the same work as a cup of regular detergent; a poem typically gets across as much meaning as a larger amount of prose. Concentrated orange juice has the water taken out; a good poem has similarly been intensified by removing the non-essential words. This is one reason why poems are often short."
Good quotes can do that too. It's one quality that can make a statement, well, quotable.
Here are few quotes that mean something to me. I gleaned them from my Facebook page, where I shared them with family, friends and acquaintances. Maybe you'll find one or two that mean something to you.
“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”
-- George Orwell
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
— John Lennon
“If you have nothing to say, say nothing.”
— Mark Twain
"We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter."
-- Denis Diderot, French writer and philosopher
"Cats have it all -- admiration, an endless sleep and company only when they want it."
-- Rod McKuen, American singer-songwriter, poet and actor
“What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?”
— Jesus Christ
"Only the guy who isn't rowing has time to rock the boat."
-- Jean-Paul Sartre
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
-- Nelson Mandela
"People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."
-- Winston Churchill
"Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people."
-- Eleanor Roosevelt
"Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have."
-- James Baldwin
"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."
-- Leo Tolstoy
And, finally, a couple I remember seeing in a bookstore window on Oak Street in New Orleans back in my college days at Loyola:
"God is dead."
"Nietzsche is dead."
-- Executive Editor Keith Magill can be reached at 857-2201 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CourierEditor.