Ever since I started blogging I’ve seen a whole host of posts from other bloggers about their favourite quotes.
Some are quite inspiring quotes from great thinkers. Most are rather bourgeois ten-a-penny musings that could have been dreamed up by any average IQ layman. That is, of course, my personal perception. One man’s chalk is another man’s cheese. What I find to be extremely lacking in any kind of inspirational value might well be the thing that keeps another person going from day to day.
In this post, I’ll run through some of my favourite quotes. Some are inspirational, some are comical, some are profound, and some are strange. I think there’s always a fitting quote for any situation you might find yourself in.
Two of my favourite quotes come from arguably the greatest existential thinkers. In no particular order, there’s “Existence precedes essence” from Jean-Paul Sartre and “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought, which they seldom use” from Søren Kierkegaard.
The first is extremely simple, yet notoriously complex. It basically states that, without existence, nobody would achieve a thing in life, so, therefore, existence is more important than what makes a person who they are. That is the basic principle of existentialism. Nobody is preordained to do or be anything. They do and become anything as a result of choices made in life. Another great quote from JP Sartre is “Hell is other people”. Glean from that what you will…
The Kierkegaard quote is one I feel extremely strongly about, especially where far-left and far-right folk are concerned. We’re all free to learn anything we choose to, and yet it seems most of us choose only to learn things that suit our agenda. That’s what leads to absolutely pointless arguments between people with opposing mind-sets. Both try to talk over the other rather than listen and use their freedom of thought to learn a thing or two. Without the use of freedom of thought, the freedom of speech becomes pretty much void in my opinion.
The Latin phrase “Scientia potentia est” is a long serving favourite of mine. It’s actually a misquotation—like so many Latin phrases are—of Sir Francis Bacon meaning “Knowledge is power”. However, the actual quotation from Bacon’s Meditationes Sacrae reads “Ipsa scientia potestas est” and means “Knowledge itself is power”. Either way, it’s a simple phrase that packs a lot of punch. Knowledge has always been something I crave and I will continue to crave it until the day I die.
Movies have provided some really memorable and meaningful quotes. Agent Smith, played to devilish perfection by Hugo Weaving, had so many great monologues in The Matrix Trilogy that choosing one is impossible.
From The Matrix (a long one so buckle up), “I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realised that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.” A quote that needs no explanation. Not only is there a whole lot of truth in this one, but there’s a subtle warning too as Agent Smith, essentially a machine, talks about how his kind are far better for earth than human beings ever were.
From The Matrix Reloaded, “I understood the rules; I knew what I was supposed to do, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I was compelled to stay; compelled to disobey,” is part of one of the monologues I love and appeals to the non-conformist in me.
From The Matrix Revolutions (another pretty long one), “Why keep fighting? Do you believe you’re fighting for something? For more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. Temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose, and all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself; although, only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love.” Another example of Agent Smith speaking in circles I understand. I have my take on the notion of love that, one day, I’ll share with you all. Plus, the use of the word ‘insipid’ makes a wordsmith like me drool!
People share quotes that are generally quite snappy and succinct. I’m a fan of the longer quote in a lot of cases. Though not as easy to remember, the power is there in the words and each word is as crucial as the other.
Some great quotes are more to do with their context. The quote “I see no ships” from Horatio Nelson (which may or may not be a myth) comes about from his holding a spyglass to his blind eye when told by the commander in chief not to engage the Danish in battle and Nelson disregarded it. Ultimately, the British won the battle despite heavy losses. While the words “I see no ships” are nothing special, the context in which Nelson spoke them is what makes it such a great quote.
I’m a sucker for some humour in a quote too. Gene Hunt, played by Philip Glenister, in Life on Mars was full of brilliant, humorous quotes. Some of my favourites were:
- “If I were as worried as you are I’d never fart for fear of shitting myself!”;
- In response to Sam Tyler saying “We have to establish if this is a hate crime”. “You mean as opposed to one of those ‘I really, really like you’ murders?”;
- “There will never be a female prime minister while I have a hole in my arse!”;
- “Look at her! She’s as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot!”.
I could go on as Gene Hunt had so many funny moments.
In terms of inspirational quotes, I don’t really go in for things like that. Most inspirational words are clichéd and trite. I don’t find they inspire much at all. My inspiration always tends to come from within. That said, I have lately taken a great shine to two words that aren’t quite a quote, but hold a great deal of meaning to me. The words “ataraxia & aponia (ἀταραξία και ἀπονία)” essentially mean “freedom from fear and absence of pain”. Not so much inspirational as a positive mental outlook—and a tattoo when I finally stop being a wuss and get one.
A self-made quote I coined a while back is “If you never feel true despair then you’ll never appreciate true happiness”. Terms such as “It’s darkest before the dawn” are similar I suppose. I think it’s pretty much common sense that you need to experience and truly feel the pain of bad times in life in order to fully appreciate the good times, yet when I say this to a lot of people they seem to be enlightened by what I say. So perhaps my self-made quote isn’t common sense at all. Maybe there’s a philosopher hidden in me somewhere.
Sayings that annoy me are plentiful. The aforementioned inspirational quotes are normally just patronising. “Carpe diem” winds me up as it doesn’t actually mean what people think it does. Whoever coined the phrase “There’s plenty more fish in the sea” needs a great, big slap! What an insensitive thing to say to a person who’s breaking their heart over a love lost! As for “Cheer up; it might never happen!” Fuck off! Fuck right off and never come back! What an awful phrase!
Music has been responsible for churning out some rather brilliant quotes. I particularly like these following lines. From Roy Ayers’ ‘I Am Your Mind Part 2’: “By the way… I need more than sex to nourish my equilibrium… but I do need sex! I also need sun, trees, stars, creativity, and love, but you saturate my soul with too much of one and not enough of the other.” The opening lyrics from Jamiroquai’s ‘World That He Wants’ are powerful and harrowing (as is the whole song): “Why does this man defy the storm and burn us all? Each time his hand waves, the sun, it sets on lonely graves.” Finally, it’s a song I’ve shared with you a couple of times on this blog, from Isaac Hayes’ ‘I Can’t Turn Around’: “Oh, my love is strong as a mountain is tall; now that you’ve got it, take it all.” I could prattle on all day about song lyrics I love. I could dedicate a whole post alone to Fleetwood Mac.
I do believe I’ll leave this one here. I think I’ve quoted enough stuff to keep everyone going. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them all and that some of them struck a chord with you in the same way they did with me. I’ll leave you with three more of my favourites:
“Your eyes say ‘yes’, but you don’t say yes; I wish that you were mine…” from ‘Beautiful Child’ by Fleetwood Mac; lyrics by Stevie Nicks.
“Well pardon the shit outta my goddamned French!” Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), The Walking Dead.
“I say never be complete. I say stop being perfect. I say… let’s evolve! Let the chips fall where they may.” Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), Fight Club.