Today’s Daily Prompt: Do you have a favourite quote that you return to again and again? What is it, and why does it move you?
The quote, the aphorism, the proverb, the maxim, the adage, the truism. A distillation of a philosophy into a few words.
Aphorisms have a long history dating back thousands of years, before we even wrote. It allowed us to carry around wisdom in our heads. If we believe Erasmus “An idea launched like a javelin in proverbial form strikes with sharper point on the hearer’s mind and leaves implanted barbs for meditation.”
It is the distillation and the meditation that most interests me in quotes and aphorisms. I think that we often discard the meditative aspect of a quote, we read it, hear it or say it and perhaps realise it’s truth but then forget the meditation, forget to really think about what it means.
Even the Daily Prompt itself is a call to quick thinking and rapid response, it is a prompt that will be replaced tomorrow so better rush to write, don’t spend a day or two contemplating your response.
So my favourite quotes are those that have made me think and understand the truth under the few words, the ones that when they come to mind will stir my thoughts. It’s the meditation on the philosophical point raised that interests me.
One of my favourite quotes came to me via my mother, she was a great teacher and would say it to her students, one of them me. She used to say “It’s all a chequerboard of nights and days”.
It comes from ‘The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám’, specifically Edward FitGerald’s translation.
Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays: Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays, And one by one back in the Closet lays.
So what does it mean? I can’t say what it means to you, you will have your own thoughts when you hear it. I’d first ask you to notice that the poem extends and explains the original quoted first line.
To me the quote is saying that life is a mix of light and dark and that fate takes us through both. It also tells me that I am just a player in the larger game and that sometimes you just have to accept that destiny will play its game.
The other quote I often come to is one a friend told me in a time of relationship turmoil — “The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.”
Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point. On le sent en mille choses. C'est le cœur qui sent Dieu, et non la raison. Voilà ce que c'est que la foi parfaite, Dieu sensible au cœur.
The best translation I can find is
The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things. It is the heart which experiences God, and not the reason. This, then, is faith: God felt by the heart, not by reason.
It’s strange that the original, longer quote is about faith. I’ve never thought of it in that way. Unlike the first quote, with this one when I think of the entire thought of Pascal’s it means less for me as I am an atheist and faith in a god is not part of my philosophy.
For me the quote is about the way I find myself doing things for love that have no earthly connection to logical thought. Last year it spoke to me of my inability to use reason to recover from a broken heart and a bad break up. It also allowed me to let go of my anger for how could I blame an illogical heart in my ex-partner. Love is many things but it is not reasonable or logical.