Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Words

So I was thinking about how we as people are influenced by the media we consume. Not in the sense of "Oh, watching violent movies/playing violent video games makes people violent!" That's rubbish. But it is true, or at least it certainly can be true, that we choose to try and emulate certain characters; we adopt principles of fictional organisations; we gain our outlooks on certain things from their portrayals; and we take emotional support and guidance from quotations which resonate with us.

The last one of those is the one I'm really focused on, and indeed the others can a lot of the time be considered subdivisions of this more general case of people being influenced by their media.
I've always been very partial to a good quotation. There's a great appeal for me in the way that a particularly euphonious or distinctively fitting phrasing can lend additional weight to a thought, so that we are, colloquially, 'hit' by it, rather than simply registering it. I always tend to pick out quotes like that, which appeal to me, and I have an excellent recall of them when I find them relevant.

I'm hardly alone in this, I know. There's a reason facebook has a 'Favourite Quotations' section on the profile. Though that always gave me difficulties. Favourite quotations of what sort? Emotional solace in times of hardship? Inspiring? Funny? Just plain cool? Shock value? I like different quotes because they evoke different emotions, but how do I choose favourites between those emotions? Bless you, it all depends! Context is all.
Anyway, yes, quotes appeal to more people than just me. By a neat coincidence, last week while I was thinkking about writing this blog post, I saw a video all about quotes. I would particularly draw attention to what she says at 2:38 - "Quotes are so much more than just words. They're these little talismans that remind you that somebody at some point in time felt the way that you feel, and found a good way to express it." That's a pretty good quote in and of itself. Or at least it's a good quote for someone who likes quotes, which as I'm pointing out at great length, I do.

Which leads me on to another little point, which is of course that anyone, whether they want to be any kind of writer or performer, or if they merely want to be an expressive and articulate human being, will find themselves searching for the right way to turn a phrase to make it quotable. Not out of a narcissistic desire to be quoted - at least, not only for that reason - but because they want their words to hold that significance for them. Of course, while I imagine just about anyone would agree that a good quote has a certain ring to it, a certain rhythm, and so on, no two people would be likely to agree on exactly what constitutes those things. What is eminently quotable to one person may be banal and meaningless to another. Still, we try. In fact, that particular tendency I suspect is engendered to a greater extent in this day and age by the widespread proliferation of facebook and twitter. While obviously the primary purpose of a status or tweet is generally to get a piece of information to people who may be interested in it, depending on the information in question, there can be a great desire to couch it in the nicest phrasing you can think of at the time. Though surprisingly, looking for examples of this I got back to last March before I found one on my own facebook: "Now facebook is offering to translate comments which are in English in case I don't understand them. Sadly I don't think there's an option which will allow me to understand facebook."
It's not even that good an example. I'm sure I've said more quotable things than that on the internet. I distinctly remember occasions when I've read back over things I said months previously and been pleased with my own ability to turn a phrase. And on the flip-side of course, I named this blog after something my friend said on hers, because I found it quotable.


OK, so. Finally, getting back to the point I originally brought up at the start of the post. The way people are influenced by things in media, like quotes. It's very definitely a thing. I imagine I could talk about that for a while, but I feel like the best way of demonstrating my point is simply to give some possible examples of it.
So here goes, off the top of my head. 

Quotes which people consuming the relevant media might well take into their own personal philosophy and outlook on life. Quotes people might choose to live by, to a lesser or greater extent:

"To love another person is to see the face of God."

"No day but today."

"Live your life in a moment, and then live forever. Don't fade away."

"Each moment hesitated is a moment wasted of life."

"If you love, love without reservation. If you fight, fight without fear."

"Never surrender dreams."

"Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust, and ashes, and forgot."

"The irrational, the emotional, the whimsical... These are the stamp of humanity which makes reason a civilising force."

(A note: I don't personally try to live by all these different quotes, but I would be somewhat surprised if at there wasn't at least one person in the world choosing to live by each of them)

I could do similarly for other categories. Quotes people use to maintain their confidence in their abilities ("We have done the impossible and that makes us mighty."); to remind them that everyone else experiences the same confusing problems ("The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world."), or at least comparable ones ("Every person I know is pretty poorly constructed."); as reminders of how best to deal with frustrating situations ("To argue with one who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead."), or sad and confusing ones ("Cheer up. Have an ice-cream."). Or quotes they just keep on recall because they're the perfect expression of feelings and opinions they already had ("Parting with friends is a sadness. A place is just a place.")

I think you take my point. Quotes are amazing things. They can get us through bad times OK, and good times better. They can help us with how we approach various situations. They can make us laugh, and cry tears of joy. They can set our resolve, or temper it with reason and feeling. They can inspire us to be better, and remind us that we're already pretty great.

Tho' much is taken, much abides, and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved Earth and Heav'n; that which we are, we are:
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

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