Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. – Oscar Wilde
I have had a serial feature on my blog the past few weeks. I call it Sunday Quotes. They are quotes I post on a Sunday. And I leave it at that, no ramblings on it after. In a blog that is about opinions, especially mine, it seems an easy way out, to post little pieces of writing that have no original input, except the title. But, there is the new-age, highly popular, literary theory of any piece of writing not being complete, unless a reader adds his or her own meaning to it. Which means, when I quote Dorothy Parker or Ray Bradbury, it is me, almost as a co-author(or, really, a shameless “quoter”) who is presenting it to my blogging audience. It says Of Opinions after all, not Bradbury. To continue the theory, my readers also become part of this author-reader partnership. For that moment, our lives do become quotations. Even if it is a dead author who brings us together, we are the better for it. Not all of us can be Oscar Wilde after all, with a well-polished, original, quotable quote available at the press of a social button.
A lot of us have a personal Philosophy of Life which we like to quote whenever we can. It is, as though, the repetitious act, especially with a frequently changing audience(family, friends,colleagues, blog readers) affirm it further, really drill it into the wiring of our brains. “Live and let live” is a popular example. I would love to have such a quote to live by everyday, but I would get tired of it easily. The nature with truisms is that they also seem to be absolute, impenetrable. If living were really as simple as that, we would not make as many mistakes as we do. There are two, highly questionable aspects of “Live and let live.” Without any intention of trivializing it, “let live” would imply turning vegetarian, along with refusing to aid the death of members of our own species. “Live” is easier to say and harder to understand. It means different things to different people, and we are all, essentially, trying to find out what it means to us everyday. Because, not many would agree that they “live” to the most of their expectations. We are often not sure what those expectations are.
A quote is not an isolated thing. It is often taken out of context, to hold some meaning, some “truth” all by itself, for all of humanity. Those in the business of manufacturing quotes – writers, politicians, a wise aunt -are singularly obsessed with two things – what to say, and more importantly, how to say it. Life is simple really. Be tolerant with everyone. Be generous. Do what you have been given to do. And then sleep for a time stipulated by your body clock, after which you will start over again. Repeat cycle, until it’s time to die. It is the capacity of imagination that we humans possess that make us add a lot of colour to these basic rules. Often, we may even dare to change them. I am as harmless as the next person, and even I don’t stick by fully with all the four rules. And yet, I am not daring or adventurous in the slightest.
It is “how to say it” that gives a quote all its rich colour. I could very well say, “Try to live your life as best you can. Don’t hurt anybody. And let everybody live their lives as best as they can.” But, that does not hold a punch like “Live and let live.” That does not hold enough mystery to become the title of a Bond film, after slight alteration. The first rule of a quote is to be quotable. Stating the obvious, but sometimes, the obvious needs to be stated.
However, calling it “obvious” does not mean undermining the wisdom and wit of your favourite writer or your aunt. If a piece of writing exists only with the indeterminate duality of the author-reader partnership, then that would mean, a quote is only complete when the reader finds something of personal relevance in it. My Dorothy Parker quote from yesterday reminded me not only of Parker’s well known talent for witticism, but also the true experience of loving a person more when they are away, than when they are readily available. A quote does not strive to become an instant classic, an untouchable entity that holds true for all humanity across all ages. A quote only exists because somewhere at some time(such as you and me and Dorothy Parker yesterday), a bond between the writer and the reader is formed, delicate and easily breakable, but joined in understanding. This relationship holds true for all writing. In fact, every human endeavour, even as much as being around a stranger, is ultimately, only a relationship.