by Mike Pyatt
Well intentioned quotes may end up a malison. “Read my lips,” Bush 41’ stated sternly, standing before the GOP faithful, “No new taxes!” A quote that will live in political infamy. Quotes can be serious, amusing, sad, comforting, infamous, ominous, fleeting or enduring. During the Cold War, a 1956, quote by Nikita Khrushchev, in Russian,” My vas pokhoronim,” translated, “We will bury you.” Some maintain it was a mistranslation. It was menacing at the time.
Quotes are a staple of the columnist’s trade. Often a hook to connect to the reader, or underpinning the columnist’s perspective. It’s the stark recognition that someone said it most succinctly or eloquently. Most recognize, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” as Abraham Lincoln’s quote during his 1858, address in Springfield, Illinois. Slavery and freedom were incompatible.
Vice President Biden, infamous for leaving a large footprint when it comes to gaffs, is highly quotable. For example, on the eve of his inauguration in D.C., he stated, “I am proud to be President of the United States.” He recovered. In 2009, speaking at a Democratic Caucus in Williamsburg, VA, annual retreat, he commented on the $900 million dollar economic stimulus, “If we do everything right, with absolute certainty, there’s still a 30% chance we’re going to get it wrong.” No one, including the White House staffers, understood Joe’s quizzical comment.
Many evangelicals rely on C.S. Lewis, due to his brilliance and spiritual pilgrimage from agnosticism to faith in Christ. He captured the essence of an issue. A Lewis classic on being humble, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” On happiness, he’s matchless, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel comfortable, I don’t recommend Christianity.” One shouldn’t inhume truth.
18th Century, Dublin born conservative, Sir Edmund Burke’s quote predicted the fragility of liberty, that’s inextricably linked to morality, “Among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist.” Ben Franklin’s quotes are humorous and true. On health and the Divine, “God heals and the doctor takes the fee.” Some recall Union Admiral David Farragut’s famous, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” To hesitate would’ve meant disaster.
Not all quotes are by the famous. Some are lengthy-others short and pithy. Less known, but penetrating parental advice, on “brat proofing” off-springs, by Robert Heinlein, “Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.” That predated thirty year old “pajama boy” in his parent’s basement. Regarding that “pesky” Constitution, an unidentified congressman, remarked to a fellow legislator, who opposed an unconstitutional initiative by President Grover Cleveland, was quoted, “What’s the Constitution between friends.”
On the intersecting of our lives with the eternal, H. Thurston Stuart, declared, “That which on the surface appears to be an accident or merely capricious, especially the intersecting of the souls of mortals, is, in fact, a Divine intervention, an eternal play. And the curtain may not come down til’ latter years.” Remarkable language. Some are ancient, yet timeless. On aimless living, German philosopher, Von Goethe captured its essence, “Lose the day loitering, twill be the same tomorrow, and the rest more dilatory.” It’s called “chillin” today.
On inconsolability, keep this quote at your finger tips, from Thomas J. Bullfinch III, “The Providence of God and His omnipotence, after all the grief, is the ground of consolation, and ultimately that of mortals’ submission to His will and wisdom.” Confirmation that unvarnished truth and majestic language are not antithetical. Humor, reflecting man’s existential insecurity, finds its place in this brief quote from Shawn McGuiness II, “When everybody but God forgets you, you start to worry about Him.” Ever feel that way? We can be forgettable to some. On a mundane level, to all who’ve returned to their high school reunion, roundly disappointed, try this quote from Thomas Wolfe’s 1940 novel, You Can’t Go Home Again, “You can’t go back home to a young man’s dreams of glory-back home to escapes of Time and Memory.”
In 1964, The Beatles polarized America. Hysterical teens idolized them. Parents and curmudgeons, not so much. Most disconcerting was John Lennon’s infamous March, 1966, iconoclastic quote, “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn‘t argue with that; I‘m right and I will be proven right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don‘t know which will go first-rock n roll or Christianity.” Lennon’s prophesy was dead wrong. Mainline denominations were theologically benign. It prompted lethargic evangelicals to take inventory, launching a renewed offensive, proclaiming the Gospel, combating the unrestrained moral and spiritual malaise.
A cosmic quote, lifted from an unpublished manuscript, characterizing man’s search for meaning, “For eons man yearned for the Divine mystery to be revealed, ever looking for the metaphysical, or being lost in a higher being; skeptics have gazed so far beyond His presence that arrived in the form of a boy-child, yet most missed Him, and remain unconnected to the Divine to this very day.” Ever yearning; never learning.
The late Carl Sagan, brilliant astrophysicist, cosmically arrogant darling of the atheistic scientist wing, ignored God’s Majesty in Creation. His quote on God, is revealing, “But if by God one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying, and it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.” He was right about that kind of “God” not satisfying. Sterile. Transcendent. Impersonal. Sagan explored the universe for decades, suppressing the handy-work of the personal, infinite God of the Old and New Testament. Morbidly sad quote.
Few things could be more grievous, than having this regrettable quote etched on our headstone, “He (She) loitered through life.” History’s punctuated by quotes, extolling temporal and permanent things. They paint a historical montage of our thoughts, trepidations, humor, values, philosophies, and politics. Absent His presence, it’s an incomplete picture. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt is a Natrona County WY resident. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org