By: Andre Cormier
They can hold people of power accountable and elevate revolutionaries. They range from a few words to paragraphs. They adorn the paper tags of tea bags. In moments and occasions of significance, they are often sought out to help explain, to console, to simplify, to expand, to emote, to question, and to affirm. They are springboard snippets of speech and prose that drip with truths both twistable and universal. Quotations hold a special significance in the lexicon of human connection and communication.
Working in an Adult Education program as one of my vagabond career paths, I was tasked with helping students of all ages find the footing they needed to be college ready in both reading and writing. One of my favorite parts of the class was the beginning. I put a quote on the board and asked three questions. First, what do you think the author of the quotation was trying to communicate? Second, do you agree with what the author was trying to communicate? Third, do you think this quotation can be applied to how you live your life?
In truth, I had stolen this exercise from my 7th and 8th grade teacher, Mr. Nelson. He would have a quote each day of class and we were to record it in our notebooks along with what we thought it meant. I still have my book of quotations from those classes. I modified this exercise slightly for my class. While I would try to find a quote that I felt might identify with whatever reading we might be exploring, it was not always the case. I varied the quotes very little over several years and found it a rewarding activity for myself and the students. Rich discussions arose. People showed to class on time. And even though there was some consistency in the interpretations of the quotes, there was often someone who would have an insight that was unique, foreign, and challenging to my understandings.
This blog will attempt to explore quotations in a similar fashion. Why are they powerful and what do they do? From gravestones and monuments, to internet memes, to whispered words of advice from grandfathers on fishing trips – quotes are preserved and are pervasive in our attempts to understand the world and our place in it. Some quotes survive because of the gravitas of the people who spoke them. Along with some famous quotations from famous people, I will also explore quotations from not so famous people in my life. Other quotes came to me from complete strangers in unexpected contexts. And some of the quotes are quotes that actually are not quotes.
Each of these entries in this series will be an honest attempt to do more than just come to a consensus on what these attributed words are trying to communicate. Together, and I do invite you to explore with me, we can parse out context and application. This is our space to collaborate in a meditation on words deemed worthy of recording in their exact utterance. And you can quote me on that.