What is it about a quote that so fascinates? I’m not sure, but I do know I’ve read entire books, interesting books mind, and a week or a month later I couldn’t relate a single line to you if you asked me. Not even if you offered me good money to hear it. Not that the books were not good … they were just not particularly memorable.
Quotes, on the other hand, have the power to affect you deeply. A couple of lines, once heard, can stay with you for life. A particular quote, succinctly expressed, can say more in a handful of words than a poet can manage on a good day. And there’s almost a touch of the infinite about an exceptional quote. When someone manages to convey deep, heartfelt emotion of such intensity that it practically reduces you to tears, there’s more at work there than mere everyday speech.
Of course, this is precisely the reason quotes become quotes. Mere pronouncements don’t cut it, no matter how high-blown the language. Too-carefully crafted words often fail to hit the mark as well. They put you in mind of the artist who tries a little too hard and creates an image that’s really no more than a series of clever brush strokes. The true artist shrugs off his ego and paints or sketches with sheer abandon, his strokes melding into an image that conveys more than the strokes themselves should, by right. That artist draws down inspiration into his very soul and reveals it on the canvas. The orator who does likewise sometimes leaves behind a quote that makes you grasp at your throat, so moved are you by his words.
In honour of such orators, I give you yet another page of quotes. I hope they affect you the way they affect me, making you see things afresh, remember things anew, and relive experiences long gone.
Weird guy, but he had a point. You do need to be interested in a thing to memorise it. The trick, though, is that you can ‘fake’ being interested by cultivating an interest, even if it’s in some weird way that you’ve just invented. It doesn’t even have to be closely related to the thing in question, only linked in some ridiculous way that lends itself to good memory practice.
I still remember asking my father, at about five years of age, what the war was like. He told me a few stories about having to get used to sleeping standing up, against a tree, rifle still in your hand, from being so utterly exhausted, about being given bread and eggs by grateful (French?) farmers, and about how he respected the German soldiers, how they were good men, good fighters, good soldiers. As a career soldier himself, he respected them.
There was lots he could have told me, I found out much, much later, long after he died. He could have told me about the fighting, the killing, the bone-chilling pain of that gruesome winter of ’44, the pain and shock of being wounded, and of seeing every single man in his platoon wounded. He could have mentioned the endless night spent, hour after hour, waist deep in an ice-covered river by a mill, sheltering from a hail of enemy fire, and returning fire to protect yourself and your men.
I’m sure he could have had plenty to say about the miserable, unending hell of war, and coming home to ‘a land fit for heroes’ where he had to queue endlessly for work and more or less beg for benefits when there wasn’t any to be had. But he chose to talk to me, at five years of age, of respect. I’ve never forgotten that.
Well, he did virtually invent it, didn’t he? Oh, wait, that was computer memory! Oh well … Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest individuals in the world, and a great philanthropist … and he has such a good memory, and such a good, positive attitude to memory. What a surprise!
It’s true. We’re quick to assume that our memories are perfect (when it suits us), but we all know from experience that memory is a malleable thing. It can change and warp and distort according to our emotions, our thoughts, or what’s expected of us. To think of it as fixed is a definite mistake. Even as we relive a memory, we are rewriting it in our minds.
We try to control memory, to make it our slave. It hates to be enslaved, though, and repeatedly rises up against its ‘master’. It likes to assert its individuality.
And memories of the things we intended to do, but didn’t, can be the cruellest memories of all.
We forget a hell of a lot, but thankfully the few encouraging words we sometimes get are stored safely for all time in the memory. And sometimes that’s all we need to give us the courage to be what we should be.
Some people mistakenly think of sportsmen as not too bright. Big mistake! A successful player, of whatever game, is using his mental equipment at its highest setting, in the area in which he excels. And they virtually all engage in visualisation, whether or not they’re aware of it, or use that term to describe it.
It’s true, we let the fact that we have so much to do stop us from actually getting anything done. We’re all overburdened, and the trick, as he says, is to pretend we’re like those old computers. Just make out that it’s impossible to move on till you make progress on one thing, then you can switch. It can take a lot of the stress out of life. Computers don’t get stressed, they just get on with it!