This week I’ve decided to reflect on three fine quotes. They are all rather pertinent to my life at the moment and I’m going to guess that most readers will relate to these quotes in one way or another.
“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”
― Groucho Marx
This week, I’ve mostly cut out television, allowing myself to watch no more than twenty minutes of Netflix a day. This might sound like a small task, but as I’m currently discovering, I rely more heavily on distraction than I’d like to admit. These distractions exist in various forms, one of which is television. I do not learn anything from watching reruns of Friends or How I Met Your Mother. In fact, I watch these shows to avoid thinking. But like I said, I’ve cut out television this week and I’ve spent a copious amount of time reading. More time, in fact, than I can ever remember. I read when I wake up, when I go to bed or when I’m on the bus. Essentially I’ve filled my time with books (and, as always, with writing.) I also feel like I’ve discovered a lot this week, a lot about myself and a lot about the world so I plan on continuing this “cleanse” which consists of limited screen time in addition to having deactivated Facebook. It’s a wonder what cutting out such distractions can do for the soul and the mind. While yes, I do find myself feeling occasional bursts of angst in which I immediately feel the need to mindlessly scroll Facebook or sit in bed and stare pointlessly at a screen, I’ve begun forcing myself to either sit with these feelings or turn to the comforts of a book.
“Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.”
― Gustave Flaubert
This week, having been a particularly difficult week, I was advised to read something “light.” The book that was suggested to me was Mindy Kaling’s book Why Not Me? I’ve skimmed through this book and it’s certainly not my taste. I personally found the excerpts I’ve read to be somewhat frivolous and boring, though it is widely enjoyed and considered incredibly humorous by many. Meanwhile, in saying this, I catch myself. I often say that I don’t want to “waste my time” reading poorly written books and yet I wonder how many film critics spend their time watching Friends. So in this sense, I believe that many slip into Mindy’s pages with a desire to be amused and in turn, distracted. I suppose because the majority of my time is taken up by writing and reading, I turn to distraction in a different form. But I have to say that I agree with Flaubert. Reading is a joy, a gift, and though we may feel we are escaping our own lives, however temporarily, the truth is, that reading influences our current life, the one and only life we know and live. And yet Joyce Carol Oates would say that “reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” I might further add to this by arguing that while we might slip into another’s soul for some 300 pages, we return having added to our own soul. This, perhaps, is the result of a merging between the reader and the characters in which we temporarily inhabit.
“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I love this quote as I’ve always felt a tad guilty when I forget the details that make a book. I don’t have the best memory, which is unfortunate for a writer and history major but I make do. This said, I’ve often forgotten the titles of my favourite books or the names of characters I admire. Nevertheless, these books have contributed to my sense of being. While I may forget a book’s details, I do not forget how books make me feel. I am very much the same way with people. I forget birthdays and traits, things people have told me, but the way a person makes me feel will remain a part of me for years. I cannot pinpoint the ways they’ve changed me, nor can I with a book. I simply know I’ve changed as a result of those interactions.
I’ve always enjoyed quotes. Personally, I find a good quote forces me to reflect on my own life and reminds me of the universal nature of many experiences. For instance, the other day I posted something on Twitter and noticed that the Canadian writer, Angie Abdou, had posted the following:
“‘See! That’s a step! It’s gone from fucking novel to stupid novel. Improvement!’- husband cheering me on through find edits #amwriting.”
While this is not the kind of quote we might think of right off the bat, the truth is that after having spent some six hours editing my own sad manuscript, I was feeling rather discouraged. Reading Abdou’s comment reminded me that this acclaimed novelist is also faced with similar experiences, despite our many differences.
Finally, if you’ve got any favourite quotes you’d like to share, please feel free to drop a comment down below! Thanks for reading and I wish everyone a bright and happy Saturday!