Do you ever ponder how a quote becomes a quote? Do people just quote a quote so often it becomes a quote? Or does it have to reach a certain number on the relatability factor before it can be deserving of that little dash and the speaker’s name after it?
To decide, let’s consider this one, by Dr. Seuss:
“Fun is good.”
Huh. The simplicity is definitely attractive in this quote, but I could probably string these three words together myself. In essence, I could have said this quote. In fact, I probably did say it. So, how is it fair that it gets credited to one person?
Let’s try another, by Confucius:
To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.
Thanks for that wisdom, Confucius. Just one question: how am I supposed to know what I don’t know if I don’t know it? Didn’t really think that one through, did ya? (Tongue firmly in cheek, mind you, but you have to admit, he could have taken a few more years to think about this one. Just so there’s no Confucius confusion.)
And finally, we have the fashion icon, Coco Chanel:
Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.
Like, okay. I get it. Don’t try to change something that you can’t change. But how do you know it’s a “wall” not a “door”? What if it just needs a doorknob? Maybe your beating translates to knocking and someone answers it? And how do you know when to stop?
Now, you would probably argue that these people had other quotes that hit home. That these may not be shining examples of their intellect, but these are still incredibly wise people we’re talking about. (Or quoting about.)
And yes, you would be right. Which proves two things about life: one, that even the best and most interesting people don’t always make sense. Yes, truly successful people can sometimes produce non-masterpieces. Yes, they can create badly. And actually, this is what makes them great. Because they are willing to say things that don’t really work in the hopes that they will strike upon something that does.
Which brings me to my second point. These quotes may not appeal to me. They may not ring true for my life. But they could be important to someone else. Maybe someone needs to be reminded that “Fun is good” on a daily basis. Maybe they need to accept that they don’t know everything. Maybe they need to remember that they can stop when it gets too hard. This is what is so rich and inviting about our lives: we’re on different paths, and yet there is still a universality to our experiences.
So, maybe Coco Chanel knew what she was talking about. And then again, maybe she didn’t. The best part is that you or I don’t have to decide. Just don’t quote me on that.