I recently read an excerpt from a G.K. Chesterton essay about his being bored to death during a long train ride. He moans that he had no books or newspapers,
“not even a pencil and a scrap of paper with which to write a religious epic. There were no advertisements on the walls of the carriage, otherwise I could have plunged into the study, for any collection of printed words is quite enough to suggest infinite complexities of mental ingenuity.”
And then (drum roll), he remembered to look in his pockets! First he pulled out “piles and heaps of Battersea tram tickets. There were enough to equip a paper chase. They shook down in showers like confetti.” Then came a pocket knife, a box of matches, a piece of chalk, and a coin, all of which provided topics for musing that made the train ride tolerable.
Now, I don’t keep stuff in my pockets. I don’t even carry a purse. And I NEVER (well almost never) go anywhere without a magazine or a book! But Mr. Chesterton is right to say that “any collection of printed words provides stimulation and enjoyment.” So I collect quotes.
I have copied or typed or cut out or added to a computer file hundreds, perhaps thousands, of quotes since I was a teenager. When I got married and moved out of my bedroom, I took with me spiral notebooks full of quotes. I still have one of those! I also have a file full of papers of all sizes in shapes, many of them scraps I used when I couldn’t find a decent sheet of paper. These are stored where my sons can easily find them as they clean out my house after my demise. Perhaps the quotes will help them understand their mother’s causes, motivations, hopes, and dreams – and close companionship with books.
Other than the pots of colorful blooms on my tiny balcony that fill my soul with joy, I find no greater pleasure than coming across a compelling thought perfectly expressed. I greedily read it, write it on paper and in my heart – and then muse on it. Sometimes these quotes grace the wall behind my computer or sit in stacks beside it; I might need them some day and can’t bear to store them away. Sometimes those quotes provoke a comment in an e-mail or create the concept for an entire blog post. Other times (as regular readers will know), I fill an entire post with quotes I just have to share with someone.
I love learning that G.K. Chesterton and I share the blessing of finding solace and intellectual and emotional stimulation in printed words. I think that, if he were still alive, he and I would also share a sense of loss as people turn to tweets and Instagram and selfies to share their thoughts and experiences and neglect the beautiful discipline of writing meaningful words in an elegant way.