When I logged on this morning, the first thing that caught my eye was the Sallust quotation in the sidebar: “Harmony makes small things grow, lack of it makes great things decay.” How appropriate to the bitter partisan divide in Washington and the nation these days. Sallust, by the way, was a Roman historian writing several hundred years before the fall of the Roman Empire.
I would love
to have written
‘In wildness is the
of the world’
In case the quotations widget hasn’t made it obvious, I’m a big fan of (some would say sucker for) quotations, maxims, aphorisms, and their assorted cousins, primarily because they are such perfect little nuggets of wisdom and insight. If some day, out of everything I’ve ever said or written, some single quote should rise to an enduring place in the language, I would feel I had accomplished something magnificent.
I would love to have written “In wildness is the preservation of the world,” for example, but Thoreau beat me to it.
Imagine being famous for “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Too late; Franklin Roosevelt said that.
Voltaire armed us with “The better is the enemy of the good,” and it is paraphrased endlessly today.
Or how about “KISS”? For as long as I can remember, my mantra has been “KISS,” an acronym for Keep it simple, stupid.” It is, to me at least, the most basic of basics. Wikipedia credits Kelly Johnson, lead engineer at the Lockheed Skunk Works, with this gem, and several other people with the principle. One could also say “Less is more,” but an acronym with its capital letters wins the race for memorability. Besides, what’s more concise than a good old four-letter word?
I try to avoid cliché, to find my own voice, my own way of saying things and expressing thoughts that have probably been said and thought billions of times before. But can there possibly be a still-undiscovered way of saying “Grass is green”? After thousands of years of human existence, thought, and creative expression, can there possibly be an original thought, phrase, or idea left to discover?
Remarkably, amazingly, impossibly, it happens every day.