Thoughts to Think
In the New Year
“You've heard that before you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes? This is true. It's called living.”
I'd love to take credit for that line, but I lifted it from an obscure novel by Terry Pratchett. It's one of the 716 random quotes that magically appear, like a secret message in your alphabet soup, each time you visit wizardacademy.org. Most of these quotes you won't find anywhere else because I don't take them from quote books or compilations, but from strange and interesting places. And from even stranger and more interesting people.
Like David Freeman. When David came to waste a day with me recently, he said, “The goal of life is to take everything that made you weird as a kid and get people to pay you money for it when you're older.” When a friend says something like that, I always write it down. Like the time Alex Benningfield said over a glass of wine, “Success is not spontaneous combustion. You've got to set yourself on fire.”
And then there are the phrases I'm told someone else “is always saying.” Like when Pierre Basson mentioned that his wife often says, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” Or when Mordecai Silber told me how his father shared this bit of wisdom with him after Morty told him how well his new business was doing: “During a company's growth phase, additional costs that are incurred because of the growth are variable costs. However, when sales begin to decline, all those variable costs miraculously become fixed costs.”
That's exactly the kind of thing kids should learn from their fathers. My kids learned from me how to scribble down quotes from characters in television shows: “Life is like a train. It's bearing down on you and guess what? It's going to hit you. So you can either start running when it's far off in the distance, or you can pull up a chair, crack open a beer, and just watch it come.” – Eric Forman, on That 70s Show.
A few of my quotes came from Steve Sorensen, a student and friend who will send you a new Creativity Quote each week if you ask to be added to his list. Last week, Steve's quote was from G.K. Chesterton: “The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul.”
More than a dozen were sent to me by my partner, Jeff Eisenberg, another voracious reader of things interesting and obscure. Jeff's most recent email contained this exhortation from James Wood: “Requiring readers to put themselves into the minds of many different kinds of other people is a moral action on the part of the author.”
Some of the quotes in my collection are colorful passages I've transcribed from books I've read: “When tourists saw handsome Kelly and ponderous Florsheim, they instinctively loved them, for the Hawaiians reminded them of an age when life was simpler, when laughter was easier, and when there was music in the air.” – James Michener, Hawaii, p.916. “Tunnel vision is a disease in which perception is restricted by ignorance and distorted by vested interest.” – Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker, p.86. And then, of course, there is the immortal wisdom of Calvin and Hobbes: “I'm not in denial. I'm just selective about the reality I choose to accept.”
Some of my diamonds were discovered during the weekly archeological dig I call Monday Memo research; like this beauty taken from a letter by poet Edwin Arlington Robinson to literary critic Harry Thurston Peck: “The world is not a prison house, but a kind of kindergarten, where millions of bewildered infants are trying to spell God with the wrong blocks.” Or this line from the Winchester manuscripts of Thomas Malory, translated by John Steinbeck: “What can I do?' King Arthur cried. 'I see the noblest fellowship in the world crumbling – eroding like a windblown dune. In the hard dark days I prayed and worked and fought for peace. Now I have it and peace is too difficult. Do you know, I find myself wishing for war to solve my difficulties?' 'You are not the first or the last,' said Guinevere.”
I'll also confess to 49 quotes I made up; things I heard myself say and then thought, “Gee, I should write that down.” I'm told that one of these was recently added to an online database of quotes from famous people. (I'm betting they confused me with Roy Williams, the famous basketball coach.) It's a line you may remember from a Monday Memo I sent you about a year ago: “Lives, like money, are spent. What are you buying with yours?”
And then of course there are the quotes we find as we sail our starships through the online ether: “If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?” – Stephen Levine
I'll leave you to ponder that one.
Roy H. Williams
PS – On New Years Day, project manager Daniel Denny carved from Wizard Academy's limestone cliff the building pad for Wedding Chapel Dulcinea. Daniel remains confident Dulcinea will be ready for her unveiling on April 23. Also, the roofing crew is scheduled to install the solid copper roof on Tuscan Hall today and tomorrow. We'll post some new photos in the gallery by Wednesday the 5th, at the latest. Ciao for Niao – RHW