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A Personal Quote Book
When I look at all the written and verbal wisdom surrounding me today, I find so much that strikes a resonant note within. Sometimes it inspires me; sometimes it brings on a smile; sometimes it gives me comfort; sometimes it guides me to a decision or action. Whatever my response, I wish to keep many of those thoughts for easy future reference.
If I were lucky enough to have a great memory, I could just file them in the notebook of my brain. But, like most of us, I don't have easy recall and those quotes would become entangled with shopping lists, parental list of shoulds, the poem I memorized in grade school but still do not understand, and a wealth of useless statistics from batting averages of the 1969 Chicago Cubs to the percentage of potatoes grown in Idaho to the mean rainfall in Vancouver. I definitely have too much clutter in my mind. If only I could go in and remove some of that useless stuff from my grey-drive as easily as I clean my computer's hard-drive.
I have tried writing down quotes that were important to me on little pieces of paper, but I usually lost or misplaced those pieces of paper and the quote along with it. For example, years ago I read a Native American prayer which ended with: "And may your moccasins make happy tracks in many snows, and may the rainbow always touch your shoulder." I wrote it on a piece of paper and tacked it to my office bulletin board. For many years I have ended letters or signed cards with "May the rainbow touch your shoulder." I have even shortened it to "Rainbows!" Then one day, someone asked me where I came up with "Rainbows" as a closing. I could only remember the last line, and that piece of paper had, through four moves, become misplaced or lost. (Fortunately, I found it again while looking for another reference.)
To avoid having to spend hours of time looking for quotes that have special meaning to me, I decided to begin my own personal Book of Quotes. I found a small, hard-cover book with blank pages, which has a distinctive oriental motif that gives it an air of wisdom. It is the perfect size for carrying with me. It can easily fit within a backpack, purse, briefcase or even a coat pocket. Being hard-covered, it can withstand the rigours of travel.
On the first page, I wrote down those quotes which mean the most to me. For example, Shakespeare's "This above all: to thine own self be true." and Davy Crockett's "Be sure you are right, then go ahead." Then I added pieces from many different sources: Henry David Thoreau, Gabriele Lusser Rico, Robert Frost, Juma Ikangaa, Gail Sheehy, the Zuni, Joseph Campbell, Marilyn Ferguson, Sir Napier Shaw, Poor Richard, Gracie Allen, Mark Twain, Merlin, Johnny Appleseed, Shaolin priests and Zen masters.
I continue to add to the book whenever I come across something that speaks to me. Therefore, it is never far from my favourite reading chair. The subjects covered have grown as I have grown and my interests and thinking expanded. I have even begun a second, specialized book of weather-related quotations. (What would you expect from the Weather Doctor!)
I use the books as a source of contemplation, as a source of inspiration, as a source of a smile when I need it. Because they are so portable, they have become my traveling companions. Helping to pass the time as I wait for a bus or airplane or as I ride from place to place. Or to speak to me when I sit in a park or on the porch in contemplation.
Since the quotations are entered as they are discovered, there is little organization to their place in the book. This has some drawbacks, because it is often hard to find a specific quote. However, its greatest advantage is that I can open the book randomly and begin to read. Thus it is often like new voices speaking to me in an impromptu forum. And sometimes, while looking for a specific quote, I find another that jumps out at me with special insight and more relevance.
I have even taken the concept one step further, using a larger book to condense important passages from a specific book or paper into a few pages. By this method, I have a small volume which contains the salient ideas of several books. When traveling, I can take this book and have a choice of reading materials.
With the growing memory, power and portability of laptop computers, similar "books" can be carried on a diskette or stored on a hard-drive, thus allowing more material to be gleaned into the "quotation book." Full essays, book chapters, favourite poems, and spiritual tracts can all be saved in this manner for easy reference and retrieval.
In compiling your own personal book of quotes, remember there are no right or wrong entries. Save what has meaning to you, not the words that you feel others expect you to hear. As Joseph Campbell has said: "Follow your bliss." And don't feel reluctant to add some of your own "words of wisdom," you may want to use them again sometime. Save the words you love so that you may savor them later perhaps late at night before turning out the light, perhaps on a lakeshore under a warm spring sun, perhaps one gloomy Saturday morning when you are feeling blue and the world seems cold and distant. This is your book, and, like a good friend, meant to be enjoyed often.
A Personal Quote Book by Keith C. Heidorn, PhD . ©1996, All Rights Reserved.
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