This post is a part of my Personal Development Project for May 2016.
Thomas Aquinas famously said, “The things that we love tell us what we are.”
Below is a collection of 5 of my favorite quotes and sayings. Or rather, here is who I am in the words of others.
-- St. Thomas Aquinas
This quote comes from Thomas Aquinas’s On Prayer and the Contemplative Life, one of my favorite books.
The reason this saying resonates with me so much is because it deals with one’s essence or one’s being. Here there is a distinction between raw action and consuming action.
Often times I get a bit frustrated when I hear people say, “I just love psychology. It’s so fascinating!” And when I press further about what they’ve read or what they know or what exactly they find interesting, the person turns out to not know a thing about psychology. So it’s clear to me that they don’t love psychology itself, but the idea of psychology.
It may sound a bit harsh or snobbish that I’m saying this, but honestly, it’s not true appreciation or interest unless you pursue or act on it. Someone who truly loves psychology and truly finds it fascinating will spend time studying it and experimenting and asking questions.
I also found this quote helpful in terms of labeling myself.
Generally as humans, we like labels and categories. We like to group things together. We like to say “I am X, and you are X, and he is Y”. Maybe we like it because it makes us feel more in control of our environment. But the reason itself isn’t really important right now. Basically, we label ourselves and each other a lot. It’s kind of our “thing” as mankind.
And so when I try to think of a title for myself, a tribe I belong to, some way to categorize myself, this quote comes in handy. I am what I devote my life to. I am what I’m consumed in doing.
-- Henri Vieuxtemps
Henri Vieuxtemps was a famous composer and violinist.
Vieuxtemps is recorded as having said this during a violin lesson with one of his students. It roughly translates, “Don’t play the run for the sake of the run — sing, sing!”
I like this quote because it’s a meaningful reminder that we should do everything with intention and care. In music, every note matters. Every riff and run, even if it’s a simple scale that we’ve trained our muscles to nail without effort or thinking, has meaning.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget to live intentionally. Sometimes we become so caught up in the routines of life that we let muscle memory and force of habit take over. But the moment we get a glimpse of the warmth and freedom of reality, it’s time to shake off the shackles of routine and start living intentionally again.
Music isn’t meant to be played mechanically. Life isn’t meant to be lived mechanically either. And if we don’t see inherent meaning in whatever it is we’re doing, we should either create our own meaning or go find something else, something meaningful to do.
Quintilian was a highly respected Roman orator and teacher who lived during the Year of the Four Emperors of Rome. He wrote the Institutio Oratoria (“Institutes of Oratory” or sometimes “The Orator’s Education”), a twelve volume work on rhetoric and the education of an aspiring orator.
I like this quote so much not just because of its support of lifelong learning, but also because that little phrase is included at the beginning: “the love of grammar”. Of all the things people have said advocating lifelong learning, this quote is my favorite because of that little quirk at the beginning.
I love phonetics and semiotics and linguistics in general. I love language. I love all the different, subtle ways of inflecting and changing meaning in langage. Changing the order of words in a sentence, pausing here instead of there, breaking a sentence with a comma instead of starting a new sentence, it’s all so fascinating to me. I feel like I can relate to Quintilian’s love of language and rhetoric. His words resonate with me and inspire me.
When I quit school, I didn’t quit learning. I didn’t quit reading. And I didn’t quit studying language either. I will never stop loving language. I will never stop learning.
This is a popular quote by Socrates that I just love so much. I first read it when I was 14 years old or so. I had never thought about how hard it is to write a book, how much time and energy goes into it. I never really thought about how some people dedicate their whole lives to writing one or two books, how writing can be someone’s “Life’s Work”. And the fact that someone can spend years or even decades working and studying and learning, and then I can acquire all of their work in just a few hours of time reading, that fact blew my mind. It excited me.
I love reading for that reason. I love the community of it, the sharing and exchanging.
This quote also inspired me to be more active with my own knowledge. The things that I know and have acquired over the years can help other people. That’s why I started my series Mozart For Muggles. I know a lot about classical music because I’ve spent over a decade studying it. And I’ve seen firsthand how high the barrier to entry is when it comes to understanding classical music.
By and large, classical musicians are snobby (trust me, it’s not just a stereotype) and have their official jargon that’s hard for outsiders to access and learn. Hell, I’m part of “the club” and I still get frustrated and confused by all the jargon.
I hope that I’ll become knowledgeable in other fields in the future so I can produce other courses and works to help spread knowledge even further. It’s exciting to think how small the world is becoming and how easy it is to learn new things. I’m eager to keep contributing to the breadth and synthesis of human knowledge.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
This quote is from Emerson’s essay Self-Reliance.
I spent a lot of my life being afraid of failure. It was hard to overcome that, and I’m still managing and practicing and improving, but there’s another fear that I’ve struggled with a lot: a fear of being wrong. I’m scared of saying something stupid. I’m scared of making the wrong choice. I’m scared of voting for the wrong presidential candidate or siding with the wrong people on social and economic issues. I’m just scared of being wrong.
And so I find a lot of comfort and empowerment in this quote. It takes a lot of courage and humility to make decisions and take sides. Sometimes we have to make a few bad choices before the right choices become clear. Sometimes we have to say things we don’t mean to figure out what we actually believe. The people who discover precious archaeological treasures have to dig up a whole lot of worthless rocks before they find those anthropological gems. Uncovering the truth takes time.
And so I choose to stand tall and say what I think today, and I’ll do the same tomorrow and the day after that. Everyday I’ll reassess my beliefs and my choices. I’m bound to change my mind eventually. I’m bound to make some mistakes and realize that I’ve made a bad choice. And when that happens, I’ll courageously and humbly speak some more.
After all, change is a sign of growth. And learning, growing, and seeking Truth is what I’ve dedicated my life to.