It Started with a Quote

I know words have power.  But the power they can have running through me and my experiences continues to amaze.

I like the timeless words of quotes. Words from people I admire: statesmen, writers, philosophers, educators.

A few years ago I maintained a blog, http://www.itstartedwithaquote.wordpress.com. The idea was to focus on a thought that came up while writing morning pages, then look for a quote that connected. This became the basis of a short entry post, my first thoughts, before  carrying that quote with me throughout the day. Later in the evening or next morning, writing about the activities of the day, I saw how those words played through my actions. How does this all come together, assimilating in me and out into the world? This is when I discovered how my first thoughts had shifted and morphed through the day. Is this what i think these words means now? Why did I never see it that way before?

I invited blog readers to take the quote themselves, or another, and see how it worked for them.

The other day I thought of trying a variation on this activity. What if I deliberately chose a quote that doesn’t connect? Or more than that…words that I feel real discomfort with. I googled brainyquotes.com and chose Hitler quotes. My heart pounded and my skin was crawling, as I read the first page of quotes. I jumped from one challenging quote to another trying to choose.

Don’t think Laura, I told myself. Just take one. So I claimed the first entry.

The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category. Adolf Hitler

Breathe, Laura.

I wrote the quote down on a scrap of paper, folded it up and put in my right jean’s pocket pulled it out and looked at it again, like the words didn’t want to stick. So I said it aloud slowly, several times. Ok, I think I get it now.

Next I put on my puffy blue coat, stuffed a ten dollar bill in the left pocket and began walking to the grocery store for eggs and spinach with the Hitler quote rattling around in my head.

My first thoughts were literal. What was irritating about it? I didn’t like the term opponents, as if life was a sporting event. As if we could easily be lumped into opposing teams, like Christians versus Muslims, men versus women, blacks versus whites. And that’s where I fixated.

But it wasn’t long before my mind went elsewhere. The weather was a breezy 70 degrees on the  17th of December, with an overnight freeze warning coming. I’ll need to cover some plants. Hitler had left the building.

When I returned from the store I made a spinach quiche with the new ingredients and waited on my brother to go with me to Lowe’s for lumber and cinder blocks. I wanted to build a “hippie” bookcase in my sun room for my accumulating little free library books. I’m cleaning and decluttering this room for yoga and, like several other rooms in this house, it’s become a dumping ground for stuff that seems to have no other place to go.

Later, even after purchasing the materials, putting together the shelves and filling them with books,  I was ready to do more, not less. A friend sent out a request for a gift wrapper at a local store collecting donations for the non profit she supports. When I saw the request earlier in the day I dismissed it, already having plans. But with the quiche and bookshelf projects having gone so smoothly, why not try this.

For 2 and 1/2 hours I sat with an acquaintance, with whom we share friends, at the gift wrapping table of the bookstore. I’ve taught this woman’s three children in after school classes for several years. While wrapping books and games, I watched her chit chatting with people and gently push for donations. It seemed so easy for her. She’s a military wife. Is this where she has learned these skills?

At the beginning of the day the plan was to work with Hitler’s words, watching how their meaning connected (or not) with me, but instead I was considering the activities I participated in. A refreshing walk, a new recipe, a satisfying project with my brother, decluttering the sunroom, and wrapping (and rapping) with a lady who was once  an acquaintance. Interesting. There were no opposing sides. We were all connected in one category. Humankind. Genius.

I included the second entry from that Hitler quote page when I chose the first one, in case the first one hadn’t worked out.

How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.

The teacher in me wonders, past my first thoughts, how I might respond to these words.

Writing topic: Choose a favorite quote and write continuously for ten minutes. What did that quote  evoke?

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Author:

teacher/student, writer/reader, friend

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