Living through quotations

I collect many things: old history books, travel mugs and hats, triangular stamps. I also collect quotations, typically gleaned off the web when searching for something. I don’t mimic the breadth of material found in quotation and proverb books, but I have a few sayings that I like. Among them…

General George S. Patton
“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

I am not a US Army historian, but I recognize the charisma and motivational leadership that Patton instilled in his troops in both world wars, especially during his command of the 7th Army’s invasion of Sicily in July 1943, two years before he died.

Over the years, I held numerous jobs that fit the category of being told how to do something. Once, I was shown how to spray plants at a nursery. Another time, I was told how to insert miniature sponges into plastic pouches, and later how to seal them. The best example comes from McDonald’s, when I was told how to remove frozen chicken nuggets from a wrapper and fry them until the timer stopped. Come to think of it, most high school-era jobs involve employees being told how to do things. I understand the rationale, but that doesn’t make it right.

John Steinbeck, in Travels with Charley
“In Spanish there is a word for which I can’t find a counterword in English. It is the verb vacilar, present participle vacilando. It does not mean vacillating at all. If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere, but does not greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction. Everything in the world must have a design or the human mind rejects it. But in addition, it must have purpose or the human conscience shies away from it.”

This literary excerpt was the basis for my last blog, titled vacilamos, named for the first person plural of the present indicative tense. In retrospect, I should have picked a less clever and more common word, one that non-native Spanish speakers could pronounce, let alone comprehend. Great book, though.

I appreciate the concept of vacilando because it evokes more than wanderlust, but the enjoyment of travel for the experience, not necessarily its destination. In 2001, I clocked 20,000 miles and six months through 20+ U.S. states and half of Canada. I drove where I went for no reason than to go. That’s vacilando, and that’s part of my life.

Tom Robbins, in Skinny Legs and All
“Upon those travelers who make their way without maps or guides, there breaks a wave of exhilaration with each unexpected change of plans. This exhilaration is not a whore who can be bought with money nor a neighborhood beauty who may be wood. She (to persist in personifying the sensation as female) is a wild and sea-eyed undine, the darling daughter of adventure, the sister of risk, and it is for her rare and always ephemeral embrace, the temporary pressure she exerts on the membrane of ecstasy, that many men leave home.”

I don’t remember where I saw this quote, because I haven’t read the book. It’s on my reading list, though. I appreciate the imagery, and I wholeheartedly agree. I keep a journal when I travel, never in my secular daily life. Which begs the question what this blog represents. Maybe I’m maturing.

Malcolm S. Forbes
“Do things you like to do. Try to find a line of work, even if it is initially not as remunerative or as financially well off as some other line of work where you look forward to going to work each day rather than looking forward to the weekend. The hardest thing for young people to do is to figure out what they like; the only way they’re going to figure it out is by trying a lot of things so at least they know what they don’t like. So don’t be passive, be active.”

The now-deceased publisher of Forbes magazine said this when asked by an interviewer, “What are your thoughts on the business of life?”

Like my peers in the so-called Generation X, I held numerous jobs over the past decade. I’m currently in my third career. My experiences caught up to me, though, and I found my calling. I’m riding the carousel of life and I’m reaching for the gold ring. I know what I want to do, and I am prepared.

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By Ari Herzog

Ari Herzog is a teacher and tutor with 20+ years of experience in education, government, and communications. He is blogging during the coronavirus pandemic to make the world a better place.