“In quoting others, we cite ourselves.”
~ Julio Cortázar, Around the Day in Eighty Worlds
“The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”
~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
“All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Anybody reading my blogs would know I love quotes…I even add them to emails whenever I have the time to collect the ones I see appropriated: every rainy day I go through my dearest books, those I have read, those I am saving for later and my notebook full of notes…and quotes.
Somebody told me he hated quotes because they are taken out of context. But…aren’t we all taken out of context? Aren’t we but pieces of a bigger puzzle we may only glimpse in dreams?
Plato (and Socrates, quoted in Plato’s books) believed that we don’t learn by observation or study but by recollection: books, blogs and other people’s creations are nothing but a collective recollection of the universe we all are.
My approach to books is so ancient that I don’t recall if there was any “before”: I learned to read own my own at a very young age and this quickly turned into a passion, a place to go sometimes for refuge, sometimes as a source of wisdom, company, adventures or strength.
Clothes or toys were not common at our rented rooms (we didn’t have a “home” until I was 9, when we built one out of bricks at a series of work-parties with neighbours), but mom would allow me to choose used books from an old bookstore located in the heart of Buenos Aires: public libraries were not common and we had to travel by bus each time to buy or exchange my little treasures.
Books and studies quickly became my refuge: from a very early age I noticed I was different and wouldn’t fit in and books exacerbated this feeling, making me closer to people who were either dead or never existed. Home was a place inhabited by fear and abuse with an always absent mother and a monster who probably didn’t know how to live differently but hurting.
Stories from books told me that life is never black-and-white and that monsters are sometimes fallen angels. Poems and tales showed me through fantasy what reality couldn’t: that the emperor has no clothes; that three little piggies together can against the wolf; that bad and wrong and dark are everywhere but also do good and right and light. Brave girls like Andersen’s Gerda could go barefoot and be friends of wild animals, grow gardens and fight monsters all in the name of Justice and Love. Carroll’s Alice and Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince showed me the nonsense of society and encouraged me to ask questions, fly away to the dessert, believe in the stars and walk through mirrors, always preserving my dearest values, even through extraordinary changes and challenges.
Alcott’s Jo March and Polly Milton taught me to be proud of my home-made or inherited simple clothes, to treat everyone the same and don’t care about greed or fashion.
Reading Huckleberry Finn I became friends with Huck, a boy about my age who, like me loved adventure, came from a very dysfunctional and abusive home, didn’t fit in society and was beyond his times in many ways (he ended up travelling the Mississippi River with Jim, an escaped slave, and how I dreamed on following them!)
The list of books and authors who made me what I am is almost endless: Stendhal’s The Red and the Black, Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Pasternak’s Doctor Jhivago told me about class, prejudice, abuse and injustice…as well as infinite love and its beauty beyond life.
Through Argentinean author Sábato’s books I learned about the darker years (and darker lives) of many of my fellow citizens…I learn about dreams and myths and other Latin American misfortunes through Borges and Cortazar, Garcia-Marquez and Gallegos, Vargas-Llosa and Otero-Silva.
But my life wouldn’t be complete without Virginia Woolf’s The Waves and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Hesse’s Steppenwolf and Demian, Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s A Brave New World…
However, some years ago, I stopped reading fiction: books no longer explained the world to me and I switched to more “serious” essays: I had a thirst for reality, I wanted to hear from real people today, and I started following blogs.
Recently, reading Carol’s post warmed my heart: it reminded me that we are not alone, that through blogging and the small social work we do, we are actually attached to many souls out there who feel or dream similar to us.
When I quote, I’m taking thoughts out of context on purpose: because the context is us…we are the puzzle to be solved and each is a little piece of it.
Which tells me something about the nonsense of “copyright”: as if anybody could even “own” ideas, music, stories or art…as if every “original work” couldn’t be traced to its roots and the roots of its roots…nobody truly owns anything, not even the “authors”: dig deep enough and you’ll find that all stories boil down to just a few (like parallelisms between Tolkien’s Frodo, Andersen’s Gerda and Bible’s Jesus)…
None of us is original: you can replicate my DNA and create another Silvia, but she will be a soul-less woman: how can you replicate my story, from dark, wet rooms and beating belts to the resolution that “hurt people hurt” can be changed if we want? How can you replicate my endless hours with a candle and a book, or hidden under a truck, reading and running away from hell? How can you replicate the magical touch of a forest, of a kitten, a kiss, the warm of a protective tree, a dog’s eyes, a friend’s promise, a dream?
Quotes are my life and I myself am a quote: separated from my original source, disperse, and amalgamated with other quotes…trying to make sense of this big book we all are writing together.
“He was no longer quite sure whether anything he had ever thought or felt was truly his own property, or whether his thoughts were merely a common part of the world’s store of ideas which had always existed ready-made and which people only borrowed, like books from a library.”
~ Milan Kundera, Life is Elsewhere
“The best books… are those that tell you what you know already.”
~ George Orwell, 1984
“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.”
~ Robert Louis Stevenson, Essays of Robert Louis Stevenson