The advantages of a classical education
|We never step twice into the same river, let alone walk in the same forest|
I never tried to go any deeper into the mystery of having such a fantastic memory when it comes to famous quotes, while the same brain does not seem to care about house keys or mobile.
Can it be a case of acquiring "fast wisdom", in an age of ads that promote "faster fast food"?
Reading a whole book is is a slow experience, and wisdom, if any at all, comes in dribs and drabs.
The reader is told lots of metaphors or small facts, goes through the maze of literary infrastructure and at some point, if paying enough attention, stumbles upon the memorable phrase.
Take John Milton, for instance. How many people can say in all honesty that they have read each and every page of 'Paradise Lost'?
Still, the lines 'The mind is its own place and in itself/Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven' would have brought comfort to many a quote aficionado. It makes easier understanding how distress and joyfulness change places so abruptly inside the same person.
Same for the succinct 'Carpe diem' (Seize the day), just two words in an otherwise brief ode by the Roman poet Horace. These words come up quite naturally in people's conversation (or in print, if it's an article). From convincing a ditherer to act and up to a deep discussion around the topic of "there's no day like today", this Carpe Diem has got now a life of its own. Had he been a contemporary author, Horace could have trade-marked his phrase and live very comfortably on the resulting royalties.
Is the world speeding up, hurtling into the next stage, all impatient and cutting corners, blowing up whole chunks of time?
Definitely not. Quoting memorable words has always been a rhetorical tool. When trying to convince someone else of one's truth, bringing in the heavy guns helps.
Unless I read a proper challenge to Shakespeare's "The lunatic, the lover and the poet/Are of imagination all compact', I will continue to believe that using quotes is not just a way of showing-off or a sign of intellectual laziness.