Aug 8, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 17

Day 17: Favorite Quote from a Book

"The human organism is the produce of the planet. It is not by virtue of a divine fantasy, a miracle, or a direct creation that terrestrial man is constituted as he is"

from Lumen by Nicolas Camille Flammarion

This quote, cold and scientific, is actually from a science fiction story written in 1887. Over one hundred years after the publishing of Lumen, humankind is still in a heated debate about our origins and purpose. As someone grappling with his own faith, this quote stuck out to me in particular.

But this single quote isn't the only fascinating thing about this book! The story is about a man whose consciousness transcends his body and travels away from earth faster than the speed of light. As he reaches a certain distance, the man looks back towards earth. Since he has traveled an enormous distance at a faster-than-light speed, the light he is seeing from the earth is that of hundreds of years ago. Throughout the story, the man travels farther and faster, stopping periodically along the way to look back at our planet and gazing further into its past.

Does this "time warping" effect sound familiar? That's because it is a part of Einstein's theory of relativity, written years before it was popularized by Einstein! It is the reason why, when we look up at the night sky, the light from the stars we are seeing is hundreds, thousands, millions, even billions of years old!

Flammarion's blend of science, science fiction, and spirituality helped his readers understand other emerging scientific concepts as well, including: the possibility of extraterrestrial life, planetary formation, human evolution, and even the destruction of earth via comet.

I feel like so, so many of these prompts are impossible to write to without a little taste of self-doubt. For every book, there are at least twice as many characters. For every character, there are hundreds of quotes. If I've had trouble picking a specific book or a favorite gendered character, how in the world am I to narrow down a favorite quote?

Well, I cannot be sure this is my favorite of them all, but it's certainly up there. My quote comes from Kafka's The Metamorphosis:

"I cannot make you understand. I  cannot make anyone understand what is
happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself."

This quote has always had a hand on my back. As someone who has struggled with identity issues--and who hasn't--I've found Kafka's work to be incredibly comforting (even if Gregor never quite felt at peace being a giant vermin!) There's an incredible sense of vulnerability that accompanies this quote, and perhaps that is why I find it so moving. It implies a conversation, a question, a discussion. There's a great honesty to it, and I hope that you find it as sincere as I do.

Just like most avid readers, there have been many quotes in my reading life that have impacted me. Some from my actual favorite books, some from genre favorites, and some that impacted me because I was at a crucial stage in my life. My favorite quote doesn't come from my favorite book (because that would give away my favorite book, and you have to wait until day 30 for that!), instead it's one of my favorite quotes that I had ever read, and like Josh, it has been with me at many different moments in my life.

"The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master."

The beginning of Elizabeth Bishop's One Art is a stress reliever. It's the reminder that when something goes wrong, or when you actually do lose something, to look for the silver lining. This poem helped me and still does help me through losing the small things like keys, or a credit card(!), and it also helped me through losing people I love, like my grandparents, or even, yes I must say it, ending things with someone I deeply cared about (both in friendships and in romance). I love to write poetry, and this poem taught me that it's okay to write about loss, to write about it with all my feelings deeply invested and to not just skim the surface because it may hurt. 

So because of these first two stanzas, I remember to accept loss for what it is, to see the silver lining, and to enjoy the scenery on a detour in life.

My favorite quote would be from one of my favorite books, The Great Gatsby.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . And then one fine morning—

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
 –F. Scott Fitzgerald.

This quote comes from Nick Carraway. He talks about Gatsby and how he is obsessed with the past, and the American dream in general. The green light represents the past. It shows us how humanity struggles with achieving their goals by transcending and re-creating the past. Humans have a hard time letting go of the past, we all want to go back and live it again. While they still stay optimistic, (“tomorrow we will run faster”) they use their energy chasing something that moves further away from them. This quote ends the book, and brings us the conclusion of Gatsby’s life.

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