Not so long ago I saw a quote on my Twitter feed. It was taken from Haruki Murakami’s memoir “What I talk about when I talk about running.” There was no attribution whatsoever, neither on Twitter, nor on the page the tweet linked to. The quote was also presented in a way that skewed its meaning, if ever so slightly.
Thanks to the Internet, standalone quotes have become ubiquitous, like mosquitoes on a warm summer day, and almost as annoying as the tiny bloodsuckers. I confess to have mindlessly used a few (quotes, not mosquitoes) in my tweets or re-tweets, if only to fill the gap in my timeline. The only excuse I have, and quite a lame one, I did it in a moment of mediocrity, a “twitterer’s block” moment. There are plenty of places, online and offline, quote gardens, or rather, quote asylums teeming with these solitary quotes, whose origins and sometimes authorship have been obscured or irretrievably lost. These once beautiful and meaningful insights have been carelessly plucked out of their context, and, like mental patients suffering from amnesia, they no longer have a clue of who or what they are, with no real roots or ties to the culture that nurtured them, wandering aimlessly through webpages and Twitter feeds – former words of wisdom, cheapened and turned into platitudes.
Don’t take me wrong — I am not entirely against quotes. (I looked up a term for someone who hates quotes, and as I didn’t find any, the best I could come up with was “quotemisiac.” So, I am not that horrible word. 🙂 ) Quotes are useful when we need to make a point, give an example or support an argument; they can be a great source of inspiration and can jumpstart our own thought process, as long as we keep in mind that these pearls of wisdom came from a unique combination of personality, experience and circumstances and deserve to be treated with respect, same as the great minds who beget them.