The Other Side of the Hill

caspar_david_friedrich_-_wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog
Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David French

Very recently I celebrated my half century mark. Yes, the kid finally turned 50. Being a guy who loves books means memorable events naturally remind me of memorable phrases in literature. This occasion reminded me of a passage in John Buchan’s memoir:

Sir Walter Scott had a pleasant phrase for middle life; he called it reaching the other side of the hill. It is a stage which no doubt has its drawbacks. The wind is not so good, the limbs are not so tireless as in the ascent; the stride is shortened, and since we are descending we must be careful in placing the feet. But on the upward road the view was blocked by the slopes and there was no far prospect to be had except by looking backwards. Now the course is mercifully adapted to failing legs, we can rest and reflect since the summit has been passed, and there is a wide country before us, though the horizon is mist and shadow.

At this point in my life, I no longer feel I have anything to prove or anyone to impress for that matter. It’s a nice feeling. I still have goals and dreams to be sure, but there’s less worldly ambition to them and more a feeling of what contribution can I make and legacy can I leave. My hope now is that I can offer something truly valuable to those around me and those on the ascent. I’m hoping I can offer that most important, but sometimes difficult, lesson in life: a sense of perspective.

Quote: Leo Tolstoy and the Challenge of Learning

tolstoy-reading-his-calendar-of-wisdom

“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.” — Leo Tolstoy

A Little Book of Writers’ Wisdom

Though I don’t write as often as I’d like, I think a lot about the craft and about its mysteries. This means when I see a good book that sifts the gems of a writer’s wisdom from the mass of their written work I pay attention. When the master speaks, the student listens.

I collect good quotes in general, but I probably have 30 pages of just quotes on writing. Quotes capture the essential wisdom of an author’s thoughts. For some of us, for many of us actually, all we ever read of an author is a quote we run across while reading something else. Well, like in this blog post!

So the other day while browsing the discount table (where you find some great books!) at the bookstore, I came across The Little Book of Writers’s Wisdom. I thought I’d share just a few quotes with you.

So the first one is from George Orwell:

“For the creative writer, possession of the ‘truth’ is less important than emotional sincerity.”

I remember Orwell saying somewhere something to the effect that unless a writer can “feel” they really can’t write persuasively. This connection between feeling and good writing is a common theme in Orwell’s essays.

The second quote is a very rich one by Christopher Hitchens:

“There is some relationship between the hunger for truth and the search for the right words. The struggle may be ultimately indefinable and even undecidable, but one damn well knows is when one sees it.”

Wow, this is a quote that probably deserves an entire blog post by itself. Any volunteers?

Which leads me to my final quote by John Steinbeck, which is a nice follow up to the Hitchens quote:

“The craft or art of writing is the clumsy attempt to find symbols for the wordlessness. In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable. And sometimes if he is very fortunate and if the time is right, a very little of what he is trying to do trickles through — not ever much. And if he is a writer wise enough to know it can’t be done, then he is not a writer at all. A good writer always works at the impossible.”

Yes, another great quote for the topic of a blog post. 🙂

A Quote to Note

John Ruskin

“A wise man always finds some support for himself in everything, because his gift is in obtaining goodness from everything.” — John Ruskin

A Quote to Note

“We are not provided with wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can take for us, and effort which no one can spare us.” — Marcel Proust