As for me, all I know is that I know nothing — Socrates
Socrates’ words mirror a certain thought pattern of famous philosophers and intellectuals who have helped the common man seek knowledge and tranquility over many centuries. For instance, this Socrates gem distinguishes knowledge as a form of learning, and as more knowledge is accumulated then a person becomes more understanding. One could say Socrates is quite modest in his assertion, although anything less would not be expected from such a man. He tells himself he has no ideal intelligence as a method of pushing himself further and further into the thought stratosphere, wanting to learn as much as he can and not limit himself in any form. It’s actually quite brilliant when you really think about and dissect those 11 words, to be able to realize that human beings are capable of almost anything if they continue to learn the world around them. Knowledge really is palpable.
And this brings me to my personal thought pattern on why “average” people are so enthralled with the words of their predecessors: because they want their own knowledge to mimic that of somebody else. Log onto Facebook and read the random — and usually inspirational — quotes present on different friends’ pages, acting almost like a neon sign saying I UNDERSTAND AND WANT TO LIVE LIFE THIS WAY. After all, history helps shape everybody whether people like it or not; if people ignore what came before them, they will fall victim to the same mistakes. The inquistive mind is the one that finds layers in one simple sequence of words, and certain people will look deeper into something even though there may not be anything of worthwhile substance.
For example, if someone says, “I’m having problems with my boyfriend, I’m going to go to the bar with my girl friends and get my mind off things,” different people could take that saying different ways. One person might think this female is simply going to get her mind off things and let her friends heal her wounds. Another person might think she is going to get severely intoxicated to the point that she will make horrible life decisions, like perhaps cheating on her boyfriend and then possibly regretting it in the morning. Someone may even think that she is just going out to entertain herself in the most civil way she can, and that is it.
But why do certain people think in different ways?
Is it life experience? Maybe it’s different levels of optimism, pessimism and realism. Maybe it’s all of it combined, and then some secret brain dust we can’t even explain. Like human beings all look physically different in terms of facial characteristics, so too do they all think differently. No two humans ever think the same, which is remarkable considering how many people are currently living on this planet.
Yet, sayings and quotes from history prove otherwise in certain ways. You can think of John Lennon belting out, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one” or Ghandi in his unique pacifism saying, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” and you realize that certain figures have made a deeper impact on the global psyche than others. Some people just come along from time to time who can encapsulate entire nations, making people aware of what is the norm and what is possible in this life.
I do find it very interesting how people do refer to many people who are no longer with us, from Lennon to Jesus Christ. It makes me feel good in the sense that their words are still taken seriously even though they are not around to keep repeating themselves. That is why the Bible is the best-selling book in history, as it offers lessons that can still be associated with our current society.
I am guilty of enjoying quotes way too much, but I use them for inspiration and also as a coping mechanism. Sometimes others can say things better than you, even if you tried your hardest. It’s nice to learn from other people, it’s what makes the human race so damn inquisitive.
And I will leave you with this tidbit from Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the biggest influences in my own life: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.