Word economy has always been my foremost goal as a writer. I want to say as much as I can with as little as possible. Consequently, I’m a collector of great quotes.
They shine a light on the other side of known truths. Within a few lines, they contain the ultimate and concentrated power of writing. I’ve only read a few that made me really pause and consider the world.
1. The Ascendance of Absolute, Unrivaled Brilliance
Every generation brings a few one-in-a-billion geniuses. Nikola Tesla was one of them.Testing his Tesla Coils.
(Source pic via Wikimedia Commons)
He paid a steep price for his brilliance. He was unable to relate to others. He never had a romantic partner and his mental health was a massive problem (Mental illness is far more common as you approach the horizon of possible human intelligence; it’s theorized that a person will eventually succumb to madness before they reach it).
Tesla wasn’t commercially minded. He didn’t monetize his 700+ patents, though many others got rich off his ideas.
His inventions (alternating currents, remote controls, induction motors, and many more) had a lasting effect on engineering. Many of the things you use are extensions of his innovations. You wouldn’t have them without Tesla.
Beyond his ability to invent and understand the most complex concepts, he had one ability that separates a super genius from your “normal” genius: he could see far into the future. He was a visionary.
Tesla made one of the most accurate and detailed predictions that any human has ever made.
He said this of technology in 1926.
“When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole.
We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone.
A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.”
Sound familiar? And yet many people thought he was crazy.
Don’t be afraid of big bold ideas from really smart people. History has a habit of turning madmen into geniuses.
2. Chills Down My ArmMauthausen.
(Source: pic via Britannica)
Small is a relative term. And in the case of Mauthausen, it was a small concentration camp
It was your run-of-the-mill hell incarnate for Jews and outcasts. More than 130,000 people lost their lives here.
This camp is famous for its stairs of death on which emaciated prisoners were forced to carry 30–50 kg granite rocks over and over again, despite many of them weighing around 45 kg.
If you fell and were maimed, rendered unable to work — you were usually executed fairly shortly thereafter. Or you were left in prison to suffer for a few days first.
There were countless horrifying games that guards played with prisoners, the details of which I won’t get into here.
At the end of the war, as the camps were liberated, they began cleaning out and inspecting Mauthausen. One inspector was patrolling through the dark and shadowed cells of Block C, an area where nearly all who entered either died or left only to attend their own execution.
Inside of one cell, he found, scratched on the wall:
“If there is a God, he will have to beg for my forgiveness.”
The line sent a chill down my arm. It brought the image of a God on his knees, begging for his life, about to be murdered by one of his own creations
It’s important to remember lines like this. Our minds tend to become soft and presumptuous of our luxuries. The paradox of happiness is that it requires we acknowledge the suffering of others.
3. Oscar Wilde
I first discovered the internet in the 1990s. I was 12 years old. We had a dial-up connection that cut off every 4 hours.
If you searched for “shoes”, it pulled up a bunch of mom and pop “Joe’s Shoe Store” websites. Traditional SEO competition was non-existent.
But one thing that was the same — how rude the people were. They used fake names, their behavior was just as acidic.
Insert Oscar Wilde, the Irish poet, and writer who, in my book, can do no wrong. He is a machine gun of epic quotes. He knew nothing of the internet nor comment sections.
But he seemed to have a great pulse on human nature.
He said of people,
“Give a man a mask, and he’ll show you his true face.”
With that — please consider as you go to your keyboards, that the person you are responding to is another human being. I have yet to see a comment section debate lead to any meaningful learning.
Don’t fall into the trap. Treat people with the same respect you’d give them when looking them in the eyes.
4. The Life Of Strange
I used to coach swimming in the early 2000’s. It probably won’t surprise you that my most challenging group was the middle school boys.
But where a few of them were difficult, others were in need of help. They were “different”. Consequently, they were bullied frequently at school. They would come in upset about how their day had gone.
I identified with them on so many levels as I’ve spent my entire life having people tell me, “You are one weird guy.”
I would reassure them that they were simply misunderstood and that they were in good company: some of the greatest people who ever lived were treated as weirdos.
Frederick Nietzsche, another mega genius, was in this camp at one point too. He was, by very definition, different than his peers. People tend to attack things they don’t understand.
Source: Wikimedia commons
Throughout his life, he proposed many wild and brilliant ideas, faced his own share of critics, and endured his own moments of social isolation.
One line he wrote, that I encourage any who feel misunderstood to remember:
And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
Humanity is filled with wild and shimmering variety. Those who see “different” and attack are afraid of their own authenticity.
Don’t shy away from living your own truth.
If you haven’t been told “You’re weird.” a few times along the way, you aren’t doing it right.
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