I’ve been getting quite a few comments lately about the ‘Who Says?’ column on the blog. Naturally I wish the people who wrote had included you, the reader, by commenting on the posts instead of directly to me. But let’s face it; I’m going to share their thoughts with you anyway, albeit anonymously, so we’ll all be included in the discussion.
The quotes I highlight in that column are from creative people of all kinds—poets, writers, teachers and philosophers to name but a few, most of whom are famous and familiar, but some who aren’t. I’ve often gotten interesting feedback stating your surprise and pleasure at either rediscovering them, or meeting them for the first time. I know there are also readers who rush to the blog post but skip the ‘Who Says?’ column, feeling it might be a throw-away, a simple offering meant to take up space and balance the look of the opening page on the blog. That was never my intention, which is why I started highlighting it a few months ago in The Unblocked! Writer Newsletter.
Last week, I heard from a few more readers who focused directly on an attribute of the ‘Who Says?’ column I had somehow ignored. When the blog first started almost four years ago, I wanted to share some of my favorite quotes with other readers and writers, drawing from a pool of those I’d saved or remembered over time. I would update the quotes and blog posts independently. Then slowly and unconsciously, I started linking the quote to the subject matter of the blog post itself. Maybe that was because I finally ran out of the ready stash of quotes in my journal, but instead of updating whenever I had a quote to share, I went searching through my memory and favorite books and added a new one after I’d finished writing the post for the week. That led to a connection I was oblivious of until a reader pointed it out. It seems my fascination with historical memory had inspired me to look back in time to see how the writers before me addressed the same topics I explore in the blog! It was so obvious that I felt the blush of embarrassment for having missed it myself.
My readers suggested the link to history was an important one, too often ignored today by the current generation of writers who seem to think they spring directly and fully formed from contemporary society, without connection or linkage to the primordial ooze of their creative ancestors. I wondered at the surreptitious change in the ‘Who Says?’ column and how I could have ignored the importance of those links. I suppose they seemed so obvious to me I assumed my respect for the past would be just as evident; a clear and palpable embrace with the history of literature and thought that came before. Not good enough. History deserves more attention.
Go to the tab at the top of the blog labeled ‘Who Says’; you’ll find every quote listed in dated, ascending order to this week’s; the importance of these ideas from the past lies in their connection to our own today; so if you decide to explore the ‘Archives’ tab on your own, please reread the blog post listed on the date accompanying its quote. For example, the July 18, 2014 quote from Melville connected directly to the post on… ‘Connections’! And the January 10th from Dickens on the mystery of our humanity linked directly to the post of the same date on creating human characters. Degas, Sir Isiah Berlin, Harold Pinter…all talked to us about the same things we care about today. They just did it with a little (okay, a lot!) more grace, but that doesn’t make our own thoughts any less vital or significant.
There is no doubt the historical memory of our shared thoughts over time is what binds the human race together forever. I’m convinced it even affects the makeup of our DNA. A case in point is this week’s quote from Aristotle, the philosopher born in 384 BC. It’s the perfect reminder. “Memory is the scribe of the soul”, he said. So we’re all writers of a sort if we have memories and souls, aren’t we? You see! all you readers who’ve told me you never comment on the blog publicly because you’re not writers; you’ve lost your excuse. You may say you’re not a writer, but your soul disagrees. As long as we have historical memory we’re all writing all the time. We have so much in common.