politics and culture — February 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Inspirational Quotes Ad Nauseum


inspirational quote smarterstorytelling.comOne of the more curious aspects of social media is the sheer number of inspirational quotes posted on Facebook and Twitter.

Here are just a couple that recently came my way:

 “To reach a great height a person needs to have great depth”

“Accept what you can’t change. Change what you can’t accept.”

As I wrote about in “The Bloodbath Begins,” I’m currently in the process of culling down my Facebook friends in order, hopefully, to make the social media experience more meaningful.

I’m also reviewing the people I follow on Twitter, planning to retain only those whose tweets are genuinely interesting or useful.

There are a number of criteria I employ. Among them is the posting of inspirational quotes.

Im sorry: if you post inspirational quotes you’ll have to leave the premises.

Inspirational quotes nauseate me

For one, I don’t find inspirational quotes particularly inspiring. It might indeed be true that “there is a voice that doesn’t use words,” or that “all endings are also beginnings,” but these glib little maxims never provide me with the lift or consolation I believe they’re intended to induce. Rather, they seem obvious or trivial.

Worse yet, they can display a callous disregard towards the true complexity of human existence.

Especially quotes about “being yourself”

There’s whole category of inspirational quotes, for example, that revolve around the theme of “being yourself.”
Many of them assume it’s an easy thing to do:

 “The easiest thing to be in the world is you.”

I’ve got a number of problems with this.

For one, it presupposes there’s a “self” at all.

The “self” is a complex topic

Upon any serious investigation or even causal reflection, one finds the “self” to be a mind-boggling concept.

It appears  that rather than having a single self, we have many. Scientists, psychologists, philosophers and others have also long debated whether or not there exists a single unitary self.

But assuming for the moment that there is such a thing as the self, it’s nonetheless presumptuous to assume that being yourself is easy.

Being yourself is hard

Fact is, to truly know ourselves or be ourselves is probably the most difficult thing we can ever attempt. It is life’s Grand Unending Project. I imagine only a handful of our greatest artists or spiritual geniuses have even come close. And, sadly, many of them may have never quite made it to the self, or when they did finally arrive, discovered there was nothing there.

Quotes about “being yourself” also contain an instrumental agenda which I find troubling. The subtext of many of them is that by simply being yourself, you’ll be not only happier but also materially richer and more successful in
the world.

 “Do your own thing on your own terms and get what you came here for”

This reminds me of a cartoon that appeared in The New Yorker a number of years ago. Two guys are at a bar. One says to the other: “You know, I tried being myself, but it didn’t get me anywhere.”

Hate to say it, but I agree. If you’ve have any experience in politics, whether its electoral or organizational, you know that being authentic is often the worst strategy you can employ and that inauthenticy is more often the key to success. And don’t forget Dale Carnegie, who encouraged us to fake our sincerity in his classic How to Win Friends and Influence People.

And those who post “be yourself’ quotes must understand this, even if it’s on a subconscious level.  After all, why quote the wisdom of others if being ourself is the route to happiness?  Why not come up with your own?

Posting inspirational quotes is lazy

This leads me to a broader complaint about inspirational quoting.

There’s a laziness to it. Can’t create something yourself? Quote Shakespeare. Bereft of ideas? Gandhi’s your man.

I can’t help but think that thes quote-posters are somehow fantasize that quotes are actually their own. It’s a classic branding technique, now applied to personal brands. Say wise things from others and there will be a rub-off effect.

It’s also arrogant and depressing

There’s something disingenuous and even arrogant about the inspirational quote movement.

Hey there, Mr. Poster:  Who the hell are you to identify yourself with Gandhi or Shakespeare? Who are you to tell me how to live?

Then there’s the depressing question of why so many of feel the need to be motivated at all. Isn’t the miricle of consciousness enough? Or the amazing statistical improbability that we exist at all?

Apparently not.

But the market is vast

The fact remains, however, that the demand for inspirational quotes is huge.

I might not take to them, but they almost always get scores of Facebook “likes.” Being an inspirational-quote-tweeter can also get you thousands of followers.

Guess I’m the odd man out. I’ll have to find my solace and my mojo in other places.

Oddly, the following quote, a paraphrase of something said years ago by pioneer movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn, both energizes and relaxes me.

Nobody knows nothin’

Now that’s inspiring.

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