I have had three quotations displayed on my office wall for years. I occasionally catch students glancing up at them during career advising sessions, but for the most part I leave them there for my own benefit—little reminders of what I believe to be important.
Quotations do a pretty good job of capturing a lot of meaning in a small space. Of course, there are also a great many that focus on motivation, spawning an entire industry of motivational quotation posters (and in response, much more entertaining “demotivational posters”). But the quotations that resonate the most with me tend to fall under the theme of “meaning” itself, as you’ll see below as I share some of my thoughts on each one.
“The least of things with a meaning in life is worth more than the greatest of things without it.”
– Carl Jung
To me, this quotation from Jung’s book Modern Man In Search of a Soul highlights the inescapable relativity of happiness. How do we assign meaning and worth in life? What makes us happy? “The greatest of things” is not that great at all if it lacks significant meaning. Pursuit of material wealth often falls under this category. In contrast, a smile and “hello” to a passing stranger could mean the world to someone on a bad day. Every time I glance up at this quotation on my wall, I’m encouraged to ask myself, “How could my life be more meaningful?”
“The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.”
– Alfred Adler
That’s truth right there. Every single person is weird. Everybody is messed up. We all have problems. The bizarre thing? We seem to all cling to this ideal of the “normal person” as some kind of mythical average for comparison. This quotation really calls into question the online casino whole concept of “normal.” By implying that we’d discover that everyone is abnormal if only we knew them well enough, Adler is encouraging us to embrace that which makes us unique. This is a very strengths-based view, with obvious applications to many practical, real-world issues—not the least of which is the job search. When I see this quotation, I am reminded to accept and honour my eccentricities, as well as those that lie hidden from sight in the people I work with every day.
“The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”
– Carl Jung
I can probably understand if some people aren’t very comforted by this sentiment. To compare “mere being” to an empty, pitch-black space, punctuated ever so briefly by tiny, flickering lights of human existence, is more than a bit existential. In other words, it’s deep stuff, man. The universe is infinitely large, and our lives are less than specks of dust, visible for the briefest moment in a narrow beam of sunlight. Is it odd to find comfort in this? There is no all-encompassing meaning or goal to strive for in life aside from that which you inherit by virtue of your mere existence. To exist, and in your existing to be—there is no more purpose than that. But here is where I think the quotation offers its most robust wisdom: there is a qualitative difference between existing and being. The former is a given, while the latter consists of conscious acts, thoughts and intentions—all of which form what we call an identity. I find reading this quotation regularly encourages me to have a healthy perspective, and really question whether the small annoyances that are a big part of daily life really matter at all.
I hope you enjoyed these quotations and my thoughts on them. If you have favourite quotations of your own, I’d love to hear about them! I’m only a tweet away.