A longstanding habit of mine has been to collect quotes from various works in a notebook to read and look back on later. It’s a habit I acquired from my mother and have found great value in pursuing. Some ideas and thoughts are best captured in the words of another. Compiled together, these special quotes also track a journey of thought and experiences in literature.
Jan Karon, author of the Mitford Years Series, which chronicles events from the life of Father Tim Kavanagh, gives a further look into his inner life via two quote journals: Patches of Godlight, and the latest, A Continual Feast. Both books contain handwritten entries, with occasional typewritten sheets of paper “taped” in. Post-it notes appear, phrases are underlined, and notes are jotted in the margins.
The wisdom offered spans a wide range of authors, from William Blake to Emily Dickinson, from G. K. Chesterton to Victor Hugo, from the Bible to Abraham Lincoln, from Goethe to Samuel Pepys, and imparts both the profound and the simple, the serious and the fun.
Some short examples from A Continual Feast:
“Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.” – Elton Trueblood
“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers o’er the fraught heart and bids it break.” – Macbeth
“If you think it’s hard to meet new people, try picking up the wrong golf ball.” – Jack Lemmon
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.” – Thomas Jefferson
“Nothing shows a man’s character more than what he laughs at.” – Goethe
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot
“I’m not bald, I’m just taller than my hair.” – Thomas Sharpe
The name for A Continual Feast is drawn from Proverbs 15:15 in the NIV: “… the cheerful heart has a continual feast.” And a feast it is. It’s a great book to peruse when you’re down, when you’re busy and have but a moment, when you’re looking for inspiration, and even when you’re looking for humor. It is a small book, but in it are quotes that can prompt greater depth of thought than a full-length book, and while taking considerably less time to read.
A few references in the side notes may not make much sense to those who haven’t read the Mitford series (i.e. notes to ask C. or Cynthia – his wife – about something, or notes to share something), but they add further richness to the personable nature of the work for those who have.
Although I’m offering examples from A Continual Feast, Patches of Godlight is every bit as worth reading and savoring as well. Even if you don’t purchase the book, borrow it, or sit down with it in your local bookstore and discover the satisfying riches within. Then go start your own book of quotes.