Growing up in a conservative Christian culture (my parents weren’t as conservative, but their friends were), I frequently encountered the concept of a “life verse.” Whether it was something you chose or something that god put upon your heart (to use the lingo), this was supposed to be a verse that shaped and defined your life.
Some people chose trust/love god verses, others chose more active ones, and some people satirized the whole thing by picking verses like 2 Chronicles 3.15 “In front of the house he made two pillars thirty-five cubits high, with a capital of five cubits on the top of each.”
Anyway, I never got into the concept, but when thinking recently about if I’d ever want to tattoo a literary phrase & what phrases were meaningful enough that I’d want to keep them forever, I remembered the final paragraph of Middlemarch:
Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
It’s far too long for a tattoo, but it’s my favorite literary quote of all time. I’ve struggled with depression, I’ve struggled with worrying if anything I do will have any lasting meaning. My goal right now is to trend toward the good and hope that helps. I reread Middlemarch for a class in college when I was very depressed and this quote helped me feel like things might be ok even if I wasn’t a rocket scientist or a Mother Teresa. In particular:
…for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life…
For me, that’s a hopeful & inspiring thought. I have no desire to be in the history books. I like knowing people & being known by people, but don’t want to be famous. I just hope that in the end my life trends strongly toward the good and that my unhistoric acts might make other people’s lives a bit brighter and happier.
Do you have any quotes like that from your favorite books?