Today’s quote is one of those ‘sentimental value’ types, where the story isn’t so much in the quote itself, as the memories attached to it.
I love to read. My mother was a voracious reader, and most of us kids inherited her love of books. I grew up in a house filled with books – on shelves, on the coffee table and end tables, in a pile on the floor beside Mom’s chair, on the sofa’s armrests. I spent my childhood picking up whatever was lying about, and seeing if I could read it.
Sometimes it was easier than others. My mother used to devour Harlequin Romances in particular, which I could read with no problem, but didn’t enjoy so much. The flipside of that were the history and philosophy books one brother studied during university. I found the language in those almost impossible to understand, but I did like to try.
It was Big Brother’s books that hit the happy middle ground for me, and served to be the introduction to my still-favourite genres: science fiction and fantasy. I was lucky – he always bought a tonne of books, and encouraged me to read them when he was finished, so I had a constant supply of new worlds and ideas to explore.
Among the new worlds were those of Isaac Asimov. I was a big fan of his Robot series in particular. And from the book Robots and Empire, I was always fond of this quote.
It is better that the immoral learn morality through adversity than that the moral forget morality in prosperity.
I don’t really remember the context of this quote within the story. It’s been a very long time since I first read it. But I do remember its effect on me the first time I did. I was in my early teens, and it was both confusing and intriguing – confusing because of the way the language doubles back on itself, and intriguing because that language made it a puzzle I wanted to untangle.
It was reminiscent, in fact, of things I’d read in my other brother’s philosophy books. It was the point at which I began to see the relationship between fiction and non-fiction, and just how much overlap there can be between them.
It was also when I began to stop categorizing books as either entertainment or educational, as fun or serious, as fluff or informational. I started to see that ideas can be communicated through a myriad of writing styles, and the way in which I read began to change. I started to keep a bit of my brain tuned for entertainment in the serious books, and seriousness in the entertainment books, and to my surprise, I began enjoying reading even more than before – something I would have said wasn’t possible.
If we’re lucky there are moments in our lives where we can pinpoint a change for the better. This quote represents one of those moments for me. I know my outlook on how the world is structured shifted that day.
And all it took was a sentence to launch me on that journey.
To see previous posts in my Quotes series, click here.