I have a story to tell you that has to do with my search for an inspirational quote. I'm not really the inspirational quote type. I like a few authors that are very quotable...Lemony Snicket...C.S. Lewis...but I don't fall in love with quotes on a regular basis.
However, back in college I'd read a line in one of my literature texts that had really meant a lot to me. My early semesters in college were a tough time emotionally--living in the USA for the first time as an almost-adult and being far away from family and friends and trying to fit in to a completely foreign culture was tough at that age. I distinctly remembered reading this quote and it impacted me so much that I remembered having written about the quote to my mom in the daily emails I sent her.
Problem was, I couldn't exactly remember the quote. I knew it was written in the context of soldiers or warriors, and it was something about even if they had fallen in battle, they wouldn't give up and lie still--they would fight on their knees. Basically, it's the Monty Python idea--get all your limbs chopped off and still scream "I'll bite you to death!" As I've been facing this recent season of loss and emotional turmoil and feeling like I'm fighting a vicious battle merely to hold onto my joy and my sense of self, I've been drawn back to the quote, which to me, describes tenacity and courage and never giving up even when giving up would be so, so much easier.
But I didn't remember the quote word-for-word, which made it impossible to find. I searched "fight on their knees" to no avail on Google, because it came up with a whole bunch of references to prayer. Not what I was looking for. I searched my email to see if I'd saved the email I sent Mom. Nope, not there. Finally, I asked Mom to search her email. You see--Mom is my most avid blog follower. She has always loved my writing, and I know that even when I sent her daily emails during my early years of college, she saved most of them in her "Rachel" folder.
I guessed that I'd sent her the email sometime around 2009-2010, so that narrowed it down a bit, and she started looking. Funny thing was her stumbling across other old emails long-forgotten, including an email from Dec. 1, 2010 where I wrote, "I'm really reconsidering marrying Angel. I'm trying to think of reasons for and against getting married and at the moment the only reason I can think of for getting married is that it would be too inconvenient to uninvite everyone from the wedding."
Poor Angel. No wonder he's always said he was nervous that I'd get up to the altar and say "I don't." Ever since I said "I do," he's been perfectly content. I vaguely remember getting cold feet a few days before the wedding, but I don't think Angel had done anything at all, it was just probably a side effect of being 19 and making lifelong commitments. I do remember him giving me a hug that week and saying "Just...please...don't break up with me." Good thing Mom was not overly worried by the emails I was sending her.
Anyways--after getting sidetracked by emails that make me laugh as we quickly approach our 6th anniversary, we actually found the email with the quote! I'd sent it during the second semester of my sophomore year, and I'd originally read the quote in Michel de Montaigne's "Of Cannibals." Strange text to find an inspiring quote in. However--armed with the exact wording, I was able to do research and discover that it appears 16th century Montaigne was actually borrowing from 1st century Seneca (the philosopher)! Very much the same line appears in De Providentia by Seneca. It was originally written in Latin, which I don't read, so I looked up a few different translations. The context is basically a conversation about whether bad things happen to wise people/the response of wise people to what normal people would consider tragedy and hardship (you probably remember from your college philosophy class, that, generally speaking, wise=good in their usual view of the world).
I used a different translation to draw the quote above, but here's my favorite translation of the surrounding paragraph:
"A complete bliss can't withstand any stress,
but injustice and offenses can't frustrate him
who was constantly in harm's way.
He's nothing daunted and never the prey of
no matter what kind of crisis
And when he falls, he fights on his knees."
I'm not much of a philosopher, but you can probably tell from the preceding paragraph about my search for the source of this quote that I am a bit of a nerd. I'm also still grieving, still recovering--but though I may be wounded, I won't give up the fight.
Did you get cold feet before your wedding and the commitment of a lifetime? Have you ever had to go on a search to find the source of a quote you almost-remembered but not quite? What do you think of Seneca and these words of his?