If there is a motto for the current situation, it must be “We are living in uncertain times.” The media constantly bombards us with how unprecedented each new development is.
This kind of language tempts us to think of ourselves as unique—in our personal experiences and in our moment in history. If there is one thing literature can do for us, it is to remind us that we are not unique, and therefore we are not alone.
Literature is powerful because it speaks to the human condition. It reflects our circumstances and gives meaning to them.The details might be new, but the experiences of fear, isolation, boredom, anxiety, and longing for safety are not.
Here are some literary quotes for a pandemic that are surprisingly apt, even in these “unprecedented” times.
“’I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’” —J.R.R. Tolkein
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” —Maya Angelou
“The living can’t quit living because the world has turned terrible and people they love and need are killed. They can’t because they don’t. The light that shines into darkness and never goes out calls them on into life. It calls them back again into the great room. It calls them into their bodies and into the world, into whatever the world will require. It calls them into work and pleasure, goodness and beauty, and the company of other loved ones.” —Wendell Berry
“The sage does not hoard. The more he helps others, the more he benefits himself, The more he gives to others, the more he gets himself.” —Lao Tzu
“When ‘I’ replaced with ‘We’ even illness becomes wellness.” —Malcolm X
“We’re all under the same sky and walk the same earth; we’re alive together during the same moment.” —Maxine Hong Kingston
“We were together. I forget the rest.” —Walt Whitman
“‘Where are we going, Pooh?’ ‘Home, Piglet. We’re going home because that’s the best thing to do right now.'” —A.A. Milne
“Home is the nicest word there is.” —Laura Ingalls Wilder
“There are days when solitude is a heady wine that intoxicates you with freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic, and still others when it is a poison that makes you beat your head against the wall.” —Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette
“One situation—maybe one alone—could drive me to murder: family life, togetherness.” —Patricia Highsmith
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