Finishing serenely

As most readers know, I finish Unorganized Territory every week with a quote. Sometimes it’s a challenge to find just the right words of wisdom. I like to find something that is appropriate for the content of the column or something that is uplifting.

I have a number of books of quotations and I have several websites of quotes bookmarked on my computer, so I have plenty of resources at hand. But sometimes it is hard to find something that fits. And sometimes I don’t recognize the name of the person being quoted and I’m not sure I should use them as a source. I end up doing more research to ensure that the person being quoted is someone that should be quoted.

For example, I once completed my column and found a wonderful quote by a fellow named Mitch Albom. I didn’t know who Mitch Albom was, so I had to do a little research. I found that he is the author of a number of books that I have heard of—Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet In Heaven. I haven’t read his books, but after reading about them, I decided I would read them when I have time.

And, I decided that to quote Mitch Albom would be okay, as he seems like a really nice guy.

The next day, while proofing, my friend and co-worker Bill noted that the passage was a “deep quote for a sportswriter.” Apparently, Mitch Albom began his career as a sportswriter. And Bill, being an avid baseball fan, knew Albom from his sports coverage.

I told Bill that I had researched Albom and found that he was a famous author.

“I don’t want to quote Hitler,” I assured Bill.

To which my other friend and co-worker Laurie wisecracked, “That is a good quote in itself. You should quote yourself.”

While one of my life goals is to write something quotable, I don’t think that the phrase “I don’t want to quote Hitler” will be it.

But the whole discussion gives you an idea of the challenge of finding just the right quotation for the end of my column each week.

Anyone who has an e-mail footnote with a quote at the end has an idea of the challenge of finding just the right phrase. As a quotation collector, I love seeing what people choose to add to the end of their e-mail signatures. There are some wild and crazy quotes; some silly excerpts from literature in cyberspace.

In fact, it is because of my e-mail footnote that I am writing about quotes this week. We are in the midst of a computer upgrade at our office and that means my e-mail looks different—and my automatic e-mail signature is gone.

It is irritating that as smart as computers have become, they can’t bring forward something as simple as an e-mail signature. But that is a topic for another column.

For now, I have to decide if I am going to add a quote to my e-mail signature, after my address, phone number and all the other pertinent information. And, if I’m going to add a quote, should I continue to use the same one that I have had for several years now?

The quote that I’ve had tacked on the end of my e-mails for several years now is:

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as
you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with
too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve considered changing that footnote quote a number of times over the years, but whenever I have, I will inevitably receive a reply to an e-mail with a post script saying something like, “Love the Emerson quote!” or “Thanks for the quote, I needed it today.”

Only once in all the years I have cited Emerson on my e-mail have I had someone say they didn’t care for the quote. A fellow added a P.S. noting that he never cared for that Emerson quote because it gives a person an excuse to not do their best. He felt that it gives us permission to behave badly and then ask for forgiveness.

I was very surprised by that reaction, as it is not my interpretation at all. I think Emerson is encouraging us to be the best people we can be, to work hard and to strive to be kind to all we meet. However, Emerson knew that being human, we sometimes fall short. And instead of beating ourselves up over something, instead of lying in bed imagining instant replays of our failure over and over, the philosopher tells us to be done with it. Let it go, Emerson tells us and then in a powerful affirmation he says you shall begin the new day serenely.

If we all started the day serenely, perhaps those blunders and absurdities would not find their way into our life. Perhaps we could get rid of our old nonsense.

I think I’ll keep the Emerson quote for a while longer and work on that.


This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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