I hold profound respect for Harper Lee. The ideas that leaked from her mind and her morals onto the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird leave me bamboozled every time at the exactness of the essence of human kindness that they capture. Written in this legacy are scores upon scores of essential quotes that, if taken seriously and by enough people, could mean an abrupt and drastic change for the better in our world of jealousy, pride, and anger.
This beloved author passed away at age 89 on Friday, February 19th in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. My sorrow over her passing is lessened by the hope of a Michael Jackson-esque revival in reading and immortalizing her prose.
I feel there is no better way to tribute the author than by contemplating on the power of her own words, and how applicable they still are towards humanity.
First off, my favorite quote from To Kill a Mockingbird:
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
– Atticus Finch”
I believe sincerely in the power of peace. I believe that it is more effective to listen than to talk, and to whisper rather than shout. I believe these things, because I believe them to cut to the core of the aggressor. Atticus Finch is one of my heroes, because his tactics for dealing with aggressive people is so effective that it goes to the extent of not just dealing with the aggressor, but also inspiring others. Essentially, this quote is valuing perseverance and integrity above the use of something other than yourself.
“I was born good but had grown progressively worse every year.
I very much wanted to be Scout the first time I read To Kill a Mockingbird; I loved her ferocious spirit, and her distaste of being socially confined to what is appropriate. It wasn’t that she was a die-hard tomboy, she was simply undefinable and therefore infinite. Scout as a character had an extensive personality and impeccable individualism.
“Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts.”
I wish that I could make a t-shirt of this quote to wear every day of the year. So often we go through life causing pain toward each other simply by misinformation and misunderstanding. Actually, I wish that I could tattoo this quote to the inside of my eyelids, so that I could remember constantly how the truth and embellishment contradict each other.
“People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”
This is a harder one to grasp, I’ll admit, mostly because in our society, pride is analogous to confidence and both are considered acceptable–nay, encouraged. But there is so much truth to this quote. Why should we take pride in our talents? First off, most likely we did nothing but simply inherit them, which in that case is more on our parents for having the good graces to reproduce and create a great kid. Secondly, we undermine and cut down the potential of our talents to influence the rest of humanity when we use part of the potential to brag about ourselves and raise ourselves up. If our talent is as good as we think it is, then it will do the raising. Ultimately, talents exist to benefit the world around us, and not to benefit ourselves. What is the good of going through life self-centeredly, only to arrive at the end with a list of achievements and no one to share in the departure?
There are many, many more stellar Harper Lee quotes from not only To Kill a Mockingbird, but also from her “new” novel Go Set a Watchman that I would be honored to share with you. But, for the sake of space and your own mental attention, I’ll end with this one:
“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.”
Can you imagine? Being so well-respected and so valued for your justice that people who society deems as “lesser” and who have been oppressed for so many years and so many bad reasons exhibits this kind of respect toward you? I feel like that is the height of what it looks like to be kind to others. You know that you have become a kind contributor to humanity when people afford respect like this to you.
I hope that the memory of Harper Lee provokes desires in you to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird or to go pick up a copy of Go Set a Watchman. Or that you spend just a smidgeon of your time thinking about the effects of your kindness and your own personal legacy.
Always remember that humanity flourishes when watered with kindness.
Peace and Blessings,