Is using quotations in a post an indication of intellectual candor and accurate attribution or merely the refuge of a lazy blogger? When I struggle to come up with a few hundred words to fill a post, I am habitually tempted to appropriate a few dozen from the endless supply readily at hand, even if they are not mine. This is likely acceptable if the quotation adds authoritative support to a point, provides an example of someone else’s point of view, represents a particularly clever turn of phrase, or otherwise adds to and extends the post. What if instead, the quoted text merely serves to bulk up the post or substitute for any actual brain work from me?
Sure, I’m going to do it. The arbitrary topic is “astrology,” for no better reason than it struck my fancy. I suspect you may have some experience with having your fancy struck so my picking astrology makes complete sense to you. If not, suffice it to say it was in the stars for me today.
It may be a stretch for you to get into astrology. You may figure Edward Abbey had a point when he said, “Who needs astrology? The wise man gets by on fortune cookies.” If that isn’t strong enough for you, Voltaire may have better captured your attitude about astrology when he said, “Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy: the mad daughter of a wise mother.” Your opposition is even stronger? Perhaps Shakespeare himself has to be joined in your anti–astrology rant, “This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune (often the surfeits of our own behavior) we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stif we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treacherous by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition on the charge of a star!” Wow, and he even worked in “foppery,” whatever that means. I seem to recall Nero Wolf using flummery which is not good either; but foppery is new for me.
Despite my plan to pad this post with words appropriated from others, I do have a small urge to at least pretend to be somewhat balanced. A passing nod to the pro–astrology set strikes my fancy. (I know but using it again was just too tempting. At least I didn’t say it was in the stars.) At any rate, Herman Melville summed it up quite well, “Look you, Doubloon, your zodiac here is the life of man in one round chapter. To begin: there’s Aries, or the Ram – lecherous dog, he begets us; then, Taurus, or the Bull – he bumps us the first thing; then Gemini, or the Twins – that is, Virtue and Vice; we try to reach Virtue, when lo! comes Cancer the Crab, and drags us back; and here, going from Virtue, Leo, a roaring Lion, lies in the path – he gives a few fierce bites and surly dabs with his paw; we escape, and hail Virgo, the virgin! that’s our first love; we marry and think to be happy for aye, when pop comes Libra, or the Scales – happiness weighed and found wanting; and while we are very sad about that, Lord! how we suddenly jump, as Scorpio, or the Scorpion, stings us in rear; we are curing the wound, when come the arrows all round; Sagittarius, or the Archer, is amusing himself. As we pluck out the shafts, stand aside! here’s the battering–ram, Capricornus, or the Goat; full tilt, he comes rushing, and headlong we are tossed; when Aquarius, or the Waterbearer, pours out his whole deluge and drowns us; and, to wind up, with Pisces, or the Fishes, we sleep.”
Melville calling us Doubloons aside, he does have a way with words. I think the point is complete. Packing a post with the words of others is to be avoided unless one is totally at a loss for originality. My muse left and still isn’t back on a predictable basis so I am left now and then with no better choice. She has dropped in on an occasional basis, though; so if you have time to read more, some of the posts are much better.