The Seeds at Work within Us

Years ago, I read with pleasure Goethe’s Maxims and Reflections (translated by Elisabeth Stopp). A good number of them are worth revisiting, much like many of those I’ve encountered over the years from La Rochefoucauld, Dr. Johnson, Emerson, Ramakrishna, Proust, and Sri Anandamayi Ma. Here’s but a small sample from the German sage—

In the face of another’s great excellence the only possible salvation is love. [45]

A state of affairs which leads to daily vexation is not the right state. [143]

When people really deteriorate, their only contribution is malicious joy in the misfortune of others. [195]

Intelligent people are always the best encyclopedia. [196]

Excellence is unfathomable; tackle it in what way you will. [227]

Only someone to whom the present is important writes a chronicle. [296]

There is nothing more dreadful than active ignorance. [367]

One is not inclined to live with just anyone, and, similarly, one can’t live for everyone. Whoever really grasps this can greatly esteem his friends and not hate or persecute his enemies: there are, in fact, few things of greater advantage than learning to appreciate the good points of your opponents: this gives you decided superiority over them. [396]

Everything that is alive surrounds itself with an atmosphere. [435]

To find and appreciate goodness everywhere is the sign of a love of truth. [493]

Researching into nature we are pantheists, writing poetry we are polytheists, morally we are monotheists. [807]

When two people are really happy about one another, one can generally assume that they are mistaken. [849]

There are people who ponder about their friends’ shortcomings: there’s nothing to be gained by that. I have always been on the look-out for the merits of my opponents and this has been rewarding. [882]

And let everyone consider carefully which of his faculties stand a chance of being effective in his own time and day. [903]

There is no self-deception when a young man has great expectations. But just as, in the past, he felt hope in his heart, so too he must look for fulfillment not outside himself but in his heart. [993]

Look within yourselves and you will find everything, and rejoice that out there, by whatever name you may call it, there is nature which says an unconditional yes, assenting to all that you have found within yourselves! [1080]

Every great artists seizes hold of us, infects us. Everything in us which has the same kind of capacity stirs, and as we have some mental image of greatness and a certain disposition for it, we quite easily imagine that the same seed is at work within us. [1115]

A thinking man’s greatest happiness is to have fathomed what can be fathomed and to revere in silence what cannot be fathomed. [1207]

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