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The global economy has made our world one. We need a corresponding sense of the oneness of humanity. If we are realistic, truthful and honest, we can communicate with anyone and everyone. Secular ethics are not opposed to religion but inclusive of those with faith and those with none. We have to recognize others as human beings like us. Everyone wants to be happy and everyone has a right to fulfill that goal. This is why, in the context of 7 billion human beings, our need is to introduce secular ethics.
One of the most striking signs of the decay of art is the intermixing of different genres.
Propylaea (1798) Introduction
The true, prescriptive artist strives after artistic truth; the lawless artist, following blind instinct, after an appearance of naturalness. The one leads to the highest peaks of art, the other to its lowest depths.
Propylaea (1798) Introduction
In limitations he first shows himself the master, And the law can only bring us freedom.
Was Wir Bringen (1802)
One never goes so far as when one doesn’t know where one is going.
Conversation with Friedrich Wilhem Riemer (July, 1817).
Who wants to understand the poem Must go to the land of poetry; Who wishes to understand the poet Must go to the poet’s land.
West-östlicher Diwan, motto (1819)
For I have been a man, and that means to have been a fighter.
West-östlicher Diwan, Buch des Paradies (1819)
Should I not be proud, when for twenty years I have had to admit to myself that the great Newton and all the mathematicians and noble calculators along with him were involved in a decisive error with respect to the doctrine of color, and that I among millions was the only one who knew what was right in this great subject of nature?
Letter to Eckermann (December 30, 1823)
All poetry is supposed to be instructive but in an unnoticeable manner; it is supposed to make us aware of what it would be valuable to instruct ourselves in; we must deduce the lesson on our own, just as with life.
Letter to Carl Friedrich Zelter (November 26, 1825)
One must be something in order to do something.
Conversation with Eckermann (October 20, 1828)
If I work incessantly to the last, nature owes me another form of existence when the present one collapses.
Letter to Eckermann (February 4, 1829)
The artist may be well advised to keep his work to himself till it is completed, because no one can readily help him or advise him with it…but the scientist is wiser not to withhold a single finding or a single conjecture from publicity.
Essay on Experimentation
Willst du immer weiterschweifen? Sieh, das Gute liegt so nah. Lerne nur das Glück ergreifen, denn das Glück ist immer da.
Do you wish to roam farther and farther? See the good that lies so near. Just learn how to capture your luck, for your luck is always there.
Variant translation: Do you wish to roam farther and farther? See! The Good lies so near. Only learn to seize good fortune, For good fortune’s always here.
O’er all the hilltops Is quiet now, In all the treetops Hearest thou Hardly a breath; The birds are asleep in the trees: Wait; soon like these Thou too shalt rest.
Wandrers Nachtlied (Wanderer’s Nightsong)
Welche Regierung die beste sei? Diejenige, die uns lehrt, uns selbst zu regieren.
Which is the best government? That which teaches us to govern ourselves.
The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe as translated by Bailey Saunders (1893) Maxim 225
Amerika, du hast es besser—als unser Kontinent, der alte.
America, you have it better than our continent, the old one.
Wendts Musen-Almanach (1831)
Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, And in their pleasure takes joy, even as though ‘twere his own. Not in the morning alone, not only at mid-day he charmeth; Even at setting, the sun is still the same glorious planet.
"Distichs" in The Poems of Goethe (1853) as translated in the original metres by Edgar Alfred Bowring
None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
Goethe’s Opinions on the World, Mankind, Literature, Science and Art (collected from his correspondence), as translated by Otto Wenckstern (1853)
Knowst thou the land where the lemon trees bloom, Where the gold orange glows in the deep thicket’s gloom, Where a wind ever soft from the blue heaven blows, And the groves are of laurel and myrtle and rose?
Bk. III, Ch. 1
What’s it to you if I love you?
Philine in Bk. IV, Ch. 9
Variant translation: If I love you, what business is it of yours?
One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.
Bk. V, Ch. 1
To know of someone here and there whom we accord with, who is living on with us, even in silence—this makes our earthly ball a peopled garden.
Bk. VII, Ch. 5
Art is long, life short; judgment difficult, opportunity transient.
Bk. VII, Ch. 9
Die Welt ist so leer, wenn man nur Berge, Flüsse und Städte darin denkt, aber hie und da jemand zu wissen, der mit uns übereinstimmt, mit dem wir auch stillschweigend fortleben, das macht uns dieses Erdenrund erst zu einem bewohnten Garten.
The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone here and there who thinks and feels with us, and though distant, is close to us in spirit - this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.
"Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre," in Goethes Sämmtliche Werke, vol. 7 (Stuttgart: J. G. Cotta, 1874), p. 520.
Tell me you stones, O speak, you towering palaces! Streets, say a word! Spirit of this place, are you dumb? All things are alive in your sacred walls Eternal Rome, it’s only for me all is still.
I’m gazing at church and palace, ruin and column, Like a serious man making sensible use of a journey, But soon it will happen, and all will be one vast temple, Love’s temple, receiving its new initiate. Though you’re a whole world, Rome, still, without Love, The world isn’t the world, and Rome can’t be Rome.
Ah, how often I’ve cursed those foolish pages, That showed my youthful sufferings to everyone! If Werther had been my brother, and I’d killed him, His sad ghost could hardly have persecuted me more.
Elegy 2 (First version)
A world without love would be no world.
Beloved, don’t fret that you gave yourself so quickly! Believe me, I don’t think badly or wrongly of you. The arrows of Love are various: some scratch us, And our hearts suffer for years from their slow poison. But others strong-feathered with freshly sharpened points Pierce to the marrow, and quickly inflame the blood. In the heroic ages, when gods and goddesses loved, Desire followed a look, and joy followed desire.
I feel I’m happily inspired now on Classical soil: The Past and Present speak louder, more charmingly. Here, as advised, I leaf through the works of the Ancients With busy hands, and, each day, with fresh delight. But at night Love keeps me busy another way: I become half a scholar but twice as contented. And am I not learning, studying the shape Of her lovely breasts: her hips guiding my hand?
All Nine often used to come to me, I mean the Muses: But I ignored them: my girl was in my arms. Now I’ve left my sweetheart: and they’ve left me, And I roll my eyes, seeking a knife or rope. But Heaven is full of gods: You came to aid me: Greetings, Boredom, mother of the Muse.
Is it so big a mystery what god and man and world are? No! but nobody knows how to solve it so the mystery hangs on.
As translated by Jerome Rothenberg
Much there is I can stand. Most things not easy to suffer I bear with quiet resolve, just as a God commands it. Only a few things I find as repugnant as snakes and poison. These four: tobacco smoke, bedbugs and garlic and Christ.
Much there is I can stand, and most things not easy to suffer I bear with quiet resolve, just as a god commands it. Only a few I find as repugnant as snakes and poison — These four: tobacco smoke, bedbugs, garlic, and †.
Variant translation: Lots of things I can stomach. Most of what irks me I take in my stride, as a god might command me. But four things I hate more than poisons & vipers: tobacco smoke, garlic, bedbugs, and Christ.
Epigram 67, as translated by Jerome Rothenberg
Doesn’t surprise me that Christ our Lord preferred to live with whores & sinners, seeing I go in for that myself.
Three things are to be looked to in a building: that it stand on the right spot; that it be securely founded; that it be successfully executed.
Bk. I, Ch. 9
The sum which two married people owe to one another defies calculation. It is an infinite debt, which can only be discharged through all eternity.
Bk. I, Ch. 9
One is never satisfied with a portrait of a person that one knows.
Bk. II, Ch. 2
The fate of the architect is the strangest of all. How often he expends his whole soul, his whole heart and passion, to produce buildings into which he himself may never enter.
Bk. II, Ch. 3
Let us live in as small a circle as we will, we are either debtors or creditors before we have had time to look round.
Bk. II, Ch. 4
No one would talk much in society, if he knew how often he misunderstands others.
Bk. II, Ch. 4
None are more enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
Bk. II, Ch. 5
A teacher who can arouse a feeling for one single good action, for one single good poem, accomplishes more than he who fills our memory with rows on rows of natural objects, classified with name and form.
Was glänzt, ist für den Augenblick geboren; das Echte bleibt der Nachwelt unverloren.
What dazzles, for the Moment spends its spirit: What’s genuine, shall Posterity inherit.
Prelude on the Stage
Das Alter macht nicht kindisch, wie man spricht, Es findet uns nur noch als wahre Kinder.
Age does not make us childish, as they say. It only finds us true children still.
Prelude on the Stage
Es irrt der Mensch, so lang er strebt.
Man errs as long as he strives.
Prologue in Heaven
Da stehe ich nun, ich armer Thor! Und bin so klug als wie zuvor.
And here, poor fool! with all my lore I stand! no wiser than before.
Night, Faust in His Study
Bin ich ein Gott? Mir wird so licht!
Am I a god? I see so clearly!
Night, Faust in His Study
Die Botschaft hör ich wohl, allein, mir fehlt der Glaube
The message well I hear, my faith alone is weak
Zwey Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust.
Two souls alas! dwell in my breast.
Outside the Gate of the Town
Ich bin der Geist der stets verneint.
I am the Spirit that always denies!
Blut ist ein ganz besondrer Saft.
Blood is a juice of rarest quality.
(Also translated as:) Blood is a very special juice.
Grau, theurer Freund, ist alle Theorie, Und grün des Lebens goldner Baum.
Dear friend, all theory is gray, And green the golden tree of life.
Mephistopheles and the Student
Ein echter deutscher Mann mag keinen Franzen leiden, Doch ihre Weine trinkt er gern.
A true German can’t stand the French, Yet willingly he drinks their wines.
Wer Recht behalten will und hat nur eine Zunge, Behält’s gewiß.
Whoever intends to have the right, if but his tongue be clever, Will have it, certainly.
(Sometimes translated as:) He who maintains he’s right—if his the gift of tongues— Will have the last word certainly.
Faust and Gretchen. A Street
Meine Ruh’ ist hin, Mein Herz ist schwer.
My peace is gone, My heart is heavy.
Schön war ich auch, und das war mein Verderben.
Fair I was also, and that was my ruin.
Gut! Ein Mittel, ohne Geld Und Arzt und Zauberei zu haben: Begib dich gleich hinaus aufs Feld, Fang an zu hacken und zu graben, Erhalte dich und deinen Sinn In einem ganz beschraunken Kreise, Ernauhre dich mit ungemischter Speise, Leb Mit dem Vieh als Vieh, and acht es nicht fur Raub, Den Acker, den du erntest, selbst zu dungen; Das ist das beste Mittel, glaub, Auf achtzig Jahr dich zu verjungenl
Good! A method can be used without physicians, gold, or magic, Go out into the open field and start to dig and cultivate; keep your body and your spirit in a humble and restricted sphere, sustain yourself by simple fare, live with your herd and spread your own manure on land from which you reap your nourishment. Believe me, that’s the best procedure to keep your youth for eighty years or more.
Niebuhr was right when he saw a barbarous age coming. It is already here, we are in it, for in what does barbarism consist, if not in the failure to appreciate what is excellent?
"As Goethe remarked, all eras in a state of decline and dissolution are subjective, while in all great eras which have been really in a state of progression, every effort is directed from the inward to the outward world; it is of an objective nature. I have always believed, as Goethe did, that here one comes on a true sense of the term classic.”
"Goethe suggested, in the interest of clearness one might very well make a clean sweep of all terms like classic, modernist, realist, naturalist and substitute the simple terms healthy and sickly.”
[Those who make the assumption that literacy carries with it the ability to read] do not know what time and trouble it costs to learn to read. I have been working at it for eighteen years, and I can’t say yet that I am completely successful.
Goethe at the age of seventy-nine
Man will become more clever and sagacious, but not better, happier or showing more resolute wisdom; or at least, only at periods.
Was uns alle bändigt, das Gemeine.
That which holds us all in bondage, the common and ignoble.
[The next sentence after predicting that great progress is coming:] I foresee the time when God will have no further pleasure in man, but will break up everything for a new creation.
I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make a life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture, or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de–escalated, and a person humanized or dehumanized.
Attributed to Goethe, however, the correct/complete quote:
I have come to a frightening conclusion.
I am the decisive element in the classroom.
It is my personal approach that creates the climate.
It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.
I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.
I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis
will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized.
If other people do not understand our behavior—so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us. If this is being “asocial” or “irrational” in their eyes, so be it. Mostly they resent our freedom and our courage to be ourselves. We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting, as long as our acts do not hurt or infringe on them. How many lives have been ruined by this need to “explain,” which usually implies that the explanation be “understood,” i.e. approved. Let your deeds be judged, and from your deeds, your real intentions, but know that a free person owes an explanation only to himself—to his reason and his conscience—and to the few who may have a justified claim for explanation.
One of Carl Sagan’s most pertinent messages for humanity (by XXXSDESDEXXX)
'Those worlds in space are as countless as all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the Earth. Each of those worlds is as real as ours. In every one of them, there's a sucsession of incidence, events, occurences which influence its future. Countless worlds, numberless moments, an immensity of space and time. And our small planet, at this moment, here we face a critical branch-point in the history. What we do with our world, right now, will propagate down through the centuries and powerfully affect the destiny of our descendants. It is well within our power to destroy our civilization, and perhaps our species as well. If we capitulate to superstition, or greed, or stupidty we can plunge our world into a darkness deeper than time between the collapse of classical civilization and the Italian Renaissaince. But, we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth, to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet. To enhance enormously our understanding of the Universe, and to carry us to the stars.'