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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Aug. 28, 1749 - Mar. 22, 1832)

"The world is for thousands a freak show; the images flicker past and vanish; the impressions remain flat and unconnected in the soul. Thus they are easily led by the opinions of others, are content to let their impressions be shuffled, rearranged, and evaluated differently."

German author J.W. Goethe's last name is pronounced Gaer-tah, and he's generally recognized as one of the greatest and most versatile European thinkers of modern times. He was an extremely sensitive, vulnerable individual who left behind a detailed record of his daily struggle with human emotions. It's difficult to categorize him exactly; he was at once a writer, a philosopher; and (of all things) a scientist of plant biology and optics.

As a boy, Goethe was rather precocious. He'd learned Greek, Latin, French and Italian by age eight. He'd acquired from his mother a knack for storytelling; and he liked staging miniature puppet shows in his nursery.

The best known of Goethe's works is Faust, written over the course of fifty seven years and finally published when he was 81. It's a simple morality tale, illustrating the punishment of sin and the inherent drama of redemption.

He was also the leader of the German Romantic movement which profoundly influenced the growth of sonnets, romanticism, lyrical poetry, and love notes. He allowed women to fully shape his career, and his work thrived on their input. He wrote Moral-sensuous erotic librettos with remarkable elegance, enabling sixteen year olds to fall in love with him at the drop of a bonnet, even while he was in his late seventies. Goethe met, in his lifetime, an enviable collection of naive, middle-class girls who found themselves in that precious phase of "waiting" for that one special male who could trigger their dormant passions.

The Quotable Goethe:

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.

One of the most striking signs of the decay of art is when we see its separate forms jumbled together.

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.

Man knows only when he is satisfied and when he suffers, and only his sufferings and his satisfactions instruct him concerning himself, teach him what to seek and what to avoid. For the rest, man is a confused creature; he knows not whence he comes or whither he goes, he knows little of the world, and above all, he knows little of himself.

Certain flaws are necessary for the whole. It would seem strange if old friends lacked certain quirks.

No two men see the world exactly alike, and different temperaments will apply in different ways a principle that they both acknowledge. The same man will, indeed, often see and judge the same things differently on different occasions: early convictions must give way to more mature ones. Nevertheless, may not the opinions that a man holds and expresses withstand all trials, if he only remains true to himself and others?

He who has a task to perform must know how to take sides, or he is quite unworthy of it.


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