Wisdom of Life

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: On the Wisdom and the Purpose of Life

“All of us have life; few of us have an idea of it.”

“What is important in life is life, and not the result of life.”

“Life is the childhood of our immortality.”

The important thing in life is to have a great aim, and the determination to attain it. Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes. To the person with a firm purpose all men and things are servants. Be always resolute with the present hour. Every moment is of infinite value.

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, power and grace. It is not enough to take steps which may someday lead to a goal; each step must be itself a goal and a step likewise. Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.

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… In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or is dehumanized.

One cannot develop taste from what is of average quality but only from the very best. We must plunge into experience and then reflect on the meaning of it. Nothing is more disgusting than the majority: because it consists of a few powerful predecessors, of rogues who adapt themselves, of weak who assimilate themselves, and the masses who imitate without knowing at all what they want. A person hears only what they understand. The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything. Ignorant men raise questions that wise men answered a thousand years ago.

“The best government is that which teaches us to govern ourselves.”

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. We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe. God made man simple, but how he changed and got complicated is hard to say. Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.

A reasonable man needs only to practice moderation to find happiness. A man who cannot command himself will always be a slave. The highest happiness of man … is to have probed what is knowable and quietly to revere what is unknowable. He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul. To the world you might be one person, but to one person, you might be the world. Kindness is the golden chain by which our world is bound together. You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.

A wife is a gift bestowed upon a man to reconcile him to the loss of paradise. The eternal feminine draws us on high. When a wife has a good husband, it is easily seen on her face.

We can’t form our children on our own concepts; we must take them and love them as God gives them to us. Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, too zealously, to make it easy for them. There are two things parents should give their children roots and wings. Roots to give them bearing and a sense of belonging, but also wings to help free them from constraints and prejudices and give them other ways to travel (or rather, to fly).

Nine requisites for contented living: Health enough to make work a pleasure. Wealth enough to support your needs. Strength to battle with difficulties and overcome them. Grace enough to confess your sins and forsake them. Patience enough to toil until some good is accomplished. Charity enough to see some good in your neighbor. Love enough to move you to be useful and helpful to others. Faith enough to make real the things of God. Hope enough to remove all anxious fears concerning the future.

“If nature is your teacher, your soul will awaken.”

“Gray are all the theories, but green is the tree of life.”

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”


~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, statesman, theatre director, and critic. His works include plays, poetry, literature and aesthetic criticism, and treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour. He is considered to be the greatest German literary figure of the modern era.

Quotes from Goethe’s works.

©Excellence Reporter 2021

Categories: Wisdom of Life

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