A poet is an unhappy creature whose heart is tortured by deepest suffering but whose lips are so formed that when his sighs and cries stream out over them, their sound beomes like the sound of beautiful music . . . . And men flock about the poet saying, Sing for us soon again; that is to say, may new sufferings torture your soul, and may your lips continue to be formed as before.
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Do not interrupt the flight of your soul; do not distress what is best in you; do not enfeeble your spirit with half wishes and half thoughts. Ask yourself and keep on asking until you find the answer, for one may have known something many times, acknowledged it; one may have willed something many times, attempted it - and yet, only the deep inner motion, only the heart's indescribable emotion, only that will convince you that what you have acknowledged belongs to you, that no power can take it from you - for only the truth that builds up is truth for you.
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Do you know of any more overwhelming and humbling expression for God's condescension and extravagance towards us human beings than that He places Himself, so to say, on the same level of choice with the world, just so that we may be able to choose; that God, if language dare speak thus, woos humankind - that He, the eternally strong one, woos sapless humanity? Yet, how insignificant is the young lover's choice between her pursuers by comparison with this choice between God and the world.
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My life is absolutely meaningless. When I consider the different periods into which it falls, it seems like the word Schnur in the dictionary, which means in the first place a string, in the second, a daughter-in-law. The only thing lacking is that the word Schnur should mean in the third place a camel, in the fourth, a dust-brush.
Every human being is tried this way in the active service of expectancy. Now comes the fulfillment and relieves him, but soon he is again placed on reconnaissance for expectancy; then he isagain relieved, but as long as there is any future for him, he has not yet finished his service. And while human life goes on this way in very diverse expectancy, expecting very differentthings according to different times and occasions and in different frames of mind, all life is again one nightwatch of expectancy.
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Christ was crucified because he would have nothing to do with the crowd (even though he addressed himself to all). He did not want to form a party, an interest group, a mass movement, but wanted to be what he was, the truth, which is related to the single individual. Therefore everyone who will genuinely serve the truth is by that very fact a martyr. To win a crowd is no art; for that only untruth is needed, nonsense, and a little knowledge of human passions. But no witness to the truth dares to get involved with the crowd.
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It is a wonderful thing to see a first-rate philosopher at prayer. Tough-minded thinking and tenderhearted reverence are friends, not enemies. We have for too long separated the head from the heart, and we are the lesser for it. We love God with the mind and we love God with the heart. In reality, we are descending with the mind into the heart and there standing before God in ceaseless wonder and endless praise. As the mind and the heart work in concert, a kind of loving rationality pervades all we say and do. This brings unity to us and glory to God.
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What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music.... And people flock around the poet and say: 'Sing again soon' - that is, 'May new sufferings torment your soul but your lips be fashioned as before, for the cry would only frighten us, but the music, that is blissful.
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No, I won't leave the world--I'll enter a lunatic asylum and see if the profundity of insanity reveals to me the riddles of life. Idiot, why didn't I do that long ago, why has it taken me so long to understand what it means when the Indians honour the insane, step aside for them? Yes, a lunatic asylum--don't you think I may end up there?
If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin. Even though the result may gladden the whole world, that cannot help the hero; for he knows the result only when the whole thing is over, and that is not how he became a hero, but by virtue of the fact that he began.
Knowledge of the truth I may perhaps have attained to; happiness certainly not. What shall I do? Accomplish something in the world, men tell me. Shall I then publish my grief to the world, contribute one more proof for the wretchedness and misery of existence, perhaps discover a new flaw in human life, hitherto unnoticed? I might then reap the rare reward of becoming famous, like the man who discovered the spots on Jupiter. I prefer, however, to keep silent.
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In order to help another effectively, I must understand what he understands. If I do not know that, my greater understanding will be of no help to him... instruction begins when you put yourself in his place so that you may understand what he understands and in the way he understands it.
If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the bottom of everything there were only a wild ferment, a power that twisting in dark passions produced everything great or inconsequential; if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid beneath everything, what would life be but despair?
You love the accidental. A smile from a pretty girl in an interesting situation, a stolen glance, that is what you are hunting for, that is a motif for your aimless fantasy. You who always pride yourself on being an observateur must, in return, put up with becoming an object of observation. Ah, you are a strange fellow, one moment a child, the next an old man; one moment you are thinking most earnestly about the most important scholarly problems, how you will devote your life to them, and the next you are a lovesick fool. But you are a long way from marriage.
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What kind of power is it that dares intrude between me and my bride, the bride I myself have chosen and who has chosen me? And this power would command her to be true to me; does she then need to be so commanded? And is she to be true to me only because a third party commands it, one whom she therefore loves more than me?
It is quite true what Philosophy says: that Life must be understood backwards. But that makes one forget the other saying: that it must be lived /forwards. The more one ponders this, the more it comes to mean that life in the temporal existence never becomes quite intelligible, precisely because at no moment can I find complete quiet to take the backward-looking position.
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Christianity does not oppose debauchery and uncontrollable passions and the like as much as it opposes... flat mediocrity, this nauseating atmosphere, this homey, civil togetherness, where admittedly great crimes, wild excesses, and powerful aberrations cannot easily occur - but where God's unconditional demand has even greater difficulty in accomplishing what it requires: the majestic obedience of submission.
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If someone who wanted to learn to dance were to say: For centuries, one generation after the other has learned the positions, and it is high time that I take advantage of this and promptly begin with the quadrille--people would presumably laugh a little at him, but in the world of spirit this is very plausible. What, then, is education? I believed it is the course the individual goes through in order to catch up with himself, and the person who will not go through this course is not much helped by being born in the most enlightened age.
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And then the spirit brings hope, hope in the strictest Christian sense, hope which is hoping against hope. For an immediate hope exists in every person; it may be more powerfully alive in one person than in another; but in death every hope of this kind dies and turns into hopelessness. Into this night of hopelessness (it is death that we are describing) comes the life-giving spirit and brings hope, the hope of eternity. It is against hope, for there was no longer any hope for that merely natural hope; this hope is therefore a hope contrary to hope.
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