>Selected Maxims & Reflections of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

>The clearest indicator of character is what people find laughable.

Difficulties increase the nearer we get to the goal.

Human nature needs to be numbed from time to time.

Painting and tattooing the body is a return to animality.

What you don’t understand, you don’t possess.

People are put out because truth is so simple.

What was discovered long ago is buried again.

When a rainbow has lasted as long as a quarter of an hour we stop looking at it.

It is much easier to recognize error than to find truth; the former lies on the surface, this is quite manageable; the latter resides in depth, and this quest is not everyone’s business.

You can neither protect nor defend yourself against criticism; you have to act in defiance of it and this is gradually accepted.

One can’t live for everyone, more especially not for those with whom one wouldn’t care to live.

You really only know when you know little; doubt grows with knowledge.

You ask which form of government is the best? Whichever teaches us to govern ourselves.

There is nothing more dreadful than active ignorance.

It is hard to come to terms with the errors of the times: if you oppose them, you stand alone; if you allow yourself to be caught up in them, you get neither honour nor joy in the process.

Tell me with whom you consort and I will tell you who you are; if I know how you spend your time, then I know what might become of you.

The greatest evil of our time – which lets nothing come to fruition – is, I think that one moment consumes the next, wastes the day within that same day and so is always living from hand to mouth without achieving anything of substance.

To find and to appreciate goodness everywhere is the sign of a love of truth.

One is really only alive when one enjoys the good will of others.

One who is content just to experience life and act accordingly has all the truth he needs. This is the wisdom of the growing child.

You can’t get rid of what really belongs to you, even if you throw it away.

Advancing years bring greater trials.

Knowledge is not enough, we have to apply it; wanting is not enough, there has to be action.

‘Nothing in the world except health and virtue is more to be treasured than knowledge and learning; nor is anything so easily attainable and so cheap to acquire: all you have to do is to be still, all you have to spend is time, something we cannot save in any other way than by spending it.’

‘Nothing should be treasured more highly than the value of the day.’

‘Nature hides God!’ But not from everyone!

Everybody wants to be whole.

He who doesn’t see his lover’s faults as virtues is not in love.

There is no situation which cannot be ennobled by work or else by endurance.

We’re only really thinking when we can’t think out fully what we are thinking about!

Nothing is sadder than to watch the absolute urge for the unconditional in this altogether conditional world.

What actually is invention? It is the conclusion of what has been sought.

He who has the understanding to declare his limitations is closest to perfection.

That is why we quite rightly say: ‘Whoever wants to deceive people must first of all make absurdity plausible.’

Three things are not recognized except in the due course of time:
A hero in wartime,
A wise man in a rage,
A friend in need.

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