Monday, January 28, 2008


Here are three quotations on the subject of solitude from Montaigne, Goethe, and Pascal.

From Montaigne's Essais:
"The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself."
From Dichtung und Wahrheit, Book 15:
"The common destiny of man, which we all have to bear. . . . We may grow up under the protection of parents and relatives, we may find support from brothers and sisters and friends, we may be entertained by acquaintances and made happy by beloved persons. But still, the finale [das Final] is always that man is thrown back upon himself, and it seems as if even the Deity had taken such a position toward man so as not always to be able to respond to his reverence, trust, and love -- at least not precisely in the moment of urgency."
From Pascal's Pensees:
"I know not who put me into the world, nor what the world is, nor what I myself am. I am in terrible ignorance of everything. I know now what my body is, nor my senses, nor my soul, not even that part of me which thinks what I say, which reflects on all and on itself, and knows itself no more than the rest. I see those frightful spaces of the universe which surround me, and I find myself tied to one corner of this vast expanse, without knowing why I am put in this place rather than in another, nor why the short time which is given me to live is assigned to me at this point rather than at another of the whole eternity which was before me or which shall come after me. I see nothing but infinites on all sides, which srround me as an atom, and as a shadow which endures only for an instant and returns no more. All I know is that I must soon die, but what I know least is this very death which I cannot escape."

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