Quotes from Goethe’s  “The Sorrows of Young Werther”

At 23 Goethe wrote a book in 6 weeks that transformed his life from a wild reckless dreamer into one of the most profound sages that has ever lived.  His wisdom in 1774 is undeniable and inspiring!

“The human race is a monotonous affair. Most people spend the greatest part of their time working in order to live, and what little freedom remains so fills them with fear that they seek out any and every means to be rid of it.” 

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 

“No one is willing to believe that adults too, like children, wander about this earth in a daze and, like children, do not know where they come from or where they are going, act as rarely as they do according to genuine motives, and are as thoroughly governed as they are by biscuits and cake and the rod.” 

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Is this the destiny of man? Is he only happy before he has acquired his reason or after he has lost it?” 

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“The suffering may be moral or physical; and in my opinion it is just as absurd to call a man a coward who destroys himself, as to call a man a coward who dies of a malignant fever.”

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Every day I observe more and more the folly of judging of others by ourselves; and I have so much trouble with myself, and my own heart is in such constant agitation, that I am well content to let others pursue their own course, if they only allow me the same privilege.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“In happy ignorance, I sighed for a world I did not know, where I hoped to find every pleasure and enjoyment which my heart could desire; and now, on my return from that wide world… how many disappointed hopes and unsuccessful plans have I brought back!” 

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“He values my understanding and talents more highly than my heart, but I am proud of the latter only. It is the sole source of everything of our strength, happiness, and misery. All the knowledge I possess every one else can acquire, but my heart is exclusively my own.” 

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“We often feel that we lack something, and seem to see that very quality in someone else, promptly attributing all our own qualities to him too, and a kind of ideal contentment as well. And so the happy mortal is a model of complete perfection–which we have ourselves created.” 

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“I examine my own being, and find there a world, but a world rather of imagination and dim desires, than of distinctness and living power. Then everything swims before my senses, and I smile and dream while pursuing my way through the world.” 

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Must it ever be thus-that the source of our happiness must also be the fountain of our misery? The full and ardent sentiment which animated my heart with the love of nature, overwhelming me with a torrent of delight, and which brought all paradise before me, has now become an insupportable torment, a demon which perpetually pursues and harasses me.” 

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“A dim vastness is spread before our souls; the perceptions of our mind are as obscure as those of our vision… But alas! when we have attained our object, when the distant ‘there’ becomes the present ‘here,’ all is changed; we are as poor and circumscribed as ever, and our souls still languish for unattainable happiness.” 

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“I am amazed to see how deliberately I have entangled myself step by step. To have seen my position so clearly, and yet to have acted so like a child!” 

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“It is in vain that a man of sound mind and cool temper understands the condition of such a wretched being… He can no more communicate his own wisdom to him than a healthy man can instil his strength into the invalid by whose bedside he is seated.” 

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“When I consider the narrow limits within which our active and inquiring faculties are confined; when I see how all our energies are wasted in providing for mere necessities, which again have no further end than to prolong a wretched existence; and then that all our satisfaction concerning certain subjects of investigation ends in nothing better than a passive resignation… when I consider all this… I am silent.” 

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Since you know me and my destiny only too well, you probably also know what attracts me to all unfortunate people.” 

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“How many kings are governed by their ministers, how many ministers by their secretaries? Who, in such cases, is really the chief?” 

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Am I Taking Crazy Pills?!?

 My daughters Augmentin suspension was lost somewhere in the transfer process between the common American tradition of transferring kids between divorced parents.  A relatively new socially acceptable phenomenon, designed so those parents can be free of the last devil they were married to, whilst awaiting for the prescribed period of time that their subsequent mate will too require an exorcism.


Brooklyn 4, just getting over an eye, ear, and formidable sinus infection with consistent fevers approaching 103 for a few days, was but 5 days through her 10 day bug killing regime.


Upon picking up her second prescription the pharmacist sheepishly informed me that my insurance wouldn’t cover the seconds prescription, so……



Oh! That’s ok, fill the prescription anyway. 


Pharmacist: (With an incredulous look on his face) 

You still wanna get it?


Stop!!!   This is where the Unaware miss the point!!!!!!


Yes, it was nice that Nixon fostered an environment, with his wage freezes, for employers to offer health benefits as a way to reward and entice new employees to work for them.  


But like all things that are our own personal responsibility (life and health), when the burden of responsibility gets shifted away from the individual and onto some other responsible entity, we soon forget about it and eventually can even indignantly come to rely on something outside of ourselves for part of our own well-being and comfort.


Like frogs in a pot of water being brought to a boil, we don’t notice the heat relative to the last few minutes.  It’s perspective through the frame of history, our own awareness and our own angst to “know” that reveals to us that we’re all being numbed by the rising temperatures of the common vessel we all share.


The pervasive and assumed belief that we all place such a high value on money, and the false sense of security it provides, over people is the noxious ether that keeps us bound.  


Because it must be someone else’s responsibility, as the masses necessarily project their responsibility outside of themselves as part of an egocentric soothing mechanism, we march in the streets and strategize for our rights (needs) to be given us.  This isn’t a political problem, it’s an internal one that is rarely considered.


It couldn’t be me!, I just work here!, I pay me bills in time and I pay my taxes!  In a good person and a good American!…….



No Pain……No Gain!

(At one point I wanted that to be the tag line for my dental practice, but I digress😉)

The risk of failure, of Pain,

The thing that we seek to prevent the most in our lives, 

just happens to be the very thing that fuels our growth 

and gives us the passion to truly live.”


While visiting the Italian Amalfi Coast several years ago, I was struck by the care-free nature of the Italians on their little motorino’s on such precarious motorways!  At first this was a very shocking experience to the relatively conservative hyper-safety conscious sensibilities of an American such as myself.  

In various states of dress and numbering up to four people, little “college student type” mopeds, would shoot around my car on “blind corners” as I cautiously navigated a single laned road barely wide enough to accommodate my subcompact 3 cylinder conveyance.  Their nonchalant demeanors had me slack jawed and nearly cursing at their cavalier hubris!

With sighs and ululations, we made our way down the 250+ steps of hewn stone steps cut into the side of a rock cliff.  Rounding our last switchback, a magical villa adorned with thistle colored bougainvillea overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea was revealed to us.  The sweat on my brow and the discontent in my heart and mind vanished in an instant and was replaced by an overwhelming sense of awe and gratitude.

On the kitchen table lay a set of instructions attempting to allay the fears of we timid sojourners.  The note read, “We Italians don’t care so much about safety, so relax and it will all be ok”, or something to that effect.  This provided us much fodder for subsequent conversations as to the superiority of our rule based, predictable and safe culture back home.

Though I’ve always been a risk taker, it still took me a few years after that experience to understand the gravity of that little note on the kitchen table.  Being safe keeps us breathing, it just doesn’t foster much passion for living. 

Scholasticism: Separating The Whole?!

“Goethe — not a German event but a European one: a magnificent attempt to overcome the eighteenth century by a return to nature, by an ascent to the naturalness of the Renaissance — a kind of self-overcoming on the part of that century. 

He bore its strongest instincts within himself: the sensibility, the idolatry of nature, the anti-historic, the idealistic, the unreal and revolutionary… 

He sought help from history, natural science, antiquity, and also Spinoza, but, above all from practical activity; he surrounded himself with limited horizons; he did not retire from life but put himself into the midst of it; he was not fainthearted but took as much as possible upon himself, over himself, into himself. 

What he wanted was totality; he fought the mutual extraneousness of reason, senses. feeling, and will preached with the most abhorrent scholasticism by Kant, the antipode of Goethe); 

he disciplined himself to wholeness. he created himself.”
-Frederick Nietzsche, writing about Johann Goethe;

Like so many that idolized him, Nietzsche was influenced by Goethe’s disdain and rebellious nature for what was not truth!  Goethe was against the breaking apart of the whole into the particulars, as evidenced by the entirety of his life’s works!

“When it [philosophy) specializes in separating, I do not get along with it; and it has harmed me at times, I daresay, by interfering with the natural course of my development. But when it is bent on uniting, or, I should rather say, when it intensifies our original feeling that we are one with nature; when it secures this feeling and transforms it into a deep, steady intuition of the divine life in its ceaseless ebb and flow, even if such is not for us mortals to lead — then I welcome philosophy, and you can gauge my interest in your work accordingly.”

-Goethe, writing to Frederich Jacobi

Nietzsche mentions the scholasticism of Kant.  

Thomas Aquinas, the Doctor of the Catholic Church, who merged Neoplatonism and Aristotle with Christianity, forming much of the church’s canon, liturgy and philosophy, was the founder is the scholastic philosophy.  

This blending of scientific inquiry with religious dogma and the separating of the whole into subjects through didactic instruction, is largely the way we still educate the masses.  We teach the pieces, but put no emphasis on integrating the whole! 

Antidepressants, My Brave New World! 

Since I first heard of the concept of antidepressants, like so many other technique based shortcuts and cure-alls that we’re all so fond of these days, I knew they were inherently a bad idea.  

When I was 13, I read Aldous Huxley’s, “Brave New World” and it, like I was learning in the psychology classes I attended at the same time (with my mother as she went back to complete her college degree), revealed to me the parallel lesson of the mistake of walling off emotions.  This was 1980 and psychotropics weren’t as ubiquitously prescribed as they are today, but I knew I’d never come to rely on them.  But then there have been many things I’ve intended not to do that I’ve reasoned myself into doing along the way.

In Huxley’s dystopian novel, it’s considered silly to feel bad, so everyone is provided with, and encouraged to consume, the somewhat hallucinogenic drug, Soma.  Like similar tales, the society is designed to be predictable and to remove fear and all unpleasant feelings from the human experience, including confusing thoughts, creativity, guilt, shame, embarrassment, etc.  The benevolent State controls nearly all aspects of daily living, including all reproductive processes and the subsequent conditioning of all people.  It literally creates (genetically modified embryos) and assigns it test-tube grown citizens with specific physical and mental facilities for specific jobs to the benefit of the whole, a scenario that seems so ludicrous but is it that much of a stretch to become our reality?

Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, around age 37, I was in the midst of a severe unconscious existential crisis.  At 29, I had literally woken up in an acute, albeit hidden, breakdown from my frenzied unfocused angst of becoming the successful human “Doing” I’d thought I was supposed to be.  I set out to make sense of where I had found myself, and so with no guidebook and no guide, I read every book I could get my hands on.  Incessant striving and planning and reasoning were my tools, and though I gained much knowledge of facts and figures, they were all just jumbled up in my noggin.

So nearing 40 and at my wits end I justified my use of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.  I was a pharmacist after all, among other things, so knowing the pharmacological mechanism, I allowed my intellect to rationalize my transformation into a smart zombie.  I lost myself then, no access to my higher intuitive facilities and I became more reliant on my lower instincts to make it through the work week and my life.  I stopped learning new things, I stopped reaching and I learned to desperately cope…..kinda. 

My wife, now my ex, encouraged me to seek out the ever more exotic psychological diagnoses, as she was certain I was bipolar, or perhaps narcissistic, or maybe both?  So I with little argument, explored all of the possibilities that might be foiling my attempts to be a good husband and father.  I, still possessing some sense in my head, chose both weekly counseling sessions, that forced me to look inside, as I also submitted to a litany of medications to rule out all possible psychological maladies.

After there seemed to be no cure, for the incorrigible and unfixable person that was me, eventually but now predictably, my 23 year relationship ended.  As the dust settled and my pharmaceutically fogged head cleared, I found I was right where I had left myself all those years ago.  I began to start reaching again, reading, writing, giving, connecting, I was again the lunatic that left minded types love to suppress, but right minded types attract to so easily.  The dots, that were just dots, began to connect with ever increasing speed and intensity, as if trying to catch up from the catatonia I had put myself into. The space, absent restrictive influences and the power I gave them, was the prescription I’d needed all along!

So, my opinion on the matter of relying on antidepressants for not being depressed, especially for more right minded folks like my opinion on so many short cuts, techniques and panaceas is founded in my experience and though it ain’t always fun, I wouldn’t change a thing!

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