Talk:Henri-Frédéric Amiel

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  • A man must be able to cut a knot, for everything cannot be untied; he must know how to disengage what is essential from the detail in which it is enwrapped, for everything cannot be equally considered; in a word, he must be able to simplify his duties, his business and his life.
  • Action and faith enslave thought, both of them in order not be troubled or inconvenienced by reflection, criticism, and doubt.
  • Action is coarsened thought; thought becomes concrete, obscure, and unconscious.
  • An error is the more dangerous in proportion to the degree of truth which it contains.
  • Analysis kills spontaneity. The grain once ground into flour springs and germinates no more.
  • Charm is the quality in others that makes us more satisfied with ourselves.
  • Common sense is the measure of the possible; it is composed of experience and prevision; it is calculation applied to life.
    • Variant: Common sense is calculation applied to life.
  • Conquering any difficulty always gives one a secret joy, for it means push back a boundary-line and adding to one`s liberty.
  • Destiny has two ways of crushing us— by refusing our wishes and by fulfilling them.
  • Every life is a profession of faith, and exercises an inevitable and silent influence.
  • Everything you need for better future and success has already been written. And guess what? All you have to do is go to the library.
  • For purposes of action nothing is more useful than narrowness of thought combined with energy of will.
  • Great men are true men, the men in whom nature has succeeded. They are not extraordinary— they are in the true order. It is the other species of men who are not what they ought to be.
  • He who asks of life nothing but the improvement of his own nature... is less liable than anyone else to miss and waste life.
  • I'm not interested in age. People who tell me their age are silly. You're as old as you feel.
  • If nationality is consent, the state is compulsion.
  • In every loving woman there is a priestess of the past— a pious guardian of some affection, of which the object has disappeared.
  • It is by teaching that we teach ourselves, by relating that we observe, by affirming that we examine, by showing that we look, by writing that we think, by pumping that we draw water into the well.
  • It is not what he had, or even what he does which expresses the worth of a man, but what he is.
  • Learn to limit yourself, to content yourself with some definite thing, and some definite work; dare to be what you are, and learn to resign with a good grace all that you are not and to believe in your own individuality.
  • Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the ploughshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring.
  • Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are travelling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.
  • Man becomes man only by his intelligence, but he is man only by his heart.
  • Materialism coarsens and petrifies everything, making everything vulgar, and every truth false.
  • Melancholy is at the bottom of everything, just as at the end of all rivers is the sea. Can it be otherwise in a world where nothing lasts, where all that we have loved or shall love must die? Is death, then, the secret of life? The gloom of an eternal mourning enwraps, more or less closely, every serious and thoughtful soul, as night enwraps the universe.
  • Mozart has the classic purity of light and the blue ocean; Beethoven the romantic grandeur which belongs to the storms of air and sea, and while the soul of Mozart seems to dwell on the ethereal peaks of Olympus, that of Beethoven climbs shuddering the storm-beaten sides of a Sinai. Blessed be they both! Each represents a moment of the ideal life, each does us good. Our love is due to both.
  • Mutual respect implies discretion and reserve even in love itself; it means preserving as much liberty as possible to those whose life we share. We must distrust our instinct of intervention, for the desire to make one's own will prevail is often disguised under the mask of solicitude.
  • Order is a great person's need and their true well being.
  • Order is power.
  • Our duty is to be useful, not according to our desires but according to our powers.
  • Our systems, perhaps, are nothing more than an unconscious apology for our faults— a gigantic scaffolding whose object is to hide from us our favorite sin.
  • Our true history is scarcely ever deciphered by others. The chief part of the drama is a monologue, or rather an intimate debate between God, our conscience, and ourselves. Tears, grieves, depressions, disappointments, irritations, good and evil thoughts, decisions, uncertainties, deliberations— all these belong to our secret, and are almost all incommunicable and intransmissible, even when we try to speak of them, and even when we write them down.
  • Pure truth cannot be assimilated by the crowd; it must be communicated by contagion.
  • Sacrifice still exists everywhere, and everywhere the elect of each generation suffers for the salvation of the rest.
  • Sacrifice, which is the passion of great souls, has never been the law of societies.
  • Self-interest is but the survival of the animal in us. Humanity only begins for man with self-surrender.
  • So long as a person is capable of self-renewal they are a living being.
  • Society lives by faith, and develops by science.
  • Sympathy is the first condition of criticism.
  • Tears are the symbol of the inability of the soul to restrain its emotion and retain its self command.
  • Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.
  • The actors today really need the whip hand. They're so lazy. They haven't got the sense of pride in their profession that the less socially elevated musical comedy and music hall people or acrobats have. The theater has never been any good since the actors became gentlemen.
  • The best path through life is the highway.
  • The fire which enlightens is the same fire which consumes.
  • The man who has no inner-life is a slave to his surroundings.
  • The man who insists upon seeing with perfect clearness before he decides, never decides. Accept life, and you must accept regret.
  • The obscure only exists that it may cease to exist. In it lies the opportunity of all victory and all progress. Whether it call itself fatality, death, night, or matter, it is the pedestal of life, of light, of liberty and the spirit. For it represents resistance— that is to say, the fulcrum of all activity, the occasion for its development and its triumph.
  • The only substance properly so called is the soul.
  • The philosopher is like a man fasting in the midst of universal intoxication. He alone perceives the illusion of which all creatures are the willing playthings; he is less duped than his neighbor by his own nature. He judges more sanely, he sees things as they are. It is in this that his liberty consists— in the ability to see clearly and soberly, in the power of mental record.
  • There is no respect for others without humility in one's self.
  • Thought is a kind of opium; it can intoxicate us, while still broad awake; it can make transparent the mountains and everything that exists.
  • To depersonalize man is the dominant drift of our times.
  • To do easily what is difficult for others is the mark of talent. To do what is impossible for talent is the mark of genius.
    • Variant: Doing easily what others find difficult is talent; doing what is impossible for talent is genius.
  • To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.
  • To know how to suggest is the great art of teaching. To attain it we must be able to guess what will interest; we must learn to read the childish soul as we might a piece of music. Then, by simply changing the key, we keep up the attraction and vary the song.
  • To live we must conquer incessantly, we must have the courage to be happy.
  • To marry unequally is to suffer equally.
  • True humility is contentment.
  • Uncertainty is the refuge of hope.
  • We are never more discontented with others than when we are discontented with ourselves.
  • We become actors without realizing it, and actors without wanting to.
  • We must dare to be happy, and dare to confess it, regarding ourselves always as the depositories, not as the authors of our own job.
  • We only understand that which already within us.
  • What we call little things are merely the causes of great things; they are the beginning, the embryo, and it is the point of departure which, generally speaking, decides the whole future of an existence. One single black speck may be the beginning of a gangrene, of a storm, of a revolution.
  • Whenever conscience speaks with a divided, uncertain, and disputed voice, it is not the voice of God. Descend still deeper into yourself, until you hear nothing but a clear, undivided voice, a voice which does away with doubt and brings with it persuasion, light, and serenity.
  • Will localizes us; thought universalizes us.
  • Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark.
  • Women wish to be loved without a why or a wherefore; not because they are pretty, or good, or well-bred, or graceful, or intelligent, but because they are themselves.
  • Work while you have the light. You are responsible for the talent that has been entrusted to you.
  • Liberty, equality — bad principles! The only true principle for humanity is justice; and justice to the feeble is protection and kindness.
Last modified on 15 April 2009, at 19:33