“My things cannot become popular; whoever thinks of that or exerts himself to that end is in error. They are not written for the mass but for single human beings who want and seek something similar and move in a similar direction.”—Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann, Oct. 11, 1828
I have a weakness for quotes. Granted, they make good starting points. But I don’t exactly trust them anymore either. We quote others because we no longer think for ourselves. The majority that is, the overriding, vast majority that is… Goethe’s mass… virtually all of us.
I’m being polite.
I read that quote in a book on Nietzsche, who was definitely one of Goethe’s ‘single human beings’, paying a heavy price for it too. How heavy? How’s ten years of certifiable madness?
The solitude, though, hasn’t changed, although we have. Thank heaven. We’ve become more accepting of dissent—for the time being that is, more open to diverse opinions, ideas, outlooks. It won’t help us, mind you, being part of the general disintegration, the age’s psycho-spiritual dissolution and malaise. But it does make following in the train of Goethe, Nietzsche, Spengler and Campbell less onerous.
One can go about one’s life with a smile and a shrug. Life is a wonderful, precious thing… in absolutely every way. Trouble in the Middle East? We (us humans) bring it upon ourselves. Injustice, cruelty, corruption, impending catastrophe… to borrow the words of another—different time, different place, differing circumstances—“they know not what they do.”
But there, you no doubt get the reference… and that’s not necessarily a good thing. It comes with baggage and inevitable misunderstanding.
As all things do these days.
I smile to myself writing this. In my head I see the Omphalos Cafe as a sort of open Zen monastery, without the Home Depot carpenter’s apron and the ceremonial bric-a-brac. What is Zen but a jettisoning of the baggage and a direct experience of…? Ahh, but some things shouldn’t be named.
At any rate, over time I’ve discouraged comments. Boxing people’s ears or pummelling them with a staff when they trot out their baggage is no longer permitted.
Anyway, here’s to solitude!