Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Trust Thyself

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Speak Your Latent Conviction

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,—— and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Man is a Shadow

In what a kind of uncertainty do we live, when a man rises from his bed in the morning, to be uncertain of his return to rest again: or when he lies down to sleep, whether ever he shall rise. Well do the spaniards in their language call man a shadow, for in truth he is no more, his body being so frail and brittle, and exposed to so many dangers, that nothing is more to be admired, than that it should usually subsist so long.

As gold is purified in the furnace, so is the life of a good man purged by adversity…and as adversity and misfortunes have been to some men a means of their promotion, so has prosperity been to others an occasion of their misery.

Cardan, Three Books of Consolation

How Can He Be Happy That Never Felt Grief?

Among advantages which adversity has, this is not the least, that, a man’s misfortunate days once past, he lives the rest of his life with greater delight. Who can relish health, that has never been sick? Who knows the sweetness of his country, so well as he has been long abroad? Or who can take pleasure in riches but he that has been poor? As salt favors meat, so does past misery render our lives more pleasant.

Perhaps you will say i would have pleasure without pain: this is contrary to nature, for joy is continually attended by sorrow, glory with envy, wisdom is not gotten without labor, wealth is not obtained without care, children are kept with trouble, banqueting is attended by sickness, ease with poverty, power with envy, quiet with weariness. Everyman has something to complain of. Some are afflicted with poverty, others want children, this man is sick, that man wants a wife, and this man would be rid of his. But that which is most strange is, that to be happy and liable to no misfortune, is also a calamity.

How can he be happy that never felt grief. This is certain, that without adversity a man cannot live comfortably, nor take delight in mirth without some sorrow. And is it not a comfort in our calamity to have not only one man for a companion, but all mankind.

Truly the adversity of others, never made my misfortunes seem the less: but the unavoidableness of troubles, to which all naturally are subject, has much mitigated my private grieves. For who but a mad man will lament that which cannot be helped. A wise man considering the course of sublunary things, will expect any kind of mishap, and is prepared against the worst.

Cardan, Three Books of Consolation

Strange Intoxication

In the absence of this strange intoxication that outsiders greet with a pitying smile, without this passion, this conviction that ‘millennia had to pass before you were born, and millennia more must wait in silence’ to see if your conjecture will be confirmed–without this you do not possess this vocation for science and should turn your hand to something else. For nothing has any value for a human being as a human being unless he can pursue it with passion.

Max Weber, Science as a Vocation

Pleasure of Suffering

I wished to acquire the simplicity, native feelings, and virtues of savage life; to divest myself of the factitious habits, prejudices and imperfections of civilization…and to find, amidst the solitude and grandeur of the western wilds, more correct views of human nature and of the true interests of man. the season of snows was preferred, that I might experience the pleasure of suffering, and the novelty of danger.

Estwick Evans,
A Pedestrious Tour, of Four Thousand Miles,
Through the Western States and Territories,
During the Winter and Spring of 1818.