Goethe’s third tendency

Our wishes are presentiments of capabilities that lie within us, harbingers of what we shall be able to accomplish.  The things we can and would like to do are presented to us by our imagination as being beyond us and in the future; and we feel a longing for something already latent in us.  Thus our passionate reaching out in advance transforms a true possibility into an imaginary reality.  If a particular tendency is definitely in our nature, then a part of our early wish will be fulfilled at every step of our development, in a straight line if circumstances are favorable, and if they are unfavorable, then in a roundabout way from which we constantly turn back to the right one.  So people are seen attaining to earthly goods through their perseverance; they surround themselves with riches, magnificence, and outward honor.  Even more surely, others strive for spiritual advantages; they acquire a clear overview of things, peace of mind, and security for the present and future.

However, there is also a third tendency, which as a mixture of the other two must be the one surest of success.  If, that is to say, a person’s youth coincides with a pregnant epoch, one in which productivity predominates over destruction, and his presentiments about the demands and promises of such a time awaken early, then, urged on by outward incentives to participate actively, he will reach out in all directions, and the wish will stir in him to be effective in a variety of endeavors.  Now, in addition to his human limitations, so many incidental hindrances will arise that either a project begun does not progress, or something grasped falls out of his hand, and one wish after the other disintegrates.  However, if his wishes have issued from a pure heart and meet the requirements of the time, then he may calmly let things lie as they fall, right and left, in full confidence that they will not only be discovered and picked up again, but that many related matters, not touched on or even thought of, will also come to light.  If, during the course of our life, we see others accomplish what we ourselves earlier felt it was our calling to do, but had to abandon along with much else, then we get the beautiful feeling that mankind in combination is the only true human being, and that the individual can be glad and happy only when he has the courage to feel himself part of the whole.

Goethe, From My Life:  Poetry and Truth, Book 9

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