Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Picture of Goethe and quote

Among many other things, Goethe is famous for his simple and profound expressions of common wisdom. He published many of these in his book Maxims and Reflections, which is available for free at Project Gutenberg.

Why Goethe?

I like to think of Goethe as something of an arch-nemesis. On the one hand, he's probably the most impressively talented human being in recorded history. On the other hand, he represents everything I oppose, having pioneered the Romantic secularism which made the ideological death cults of the 20th and 21st centuries possible.

The explanation of this relies on Ernest Becker's book The Denial of Death. From the wiki:

"Immortality projects are one way that people manage death anxiety. Some people, however, will keep themselves drunk or use drugs to escape their anxiety in the face of death.[3] Others will try to manage the terror of death by ignoring the problem and by “tranquilizing oneself with the trivial.” (A term Becker borrows from Kierkegaard.) Becker describes the success of the Christian world picture as being able to take “slaves, cripples... the simple and the mighty” and turn them into heroes of their own story by looking beyond this world to the heavenly realm where they will be rewarded for their heroism by God and live with Him forever.[4]

"Becker argues that the arbitrariness of human-invented immortality projects makes them naturally prone to conflict. When one immortality project conflicts with another, it is essentially an accusation of 'wrongness of life', and so sets the context for both aggressive and defensive behavior. Each party will want to prove its belief system is superior, a better way of life. Thus these immortality projects are considered a fundamental driver of human conflict, such as in wars, bigotry, genocide, and racism.[citation needed]

"Another theme running throughout the book is that humanity's traditional "hero-systems", such as religion, are no longer convincing in the age of reason. However, he argued the loss of religion leaves humanity with impoverished resources for necessary illusions. Science attempts to serve as an immortality project, something that Becker believes it can never do because it is unable to provide agreeable, absolute meanings to human life. The book states that we need new convincing "illusions" that enable us to feel heroic in ways that are agreeable.[5] Becker, however, does not provide any definitive answer, mainly because he believes that there is no perfect solution. Instead, he hopes that gradual realization of humanity's innate motivations, namely death, can help to bring about a better world."

Testimonial to Goethe's influence

“It is difficult to overestimate the value of Goethe’s work to humanity. The bequest which he left to the world in his writings, and in the whole intellectual result of his life, is not as yet appreciated at its full worth; because, intellectually, the world has not yet caught up to him. His influence today asserts itself in a hundred minute ways—even where no one suspects it. The century has received the stamp and impress of his mighty personality. The intellectual currents of the age, swelled and amplified by later tributaries, flow today in the directions which Goethe indicated.” - Hjalmar Boyesen, The Life of Goethe (1885)

Goethe's superhuman talents

To read a summary of the remarkable achievements outlined in this video, read the subheading dedicated to Goethe in this ranking of high-IQ historical figures. It's about 1/3 of the way down the page. For example:

"at age 7, to sugar the pill of grammar, he invented a novel in which the members of a family in various parts of the world wrote letters to each other in six different languages and styles" (emphasis added).

Maxim generator

Coming soon, once I learn how to code it. This will be good practice for handling JSON objects.