“Courage”–Charles Wagner

Where is this good, of which I speak, to be found? We must seek for it. Those who seek for it and are capable of seeing it, will find it. I urge many young people to investigate this unknown region. They will discover many salutary herbs which will serve them as elixirs.

The truth is, that no one has any idea of the number of good people who live about us. The amount of suffering patiently borne, the injuries pardoned, the sacrifices made, the disinterested efforts, are impossible to count. It is a world full of unknown splendours, like the profound grottoes lighted by the marvellous lamp of Aladdin. These are the reserves of the future; these are the silent streams that run beneath the earth, and without which the sources of good would long since have become exhausted, and the world have returned to barbarism. Happy is he who can explore the sacred depths! At first, one feels profane, small, out of place. There are people of such a simple benevolence, of such natural disinterestedness, that one feels poor and unworthy beside them; but this is a grief which is salutary, a humiliation which exalts us. What can be better for a young man than to feel himself small and inferior in the presence of truth, of abnegation, and of pure goodness? If he is troubled, moved, bewildered, downcast; if he weeps; if his life, when compared with those which he sees about him, seems to him like a childish sketch by the side of a canvas of a great master, — so much the better for him. This humility is a proof in his favour, and places him at once in the path of progress. They say that young nightingales, whose voices are not yet formed, are very unhappy when they come into the presence of those older birds who fill the nights of summer with their music. When they hear them, they cease to sing, and remain silent for a long time. This is neither from a spirit of envy nor ill temper; but the ideal presented to them bewilders and disturbs them. They listen, they are intoxicated by the melody, and while thinking, perhaps, in their little bird brains, — “I can never hope to equal thee!” they become so inspired that they end by singing in their turn. Hail to the good listener!

5 responses

  1. Kant’s version of us, young nightingales:

    “Fontenelle says, ‘I bow before a great man, but my mind does not bow.’ I would add, before an humble plain man, in whom I perceive uprightness of character in a higher degree than I am conscious of in myself,— my mind bows whether I choose it or not, and though I bear my head never so high that he may not forget my superior rank. Why is this? Because his example exhibits to me a law that humbles my self-conceit when I compare it with my conduct: a law, the practicability of obedience to which I see proved by fact before my eyes… Respect is a tribute which we cannot refuse to merit, whether we will or not; we may indeed outwardly withhold it, but we cannot help feeling it inwardly.” (CPR, III)

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