No Comment, Quotation — November 20, 2010, 7:27 am

Goethe – Friendships of Youth

13friend

Wenn wir immer vorsichtig genug wären und uns mit Freunden nur von Einer Seite verbänden, von der sie wirklich mit uns harmoniren, und ihr übriges Wesen weiter nicht in Anspruch nähmen, so würden die Freundschaften weit dauerhafter und ununterbrochner seyn. Gewöhnlich aber ist es ein Jugendfehler, den wir selbst im Alter nicht ablegen, daß wir verlangen, der Freund solle gleichsam ein anderes Ich seyn, solle mit uns nur ein Ganzes ausmachen, worüber wir uns denn eine Zeit lang täuschen, das aber nicht lange dauern kann.

Das sicherste Mittel ein freundschaftliches Verhältniß zu hegen und zu erhalten, finde ich darin, daß man sich wechselweise mittheile, was man thut. Denn die Menschen treffen viel mehr zusammen in dem, was sie thun, als in dem, was sie denken.

If only we were always cautious enough and were to ally ourselves with friends from one side only, namely that which really harmonizes with us and upon whose further nature we would stake no claim, then friendships would be longer lasting and without interruption. Usually however it is a mistake of youth which we continue even into old age that we demand of our friends that they be a second I, that they should make with us one whole, about which we then deceive ourselves for a while, but that cannot last long.

The surest means of nursing and preserving a friendship consists, I find, of sharing with one another what one is doing. Humans overlap far more often in what they do than in what they think.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe, letter to Siegmund August Wolfgang Herder, Dec. 1798 in Goethes Werke (Weimar ed.), Abt. IV, vol. 13, pp. 366-67 (S.H. transl.)

Listen to Claudio Arrau perform Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 26, “Les Adieux”

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