“I am proud of my heart alone, it is the sole source of everything, all our strength, happiness and misery. All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther
I was thinking about Goethe after my traveling companion asked me why I was so happy to come across a statue erected in his honor in Vienna. I suppose this quote offers some insight. Goethe distinguished himself as a deep thinker in a city jammed full of them. We all seek knowledge in our quest to become something more, but our heart points the way and determines how far we actually go. Our knowledge quest isn’t unique to us, many of us seek amelioration. The heart ultimately tips the scales for how rich and fulfilling our lives will be.
Absorbing knowledge is helpful when we do something with it. The homeless man asking me for money in the park easily pivoted from German to English when I responded with my basic skills in his native language. Which of us has more knowledge? Which of us can read Goethe without translation? We are what we either seek or ignore. Knowledge is but a starting point for becoming what we might be.
Traveling, reading, learning a language, and trying to capture experiences in words are each forms of seeking knowledge. Goethe’s hard stare and his translated words remind me that I have work to do. Do I have the heart to get it done?