What we now want most is closer contact and better understanding between individuals and communities all over the earth and the elimination of that fanatic devotion to exalted ideals of national egoism and pride, which is always prone to plunge the world into primeval barbarism and strife. No league or parliamentary act of any kind will ever prevent such a calamity. These are only new devices for putting the weak at the mercy of the strong.
We think we understand the rules when we become adults but what we really experienced is a narrowing of the imagination.
My whole work drive has been aimed at making people understand each other and then I deliberately write this book, the aim of which is to cause hatred through partial understanding. My father would have called it a smart-alec book. It was full of tricks to make people ridiculous. If I can’t do better I have slipped badly. And that I won’t admit — yet.
In every bit of honest writing in the world… there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love.
If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the songs of a bird? Why does one love the night, flowers, everything around one, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting people have to understand. If only they would realize above all that an artist works of necessity, that he himself is only a trifling bit of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things which please us in the world, though we can’t explain them.
What makes a subject difficult to understand – if it is significant, important – is not that it would take some special instruction about abstruse things to understand it. Rather it is the antithesis between understanding the subject and what most people want to see. Because of this the very things that are most obvious can become the most difficult to understand. What has to be overcome is not a difficulty of the intellect, but of the will.[Das, was den Gegenstand schwer verständlich macht ist – wenn er bedeutend, wichtig, ist – nicht, daß irgendeine besondere Instruktion über abstruse Dinge zu seinem Verständnis erforderlich wäre, sondern der Gegensatz zwischen dem Verstehen des Gegenstandes und dem, was die meisten Menschen sehen wollen. Dadurch kann gerade das Naheliegendste am allerschwersten verständlich werden. Nicht eine Schwierigkeit des Verstandes, sondern des Willens ist zu überwinden.]
There are such beings in the world, perhaps one in a thousand, as the creature you and I should think perfection, where grace and spirit are united to worth, where the manners are equal to the heart and understanding; but such a person may not come in your way, or, if he does, he may not be the eldest son of a man of fortune, the near relation of your particular friend, and belonging to your own county.