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Joseph Joubert (1754–1824). Joubert: A Selection from His Thoughts. 1899.

Chapter IV.

Of the Passions and Affections

[1]THE PASSIONS must be purified; by good guidance and control they can all be made innocent. Even hatred may be praiseworthy when it arises only from a keen love of good. Whatever purifies the passions strengthens them, makes them more lasting, and the sources of greater delight.

[2]We employ in the service of our passions the stuff that was given us for happiness.

[3]Passions of the mind, and ambitions of the body, are both monstrosities.

[4]The passions are but nature; it is impenitence that corrupts.

[5]Repentance is nature’s effort to rid the soul of its corrupting forces.

[6]Remorse is the punishment of crime; repentance is its expiation. The one belongs to a tormented conscience, the other to a soul that has changed for the better.

[7]Ignorance and vice are the sources of distrust, as enlightenment and virtue are the sources of trust. Suspicion is the portion of the blind.

[8]All the passions seek what feeds them: fear loves the idea of danger.

[9]Sentiment makes everything but itself seem insipid; that is its drawback. It is also the great drawback of pleasure that it creates a distaste for reason.

[10]The man who fears pleasure is of finer stuff than the man who hates it.

[11]There is much coldness of soul in every kind of excess;—it is the deliberate and voluntary abuse of pleasure.

[12]Nothing dwarfs a man so much as petty pleasures.

[13]The man who sings when he is alone, and when, so to speak, his whole being is at a standstill, shows by this alone a certain balance and harmony in his condition; all his strings are in tune.

[14]Good temper is fruitful in happy fancies, in fair vistas, in hopes, and plans of pleasure. Good temper is to the pleasures of man what imagination is to the fine arts—it delights in them, loves, multiplies, creates them.

[15]Gaiety clears the mind, especially in literature; tedium confuses it; great tension warps it; the sublime refreshes it.

[16]Grace resides in garments, movements, or manner. Beauty in the nude, and in form. This is true of the body; but when it is a question of feelings, beauty lies in their spiritual quality, and grace in their reserve.

[17]Grief tends to an equilibrium. Tranquillity of life may sometimes be a counterpoise to the weight of a moment’s despair.

[18]In both anger and grief there is a spring, that we must know both how to hold, and how to let go.

[19]It is always our incapacities that irritate us.

[20]Happiness is to feel one’s soul good; there is really no other, and one may have this happiness even in sorrow: hence there are some griefs that are preferable to any joy, and that would be preferred by all who have felt them.

[21]One element in all happiness is to feel that we have deserved it.

[22]Those who love always have no leisure to pity themselves, or to be unhappy.

[23]We must not only cultivate our friends, but our own power of friendship; we must preserve it with care, tend it and water it, so to speak.

[24]He who cannot idealise what he sees is a bad painter, a bad friend, a bad lover; he cannot raise his heart and mind to the point of affection.

[25]We must offer our esteem to our friends, as we would a meal, in which everything is abundant—without taxing or curtailing any part of it.

[26]Those who watch with a malicious eye for the faults of their friends discover them with joy. He cannot be a friend who is never a dupe.

[27]When we love, it is the heart that judges.

[28]He who has none of the weaknesses of friendship, has none of its powers.

[29]We always lose the friendship of those who lose our esteem.

[30]It is a cruel situation when we cannot make up our minds to hate and despise the man whom we cannot esteem or love.

[31]Frankness is often lost between friends by the silence, the tact and the discretion which they practise towards one another.

[32]Time calms all excitements, even the excitement of friendship; the most enduring fidelity outlives its admirations.

[33]A man who betrays no foibles is either a fool or a hypocrite, whom we should distrust. There are some faults so allied to good qualities, that they proclaim them, and of such faults we do better not to cure ourselves.

[34]Our fine qualities are often only loved and praised because their brilliance is tempered by our defects. Often indeed it happens that we are more loved for our faults than for our qualities.

[35]The faults that make a man ridiculous hardly make him odious; so, by being ridiculous, we escape being odious.

[36]We must make ourselves beloved, for men are only just towards those whom they love.

[37]We can only hope for true affection from those who are naturally gentle and loving.

[38]Do not admit the greedy among your friends or your disciples, for they are capable of neither wisdom nor fidelity.

[39]Men often choose to love those whom they fear, so as to be protected by them.

[40]The hatred between the two sexes is almost unquenchable.

[41]The punishment of those who have loved women too much, is to love them always.

[42]Tenderness is the repose of passion.

[43]To speak ill of some one betrays less indifference than to forget him. ‘L’oubli!’ how is it that the word sounds so soft?

[44]Hidden perfumes and secret loves betray themselves.

[45]He that has seen a thing often, and wishes to see it again with pleasure, instinctively seeks the companionship of some one who has not seen it.

[46]Everything that multiplies the ties that unite man to man, makes him better and happier.

[47]A multitude of affections enlarges the heart.

[48]It is a happiness, and a great piece of good fortune, to be born good.

[49]In most honourable feelings there is something better and more powerful than calculation and reasoning. There is instinct, and necessity.

[50]Pity is the root of all goodness. Pity therefore must enter into all our feelings, even into our indignation, and into our hatred of wicked men. But must there also be pity in our love for God? Yes, pity for ourselves, as there always is in gratitude. Thus, all our feelings are tinged with pity, for ourselves or for others. The love the angels bear us is nothing but an abiding pity, an eternal compassion.

[51]If we are not on our guard, we tend to condemn the unfortunate.

[52]Men should be trained to pity misfortune even more than to bear it.

[53]Do not let your intellect be more exacting than your taste, nor your judgment more severe than your conscience.

[54]The good actions that we have never done are for the will a discovery and a stimulus.

[55]To receive benefits from some one is a surer way of gaining his affection than to render him a service. The sight of a benefactor is often irksome; while that of a man we are benefiting is always pleasant. In loving him we love our own handiwork.

[56]The wish to be independent of all men, and not to be under obligations to any one, is the sure sign of a soul without tenderness.

[57]We like to do our good actions for ourselves.

[58]The pleasure of giving is a necessary element in true happiness; but the poorest can have it.

[59]We may permit our conscience to approve us, but not our thoughts.

[60]Let us have an uplifted heart; and a humble mind.

[61]The vanity which enters into the desire to please, and to make ourselves pleasing to others, is a half-virtue, for it is evidently a half-humility and a half-kindness.

[62]There is in the heights of the soul a region open indeed to the breath of praise, but inaccessible to self-conceit.

[63]An innocent vanity that feeds on the slightest applause may be an amiable weakness quite in keeping with man’s nature, especially the nature of a poet; but pride is the enemy of kindness.

[64]Vanity only listens to reason when it has been satisfied.

[65]It is a good thing to open a vein in a man’s vanity, lest he should keep it all in, and it should wear him out. Vanity must, so to speak, be bled daily.

[66]Satisfied self-love is always tender. Even pride itself has its moments of tenderness.

[67]Proud natures love those whom they serve.

[68]Conceited people always seem to me like dwarfs, to have the stature of a child, and the countenance of a man.

[69]Ambition is pitiless; all merit that does not serve its ends is despicable in its eyes.

[70]Admiration is a relief to the attention—a limit that the mind sets itself, for its own pleasure and repose.

[71]There is a craving to admire which is common among certain women in literary ages, and which is another form of the craving to love.

[72]The idea of God is conveyed by worship, the idea of power by submission, and of merit by respect.

[73]Power over ourselves and over others commands respect, and indeed exacts it, like a tribute.

[74]We must try, as best we may, to despise no one.

[75]Everything wears out, even esteem, if we do not take care of it.

[76]It is still better to feel respect than to inspire it, for the respectful are always to be esteemed. The feeling springs from an estimate of worth, of which the worthless are incapable.

[77]It would be difficult to live at once despised and virtuous; we need support.

[78]Chastity enables the soul to breathe a pure air in the most corrupt places; by continence she is strong, whatever may be the condition of the body; she is royal by her empire over the senses; she is beautiful by her light and peace.

[79]Ah! God! what wonderful loves are born of chastity! and of what raptures do our excesses deprive us!