How Shall I Live?
After a brief moment of innocence is passed, what question presses upon the mind of all? It is this: How shall I live, and to what end? What shall be the main purpose of my life? Shall I devote this life to success? Shall I seek pleasure, or even happiness, for its own sake? Shall I struggle for eminence, or relax into complacence and peaceful indolence? Such is the question which at life's crucial hour awaits an answer, and will not be put off. It is at the hour when youth emerges into manhood or womanhood. And behold what visions then appear! Great heights are beheld in dim outline, deep gulfs are apprehended. And then, too, our better angels are heard near at hand, and we understand them and resolve to follow them faithfully. But unfortunately we soon get involved in the shadows and forget the realities. We are thrown off our guard by untoward circumstance. The years pass swiftly away. As they come and go our duties and anxieties increase. Fainter and fainter become the ideals of youth. The noise of commerce, the roarings of trade, the jealousies of cliques and parties; the eager and selfish graspings after distinction and places of fame; the petty irritations that arise in the smallest circles; the unforeseen disappointments that somehow come forth where we had least expected them; the heartless events that crush us and become calamities because we had not prepared to meet them; dislodgements from positions of comfort and ease; — all the children of Experience throng upon us, and it well-nigh requires the gift of perennial youth — which no one hath — to rise above them and find joyance and justice in human life.
— Lewis G. Wilson (born February 19, 1858)
From the Dedication to The Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies
I can easily conceive, most Holy Father [Pope Paul III], that as soon as some people learn that in this book which I have written concerning the revolutions of the heavenly bodies, I ascribe certain motions to the Earth, they will cry out at once that I and my theory should be rejected. For I am not so much in love with my conclusions as not to weigh what others will think about them, and although I know that the meditations of a philosopher are far removed from the judgment of the laity, because his endeavor is to seek out the truth in all things, so far as this is permitted by God to the human reason, I still believe that one must avoid theories altogether foreign to orthodoxy. Accordingly, when I considered in my own mind how absurd a performance it must seem to those who know that the judgment of many centuries has approved the view that the Earth remains fixed as center in the midst of the heavens, if I should, on the contrary, assert that the Earth moves; I was for a long time at a loss to know whether I should publish the commentaries which I have written in proof of its motion, or whether it were not better to follow the example of the Pythagoreans and of some others, who were accustomed to transmit the secrets of Philosophy not in writing but orally, and only to their relatives and friends, as the letter from Lysis to Hipparchus bears witness. They did this, it seems to me, not as some think, because of a certain selfish reluctance to give their views to the world, but in order that the noblest truths, worked out by the careful study of great men, should not be despised by those who are vexed at the idea of taking great pains with any forms of literature except such as would be profitable, or by those who, if they are driven to the study of Philosophy for its own sake by the admonitions and the example of others, nevertheless, on account of their stupidity, hold a place among philosophers similar to that of drones among bees. Therefore, when I considered this carefully, the contempt which I had to fear because of the novelty and apparent absurdity of my view, nearly induced me to abandon utterly the work I had begun.
— Nicolaus Copernicus (born February 19, 1473)
Health and Folly
Health is, indeed, so necessary to all the duties as well as pleasures of life, that the crime of squandering it is equal to the folly; and he that for a short gratification brings weakness and diseases upon himself, and for the pleasure of a few years passed in the tumults of diversion and clamors of merriment, condemns the maturer and more experienced part of his life to the chamber and the couch, may be justly reproached, not only as a spendthrift of his happiness, but as a robber of the public; as a wretch that has voluntarily disqualified himself for the business of his station, and refused that part which Providence assigns him in the general task of human nature.
— Samuel Johnson (died February 19, 1882)