In these times when, to express ourselves well, we must speak in a way that others do not.

Here is the desert. In this silence everything speaks to me: and in your noise everything falls silent.

Before using a beautiful word, make a place or it.

The essential thing is not that there be many truths in a work, but that no truth be abused.

The poet must not cross an interval with a step when he can cross it with a leap.

Wisdom is the strength of the weak.

Children always want to look behind mirrors.

Lovers. Whoever does not have their weaknesses cannot have their strengths.

Clarity of mind is not given in all centuries.

Heaven will abolish the language in which these works are written.

There are those to whom one must advise madness.

When you want transparency, the finite, the smooth and the beautiful, you must polish for a long time.

Everyone makes and has need of making a world other than the one he sees.

We still know how to mark the hours, but no longer how to ring them.

All beings come from little, and little is needed for them to come to nothing.

To understand a beautiful or a great thought perhaps requires the same amount of time it takes to have it, to conceive of it. To penetrate a thought and to produce a thought are almost the same action.

Men do not want to learn unfashionable truths except when they are spared the pains of attention.

Speak more softly to be better heard by a deaf public.

To know how to walk in the night, to have a goal, to reach it in the darkness, the shadows.

The thoughts that come to us are worth more than the ones we seek.

We inhabit the same regions but we do not bring back the same curiosities.

It is not mental repose they seek, but mental laziness.

In such times, if you want neither to lie or to wound, you are reduced to being silent.

The heart must walk ahead of the mind, and indulgence ahead of the truth.

The time I once lost in pleasure I now lose in suffering.

My ideas! It is the house for lodging them that costs me so much to build.

Heaven has given children a great abundance of tears.

All these writings of which nothing remains, like a stream (clear water rolling over small stones), but the memory of words that have fled.

One can advance a long time in life without aging.

The soul speaks to itself in parables.

One ruins the mind with too much writing. — One rusts it by not writing at all.

The important business of man is life, and the important business of life is death.

They cling to the gates and see only through the bars.

Facility is the enemy of great things.

Few minds are spacious; few even have an empty place in them or can offer some vacant point. Almost all have narrow capacities and are filled by some knowledge that blocks them up. What a torture to talk to filled heads, that allow nothing from the outside to enter them! A good mind, in order to enjoy itself and allow itself to enjoy others, always keeps itself larger than its own thoughts. And in order to do this, these thoughts must be given a pliant form, must be easily folded and unfolded, so that they are capable, finally, of maintaining a natural flexibility.
All those short-sighted minds see clearly within their little ideas and see nothing in those of others; they are like those bad eyes that see from close range what is obscure and cannot perceive what is clear from afar. Night minds, minds of darkness.

During our youth there is often something in us that is better than ourselves, I mean better than our desires, our pleasures, our yieldings, and our inclinations. Our soul is good then, even though our intelligence and will are not.

No, men are not born to know, but they are destined for it.

Those for whom the world is not enough: saints, conquerors, poets, and all lovers of books.

The breath of the mind is attention.

Everything we can measure seems small.

Credulity forges more miracles than trickery could invent.

If you want to think well, to write well, to act well, first make a place for yourself, a true place. Because we lack true places, we put our thoughts outside the true light and our conduct outside order.

In order to know men, something must be chanced. Who risks nothing of himself knows nothing.

I can do something well only slowly and with great effort.
Our moments of light are all moments of happiness.
When it is bright in our mind, the weather is good.

Tormented by the cursed ambition always to put a whole book in a page, a whole page in a sentence, and this sentence in a word. I am speaking of myself.

When we find what we have been looking for , we don’t have time to say it. We must die.

The silence of the pen and its advantages. Force builds up in it. Precision must flow out of it. A chatterer fallen quiet. When silence comes from force, it should make itself felt in discourse. What is hasty would be bad upon reflection. To know how not to write to be capable of not writing.

One must know how to enter the ideas of others and how to leave them. One must know how to leave one’s own ideas and how to come back to them.

All things that are easy to say have already been perfectly said.

It is above all the language for expressing these truths that has not yet been found.

The bad must be changed into the good, the incomplete must be finished, and what is twisted must be straightened.

To finish! What a word. We finish nothing when we stop, when we say we have come to the end.

This very moment that I am speaking to you, this moment in which I am saying this, will be repeated forever. Man lets time get lost, but there are no lost moments.



excerpted from The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert (translated by Paul Auster)


Poetry is Disaster