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Monday, October 14, 2013

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
German Writer / Politician
1749 - 1832

All wise thoughts have been said thousands, perhaps millions of times by writers, preachers, philosophers and other creative leaders.  That original thought that you had has been thought before.  That love poem you wrote because of your feelings has been written thousands, maybe even millions of times before.  That landscape painting you made has been painted thousands of time before. Yet, and this is the brilliance of Goethe's statement, each of us must rethink it for ourselves.  Each of us must find our truth in the world — in our experiences.

As creative leaders we seek originality — something new to say.  Yet, what we find is that it has been said before.  Originality comes in how we say it, not what we say.  When we say something in a new way, we may open up new windows of insight - new ways of thinking.

We are taught many things as children, but if we don't question what we have been taught, we will never be truly wise.  We will live off the wisdom of others, but the wisdom will never take root in our hearts.  We will never be truly wise.

Creative Practice
This week take an old idea and say it in a new way.  Take an old story and write it from the point of view of another character.  Take an old poem and rewrite in a new form.  Take a long poem and capture its essence in a haiku.  Take the emotion in an old poem or story and paint it.

Goethe was the son of Johann Caspar Goethe and Catharina Elizabeth Textor.  His father was 38 and his mother 17.  All their children died at early ages except Goethe and his sister.  Goethe was taught by his father and private tutors.  He studied Latin, Greek, French, Italian, English and Hebrew.

Goethe published his first collection of poetry at the age of 21.  In 1774 he wrote the book, The Sorrows of Young Werther, that would bring him world-wide fame but not fortune.  His body of literary work included epic and lyric poetry, prose and verse dramas, memoirs, literary criticism, scientific treatises and novels.  He also wrote over 10,000 letters and made over 3,000 drawings.  Faust is his most celebrated literary work.