“Whatever Liberates Our Spirit Without Giving Us Mastery Over Ourselves Is Destructive.”

“Whatever liberates our spirit without giving us mastery over ourselves is destructive.”

– Goethe, Maxims and Reflections

Agree or disagree? What liberates your spirit without giving you mastery over yourself? Among other things, I mostly gave up drinking.

  • Contraception!
    I know, that’s probably not the answer you were looking for. We’re not supposed to talk about how sex might mean something more than just another way to feel good… Definitely fits the description in the quote, though.

    • peninith1

      I wouldn’t put the blame on contraception. That is an instrument. WE are intentional. How we use any tool, substance, or ability is the question. But your response certainly points up the weakness of Goethe’s words. Weapons? Medications? Wine? All these things can be mischief to some, protection, health, and even miracles to others. It depends. It depends on the doer and the user. I think we can pretty much use anything to destroy ourselves, and we can employ many things to our benefit and even salvation. Few things are really just destructive–cigarettes, maybe?

    • Scarlet Pearson

      Hmm, very thought provoking comment. I’d like to take is a step further regarding sex itself. I believe the ability to enjoy fully enjoy sex can take an element of self mastery. Mastering the ability to turn off other thought and focus on the physical and emotional connection with another person – I know of some women who have yet to master that skill.

  • Kelly Gasner

    Disagree! Love is a prime example of something that is spectacularly good for you, liberates your spirit, and forces you to give up mastery of yourself. Children are another good example. Goethe, that fusty old German, doesnt know what he’s talking about. Have you noticed he looks just like Bill Mahr in his portrait? 😉

  • Watching too much sport. In Britain there’s been this thing about how fantastic we were are supporting the Olympics. It’s made us all feel good but what else?

  • peninith1

    Gretchen–I see where you are going with this post. Recognize those things that you think are pleasing you and ‘freeing’ you but really are hurting you and enslaving you. I don’t want to let myself be distracted by someone else’s identification of THEIR temptation to self destruction. Apropos of your recent posts about food and eating, I am seeing that my love of carb-rich food, especially bread, crackers, pasta and potatoes, is not good for me, no matter how comforting and tasty it may be. I know myself to be pretty much of an abstainer. . . and I have just not wanted to face up. Thanks to your thoughtfulness, denial is not exactly an option any more. Here’s hoping that I can muster the self control to work on abstaining from those things that are clearly hurting my well being.

  • Joseph Fusco

    Agree. This is basically a counter-point to the “if it feels good, do it” post-modern mentality. When an ethic of indulging our appetites without limits or boundaries prevails or is worshipped, the beauty and function of whatever truly liberates us is destroyed or corrupted, e.g. sexuality, food, pleasure. Mastery — and by extension Happiness — is perhaps discovered by committing to finding “just the right amount” of anything in life.

  • torchsinger7

    I think that “shopping” fits the quotation here. It is sooo much fun and we get to respond to all of the psychological cues set up for us by the marketers. We can even “buy” the lifestyle (polo, tennis, etc.) without knowing the first thing about the real activity. Just like dress up for grown-ups. And later the bill….

  • I agree! Mastery is the key component in this quote. I think he should have said “positive mastery”. One can master love – learn to embrace it, give it, spread it, and appreciate it. One can master a child relationship – just ask my 2nd grader teaching girlfriend. However like Gretchin wrote about drinking – this is not positive mastery. This is an addiction, something that liberates by taking choice away from someone. Something that controls ones life without their input – thus leaving them “free” so to speak.

    However, I think we can certainly liberate ourselves while performing mastery over our positive emotions: happiness, love, care, etc.

  • Hi There

    Hi There

  • Gillian

    Odd that this post is from September 2012 and there are no comments.
    To me, what this beautifully-phrased maxim means is that freedom without discipline is destructive. And that raises the question of how much discipline is the right amount? Without enough, we fritter away our lives and resources and accomplish very little and probably ruin our health at the same time. A life of aimless pleasure would pall very quickly. With too much discipline, we can strip life of its joy and spontaneity. Another case of the endless search for the right balance in all things!