Four Things to Do Today From Goethe

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and — speak a few reasonable words.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I have been somewhat bored by my most recent messages.

This is a bad sign for someone who has the capacity to laugh at his own jokes, muse thoughtfully on his own suggestions, and shake his head benignly at his own poignant stories.

If I’m boring myself, I must be sedating you. So, for today’s message, I decided to look for inspiration elsewhere — and I came up with the above quote from Johann (Johnny the Wolf) von Goethe:

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and — speak a few reasonable words.”

Pretty good advice, don’t you think?

1. The Music

Good music at the right moment will put your heart in tune. I’m all for that. The first thing I do when I get in the office each morning — just after getting the coffee going — is to put on some music. I’ve got some kind of programmed music that is piped in through DSS. I don’t know exactly how it works, but there are a dozen or more programs of nonstop music of every kind to choose from: classical, light classical, jazz, pop, rhythm and blues, reggae, etc.

It’s a wonderful moment — deciding what music I need. I have a corresponding moment at the end of the day — selecting the wine for dinner. Two minutes a day that are in themselves sweet and precious and also provide endless moments of supervening bliss. (There! I did it! I finally managed to use “supervening” — yesterday’s difficult Word to the Wise — in a sentence!)

2. The Poetry

I don’t read a poem a day — but whenever I do read one, it’s completely wonderful. You need a certain amount of solitude to read poetry. Finding it — even if it takes only five minutes — is a reward (and a discipline) in itself. The trick with poetry is to find a poet that you like. Find one, enjoy his or her work, and then find another. I’m going to see if I can’t work this into my daily “to-do” list.

3. The Picture

The picture doesn’t have to be a painting, but it does have to be something visually beautiful. Something that can help you distance yourself from your troubles. Something that will make you feel inspired or serene or invigorated. There is no room I own or rent in the world that isn’t full of beautiful artwork. You might try to acquire a bit of this yourself if you aren’t already a visual junkie.

4. The Conversation

This is perhaps the most difficult task — and Goethe said so too. Good conversation unfortunately requires at least two players. If you are surrounded by people whose conversation doesn’t challenge and entertain you, you might need to make some new friends.

Today’s Action Plan: Do these four things today. Enjoy some good music. Read an inspiring poem. Look at something beautiful. And have a good conversation.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]

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  • Erika

    I absolutely agree with Goethe’s saying. Occassionally listen to good music or I think of good music and pour myself right into the mood of it. Read a poem … I write my own and feel rewarded if I am able to feel the part. See a fine picture … I look at the face of a stranger, a child or just around me and see the beauty of life and for one moment I see a beautiful picture only life and nature can paint. As far as good conversation is concerned, well that is not always possible because of the environment I am in presently. But, when it is possible, I thrive on good conversation even if it is only short. The only other way I get this communication is via the internet, Wikipedia is a good example and if I want to verify this info with more validated material I turn to a University. Good on you Michael Masterson, for drawing attention to the above mentioned quote.