One of the surest ways of killing a tree is to lay bare its roots. It is the same with institutions. We must not be too ready to disinter the origins of those we wish to preserve. All beginnings are small.

— Joseph Joubert, Pensées


Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the plowshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring.

— Henri Frédéric Amiel, Journal Intime


There are people who believe that German music could have a transforming and reforming effect on the Germans: they are angered, and consider it an injustice against the most vigorous part of our culture, when they see such men as Mozart and Beethoven already engulfed by all the learned dust of biography and compelled by the torture-instruments of historical criticism to answer a thousand impertinent questions. Does it not mean its premature death or at least paralysis, when that, the living effects of which are not yet exhausted, is subjected to curious investigation of the countless minutiae of its life and works, and when problems of knowledge are sought where one ought to learn to live and forget all problems? Imagine a couple of these modern biographers transported to the birthplace of Christianity or of the Lutheran Reformation; their sober, pragmatic curiosity would have exactly sufficed to render any actio in distans impossible: just as the most wretched little animal can prevent the mightiest oak tree from coming into existence by eating the acorn. All living things require an atmosphere around them, a mysterious misty vapour; if they are deprived of this envelope, if a religion, an art, a genius is condemned to revolve as a star without atmosphere, we should no longer be surprised if they quickly wither and grow hard and unfruitful. It is the same with all great things, ‘which never succeed without some illusion’, as Hans Sachs says in the Meistersinger.

— Nietzsche, “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life,” Untimely Meditations