Vaclav Havel (1936-2011)

“Hope is not a feeling of certainty that everything ends well. Hope is just a feeling that life and work have a meaning.”

“Keep the company of those who seek the truth – run from those who have found it”

“Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

“The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.”

“As soon as man began considering himself the source of the highest meaning in the world and the measure of everything, the world began to lose its human dimension, and man began to lose control of it.”

“You can’t spend your whole life criticizing something and then, when you have the chance to do it better, refuse to go near it.”

“Man is not an omipotent master of the universe, allowed to do with impunity whatever he thinks, or whatever suits him at the moment. The world we live in is made of an immensely complex and mysterious tissue about which we know very little and which we must treat with utmost humility.”

“Anyone who takes himself too seriously always runs the risk of looking ridiculous; anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not. ”

“The truth is not simply what you think it is; it is also the circumstances in which it is said, and to whom, why, and how it is said.”

“The real test of a man is not when he plays the role that he wants for himself but when he plays the role destiny has for him.”

“There’s always something suspect about an intellectual on the winning side.”

“I feel that the dormant goodwill in people needs to be stirred. People need to hear that it makes sense to behave decently or to help others, to place common interests above their own, to respect the elementary rules of human coexistence.”

“There is only one thing I will not concede: that it might be meaningless to strive in a good cause.”

“The kind of hope that I often think about…I understand above all as a state of mind, not a state of the world. Either we have hope within us, or we don’t. It is a dimension of the soul It’s not essentially dependent upon some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

“All human suffering concerns each human being”

“This is the moment when something once more begins visibly to happen, something truly new and unique…something truly historical, in the sense that history again demands to be heard.”

“You do not become a ”dissident” just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.”

“In any case, ideals are something we strive for; they are somewhere on the horizon of our efforts; they provide meaning and direction; they are not, however, static quotas that we either fulfill or do not.”

“The only thing I can recommend at this stage is a sense of humor, an ability to see things in their ridiculous and absurd dimensions, to laugh at others and at ourselves, a sense of irony regarding everything that calls out for parody in this world. In other words, I can only recommend perspective and distance.”

“True enough, the country is calm. Calm as a morgue or a grave, would you not say?”

“There are times when we must sink to the bottom of our misery to understand truth, just as we must descend to the bottom of a well to see the stars in broad daylight.”

“Hope is the deep orientation of the human soul that can be held at the darkest times.”

“Truth and love will overcome lies and hatred.”

“Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political significance.”

“The deeper the experience of an absence of meaning – in other words, of absurdity – the more energetically meaning is sought.”

“At one time, the state of culture in Czechoslovakia was described, rather poignantly, as a ‘Biafra of the spirit’. . . I simply do not believe that we have all lain down and died. I see far more than graves and tombstones around me. I see evidence of this in . . . expensive books on astronomy printed in a hundred thousand copies (they would hardly find that many readers in the USA) . . .”

“The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power. He has no desire for office and does not gather votes. He does not attempt to charm the public, he offers nothing and promises nothing. His actions simply articulate his dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost.”

“Our concern is whether we can live with dignity in such a system, whether it serves people rather than people serving it.”

“The tragic element in modern man, not ignore the meaning of his life, but it bothers him less and less. ”

“Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing will change for the better in the sphere of our being as humans, and the catastrophe toward which this world is headed — be it ecological, social, demographic or a general breakdown of civilization — will be unavoidable. If we are no longer threatened by world war or by the danger that the absurd mountains of accumulated nuclear weapons might blow up the world, this does not mean that we have definitely won. We are still incapable of understanding that the only genuine backbone of all our actions, if they are to be moral, is responsibility.”

“The worst thing is that we live in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill because we became used to saying something different from what we thought. Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility or forgiveness lost their depth and dimension.”

“Vision is not enough, it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.”

“A human action becomes genuinely important when it springs from the soil of a clear-sighted awareness of the temporality and the ephemerality of everything human. It is only this awareness that can breathe any greatness into an action.”

“Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.”

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