On strength

A Reading Note

William James once remarked that those who are concerned with making the world more healthy had best start with themselves. We could go farther and point out that finding the center of strength within ourselves is in the long run the best contribution we can make to our fellow men. It is said that when a fisherman in the sea around Norway sees his boat heading for a maelstrom, he reaches ahead to try to throw an oar into the boiling whirlpool; if he can do so, the maelstrom quiets down, and he and his boat go safely through. Just so, one person with indigenous inner strength exercises a great calming effect on panic among people around him. This is what our society needs—not new ideas and inventions, important as these are, and not geniuses and supermen, but persons who can be, that is, persons who have a center of strength within themselves.

May, Man’s Search for Himself, page 54

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A work of existential psychology, May’s text is intelligent and engaging, with prose as lovely as the insights are profound.