It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinions; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who, in the midst of the crowd, keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
What I must do is all that concerns me, and not what people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to look after your own; but the great man is he who, in the midst of the crowd, keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
A perfect life is like that of a ship of war which has its own place in the fleet and can share in its strength and discipline, but can also go forth alone in the solitude of the infinite sea. We ought to belong to society, to have our place in it, and yet be capable of a complete individual existence outside of it.
Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word "loneliness" to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word "solitude" to express the glory of being alone.
Self-reliance can turn a salesman into a merchant; a politician into a statesman; an attorney into a jurist; an unknown youth into a great leader. All are to be tomorrow's big leaders - those who in solitude sit above the clang and dust of time, with the world's secret trembling on their lips.