A living dog is better than a dead lion. Shall a man go and hang himself because he belongs to the race of pigmies, and not be the biggest pigmy that he can? Let every one mind his own business, and endeavor to be what he was made.
What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.
There are infinite degrees of life, from that which is next to sleep and death, to that which is forever awake and immortal. We must not confound man and man. We cannot conceive of a greater difference than between the life of one man and that of another.
Journal, 13 January 1857
We can possibly get along with a neighbor, even with a bedfellow, whom we respect but very little; but as soon as it comes to this, that we do not respect ourselves, then we do not get along at all.
Letter to H. G. O. Blake, 10 April 1853
In most books, the I, of first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference.
I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.
We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking.
Men should not go to New Zealand to write or think of Greece and Rome, nor more to New England. New earths, new themes expect us. Celebrate not the Garden of Eden, but your own.
Journal, 22 October 1857
I perceive that, when an acorn and a chestnut fall side by side, the one does not remain inert to make way for the other, but both obey their own laws, and spring and grow and flourish as best they can, till one, perchance, overshadows and destroys the other. If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.
Individuals, like nations, must have suitable broad and natural boundaries, even a considerable neutral ground, between them.