"Now I'm going to tell you about a scorpion. This scorpion wanted to cross a river, so he asked a frog to carry him. "No," said the frog, "no thank you. If I let you on my back you may sting me, and the sting of the scorpion is death." "Now where," asked the scorpion, "is the logic of that? If I sting you, you will die, I will drown." So the frog was convinced to allow the scorpion on his back. But, just in the middle of the river, he felt a terrible pain and realized that, after all, the scorpion had stung him. "Logic!" cried the dying frog as he started under, taking the scorpion down with him. "There is no logic in this!" "I know," said the scorpion, "but I can't help it. It's my character."
"If you will think about what you ought to do for other people, your character will take care of itself. Character is a by-product,and any man who devotes himself to its cultivation in his own case will become a selfish prig."
"Methinks it would be some advantage to philosophy if men were named merely in the gross, as they are known. It would be necessaryonly to know the genus and perhaps the race or variety, to know the individual. We are not prepared to believe that every private soldier in a Roman army had a name of his own,--because we have not supposed that he had a character of his own."
"Every wild apple shrub excites our expectation thus, somewhat as every wild child. It is, perhaps, a prince in disguise. What a lesson to man! So are human beings, referred to the highest standard, the celestial fruit which they suggest and aspire to bear, browsed on by fate; and only the most persistent and strongest genius defends itself and prevails, sends a tender scion upward at last, and drops its perfect fruit on the ungrateful earth. Poets and philosophers and statesmen thus spring up in the country pastures, and outlast the hosts of unoriginal men."
"The depth and strength of a human character are defined by its moral reserves. People reveal themselves completely only when theyare thrown out of the customary conditions of their life, for only then do they have to fall back on their reserves."
"We Russians have assigned ourselves no other task in life but the cultivation of our own personalities, and when we're barely pastchildhood, we set to work to cultivate them, those unfortunate personalities."
"There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless. Observe the ass,for instance: his character is about perfect, he is the choicest spirit among all the humbler animals, yet see what ridicule has brought him to. Instead of feeling complimented when we are called an ass, we are left in doubt."
"White Pond and Walden are great crystals on the surface of the earth, Lakes of Light.... They are too pure to have a market value;they contain no muck. How much more beautiful than our lives, how much more transparent than our characters are they! We never learned meanness of them."