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“To love is to admire with the heart; to admire is to love with the mind” (Théophile Gautier).
TO BE ABLE TO ADMIRE — AND TO ADMIRE THINGS THAT ARE TRULY ADMIRABLE — IS A CHARACTER TRAIT WORTH CULTIVATING. And mind you, being “able to admire” is a trait that has to be cultivated. If there are few things that we admire, or if the things we admire are not really very worthy, it’s probably because we’ve not worked on keeping our hearts open and we’ve not educated our hearts to appreciate the better things that life has to offer.
Sometimes we are like the stupid tourist who came out of the Louvre in Paris bragging that he “didn’t see what was so great about all that stuff.” To him, the doorman simply replied, “Don’t you wish you could see what was so great about it, sir?” By our failure to admire certain things, we make more of a comment on ourselves than on the things about which we express our low opinion.
Have you ever given much thought to what the forces are that mold and shape your life the most? Are you, for example, shaped mainly by the love you have for the things you like, or is your life more the result of a reaction against things you don’t like? In all honesty, which has been the principal force in molding your character: your admirations or your hostilities? These are probing questions, ones that probably make most of us shift a little uncomfortably in our seats. This uneasiness is evidence of a feeling deep inside us that we ought to give our admirations more priority than we do. These worthy things ought to be given a chance to move us more powerfully.
The fact is, we inhabit a universe full of good things to admire. If we want to be powered by a great love for good things, there is no shortage of such things around us. And many of these things come in the form of people. So find some things to love and some people to admire. A few years from now, you’ll be very glad you did.
“To be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars — to be satisfied with your possessions but not contented with yourself until you have made the best of them — to despise nothing in the world except falsehood and meanness, and to fear nothing except cowardice — to be governed by your admirations rather than by your disgusts . . . these are little guideposts on the footpath to peace” (Henry Van Dyke).