"By understanding many things, I have accomplished nothing."
"By undertaking many things, I have accomplished nothing."
No matter which wording is chosen, one gathers that the scholar's closing hours held much despair. His despair was rooted in his own personal evaluation which concluded that all of his efforts had accomplished little - actually "nothing" by his account. Was he correct? Absolutely not.
Too often our own assessments turn an overly critical eye upon ourselves. The refusal to see the ordinary as good, as in 1645, continues to lead to self-inflicted guilt and despair. I suggest that the value of reflecting on the understanding / undertaking of many things trumps a focus on the "nothings" we accomplish.
While looking for details regarding Grotius, I discovered a writing by Charles Butler. Butler, writing in 1826, did more than merely mention Grotius nearly 200 years after the Dutchman's death; Butler held him in high regard. In the writing, The Life of Hugo Grotius, Butler informed his readers of his subject matter. The introductory page reads as follows . . .
The Biographical AccountGiven that Butler's words were not in jest, we know with certainty that Grotius' self-assessment, even if fully believed by the assessor, found no supporters. His impact was great.
One of the Most Amiable And
Respectable Defenders of the Noble
Cause of Civil and Religious Liberty
As you assess yourself, do so gently. As you evaluate your accomplishments, notice the successes you overlooked or downplayed. As you reflect on your failed attempts, refuse the temptation to bully yourself.
Acknowledge your strengths.
Accept, rather than downplay, the praise you are given.
Celebrate your victories.
Live the Ordinary!
For further reading:
Butler, Charles. The Life of Hugo Grotius. London: John Murray, 1876