Human All-Too-Human, Part 1

Page 48 of 70


A Comedy Scene in Real Life.—Some one conceives an ingenious idea on a theme in order to express it in society. Now in a comedy we should hear and see how he sets all sail for that point, and tries to land the company at the place where he can make his remark, how he continuously pushes the conversation towards the one goal, sometimes losing the way, finding it again, and finally arriving at the moment: he is almost breathless—and then one of the company takes the remark itself out of his mouth! What will he do? Oppose his own opinion?


Unintentionally Discourteous.—When a person treats another with unintentional discourtesy,—for instance, not greeting him because not recognising him,—he is vexed by it, although he cannot reproach his own sentiments; he is hurt by the bad opinion which he has produced[Pg 279] in the other person, or fears the consequences of his bad humour, or is pained by the thought of having injured him,—vanity, fear, or pity may therefore be aroused; perhaps all three together.


A Masterpiece of Treachery.—To express a tantalising distrust of a fellow-conspirator, lest he should betray one, and this at the very moment when one is practising treachery one's self, is a masterpiece of wickedness; because it absorbs the other's attention and compels him for a time to act very unsuspiciously and openly, so that the real traitor has thus acquired a free hand.


To Injure and to Be Injured.—It is far pleasanter to injure and afterwards beg for forgiveness than to be injured and grant forgiveness. He who does the former gives evidence of power and afterwards of kindness of character. The person injured, however, if he does not wish to be considered inhuman, must forgive; his enjoyment of the other's humiliation is insignificant on account of this constraint.


In a Dispute.—When we contradict another's opinion and at the same time develop our own, the constant consideration of the other opinion usually disturbs the natural attitude of our own[Pg 280] which appears more intentional, more distinct, and perhaps somewhat exaggerated.


An Artifice.—He who wants to get another to do something difficult must on no account treat the matter as a problem, but must set forth his plan plainly as the only one possible; and when the adversary's eye betrays objection and opposition he must understand how to break off quickly, and allow him no time to put in a word.


Pricks of Conscience After Social Gatherings.—Why does our conscience prick us after ordinary social gatherings? Because we have treated serious things lightly, because in talking of persons we have not spoken quite justly or have been silent when we should have spoken, because, sometimes, we have not jumped up and run away,—in short, because we have behaved in society as if we belonged to it.


We Are Misjudged.—He who always listens to hear how he is judged is always vexed. For we are misjudged even by those who are nearest to us ("who know us best"). Even good friends sometimes vent their ill-humour in a spiteful word; and would they be our friends if they knew us rightly? The judgments of the indifferent[Pg 281] wound us deeply, because they sound so impartial, so objective almost. But when we see that some one hostile to us knows us in a concealed point as well as we know ourselves, how great is then our vexation!


The Tyranny of the Portrait.—Artists and statesmen, who out of particular features quickly construct the whole picture of a man or an event, are mostly unjust in demanding that the event or person should afterwards be actually as they have painted it; they demand straightway that a man should be just as gifted, cunning, and unjust as he is in their representation of him.


Relatives As the Best Friends.—The Greeks, who knew so well what a friend was, they alone of all peoples have a profound and largely philosophical discussion of friendship; so that it is by them firstly (and as yet lastly) that the problem of the friend has been recognised as worthy of solution,—these same Greeks have designated relatives by an expression which is the superlative of the word "friend." This is inexplicable to me.


Misunderstood Honesty.—When any one quotes himself in conversation ("I then said," "I am accustomed to say"), it gives the impression of presumption; whereas it often proceeds from[Pg 282] quite an opposite source; or at least from honesty, which does not wish to deck and adorn the present moment with wit which belongs to an earlier moment.


The Parasite.—It denotes entire absence of a noble disposition when a person prefers to live in dependence at the expense of others, usually with a secret bitterness against them, in order only that he may not be obliged to work. Such a disposition is far more frequent in women than in men, also far more pardonable (for historical reasons).


On the Altar of Reconciliation.—There are circumstances under which one can only gain a point from a person by wounding him and becoming hostile; the feeling of having a foe torments him so much that he gladly seizes the first indication of a milder disposition to effect a reconciliation, and offers on the altar of this reconciliation what was formerly of such importance to him that he would not give it up at any price.


Presumption in Demanding Pity.—There are people who, when they have been in a rage and have insulted others, demand, firstly, that it shall all be taken in good part; and, secondly, that they shall be pitied because they are subject to such violent paroxysms. So far does human presumption extend.

[Pg 283]


Bait.—"Every man has his price"—that is not true. But perhaps every one can be found a bait of one kind or other at which he will snap. Thus, in order to gain some supporters for a cause, it is only necessary to give it the glamour of being philanthropic, noble, charitable, and self-denying—and to what cause could this glamour not be given! It is the sweetmeat and dainty of their soul; others have different ones.


The Attitude in Praising.—When good friends praise a gifted person he often appears to be delighted with them out of politeness and goodwill, but in reality he feels indifferent. His real nature is quite unmoved towards them, and will not budge a step on that account out of the sun or shade in which it lies; but people wish to please by praise, and it would grieve them if one did not rejoice when they praise a person.


The Experience of Socrates.—If one has become a master in one thing, one has generally remained, precisely thereby, a complete dunce in most other things; but one forms the very reverse opinion, as was already experienced by Socrates. This is the annoyance which makes association with masters disagreeable.

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