Human All-Too-Human, Part 1

Page 50 of 70


Arrogance.—There is nothing one should so guard against as the growth of the weed called[Pg 290] arrogance, which spoils all one's good harvest; for there is arrogance in cordiality, in showing honour, in kindly familiarity, in caressing, in friendly counsel, in acknowledgment of faults, in sympathy for others,—and all these fine things arouse aversion when the weed in question grows up among them. The arrogant man—that is to say, he who desires to appear more than he is or passes for—always miscalculates. It is true that he obtains a momentary success, inasmuch as those with whom he is' arrogant generally give him the amount of honour that he demands, owing to fear or for the sake of convenience; but they take a bad revenge for it, inasmuch as they subtract from the value which they hitherto attached to him just as much as he demands above that amount. There is nothing for which men ask to be paid dearer than for humiliation. The arrogant man can make his really great merit so suspicious and small in the eyes of others that they tread on it with dusty feet. If at all, we should only allow ourselves a proud manner where we are quite sure of not being misunderstood and considered as arrogant; as, for instance, with friends and wives. For in social intercourse there is no greater folly than to acquire a reputation for arrogance; it is still worse than not having learnt to deceive politely.


Tte--tte—Private conversation is the perfect conversation, because everything the one' person says receives its particular colouring, its[Pg 291] tone, and its accompanying gestures out of strict consideration for the other person engaged in the conversation, it therefore corresponds to what takes place in intercourse by letter, viz., that one and the same person exhibits ten kinds of psychical expression, according as he writes now to this individual and now to that one. In duologue there is only a single refraction of thought; the person conversed with produces it, as the mirror in whom we want to behold our thoughts anew in their finest form. But how is it when there are two or three, or even more persons conversing with one? Conversation then necessarily loses something of its individualising subtlety, different considerations thwart and neutralise each other; the style which pleases one does not suit the taste of another. In intercourse with several individuals a person is therefore to withdraw within himself and represent facts as they are; but he has also to remove from the subjects the pulsating ether of humanity which makes conversation one of the pleasantest things in the world. Listen only to the tone in which those who mingle with whole groups of men are in the habit of speaking; it is as if the fundamental base of all speech were, "It is myself; I say this, so make what you will of it!" That is the reason why clever ladies usually leave a singular, painful, and forbidding impression on those who have met them in society; it is the talking to many people, before many people, that robs them of all intellectual amiability and shows only their conscious dependence on themselves, their tactics, and their intention of gaining a[Pg 292] public victory in full light; whilst in a private conversation the same ladies become womanly again, and recover their intellectual grace and charm.


Posthumous Fame.—There is sense in hoping for recognition in a distant future only when we take it for granted that mankind will remain essentially unchanged, and that whatever is great is not for one age only but will be looked upon as great for all time. But this is an error. In all their sentiments and judgments concerning what is good and beautiful mankind have greatly changed; it is mere fantasy to imagine one's self to be a mile ahead, and that the whole of mankind is coming our way. Besides, a scholar who is misjudged may at present reckon with certainty that his discovery will be made by others, and that, at best, it will be allowed to him later on by some historian that he also already knew this or that but was not in a position to secure the recognition of his knowledge. Not to be recognised, is always interpreted by posterity as lack of power. In short, one should not so readily speak in favour of haughty solitude. There are, however, exceptional cases; but it is chiefly our faults, weakness, and follies that hinder the recognition of our great qualities.


Of Friends.—Just consider with thyself how different are the feelings, how divided are the[Pg 293] opinions of even the nearest acquaintances; how even the same opinions in thy friend's mind have quite a different aspect and strength from what they have in thine own; and how manifold are the occasions which arise for misunderstanding and hostile severance. After all this thou wilt say to thyself, "How insecure is the ground upon which all our alliances and friendships rest, how liable to cold downpours and bad weather, how lonely is every creature!" When a person recognises this fact, and, in addition, that all opinions and the nature and strength of them in his fellow-men are just as necessary and irresponsible as their actions; when his eye learns to see this internal necessity of opinions, owing to the indissoluble interweaving of character, occupation, talent, and environment,—he will perhaps get rid of the bitterness and sharpness of the feeling with which the sage exclaimed, "Friends, there are no friends!" Much rather will he make the confession to himself:—Yes, there are friends, but they were drawn towards thee by error and deception concerning thy character; and they must have learnt to be silent in order to remain thy friends; for such human relationships almost always rest on the fact that some few things are never said, are never, indeed, alluded to; but if these pebbles are set rolling friendship follows afterwards and is broken. Are there any who would not be mortally injured if they were to learn what their most intimate friends really knew about them? By getting a knowledge of ourselves, and by looking upon our nature as a changing sphere of opinions and moods,[Pg 294] and thereby learning to despise ourselves a little, we recover once more our equilibrium with the rest of mankind. It is true that we have good reason to despise each of our acquaintances, even the greatest of them; but just as good reason to turn this feeling against ourselves. And so we will bear with each other, since we bear with ourselves; and perhaps there will come to each a happier hour, when he will exclaim:

"Friends, there are really no friends!" thus cried
th' expiring old sophist;
"Foes, there is really no foe!"—thus shout I,
the incarnate fool.

[Pg 295]




The Perfect Woman.—The perfect woman is a higher type of humanity than the perfect man, and also something much rarer. The natural history of animals furnishes grounds in support of this theory.


Friendship and Marriage.—The best friend will probably get the best wife, because a good marriage is based on talent for friendship.

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