Human All-Too-Human, Part 1

Page 54 of 70

Too Intimate.—When we live on too intimate terms with a person it is as if we were again and again handling a good engraving with our fingers; the time comes when we have soiled and damaged paper in our hands, and nothing more. A man's soul also gets worn out by constant handling; at least, it eventually appears so to us—never again do we see its original design and beauty. We always lose through too familiar association with women and friends; and sometimes we lose the pearl of our life thereby.


The Golden Cradle.—The free spirit will always feel relieved when he has finally resolved to shake off the motherly care and guardianship with which women surround him. What harm will a rough wind, from which he has been so[Pg 313] anxiously protected, do him? Of what consequence is a genuine disadvantage, loss, misfortune, sickness, illness, fault, or folly more or less in his life, compared with the bondage of the golden cradle, the peacock's-feather fan, and the oppressive feeling that he must, in addition, be grateful because he is waited on and spoiled like a baby? Hence it is that the milk which is offered him by the motherly disposition of the women about him can so readily turn into gall.


A Voluntary Victim.—There is nothing by, which able women can so alleviate the lives of their husbands, should these be great and famous, as by becoming, so to speak, the receptacle for the general disfavour and occasional ill-humour of the rest of mankind. Contemporaries are usually accustomed to overlook many mistakes, follies, and even flagrant injustices in their great men if only they can find some one to maltreat and kill, as a proper victim for the relief of their feelings. A wife not infrequently has the ambition to present herself for this sacrifice, and then the husband may indeed feel satisfied,—he being enough of an egoist to have such a voluntary storm, rain, and lightning-conductor beside him.


Agreeable Adversaries.—The natural inclination, of women towards quiet, regular, happily[Pg 314] tuned existences and intercourse, the oil-like and calming effect of their influence upon the sea of life, operates unconsciously against the heroic inner impulse of the free spirit. Without knowing it, women act as if they were taking away the stones from the path of the wandering mineralogist in order that he might not strike his foot against them—when he has gone out for the very purpose of striking against them.


The Discord of Two Concords.—Woman wants to serve, and finds her happiness therein; the free spirit does not want to be served, and therein finds his happiness.


Xantippe.—Socrates found a wife such as he required,—but he would not have sought her had he known her sufficiently well; even the heroism of his free spirit would not have gone so far. As a matter of fact, Xantippe forced him more and more into his peculiar profession, inasmuch as she made house and home doleful and dismal to him; she taught him to live in the streets and wherever gossiping and idling went on, and thereby made him the greatest Athenian street-dialectician, who had, at last, to compare himself to a gad-fly which a god had set on the neck of the beautiful horse Athens to prevent it from resting.

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Blind to the Future.—Just as mothers have senses and eye only for those pains of their children that are evident to the senses and eye, so the wives of men of high aspirations cannot accustom themselves to see their husbands suffering, starving, or slighted,—although all this is, perhaps, not only the proof that they have rightly chosen their attitude in life, but even the guarantee that their great aims must be achieved some time. Women always intrigue privately against the higher souls of their husbands; they want to cheat them out of their future for the sake of a painless and comfortable present.


Authority and Freedom.—However highly women may honour their husbands, they honour still more the powers and ideas recognised by society; they have been accustomed for millennia to go along with their hands folded on their breasts, and their heads bent before everything dominant, disapproving of all resistance to public authority. They therefore unintentionally, and as if from instinct, hang themselves as a drag on the wheels of free-spirited, independent endeavour, and in certain circumstances make their husbands highly impatient, especially when the latter persuade themselves that it is really love which prompts the action of their wives. To disapprove of women's methods and generously to honour the motives that prompt them—that is man's nature and often enough his despair.

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Ceterum Censeo.—It is laughable when a company of paupers decree the abolition of the right of inheritance, and it is not less laughable when childless persons labour for the practical law-giving of a country: they have not enough ballast in their ship to sail safely over the ocean of the future. But it seems equally senseless if a man who has chosen for his mission the widest knowledge and estimation of universal existence, burdens himself with personal considerations for a family, with the support, protection, and care of wife and child, and in front of his telescope hangs that gloomy veil through which hardly a ray from the distant firmament can penetrate. Thus I, too, agree with the opinion that in matters of the highest philosophy all married men are to be suspected.


Finally.—There are many kinds of hemlock, and fate generally finds an opportunity to put a cup of this poison to the lips of the free spirit,—in order to "punish" him, as every one then says. What do the women do about him then? They cry and lament, and perhaps disturb the sunset-calm of the thinker, as they did in the prison at Athens. "Oh Crito, bid some one take those women away!" said Socrates at last.

[1] The opposite of this aphorism also holds good.—J.M.K.

[2] It may be remarked that Nietzsche changed his view on this subject later on, and ascribed more importance to woman's intuition. Cf. also Disraeli's reference to the "High Priestesses of predestination."—J.M.K.

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Asking to Be Heard.—The demagogic disposition and the intention of working upon the masses is at present common to all political parties; on this account they are all obliged to change their principles into great al fresco follies and thus make a show of them. In this matter there is no further alteration to be made: indeed, it is superfluous even to raise a finger against it; for here Voltaire's saying applies: "Quand la populace se mle de raisonner, tout est perdu." Since this has happened we have to accommodate ourselves to the new conditions, as we have to accommodate ourselves when an earthquake has displaced the old boundaries and the contour of the land and altered the value of property. Moreover, when it is once for all a question in the politics of all parties to make life endurable to the greatest possible majority, this majority may always decide what they understand by an endurable life; if they believe their intellect capable of finding the right means to this end why should we doubt about it? They want, once for all, to be the architects of their own good or ill fortune; and if[Pg 318] their feeling of free choice and their pride in the five or six ideas that their brain conceals and brings to light, really makes life so agreeable to them that they gladly put up with the fatal consequences of their narrow-mindedness, there is little to object to, provided that their narrow-mindedness does not go so far as to demand that everything shall become politics in this sense, that all shall live and act according to this standard. For, in the first place, it must be more than ever permissible for some people to keep aloof from politics and to stand somewhat aside. To this they are also impelled by the pleasure of free choice, and connected with this there may even be some little pride in keeping silence when too many, and only the many, are speaking. Then this small group must be excused if they do not attach such great importance to the happiness of the majority (nations or strata of population may be understood thereby), and are occasionally guilty of an ironical grimace; for their seriousness lies elsewhere, their conception of happiness is quite different, and their aim cannot be encompassed by every clumsy hand that has just five fingers. Finally, there comes from time to time—what is certainly most difficult to concede to them, but must also be conceded—a moment when they emerge from their silent solitariness and try once more the strength of their lungs; they then call to each other like people lost in a wood, to make themselves known and for mutual encouragement; whereby, to be sure, much becomes audible that sounds evil to ears for which it is not intended.[Pg 319] Soon, however, silence again prevails in the wood, such silence that the buzzing, humming, and fluttering of the countless insects that live in, above, and beneath it, are again plainly heard.

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