Human All-Too-Human, Part 1

Page 65 of 70


Philosophical Novices.—Immediately we have comprehended the wisdom of a philosopher, we go through the streets with a feeling as if we[Pg 379] had been re-created and had become great men; for we encounter only those who are ignorant of this wisdom, and have therefore to deliver new and unknown verdicts concerning everything. Because we now recognise a law-book we think we must also comport ourselves as judges.


Pleasing by Displeasing.—People who prefer to attract attention, and thereby to displease, desire the same thing as those who neither wish to please nor to attract attention, only they seek it more ardently and indirectly by means of a step by which they apparently move away from their goal. They desire influence and power, and therefore show their superiority, even to such an extent that it becomes disagreeable; for they know that he who has finally attained power, pleases in almost all he says and does, and that even when he displeases he still seems to please. The free spirit also, and in like manner the believer, desire power, in order some day to please thereby; when, on account of their doctrine, evil fate, persecution, dungeon, or execution threaten them, they rejoice in the thought that their teaching will thus be engraved and branded on the heart of mankind; though its effect is remote they accept their fate as a painful but powerful means of still attaining to power.


casus Belli and the Like.—The prince who, for his determination to make war against[Pg 380] his neighbour, invents a casus belli, is like a father who foists on his child a mother who is henceforth to be regarded as such. And are not almost all publicly avowed motives of action just such spurious mothers?


Passion and Right.—Nobody talks more passionately of his rights than he who, in the depths of his soul, is doubtful about them. By getting passion on his side he seeks to confound his understanding and its doubts,—he thus obtains a good conscience, and along with it success with his fellow-men.


The Trick of the Resigning One.—He who protests against marriage, after the manner of Catholic priests, will conceive of it in its lowest and vulgarest form. In the same way he who disavows the honour of his contemporaries will have a mean opinion of it; he can thus dispense with it and struggle against it more easily. Moreover, he who denies himself much in great matters will readily indulge himself in small things. It might be possible that he who is superior to the approbation of his contemporaries would nevertheless not deny himself the gratification of small vanities.


The Years of Presumption.—The proper period of presumption in gifted people is between their twenty-sixth and thirtieth years; it is the time of early ripeness, with a large residue of[Pg 381] sourness. On the ground of what we feel within ourselves we demand honour and humility from men who see little or nothing of it, and because this tribute is not immediately forthcoming we revenge ourselves by the look, the gesture of arrogance, and the tone of voice, which a keen ear and eye recognise in every product of those years, whether it be poetry, philosophy, or pictures and music. Older men of experience smile thereat, and think with emotion of those beautiful years in which one resents the fate of being so much and seeming so little. Later on one really seems more,—but one has lost the good belief in being much,—unless one remain for life an incorrigible fool of vanity.


Deceptive and Yet Defensible.—Just as in order to pass by an abyss or to cross a deep stream on a plank we require a railing, not to hold fast by,—for it would instantly break down with us,—but to give the notion of security to the eye, so in youth we require persons who unconsciously render us the service of that railing. It is true they would not help us if we really wished to lean upon them in great danger, but they afford the tranquillising sensation of protection close to one (for instance, fathers, teachers, friends, as all three usually are).


Learning to Love.—One must learn to love, one must learn to be kind, and this from[Pg 382] childhood onwards; when education and chance give us no opportunity for the exercise of these feelings our soul becomes dried up, and even incapable of understanding the fine devices of loving men. In the same way hatred must be learnt and fostered, when one wants to become a proficient hater,—otherwise the germ of it will gradually die out.


Ruin As Ornament.—Persons who pass through numerous mental phases retain certain sentiments and habits of their earlier states, which then project like a piece of inexplicable antiquity and grey stonework into their new thought and action, often to the embellishment of the whole surroundings.


Love and Honour.—Love desires, fear avoids. That is why one cannot be both loved and honoured by the same person, at least not at the same time.[2] For he who honours recognises power,—that is to say, he fears it, he is in a state of reverential fear (Ehr-furcht) But love recognises no power, nothing that divides, detaches, superordinates, or subordinates. Because it does not honour them, ambitious people secretly or openly resent being loved.

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A Prejudice in Favour of Cold Natures.—People who quickly take fire grow cold quickly, and therefore are, on the whole, unreliable. For those, therefore, who are always cold, or pretend to be so, there is the favourable prejudice that they are particularly trustworthy, reliable persons; they are confounded with those who take fire slowly and retain it long.


The Danger in Free Opinions.—Frivolous occupation with free opinions has a charm, like a kind of itching; if one yields to it further, one begins to chafe the places; until at last an open, painful wound results; that is to say, until the free opinion begins to disturb and torment us in our position in life and in our human relations.


Desire For Sore Affliction.—When passion is over it leaves behind an obscure longing for it, and even in disappearing it casts a seductive glance at us. It must have afforded a kind of pleasure to have been beaten with this scourge. Compared with it, the more moderate sensations appear insipid; we still prefer, apparently, the more violent displeasure to languid delight.

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Dissatisfaction With Others and With the World.—When, as so frequently happens, we vent our dissatisfaction on others when we are really dissatisfied with ourselves, we are in fact attempting to mystify and deceive our judgment; we desire to find a motive a posteriori for this dissatisfaction, in the mistakes or deficiencies of others, and so lose sight of ourselves. Strictly religious people, who have been relentless judges of themselves, have at the same time spoken most ill of humanity generally; there has never been a saint who reserved sin for himself and virture for others, any more than a man who, according to Buddha's rule, hides his good qualities from people and only shows his bad ones.

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