The Joyful Wisdom

Page 14 of 59


The Ultimate Nobility of Character.—What then makes a person "noble"? Certainly not that he makes sacrifices; even the frantic libertine makes sacrifices. Certainly not that he generally follows his passions; there are contemptible passions. Certainly not that he does something for others, and without selfishness; perhaps the effect of selfishness is precisely at its greatest in the noblest persons.—But that the passion which seizes the noble man is a peculiarity, without his knowing that it is so: the use of a rare and singular measuring-rod, almost a frenzy: the feeling of heat in things which feel cold to all other[Pg 90] persons: a divining of values for which scales have not yet been invented: a sacrificing on altars which are consecrated to an unknown God: a bravery without the desire for honour: a self-sufficiency which has superabundance, and imparts to men and things. Hitherto, therefore, it has been the rare in man, and the unconsciousness of this rareness, that has made men noble. Here, however, let us consider that everything ordinary, immediate, and indispensable, in short, what has been most preservative of the species, and generally the rule in mankind hitherto, has been judged unreasonable and calumniated in its entirety by this standard, in favour of the exceptions. To become the advocate of the rule—that may perhaps be: the ultimate form and refinement in which nobility of character will reveal itself on earth.


The Desire for Suffering.—When I think of the desire to do something, how it continually tickles and stimulates millions of young Europeans, who cannot endure themselves and all their ennui,—I conceive that there must be a desire in them to suffer something, in order to derive from their suffering a worthy motive for acting, for doing something. Distress is necessary! Hence the cry of the politicians, hence the many false trumped-up, exaggerated "states of distress" of all possible kinds, and the blind readiness to believe in them. This young world desires that there should arrive or appear from the outside—not happiness—but misfortune; and their imagination is already[Pg 91] busy beforehand to form a monster out of it, so that they may afterwards be able to fight with a monster. If these distress-seekers felt the power to benefit themselves, to do something for themselves from internal sources, they would also understand how to create a distress of their own, specially their own, from internal sources. Their inventions might then be more refined, and their gratifications might sound like good music: while at present they fill the world with their cries of distress, and consequently too often with the feeling of distress in the first place! They do not know what to make of themselves—and so they paint the misfortune of others on the wall; they always need others! And always again other others!—Pardon me, my friends, I have ventured to paint my happiness on the wall.

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To the Realists.—Ye sober beings, who feel yourselves armed against passion and fantasy, and would gladly make a pride and an ornament out of your emptiness, ye call yourselves realists, and give to understand that the world is actually constituted as it appears to you; before you alone reality stands unveiled, and ye yourselves would perhaps be the best part of it,—oh, ye dear images of Sais! But are not ye also in your unveiled condition still extremely passionate and dusky beings compared with the fish, and still all too like an enamoured artist?[1]—and what is "reality" to an enamoured artist! Ye still carry about with you the valuations of things which had their origin in the passions and infatuations of earlier centuries! There is still a secret and ineffaceable drunkenness embodied in your sobriety! Your love of "reality," for example—oh, that is an old, primitive "love"! In every feeling, in every sense-impression, there is a portion of this old love: and similarly also some kind of fantasy, prejudice, irrationality, ignorance, fear, and whatever else has become mingled and woven into it. There is that mountain! There is that cloud! What[Pg 96] is "real" in them? Remove the phantasm and the whole human element therefrom, ye sober ones! Yes, if ye could do that! If ye could forget your origin, your past, your preparatory schooling,—your whole history as man and beast! There is no "reality" for us—nor for you either, ye sober ones,—we are far from being so alien to one another as ye suppose; and perhaps our good-will to get beyond drunkenness is just as respectable as your belief that ye are altogether incapable of drunkenness.

[1] Schiller's poem, "The Veiled Image of Sais," is again referred to here.—TR.


Only as Creators!—It has caused me the greatest trouble, and for ever causes me the greatest trouble, to perceive that unspeakably more depends upon what things are called, than on what they are. The reputation, the name and appearance, the importance, the usual measure and weight of things—each being in origin most frequently an error and arbitrariness thrown over the things like a garment, and quite alien to their essence and even to their exterior—have gradually, by the belief therein and its continuous growth from generation to generation, grown as it were on-and-into things and become their very body; the appearance at the very beginning becomes almost always the essence in the end, and operates as the essence! What a fool he would be who would think it enough to refer here to this origin and this nebulous veil of illusion, in order to annihilate that which virtually passes for the world—namely, so-called "reality"! It is only as[Pg 97] creators that we can annihilate!—But let us not forget this: it suffices to create new names and valuations and probabilities, in order in the long run to create new "things."


We Artists!—When we love a woman we have readily a hatred against nature, on recollecting all the disagreeable natural functions to which every woman is subject; we prefer not to think of them at all, but if once our soul touches on these things it twitches impatiently, and glances, as we have said, contemptuously at nature:—we are hurt; nature seems to encroach upon our possessions, and with the profanest hands. We then shut our ears against all physiology, and we decree in secret that "we will hear nothing of the fact that man is something else than soul and form!" "The man under the skin" is an abomination and monstrosity, a blasphemy of God and of love to all lovers.—Well, just as the lover still feels with respect to nature and natural functions, so did every worshipper of God and his "holy omnipotence" feel formerly: in all that was said of nature by astronomers, geologists, physiologists, and physicians, he saw an encroachment on his most precious possession, and consequently an attack,—and moreover also an impertinence of the assailant! The "law of nature" sounded to him as blasphemy against God; in truth he would too willingly have seen the whole of mechanics traced back to moral acts of volition and arbitrariness[Pg 98]:—but because nobody could render him this service, he concealed nature and mechanism from himself as best he could, and lived in a dream. Oh, those men of former times understood how to dream, and did not need first to go to sleep!—and we men of the present day also still understand it too well, with all our good-will for wakefulness and daylight! It suffices to love, to hate, to desire, and in general to feel immediately the spirit and the power of the dream come over us, and we ascend, with open eyes and indifferent to all danger, the most dangerous paths, to the roofs and towers of fantasy, and without any giddiness, as persons born for climbing—we the night-walkers by day! We artists! We concealers of naturalness! We moon-struck and God-struck ones! We death-silent, untiring wanderers on heights which we do not see as heights, but as our plains, as our places of safety!

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