The Joyful Wisdom

Page 15 of 59


Women and their Effect in the Distance.—Have I still ears? Am I only ear, and nothing else besides? Here I stand in the midst of the surging of the breakers, whose white flames fork up to my feet;—from all sides there is howling, threatening, crying, and screaming at me, while in the lowest depths the old earth-shaker sings his aria hollow like a roaring bull; he beats such an earth-shaker's measure thereto, that even the hearts of these weathered rock-monsters tremble at the sound. Then, suddenly, as if born out of nothingness,[Pg 99] there appears before the portal of this hellish labyrinth, only a few fathoms distant,—a great sailing-ship gliding silently along like a ghost. Oh, this ghostly beauty! With what enchantment it seizes me! What? Has all the repose and silence in the world embarked here? Does my happiness itself sit in this quiet place, my happier ego, my second immortalised self? Still not dead, but also no longer living? As a ghost-like, calm, gazing, gliding, sweeping, neutral being? Similar to the ship, which, with its white sails, like an immense butterfly, passes over the dark sea! Yes! Passing over existence! That is it! That would be it!—It seems that the noise here has made me a visionary? All great noise causes one to place happiness in the calm and the distance. When a man is in the midst of his hubbub, in the midst of the breakers of his plots and plans, he there sees perhaps calm, enchanting beings glide past him, for whose happiness and retirement he longs—they are women. He almost thinks that there with the women dwells his better self; that in these calm places even the loudest breakers become still as death, and life itself a dream of life. But still! but still! my noble enthusiast, there is also in the most beautiful sailing-ship so much noise and bustling, and alas, so much petty, pitiable bustling! The enchantment and the most powerful effect of women is, to use the language of philosophers, an effect at a distance, an actio in distans; there belongs thereto, however, primarily and above all,—distance![Pg 100]


In Honour of Friendship.—That the sentiment of friendship was regarded by antiquity as the highest sentiment, higher even than the most vaunted pride of the self-sufficient and wise, yea, as it were its sole and still holier brotherhood, is very well expressed by the story of the Macedonian king who made the present of a talent to a cynical Athenian philosopher from whom he received it back again. "What?" said the king, "has he then no friend?" He therewith meant to say, "I honour this pride of the wise and independent man, but I should have honoured his humanity still higher, if the friend in him had gained the victory over his pride. The philosopher has lowered himself in my estimation, for he showed that he did not know one of the two highest sentiments—and in fact the higher of them!"


Love.—Love pardons even the passion of the beloved.


Woman in Music—How does it happen that warm and rainy winds bring the musical mood and the inventive delight in melody with them? Are they not the same winds that fill the churches and give women amorous thoughts?


Sceptics.—I fear that women who have grown old are more sceptical in the secret recesses of their[Pg 101] hearts than any of the men; they believe in the superficiality of existence as in its essence, and all virtue and profundity is to them only the disguising of this "truth," the very desirable disguising of a pudendum,—an affair, therefore, of decency and modesty, and nothing more!


Devotedness.—There are noble women with a certain poverty of spirit, who, in order to express their profoundest devotedness, have no other alternative but to offer their virtue and modesty: it is the highest thing they have. And this present is often accepted without putting the recipient under such deep obligation as the giver supposed,—a very melancholy story!


The Strength of the Weak.—Women are all skilful in exaggerating their weaknesses, indeed they are inventive in weaknesses, so as to seem quite fragile ornaments to which even a grain of dust does harm; their existence is meant to bring home to man's mind his coarseness, and to appeal to his conscience. They thus defend themselves against the strong and all "rights of might."


Self-dissembling.—She loves him now and has since been looking forth with as quiet confidence as a cow; but alas! It was precisely his delight that she seemed so fitful and absolutely incomprehensible! He had rather too much steady weather[Pg 102] in himself already! Would she not do well to feign her old character? to feign indifference? Does not—love itself advise her to do so? Vivat comdia!


Will and Willingness.—Some one brought a youth to a wise man, and said, "See, this is one who is being corrupted by women!" The wise man shook his head and smiled. "It is men," he called out, "who corrupt women; and everything that women lack should be atoned for and improved in men—for man creates for himself the ideal of woman, and woman moulds herself according to this ideal."—"You are too tender-hearted towards women," said one of the bystanders, "you do not know them!" The wise man answered: "Man's attribute is will, woman's attribute is willingness—such is the law of the sexes, verily! a hard law for woman! All human beings are innocent of their existence, women, however, are doubly innocent; who could have enough of salve and gentleness for them!"—"What about salve! What about gentleness!" called out another person in the crowd, "we must educate women better!"—"We must educate men better," said the wise man, and made a sign to the youth to follow him.—The youth, however, did not follow him.


Capacity for Revenge—That a person cannot and consequently will not defend himself, does not yet cast disgrace upon him in our eyes; but[Pg 103] we despise the person who has neither the ability nor the good-will for revenge—whether it be a man or a woman. Would a woman be able to captivate us (or, as people say, to "fetter" us) whom we did not credit with knowing how to employ the dagger (any kind of dagger) skilfully against us under certain circumstances? Or against herself; which in a certain case might be the severest revenge (the Chinese revenge).


The Mistresses of the Masters—A powerful contralto voice, as we occasionally hear it in the theatre, raises suddenly for us the curtain on possibilities in which we usually do not believe; all at once we are convinced that somewhere in the world there may be women with high, heroic, royal souls, capable and prepared for magnificent remonstrances, resolutions, and self-sacrifices, capable and prepared for domination over men, because in them the best in man, superior to sex, has become a corporeal ideal. To be sure, it is not the intention of the theatre that such voices should give such a conception of women; they are usually intended to represent the ideal male lover, for example, a Romeo; but, to judge by my experience, the theatre regularly miscalculates here, and the musician also, who expects such effects from such a voice. People do not believe in these lovers; these voices still contain a tinge of the motherly and housewifely character, and most of all when love is in their tone.

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