The Joyful Wisdom

Page 23 of 59


The Germans as Artists.—When once a German actually experiences passion (and not only, as is usual, the mere inclination to it), he then behaves just as he must do in passion, and does not think further of his behaviour. The truth is, however, that he then behaves very awkwardly and uglily, and as if destitute of rhythm and melody; so that onlookers are pained or moved thereby, but nothing more—unless he elevate himself to the sublimity and enrapturedness of which certain passions are capable. Then even the German becomes beautiful. The consciousness of the height at which beauty begins to shed its charm even over Germans, forces German artists to the height and the super-height, and to the extravagances of passion: they have an actual, profound longing, therefore, to get beyond, or at least to look beyond the ugliness and awkwardness—into a better, easier, more southern, more sunny world. And thus their convulsions are often merely indications that they would like to dance: these poor bears in whom hidden nymphs and satyrs, and sometimes still higher divinities, carry on their game!

[Pg 145]


Music as Advocate.—"I have a longing for a master of the musical art," said an innovator to his disciple, "that he may learn from me my ideas and speak them more widely in his language: I shall thus be better able to reach men's ears and hearts. For by means of tones one can seduce men to every error and every truth: who could refute a tone?"—"You would, therefore, like to be regarded as irrefutable?" said his disciple. The innovator answered: "I should like the germ to become a tree. In order that a doctrine may become a tree, it must be believed in for a considerable period; in order that it may be believed in it must be regarded as irrefutable. Storms and doubts and worms and wickedness are necessary to the tree, that it may manifest its species and the strength of its germ; let it perish if it is not strong enough! But a germ is always merely annihilated,—not refuted!"—When he had said this, his disciple called out impetuously: "But I believe in your cause, and regard it as so strong that I will say everything against it, everything that I still have in my heart."—The innovator laughed to himself and threatened the disciple with his finger. "This kind of discipleship," said he then, "is the best, but it is dangerous, and not every kind of doctrine can stand it."


Our Ultimate Gratitude to Art.—If we had not approved of the Arts and invented this sort of cult[Pg 146] of the untrue, the insight into the general untruth and falsity of things now given us by science—an insight into delusion and error as conditions of intelligent and sentient existence—would be quite unendurable. Honesty would have disgust and suicide in its train. Now, however, our honesty has a counterpoise which helps us to escape such consequences;—namely, Art, as the good-will to illusion. We do not always restrain our eyes from rounding off and perfecting in imagination: and then it is no longer the eternal imperfection that we carry over the river of Becoming—for we think we carry a goddess, and are proud and artless in rendering this service. As an sthetic phenomenon existence is still endurable to us; and by Art, eye and hand and above all the good conscience are given to us, to be able to make such a phenomenon out of ourselves. We must rest from ourselves occasionally by contemplating and looking down upon ourselves, and by laughing or weeping over ourselves from an artistic remoteness: we must discover the hero, and likewise the fool, that is hidden in our passion for knowledge; we must now and then be joyful in our folly, that we may continue to be joyful in our wisdom! And just because we are heavy and serious men in our ultimate depth, and are rather weights than men, there is nothing that does us so much good as the fool's cap and bells: we need them in presence of ourselves—we need all arrogant, soaring, dancing, mocking, childish and blessed Art, in order not to lose the free dominion over things which our ideal demands of us. It would be backsliding for us,[Pg 147] with our susceptible integrity, to lapse entirely into morality, and actually become virtuous monsters and scarecrows, on account of the over-strict requirements which we here lay down for ourselves. We ought also to be able to stand above morality, and not only stand with the painful stiffness of one who every moment fears to slip and fall, but we should also be able to soar and play above it! How could we dispense with Art for that purpose, how could we dispense with the fool?—And as long as you are still ashamed of yourselves in any way, you still do not belong to us!

[Pg 148]

[Pg 149]
[Pg 150]
[Pg 151]



New Struggles.—After Buddha was dead people showed his shadow for centuries afterwards in a cave,—an immense frightful shadow. God is dead:—but as the human race is constituted, there will perhaps be caves for millenniums yet, in which people will show his shadow.—And we—we have still to overcome his shadow!


Let us be on our Guard.—Let us be on our guard against thinking that the world is a living being. Where could it extend itself? What could it nourish itself with? How could it grow and increase? We know tolerably well what the organic is; and we are to reinterpret the emphatically derivative, tardy, rare and accidental, which we only perceive on the crust of the earth, into the essential, universal and eternal, as those do who call the universe an organism? That disgusts me. Let us now be on our guard against believing that the universe is a machine; it is assuredly not constructed with a view to one end; we invest it with far too high an honour with the word "machine." Let us be on our guard against supposing that anything so methodical as the cyclic motions of our neighbouring stars obtains generally and throughout the universe; indeed a glance at the[Pg 152] Milky Way induces doubt as to whether there are not many cruder and more contradictory motions there, and even stars with continuous, rectilinearly gravitating orbits, and the like. The astral arrangement in which we live is an exception; this arrangement, and the relatively long durability which is determined by it, has again made possible the exception of exceptions, the formation of organic life. The general character of the world, on the other hand, is to all eternity chaos; not by the absence of necessity, but in the sense of the absence of order, structure, form, beauty, wisdom, and whatever else our sthetic humanities are called. Judged by our reason, the unlucky casts are far oftenest the rule, the exceptions are not the secret purpose; and the whole musical box repeats eternally its air, which can never be called a melody,—and finally the very expression, "unlucky cast" is already an anthropomorphising which involves blame. But how could we presume to blame or praise the universe! Let us be on our guard against ascribing to it heartlessness and unreason, or their opposites; it is neither perfect, nor beautiful, nor noble; nor does it seek to be anything of the kind, it does not at all attempt to imitate man! It is altogether unaffected by our sthetic and moral judgments! Neither has it any self-preservative instinct, nor instinct at all; it also knows no law. Let us be on our guard against saying that there are laws in nature. There are only necessities: there is no one who commands, no one who obeys, no one who transgresses. When you know that there is no design, you know[Pg 153] also that there is no chance: for it is only where there is a world of design that the word "chance" has a meaning. Let us be on our guard against saying that death is contrary to life. The living being is only a species of dead being, and a very rare species.—Let us be on our guard against thinking that the world eternally creates the new. There are no eternally enduring substances; matter is just another such error as the God of the Eleatics. But when shall we be at an end with our foresight and precaution! When will all these shadows of God cease to obscure us? When shall we have nature entirely undeified! When shall we be permitted to naturalise ourselves by means of the pure, newly discovered, newly redeemed nature?

Free Learning Resources