The Joyful Wisdom

Page 37 of 59


Against the Disparagers of Nature.—They are disagreeable to me, those men in whom every natural inclination forthwith becomes a disease, something disfiguring, or even disgraceful. They have seduced us to the opinion that the inclinations and impulses of men are evil; they are the cause of our great injustice to our own nature, and to all nature! There are enough of men who may yield to their impulses gracefully and carelessly: but they do not do so, for fear of that imaginary "evil thing" in nature! That is the cause why there is so little nobility to be found among men: the indication of which will always be to have no fear of oneself, to expect nothing disgraceful from oneself, to fly without hesitation whithersoever we are impelled—we free-born birds! Wherever we come, there will always be freedom and sunshine around us.


Short-lived Habits.—I love short-lived habits, and regard them as an invaluable means for getting a knowledge of many things and various conditions, to the very bottom of their sweetness and bitterness; my nature is altogether arranged for short-lived habits, even in the needs of its bodily health, and in general, as far as I can see, from the lowest up to the highest matters. I always think that this will at last satisfy me permanently (the short-lived habit has also this[Pg 230] characteristic belief of passion, the belief in everlasting duration; I am to be envied for having found it and recognised it), and then it nourishes me at noon and at eve, and spreads a profound satisfaction around me and in me, so that I have no longing for anything else, not needing to compare, or despise, or hate. But one day the habit has had its time: the good thing separates from me, not as something which then inspires disgust in me—but peaceably, and as though satisfied with me, as I am with it; as if we had to be mutually thankful, and thus shook hands for farewell. And already the new habit waits at the door, and similarly also my belief—indestructible fool and sage that I am!—that this new habit will be the right one, the ultimate right one. So it is with me as regards foods, thoughts, men, cities, poems, music, doctrines, arrangements of the day, and modes of life.—On the other hand, I hate permanent habits, and feel as if a tyrant came into my neighbourhood, and as if my life's breath condensed, when events take such a form that permanent habits seem necessarily to grow out of them: for example, through an official position, through constant companionship with the same persons, through a settled abode, or through a uniform state of health. Indeed, from the bottom of my soul I am gratefully disposed to all my misery and sickness, and to whatever is imperfect in me, because such things leave me a hundred back-doors through which I can escape from permanent habits. The most unendurable thing, to be sure, the really terrible thing, would be a life without habits, a life which[Pg 231] continually required improvisation:—that would be my banishment and my Siberia.


A Fixed Reputation.—A fixed reputation was formerly a matter of the very greatest utility; and wherever society continues to be ruled by the herd-instinct, it is still most suitable for every individual to give to his character and business the appearance of unalterableness,—even when they are not so in reality. "One can rely on him, he remains the same"—that is the praise which has most significance in all dangerous conditions of society. Society feels with satisfaction that it has a reliable tool ready at all times in the virtue of this one, in the ambition of that one, and in the reflection and passion of a third one,—it honours this tool-like nature, this self-constancy, this unchangeableness in opinions, efforts, and even in faults, with the highest honours. Such a valuation, which prevails and has prevailed everywhere simultaneously with the morality of custom, educates "characters," and brings all changing, re-learning, and self-transforming into disrepute. Be the advantage of this mode of thinking ever so great otherwise, it is in any case the mode of judging which is most injurious to knowledge: for precisely the good-will of the knowing one ever to declare himself unhesitatingly as opposed to his former opinions, and in general to be distrustful of all that wants to be fixed in him—is here condemned and brought into disrepute. The disposition of the thinker, as incompatible with[Pg 232] a "fixed reputation," is regarded as dishonourable, while the petrifaction of opinions has all the honour to itself:—we have at present still to live under the interdict of such rules! How difficult it is to live when one feels that the judgment of many millenniums is around one and against one. It is probable that for many millenniums knowledge was afflicted with a bad conscience, and there must have been much self-contempt and secret misery in the history of the greatest intellects.


Ability to Contradict—Everyone knows at present that the ability, to endure contradiction is a good indication of culture. Some people even know that the higher man courts opposition, and provokes it, so as to get a cue to his hitherto unknown partiality. But the ability to contradict, the attainment of a good conscience in hostility to the accustomed, the traditional and the hallowed,—that is more than both the above-named abilities, and is the really great, new and astonishing thing in our culture, the step of all steps of the emancipated intellect: who knows that?—


A Sigh.—I caught this notion on the way, and rapidly took the readiest, poor words to hold it fast, so that it might not again fly away. But it has died in these dry words, and hangs and flaps about in them—and now I hardly know, when I look upon it, how I could have had such happiness when I caught this bird.

[Pg 233]


What one should Learn from Artists.—What means have we for making things beautiful, attractive, and desirable, when they are not so?—and I suppose they are never so in themselves! We have here something to learn from physicians, when, for example, they dilute what is bitter, or put wine and sugar into their mixing-bowl; but we have still more to learn from artists, who in fact, are continually concerned in devising such inventions and artifices. To withdraw from things until one no longer sees much of them, until one has even to see things into them, in order to see them at all—or to view them from the side, and as in a frame—or to place them so that they partly disguise themselves and only permit of perspective views—or to look at them through coloured glasses, or in the light of the sunset—or to furnish them with a surface or skin which is not fully transparent: we should learn all this from artists, and moreover be wiser than they. For this fine power of theirs usually ceases with them where art ceases and life begins; we, however, want to be the poets of our lives, and first of all in the smallest and most commonplace matters.


Prelude to Science.—Do you believe then that the sciences would have arisen and grown up if the sorcerers, alchemists, astrologers and witches had not been their forerunners; those who, with their promisings and foreshadowings, had first to[Pg 234] create a thirst, a hunger, and a taste for hidden and forbidden powers? Yea, that infinitely more had to be promised than could ever be fulfilled, in order that something might be fulfilled in the domain of knowledge? Perhaps the whole of religion, also, may appear to some distant age as an exercise and a prelude, in like manner as the prelude and preparation of science here exhibit themselves, though not at all practised and regarded as such. Perhaps religion may have been the peculiar means for enabling individual men to enjoy but once the entire self-satisfaction of a God and all his self-redeeming power. Indeed!—one may ask—would man have learned at all to get on the tracks of hunger and thirst for himself, and to extract satiety and fullness out of himself, without that religious schooling and preliminary history? Had Prometheus first to fancy that he had stolen the light, and that he did penance for the theft,—in order finally to discover that he had created the light, in that he had longed for the light, and that not only man, but also God, had been the work of his hands and the clay in his hands? All mere creations of the creator?—just as the illusion, the theft, the Caucasus, the vulture, and the whole tragic Prometheia of all thinkers?

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