The Joyful Wisdom

Page 38 of 59


Illusion of the Contemplative.—Higher men are distinguished from lower, by seeing and hearing immensely more, and in a thoughtful manner—and it is precisely this that distinguishes man from the animal, and the higher animal from the lower. The world always becomes fuller for him[Pg 235] who grows up to the full stature of humanity; there are always more interesting fishing-hooks, thrown out to him; the number of his stimuli is continually on the increase, and similarly the varieties of his pleasure and pain,—the higher man becomes always at the same time happier and unhappier. An illusion, however, is his constant accompaniment all along: he thinks he is placed as a spectator and auditor before the great pantomime and concert of life; he calls his nature a contemplative nature, and thereby overlooks the fact that he himself is also a real creator, and continuous poet of life,—that he no doubt differs greatly from the actor in this drama, the so-called practical man, but differs still more from a mere onlooker or spectator before the stage. There is certainly vis contemplativa, and re-examination of his work peculiar to him as poet, but at the same time, and first and foremost, he has the vis creativa, which the practical man or doer lacks, whatever appearance and current belief may say to the contrary. It is we, who think and feel, that actually and unceasingly make something which did not before exist: the whole eternally increasing world of valuations, colours, weights, perspectives, gradations, affirmations and negations. This composition of ours is continually learnt, practised, and translated into flesh and actuality, and even into the commonplace, by the so-called practical men (our actors, as we have said). Whatever has value in the present world, has not it in itself, by its nature,—nature is always worthless:—but a value was once given to it, bestowed upon it[Pg 236] and it was we who gave and bestowed! We only have created the world which is of any account to man!—But it is precisely this knowledge that we lack, and when we get hold of it for a moment we have forgotten it the next: we misunderstand our highest power, we contemplative men, and estimate ourselves at too low a rate,—we are neither as proud nor as happy as we might be.


The Danger of the Happiest Ones.—To have fine senses and a fine taste; to be accustomed to the select and the intellectually best as our proper and readiest fare; to be blessed with a strong, bold, and daring soul; to go through life with a quiet eye and a firm step, ever ready for the worst as for a festival, and full of longing for undiscovered worlds and seas, men and Gods; to listen to all joyous music, as if there perhaps brave men, soldiers and seafarers, took a brief repose and enjoyment, and in the profoundest pleasure of the moment were overcome with tears and the whole purple melancholy of happiness: who would not like all this to be his possession, his condition! It was the happiness of Homerr! The condition of him who invented the Gods for the Greeks,—nay, who invented his Gods for himself! But let us not conceal the fact that with this happiness of Homer in one's soul, one is more liable to suffering than any other creature under the sun! And only at this price do we purchase the most precious pearl that the waves of existence have hitherto washed ashore! As its possessor one always becomes more[Pg 237] sensitive to pain, and at last too sensitive: a little displeasure and loathing sufficed in the end to make Homer disgusted with life. He was unable to solve a foolish little riddle which some young fishers proposed to him! Yes, the little riddles are the dangers of the happiest ones!—


Two Happy Ones.—Certainly this man, notwithstanding his youth, understands the improvisation of life, and astonishes even the acutest observers. For it seems that he never makes a mistake, although he constantly plays the most hazardous games. One is reminded of the improvising masters of the musical art, to whom even the listeners would fain ascribe a divine infallibility of the hand, notwithstanding that they now and then make a mistake, as every mortal is liable to do. But they are skilled and inventive, and always ready in a moment to arrange into the structure of the score the most accidental tone (where the jerk of a finger or a humour brings it about), and to animate the accident with a fine meaning and soul.—Here is quite a different man: everything that he intends and plans fails with him in the long run. That on which he has now and again set his heart has already brought him several times to the abyss, and to the very verge of ruin; and if he has as yet got out of the scrape, it certainly has not been merely with a "black eye." Do you think he is unhappy over it? He resolved long ago not to regard his own wishes and plans as of so much importance. "If this does not succeed with[Pg 238] me," he says to himself, "perhaps that will succeed; and on the whole I do not know but that I am under more obligation to thank my failures than any of my successes. Am I made to be headstrong, and to wear the bull's horns? That which constitutes the worth and the sum of life for me, lies somewhere else; I know more of life, because I have been so often on the point of losing it; and just on that account I have more of life than any of you!"


In Doing we Leave Undone.—In the main all those moral systems are distasteful to me which say: "Do not do this! Renounce! Overcome thyself!" On the other hand I am favourable to those moral systems which stimulate me to do something, and to do it again from morning till evening, to dream of it at night, and think of nothing else but to do it well, as well as is possible for me alone! From him who so lives there fall off one after the other the things that do not pertain to such a life: without hatred or antipathy, he sees this take leave of him to-day, and that to-morrow, like the yellow leaves which every livelier breeze strips from the tree: or he does not see at all that they take leave of him, so firmly is his eye fixed upon his goal, and generally forward, not sideways, backward, or downward. "Our doing must determine what we leave undone; in that we do, we leave undone"—so it pleases me, so runs my placitum. But I do not mean to strive with open eyes for my impoverishment; I do not like any of the negative[Pg 239] virtues whose very essence is negation and self-renunciation.


Self-control—Those moral teachers who first and foremost order man to get himself into his own power, induce thereby a curious infirmity in him—namely, a constant sensitiveness with reference to all natural strivings and inclinations, and as it were, a sort of itching. Whatever may henceforth drive him, draw him, allure or impel him, whether internally or externally—it always seems to this sensitive being as if his self-control were in danger: he is no longer at liberty to trust himself to any instinct, to any free flight, but stands constantly with defensive mien, armed against himself, with sharp distrustful eye, the eternal watcher of his stronghold, to which office he has appointed himself. Yes, he can be great in that position! But how unendurable he has now become to others, how difficult even for himself to bear, how impoverished and cut off from the finest accidents of his soul! Yea, even from all further instruction! For we must be able to lose ourselves at times, if we want to learn something of what we have not in ourselves.

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