Wednesday, October 1, 2014

About the weather

Friederich Nietszche, Dawn (1881)

About the weather. --A very unusual and unpredictable weather makes people mistrustful, even of others; under such conditions they become addicted to novelty, for they are obliged to depart from their usual habits. For this reason despots love all climatic zones where the weather is moral. 

Good and evil nature. --First, human beings imagined themselves into nature: they saw themselves and their kind, namely their evil and temperamental disposition, everywhere, hidden, as it were, behind clouds, thunderstorms, beasts of prey, trees and plants: those were the days when they invented "evil nature." Then along came an age in which they imagined themselves out of nature again, the Age of Rousseau: people were so sick of one another that they positively had to have a corner of the world where they, with all their suffering, could not get to: they invented "good nature."

From the company of thinkers. --In the middle of the ocean of becoming we awaken on a tiny island no larger than a skiff, we adventurers and birds of passage, and for a little while we take a look around: as quickly and curiously as possible, for how fast might a wind scatter us or a wave wash across our tiny island so that nothing more is left of us! But here, in this small space we find other birds of passage and hear of earlier ones still --and we thus experience a precious minute of knowing and divining amid the merry beating of wings and chirping with another and in spirit we adventure out over the ocean, no less proud than the ocean itself!

For a purpose. -- Of all actions, the ones least understood are those undertaken for a purpose, no doubt because they have always passed for the most intelligible and are to our way of thinking the most commonplace. The great problems are right before one's very eyes.  

To reassure the skeptic. --"I have no idea what I'm doing! I have no idea what I should do!" You're right, but make no mistake about it: you are being done! moment by every moment! Humanity has, through all ages, confused the active and the passive, it is its everlasting grammatical blunder. 

What does it mean to want! --We laugh at anyone who steps out of his chamber the moment the sun exits its own and says, "I want the sun to rise"; and at anyone who cannot stop a wheel from rolling and says: "I want it to roll!"; and at anyone who is thrown down in a wrestling match and says: "Here I lie, but I want to lie here!" Yet, despite all the laughter! Are we, after all, ever acting any differently from one of these three whenever we use the phrase: "I want"? 

The two directions. --If we attempt to examine the mirror in itself, we uncover, finally, nothing but the things upon it. If we want to seize hold of things, we come up, in the end, with nothing but the mirror. --This is, in the most general terms, the history of knowledge.

Retroactive rationality. --All things that live a long time gradually become so saturated with reason that their lineage out of unreason thus becomes implausible. Doesn't virtually every exact history of emergence strike us as feeling paradoxical and outrageous? Doesn't the good historian, at bottom, continuously contradict?

Reason. --How did reason come into the world? As is only fitting, in an unreasonable way, by a coincidence. We will just have to figure it out like a riddle.

The new fundamental feeling: our permanent transitoriness. --Formerly one tried to get a feel for the majesty of human beings by pointing backward toward their divine descent: this has now become a forbidden path, because before its gate stand the ape along with other heinous beasts, grinning knowingly as if to say: no farther here in this direction. So, one has a go of it now from the opposite direction: the path humanity pursues shall serve as proof of its majesty and kinship to God. Alas, this leads nowhere! At the end of this path stands the funeral urn of the last human and gravedigger (with the inscription "Any human interest is my concern"). However high humanity may have evolved --and perhaps at the end it will be standing even lower than at the beginning! --there is in store for humanity no more a transformation into a higher order than for the ant and the earwigs, which, at the end of the "earthly days," will not ascend to kinship with God and eternal life. The Becoming drags the Has Been along behind it: why should an exception to this eternal spectacle be made for some little planet and again for some little species on it! Away with such sentimentalities!

Pleasure in what is real. --Our current tendency to take pleasure in what is real --almost all of us have it-- is comprehensible only by virtue of the fact that for so long and to point of bored disgust, we took pleasure in what is unreal. In itself, as it now appears involuntarily and without refinement, it is not exactly an innocuous tendency: the least of its dangers is bad taste. 

"Humanity". --We don't consider animals to be moral creatures. But do you think animals consider us moral creatures? --An animal that could talk said: "Humanity is a presumption from which we animals, at least, do not suffer."

Against definitions of moral goals. --Everywhere these days one hears the goal of morality defined more or less as follows: it is the preserving and advancing of humanity; but this amounts to a desire for a formula and nothing more. Preserving what?, one must immediately counter, advancing where? Hasn't precisely the essential thing, the answer to this "What?" and "Where?" been left out of the formula? So what, then, can it contribute to the instruction of what our duty is other than what currently passes, tacitly and thoughtlessly, as already established? Can one discern sufficiently from the formula whether we ought to aim for the longest possible existence for humanity? Or the greatest possible de-animalization of humanity? How different in each case the means, in other words, practical morality, would have to be! Suppose one wanted to supply humanity with the highest possible degree of rationality: this would certainly not mean vouchsafing it its greatest possible longevity! Or suppose one thought of its "highest happiness" as the "What?" and "Where": does this mean the greatest degree individual persons could gradually attain? Or a, by the way, utterly incalculable, yet ultimately attained average bliss for everyone? And why is precisely morality supposed to be the way to get there? Hasn't morality, on the whole, opened up such abundant sources of displeasure that one could sooner judge that, heretofore, with every refinement in morality, human beings have grown more and more dissatisfied with themselves, their neighbor, and their lot? Hasn't the most moral person up to now been of the belief that, in the face of morality, the only legitimate human condition is one of profoundest misery?

The feared eye. --Artists, poets, and writers fear nothing more than the eye that discerns their little deception, that perceives after the fact how often they have stood at the crossroads where it led whether to naive pleasure in themselves or to the production of effects; that checks the figures when they wanted to sell a little for  a lot, when they sought to adorn and elevate without themselves being elevated; that sees straight through all their art's deception to the thought as it first appeared to them, perhaps as an enchanting figure of light, but perhaps also as a theft on the world at large, as a quotidian thought that they had to stretch, shorten, dye, develop, spice up, in order to make something out of it instead of the thought making something out of them --oh this eye that notes in your world all your restless anxiety, your greedy spying about, your imitation and outdoing (the latter is merely envious imitation), that knows your blush of shame just as well as your art --of concealing this blush and reinterpreting it for yourself!

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