WHY I AM SO CLEVER
Why do I know more things than other people? Why, in fact, am I so clever? I have never pondered over questions that are not questions. I have never squandered my strength. Of actual religious difficulties, for instance, I have no experience. I have never known what it is to feel "sinful." In the same way I completely lack any reliable criterion for ascertaining what constitutes a prick of conscience: from all accounts a prick of conscience does not seem to be a very estimable thing.... Once it was done I should hate to leave an action of mine in the lurch; I should prefer completely to omit the evil outcome, the consequences, from the problem concerning the value of an action. In the face of evil consequences one is too ready to lose the proper standpoint from which one's deed ought to be considered. A prick of conscience strikes me as a sort of "evil eye." Something that has failed should be honoured all the more jealously, precisely because it has failed—this is much more in keeping with my morality.—"God," "the immortality of the soul," "salvation," a "beyond"—to all these notions, even as a child, I never paid any attention whatsoever, nor did I waste any time upon them,—maybe I was never naif enough for that?—I am quite unacquainted with atheism as a result, and still less[Pg 29] as an event in my life: in me it is inborn, instinctive. I am too inquisitive, too incredulous, too high spirited, to be satisfied with such a palpably clumsy solution of things. God is a too palpably clumsy solution of things; a solution which shows a lack of delicacy towards us thinkers—at bottom He is really no more than a coarse and rude prohibition of us: ye shall not think!... I am much more interested in another question,—a question upon which the "salvation of humanity" depends to a far greater degree than it does upon any piece of theological curiosity: I refer to nutrition. For ordinary purposes, it may be formulated as follows: "How precisely must thou feed thyself in order to attain to thy maximum of power, or virtù in the Renaissance style,—of virtue free from moralic acid?" My experiences in regard to this matter have been as bad as they possibly could be; I am surprised that I set myself this question so late in life, and that it took me so long to draw "rational" conclusions from my experiences. Only the absolute worth-1 lessness of German culture—its "idealism"—can to some extent explain how it was that precisely in this matter I was so backward that my ignorance was almost saintly. This "culture," which from first to last teaches one to lose sight of actual things and to hunt after thoroughly problematic and so-called ideal aims, as, for instance, "classical culture"—as if it were not hopeless from the start to try to unite "classical" and "German" in one concept. It is even a little comical—try and imagine a "classically cultured" citizen of Leipzig!—Indeed, I can say, that up to a very mature age, my food was[Pg 30] entirely bad—expressed morally, it was "impersonal," "selfless," "altruistic," to the glory of cooks and all other fellow-Christians. It was through the cooking in vogue at Leipzig, for instance, together with my first study of Schopenhauer (1865), that I earnestly renounced my "Will to Live." To spoil one's stomach by absorbing insufficient nourishment—this problem seemed to my mind solved with admirable felicity by the above-mentioned cookery. (It is said that in the year 1866 changes were introduced into this department.) But as to German cookery in general—what has it not got on its conscience! Soup before the meal (still called alla tedesca in the Venetian cookery books of the sixteenth century); meat boiled to shreds, vegetables cooked with fat and flour; the degeneration of pastries into paper-weights! And, if you add thereto the absolutely bestial post-prandial drinking habits of the ancients, and not alone of the ancient Germans, you will understand where German intellect took its origin—that is to say, in sadly disordered intestines.... German intellect is indigestion; it can assimilate nothing. But even English diet, which in comparison with German, and indeed with French alimentation, seems to me to constitute a "return to Nature,"—that is to say, to cannibalism,—is profoundly opposed to my own instincts. It seems to me to give the intellect heavy feet, in fact, Englishwomen's feet.... The best cooking is that of Piedmont. Alcoholic drinks do not agree with me; a single glass of wine or beer a day is amply sufficient to turn life into a valley of tears[Pg 31] for me;—in Munich live my antipodes. Although I admit that this knowledge came to me somewhat late, it already formed part of my experience even as a child. As a boy I believed that the drinking of wine and the smoking of tobacco were at first but the vanities of youths, and later merely bad habits. Maybe the poor wine of Naumburg was partly responsible for this poor opinion of wine in general. In order to believe that wine was exhilarating, I should have had to be a Christian—in other words, I should have had to believe in what, to my mind, is an absurdity. Strange to say, whereas small quantities of alcohol, taken with plenty of water, succeed in making me feel out of sorts, large quantities turn me almost into a rollicking tar. Even as a boy I showed my bravado in this respect. To compose a long Latin essay in one night, to revise and recopy it, to aspire with my pen to emulating the exactitude and the terseness of my model, Sallust, and to pour a few very strong grogs over it all—this mode of procedure, while I was a pupil at the venerable old school of Pforta, was not in the least out of keeping with my physiology, nor perhaps with that of Sallust, however much it may have been alien to dignified Pforta. Later on, towards the middle of my life, I grew more and more opposed to alcoholic drinks: I, an opponent of vegetarianism, who have experienced what vegetarianism is,—just as Wagner, who converted me back to meat, experienced it,—cannot with sufficient earnestness advise all more spiritual natures to abstain absolutely from alcohol. Water answers the purpose.... I have a predilection in favour of[Pg 32] those places where in all directions one has opportunities of drinking from running brooks (Nice, Turin, Sils). In vino Veritas: it seems that here once more I am at variance with the rest of the world about the concept "Truth"—with me spirit moves on the face of the waters.... Here are a few more indications as to my morality. A heavy meal is digested more easily than an inadequate one. The first principle of a good digestion is that the stomach should become active as a whole. A man ought, therefore, to know the size of his stomach. For the same reasons all those interminable meals, which I call interrupted sacrificial feasts, and which are to be had at any table d'hôte, are strongly to be deprecated. Nothing should be eaten between meals, coffee should be given up—coffee makes one gloomy. Tea is beneficial only in the morning. It should be taken in small quantities, but very strong. It may be very harmful, and indispose you for the whole day, if it be taken the least bit too weak. Everybody has his own standard in this matter, often between the narrowest and most delicate limits. In an enervating climate tea is not a good beverage with which to start the day: an hour before taking it an excellent thing is to drink a cup of thick cocoa, feed from oil. Remain seated as little as possible, put no trust in any thought that is not born in the open, to the accompaniment of free bodily motion—nor in one in which even the muscles do not celebrate a feast. All prejudices take their origin in the intestines. A sedentary life, as I have already said elsewhere, is the real sin against the Holy Spirit.
To the question of nutrition, that of locality and climate is next of kin. Nobody is so constituted as to be able to live everywhere and anywhere; and he who has great duties to perform, which lay claim to all his strength, has, in this respect, a very limited choice. The influence of climate upon the bodily functions, affecting their acceleration or retardation, extends so far, that a blunder in the choice of locality and climate is able not only to alienate a man from his actual duty, but also to withhold it from him altogether, so that he never even comes face to face with it. Animal vigour never acquires enough strength in him in order to reach that pitch of artistic freedom which makes his own soul whisper to him: I, alone, can do that.... Ever so slight a tendency to laziness in the intestines, once it has become a habit, is quite sufficient to make something mediocre, something "German" out of a genius; the climate of Germany, alone, is enough to discourage the strongest and most heroically disposed intestines. The tempo of the body's functions is closely bound up with the agility or the clumsiness of the spirit's feet; spirit itself is indeed only a form of these organic functions. Let anybody make a list of the places in which men of great intellect have been found, and are still found; where wit, subtlety, and malice constitute happiness; where genius is almost necessarily at home: all of them rejoice in exceptionally dry air. Paris, Provence, Florence, Jerusalem, Athens—these names prove something, namely:[Pg 34] that genius is conditioned by dry air, by a pure sky—that is to say, by rapid organic functions, by the constant and ever-present possibility of procuring for one's self great and even enormous quantities of strength. I have a certain case in mind in which a man of remarkable intellect and independent spirit became a narrow, craven specialist and a grumpy old crank, simply owing to a lack of subtlety in his instinct for climate. And I myself might have been an example of the same thing, if illness had not compelled me to reason, and to reflect upon reason realistically. Now that I have learnt through long practice to read the effects of climatic and meteorological influences, from my own body, as though from a very delicate and reliable instrument, and that I am able to calculate the change in degrees of atmospheric moisture by means of physiological observations upon myself, even on so short a journey as that from Turin to Milan; I think with horror of the ghastly fact that my whole life, until the last ten years,—the most perilous years,—has always been spent in the wrong, and what to me ought to have been the most forbidden, places. Naumburg, Pforta, Thuringia in general, Leipzig, Bâle, Venice—so many ill-starred places for a constitution like mine. If I cannot recall one single happy reminiscence of my childhood and youth, it is nonsense to suppose that so-called "moral" causes could account for this—as, for instance, the incontestable fact that I lacked companions that could have satisfied me; for this fact is the same to-day as it ever was, and it does not prevent me from being cheerful and brave. But it was ignorance[Pg 35] in physiological matters—that confounded "Idealism"—that was the real curse of my life. This was the superfluous and foolish element in my existence; something from which nothing could spring, and for which there can be no settlement and no compensation. As the outcome of this "Idealism" I regard all the blunders, the great aberrations of instinct, and the "modest specialisations" which drew me aside from the task of my life; as, for instance, the fact that I became a philologist—why not at least a medical man or anything else which might have opened my eyes? My days at Bâle, the whole of my intellectual routine, including my daily time-table, was an absolutely senseless abuse of extraordinary powers, without the slightest compensation for the strength that I spent, without even a thought of what I was squandering and how its place might be filled. I lacked all subtlety in egoism, all the fostering care of an imperative instinct; I was in a state in which one is ready to regard one's self as anybody's equal, a state of "disinterestedness," a forgetting of one's distance from others—something, in short, for which I can never forgive myself. When I had well-nigh reached the end of my tether, simply because I had almost reached my end, I began to reflect upon the fundamental absurdity of my life—"Idealism." It was illness that first brought me to reason.
After the choice of nutrition, the choice of climate and locality, the third matter concerning which one[Pg 36] must not on any account make a blunder, is the choice of the manner in which one recuperates one's strength. Here, again, according to the extent to which a spirit is sui generis, the limits of that which he can allow himself—in other words, the limits of that which is beneficial to him—become more and more confined. As far as I in particular am concerned, reading in general belongs to my means of recuperation; consequently it belongs to that which rids me of myself, to that which enables me to wander in strange sciences and strange souls—to that, in fact, about which I am no longer in earnest. Indeed, it is while reading that I recover from my earnestness. During the time that I am deeply absorbed in my work, no books are found within my reach; it would never occur to me to allow any one to speak or even to think in my presence. For that is what reading would mean.... Has any one ever actually noticed, that, during the period of profound tension to which the state of pregnancy condemns not only the mind, but also, at bottom, the whole organism, accident and every kind of external stimulus acts too acutely and strikes too deep? Accident and external stimuli must, as far as possible, be avoided: a sort of walling-of-one's-self-in is one of the primary instinctive precautions of spiritual pregnancy. Shall I allow a strange thought to steal secretly over the wall? For that is what reading would mean.... The periods of work and fruit-fulness are followed by periods of recuperation: come hither, ye delightful, intellectual, intelligent books! Shall I read German books?... I must go back six months to catch myself with a book in[Pg 37] my hand. What was it? An excellent study by Victor Brochard upon the Greek sceptics, in which my Laertiana was used to advantage. The sceptics!—the only honourable types among that double-faced and sometimes quintuple-faced throng, the philosophers!.... Otherwise I almost always take refuge in the same books: altogether their number is small; they are books which are precisely my proper fare. It is not perhaps in my nature to read much, and of all sorts: a library makes me ill. Neither is it my nature to love much or many kinds of things. Suspicion or even hostility towards new books is much more akin to my instinctive feeling than "toleration," largeur de cœur, and other forms of "neighbour-love." ... It is to a small number of old French authors, that I always return again and again; I believe only in French culture, and regard everything else in Europe which calls itself "culture" as a misunderstanding. I do not even take the German kind into consideration.... The few instances of higher culture with which I have[Pg 38] met in Germany were all French in their origin. The most striking example of this was Madame Cosima Wagner, by far the most decisive voice in matters of taste that I have ever heard. If I do not read, but literally love Pascal? as the most instinctive sacrifice to Christianity, killing himself inch by inch, first bodily, then spiritually, according to the terrible consistency of this most appalling form of inhuman cruelty; if I have something of Montaigne's mischievousness in my soul, and—who knows?—perhaps also in my body; if my artist's taste endeavours to defend the names of Molière, Corneille, and Racine, and not without bitterness, against such a wild genius as Shakespeare—all this does not prevent me from regarding even the latter-day Frenchmen also as charming companions. I can think of absolutely no century in history, in which a netful of more inquisitive and at the same time more subtle psychologists could be drawn up together than in the Paris of the present day. Let me mention a few at random—for their number is by no means small—Paul Bourget, Pierre Loti, Gyp, Meilhac, Anatole France, Jules Lemaitre; or, to point to one of strong race, a genuine Latin, of whom I am particularly fond, Guy de Maupassant. Between ourselves, I prefer this generation even to its masters, all of whom were corrupted by German philosophy (Taine, for instance, by Hegel, whom he has to thank for his misunderstanding of great men and great periods). Wherever Germany extends her sway, she ruins culture. It was the war which first saved the spirit of France.... Stendhal is one of the happiest accidents of my life—for everything[Pg 39] that marks an epoch in it has been brought to me by accident and never by means of a recommendation. He is quite priceless, with his psychologist's eye, quick at forestalling and anticipating; with his grasp of facts, which is reminiscent of the same art in the greatest of all masters of facts (ex ungue Napoleonem); and, last but not least, as an honest atheist—a specimen which is both rare and difficult to discover in France—all honour to Prosper Mérimée!... Maybe that I am even envious of Stendhal? He robbed me of the best atheistic joke, which I of all people could have perpetrated: "God's only excuse is that He does not exist" ... I myself have said somewhere—What has been the greatest objection to Life hitherto?—God....
It was Heinrich Heine who gave me the most perfect idea of what a lyrical poet could be. In vain do I search through all the kingdoms of antiquity or of modern times for anything to resemble his sweet and passionate music. He possessed that divine wickedness, without which perfection itself becomes unthinkable to me,—I estimate the value of men, of races, according to the extent to which they are unable to conceive of a god who has not a dash of the satyr in him. And with what mastery he wields his native tongue! One day it will be said of Heine and me that we were by far the greatest artists of the German language that have ever existed, and that we left all the efforts that mere Germans made in this language an incalculable distance[Pg 40]behind us. I must be profoundly related to Byron's Manfred: of all the dark abysses in this work I found the counterparts in my own soul—at the age of thirteen I was ripe for this book. Words fail me, I have only a look, for those who dare to utter the name of Faust in the presence of Manfred. The Germans are incapable of conceiving anything sublime: for a proof of this, look at Schumann! Out of anger for this mawkish Saxon, I once deliberately composed a counter-overture to Manfred, of which Hans von Bülow declared he had never seen the like before on paper: such compositions amounted to a violation of Euterpe. When I cast about me for my highest formula of Shakespeare, I find invariably but this one: that he conceived the type of Cæsar. Such things a man cannot guess—he either is the thing, or he is not. The great poet draws his creations only from out of his own reality. This is so to such an extent, that often after a lapse of time he can no longer endure his own work.... After casting a glance between the pages of my Zarathustra, I pace my room to and fro for half an hour at a time, unable to overcome an insufferable fit of tears. I know of no more heartrending reading than Shakespeare: how a man must have suffered to be so much in need of playing the clown! Is Hamlet understood? It is not doubt, but certitude that drives one mad.... But in order to feel this, one must be profound, one must be an abyss, a philosopher.... We all fear the truth.... And, to make a confession; I feel instinctively certain and convinced that Lord Bacon is the originator, the self-torturer, of this most sinister kind of literature:[Pg 41] what do I care about the miserable gabble of American muddlers and blockheads? But the power for the greatest realism in vision is not only compatible with the greatest realism in deeds, with the monstrous in deeds, with crime—it actually presupposes the latter. ... We do not know half enough about Lord Bacon—the first realist in all the highest acceptation of this word—to be sure of everything he did, everything he willed, and everything he experienced in his inmost soul.... Let the critics go to hell! Suppose I had christened my Zarathustra with a name not my own,—let us say with Richard Wagner's name,—the acumen of two thousand years would not have sufficed to guess that the author of Human, all-too-Human was the visionary of Zarathustra.
As I am speaking here of the recreations of my life, I feel I must express a word or two of gratitude for that which has refreshed me by far the most heartily and most profoundly. This, without the slightest doubt, was my intimate relationship with Richard Wagner. All my other relationships with men I treat quite lightly; but I would not have the days I spent at Tribschen—those days of confidence, of cheerfulness, of sublime flashes, and of profound moments—blotted from my life at any price. I know not what Wagner may have been for others; but no cloud ever darkened our sky. And this brings me back again to France,—I have no arguments against Wagnerites, and hoc genus omne who believe that they do honour to Wagner[Pg 42] by believing him to be like themselves; for such people I have only a contemptuous curl of my lip. With a nature like mine, which is so strange to everything Teutonic, that even the presence of a German retards my digestion, my first meeting with Wagner was the first moment in my life in which I breathed freely: I felt him, I honoured him, as a foreigner, as the opposite and the incarnate contradiction of all "German virtues." We who as children breathed the marshy atmosphere of the fifties, are necessarily pessimists in regard to the concept "German"; we cannot be anything else than revolutionaries—we can assent to no state of affairs which allows the canting bigot to be at the top. I care not a jot whether this canting bigot acts in different colours to-day, whether he dresses in scarlet or dons the uniform of a hussar. Very well, then! Wagner was a revolutionary—he fled from the Germans.... As an artist, a man has no home in Europe save in Paris; that subtlety of all the five senses which Wagner's art presupposes, those fingers that can detect slight gradations, psychological morbidity—all these things can be found only in Paris. Nowhere else can you meet with this passion for questions of form, this earnestness in matters of mise-en-scène, which is the Parisian earnestness par excellence. In Germany no one has any idea of the tremendous ambition that fills the heart of a Parisian artist. The German is a good fellow. Wagner was by no means a good fellow.... But I have already said quite[Pg 43] enough on the subject of Wagner's real nature (see Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 269), and about those to whom he is most closely related. He is one of the late French romanticists, that high-soaring and heaven-aspiring band of artists, like Delacroix and Berlioz, who in their inmost nacres are sick and incurable, and who are all fanatics of expression, and virtuosos through and through.... Who, in sooth, was the first intelligent follower of Wagner? Charles Baudelaire, the very man who first understood Delacroix—that typical decadent, in whom a whole generation of artists saw their reflection; he was perhaps the last of them too.... What is it that I have never forgiven Wagner? The fact that he condescended to the Germans—that he became a German Imperialist.... Wherever Germany spreads, she ruins culture.
Taking everything into consideration, I could never have survived my youth without Wagnerian music. For I was condemned to the society of Germans. If a man wish to get rid of a feeling of insufferable oppression, he has to take to hashish. Well, I had to take to Wagner. Wagner is the counter-poison to everything essentially German—the fact that he is a poison too, I do not deny. From the moment that Tristan was arranged for the piano—all honour to you, Herr von Bülow!—I was a Wagnerite. Wagner's previous works seemed beneath me—they were too commonplace, too "German." ... But to this day I am still seeking for a work which would be a match to Tristan in[Pg 44] dangerous fascination, and possess the same gruesome and dulcet quality of infinity; I seek among all the arts in vain. All the quaint features of Leonardo da Vinci's work lose their charm at the sound of the first bar in Tristan. This work is without question Wagner's non plus ultra; after its creation, the composition of the Mastersingers and of the Ring was a relaxation to him. To become more healthy—this in a nature like Wagner's amounts to going backwards. The curiosity of the psychologist is so great in me, that I regard it as quite a special privilege to have lived at the right time, and to have lived precisely among Germans, in order to be ripe for this work. The world must indeed be empty for him who has never been unhealthy enough for this "infernal voluptuousness": it is allowable, it is even imperative, to employ a mystic formula for this purpose. I suppose I know better than any one the prodigious feats of which Wagner was capable, the fifty worlds of strange ecstasies to which no one else had wings to soar; and as I am alive to-day and strong enough to turn even the most suspicious and most dangerous things to my own advantage, and thus to grow stronger, I declare Wagner to have been the greatest benefactor of my life. The bond which unites us is the fact that we have suffered greater agony, even at each other's hands, than most men are able to bear nowadays, and this will always keep our names associated in the minds of men. For, just as Wagner is merely a misunderstanding among Germans, so, in truth, am I, and ever will be. Ye lack two centuries of psychological and artistic discipline, my[Pg 45] dear countrymen!... But ye can never recover the time lost.
To the most exceptional of my readers I should like to say just one word about what I really exact from music. It must be cheerful and yet profound, like an October afternoon. It must be original, exuberant, and tender, and like a dainty, soft woman in roguishness and grace ... I shall never admit that a German can understand what music is. Those musicians who are called German, the greatest and most famous foremost, are all foreigners, either Slavs, Croats, Italians, Dutchmen—or Jews; or else, like Heinrich Schütz, Bach, and Händel, they are Germans of a strong race which is now extinct. For my own part, I have still enough of the Pole left in me to let all other music go, if only I can keep Chopin. For three reasons I would except Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, and perhaps also one or two things of Liszt, who excelled all other musicians in the noble tone of his orchestration; and finally everything that has been produced beyond the Alps—this side of the Alps. I could not possibly dispense with Rossini, and still less with my Southern soul in music, the work of my Venetian maestro, Pietro Gasti. And when I say beyond the Alps, all I really mean is Venice. If I try to find a new word for music, I can never find any other than Venice. I know not how to draw any distinction[Pg 46] between tears and music. I do not know how to think either of joy, or of the south, without a shudder of fear.
On the bridge I stood
Lately, in gloomy night.
Came a distant song:
In golden drops it rolled
Over the glittering rim away.
Music, gondolas, lights—
Drunk, swam far forth in the gloom....
A stringed instrument, my soul,
Sang, imperceptibly moved,
A gondola song by stealth,
Gleaming for gaudy blessedness.
—Hearkened any thereto?
In all these things—in the choice of food, place, climate, and recreation—the instinct of self-preservation is dominant, and this instinct manifests itself with least ambiguity when it acts as an instinct of defence. To close one's eyes to much, to seal one's ears to much, to keep certain things at a distance—this is the first principle of prudence, the first proof of the fact that a man is not an accident but a necessity. The popular word for this instinct of defence is taste. A man's imperative command is not only to say "no" in cases where "yes" would be a sign of "disinterestedness," but also to say "no" as seldom as possible. One must part with all that which compels one to repeat "no," with ever greater frequency. The rationale of this principle is that all discharges of[Pg 47] defensive forces, however slight they may be, involve enormous and absolutely superfluous losses when they become regular and habitual. Our greatest expenditure of strength is made up of those small and most frequent discharges of it. The act of keeping things off, of holding them at a distance, amounts to a discharge of strength,—do not deceive yourselves on this point!—and an expenditure of energy directed at purely negative ends. Simply by being compelled to keep constantly on his guard, a man may grow so weak as to be unable any longer to defend himself. Suppose I were to step out of my house, and, instead of the quiet and aristocratic city of Turin, I were to find a German provincial town, my instinct would have to brace itself together in order to repel all that which would pour in upon it from this crushed-down and cowardly world. Or suppose I were to find a large German city—that structure of vice in which nothing grows, but where every single thing, whether good or bad, is squeezed in from outside. In such circumstances should I not be compelled to become a hedgehog? But to have prickles amounts to a squandering of strength; they even constitute a twofold luxury, when, if we only chose to do so, we could dispense with them and open our hands instead....
Another form of prudence and self-defence consists in trying to react as seldom as possible, and to keep one's self aloof from those circumstances and conditions wherein one would be condemned, as it were, to suspend one's "liberty" and one's initiative, and become a mere reacting medium.[Pg 48] As an example of this I point to the intercourse with books. The scholar who, in sooth, does little else than handle books—with the philologist of average attainments their number may amount to two hundred a day—ultimately forgets entirely and completely the capacity of thinking for himself. When he has not a book between his fingers he cannot think. When he thinks, he responds to a stimulus (a thought he has read),—finally all he does is to react. The scholar exhausts his whole strength in saying either "yes" or "no" to matter which has already been thought out, or in criticising it—he is no longer capable of thought on his own account.... In him the instinct of self-defence has decayed, otherwise he would defend himself against books. The scholar is a decadent. With my own eyes I have seen gifted, richly endowed, and free-spirited natures already "read to ruins" at thirty, and mere wax vestas that have to be rubbed before they can give off any sparks—or "thoughts." To set to early in the morning, at the break of day, in all the fulness and dawn of one's strength, and to read a book—this I call positively vicious!
At this point I can no longer evade a direct answer to the question, how one becomes what one is. And in giving it, I shall have to touch upon that masterpiece in the art of self-preservation, which is selfishness. ... Granting that one's life-task—the determination and the fate of one's life-task—greatly exceeds the average measure of[Pg 49] such things, nothing more dangerous could be conceived than to come face to face with one's self by the side of this life-task. The fact that one becomes what one is, presupposes that one has not the remotest suspicion of what one is. From this standpoint even the blunders of one's life have their own meaning and value, the temporary deviations and aberrations, the moments of hesitation and of modesty, the earnestness wasted upon duties which lie outside the actual life-task. In these matters great wisdom, perhaps even the highest wisdom, comes into activity: in these circumstances, in which nosce teipsum would be the sure road to ruin, forgetting one's self, misunderstanding one's self, belittling one's self, narrowing one's self, and making one's self mediocre, amount to reason itself. Expressed morally, to love one's neighbour and to live for others and for other things may be the means of protection employed to maintain the hardest kind of egoism. This is the exceptional case in which I, contrary to my principle and conviction, take the side of the altruistic instincts; for here they are concerned in subserving selfishness and self-discipline. The whole surface of consciousness—for consciousness is a surface—must be kept free from any one of the great imperatives. Beware even of every striking word, of every striking attitude! They are all so many risks which the instinct runs of "understanding itself" too soon. Meanwhile the organising "idea," which is destined to become master, grows and continues to grow into the depths,—it begins to command, it leads you slowly back from your[Pg 50] deviations and aberrations, it prepares individual qualities and capacities, which one day will make themselves felt as indispensable to the whole of your task,—step by step it cultivates all the serviceable faculties, before it ever whispers a word concerning the dominant task, the "goal," the "object," and the "meaning" of it all. Looked at from this standpoint my life is simply amazing. For the task of transvaluing values, more capacities were needful perhaps than could well be found side by side in one individual; and above all, antagonistic capacities which had to be free from the mutual strife and destruction which they involve. An order of rank among capacities; distance; the art of separating without creating hostility; to refrain from confounding things; to keep from reconciling things; to possess enormous multifariousness and yet to be the reverse of chaos—all this was the first condition, the long secret work, and the artistic mastery of my instinct. Its superior guardianship manifested itself with such exceeding strength, that not once did I ever dream of what was growing within me—until suddenly all my capacities were ripe, and one day burst forth in all the perfection of their highest bloom. I cannot remember ever having exerted myself, I can point to no trace of struggle in my life; I am the reverse of a heroic nature. To "will" something, to "strive" after something, to have an "aim" or a "desire" in my mind—I know none of these things from experience. Even at this moment I look out upon my future—a broad future!—as upon a calm sea: no sigh of longing[Pg 51] makes a ripple on its surface. I have not the slightest wish that anything should be otherwise than it is: I myself would not be otherwise.... But in this matter I have always been the same. I have never had a desire. A man who, after his four-and-fortieth year, can say that he has never bothered himself about honours, women, or money!—not that they did not come his way.... It was thus that I became one day a University Professor—I had never had the remotest idea of such a thing; for I was scarcely four-and-twenty years of age. In the same way, two years previously, I had one day become a philologist, in the sense that my first philological work, my start in every way, was expressly obtained by my master Ritschl for publication in his Rheinisches Museum. (Ritschl—and I say it in all reverence—was the only genial scholar that I have ever met. He possessed that pleasant kind of depravity which distinguishes us Thuringians, and which makes even a German sympathetic—even in the pursuit of truth we prefer to avail ourselves of roundabout ways. In saying this I do not mean to underestimate in any way my Thuringian brother, the intelligent Leopold von Ranke....)
You may be wondering why I should actually have related all these trivial and, according to traditional accounts, insignificant details to you; such action can but tell against me, more particularly if[Pg 52] I am fated to figure in great causes. To this I reply that these trivial matters—diet, locality, climate, and one's mode of recreation, the whole casuistry of; self-love—are inconceivably more important than, all that which has hitherto been held in high esteem! It is precisely in this quarter that we must begin to learn afresh. All those things which mankind has valued with such earnestness heretofore are not even real; they are mere creations of fancy, or, more strictly speaking, lies born of the evil instincts of diseased and, in the deepest sense, noxious natures—all the concepts, "God," "soul," "virtue," "sin," "Beyond," "truth," "eternal life." ... But the greatness of human nature, its "divinity," was sought for in them.... All questions of politics, of social order, of education, have been falsified, root and branch, owing to the fact that the most noxious men have been taken for great men, and that people were taught to despise the small things, or rather the fundamental things, of life. If I now choose to compare myself with those creatures who have hitherto been honoured as the first among men, the difference becomes obvious. I do not reckon the so-called "first" men even as human beings—for me they are the excrements of mankind, the products of disease and of the instinct of revenge: they are so many monsters laden with rottenness, so many hopeless incurables, who avenge themselves on life.... I wish to be the opposite of these people: it is my privilege to have the very sharpest discernment for every sign of healthy instincts. There is no such thing as a morbid trait in me; even in times of serious illness I have never[Pg 53] grown morbid, and you might seek in vain for a trace of fanaticism in my nature. No one can point to any moment of my life in which I have assumed either an arrogant or a pathetic attitude. Pathetic attitudes are not in keeping with greatness; he who needs attitudes is false.... Beware of all picturesque men! Life was easy—in fact easiest—to me, in those periods when it exacted the heaviest duties from me. Whoever could have seen me during the seventy days of this autumn, when, without interruption, I did a host of things of the highest rank—things that no man can do nowadays—with a sense of responsibility for all the ages yet to come, would have noticed no sign of tension in my condition, but rather a state of overflowing freshness and good cheer. Never have I eaten with more pleasant sensations, never has my sleep been better. I know of no other manner of dealing with great tasks, than as play: this, as a sign of greatness, is an essential prerequisite. The slightest constraint, a sombre mien, any hard accent in the voice—all these things are objections to a man, but how much more to his work!... One must not have nerves.... Even to sufferfrom solitude is an objection—the only thing I have always suffered from is "multitude."[Pg 54] At an absurdly tender age, in fact when I was seven years old, I already knew that no human speech would ever reach me: did any one ever see me sad on that account? At present I still possess the same affability towards everybody, I am even full of consideration for the lowest: in all this there is not an atom of haughtiness or of secret contempt. He whom I despise soon guesses that he is despised by me: the very fact of my existence is enough to rouse indignation in all those who have polluted blood in their veins. My formula for greatness in man is! amor fati: the fact that a man wishes nothing to be different, either in front of him or behind him, or for all eternity. Not only must the necessary be borne, and on no account concealed,—all idealism is falsehood in the face of necessity,—but it must also be loved....
Nietzsche, as is well known, devoted much time when a student at Leipzig to the study of three Greek philosophers, Theognis, Diogenes Laertius, and Democritus. This study first bore fruit in the case of a paper, Zur Geschichte der Theognideischen Spruchsammlung, which was subsequently published by the most influential journal of classical philology in Germany. Later, however, it enabled Nietzsche to enter for the prize offered by the University of Leipzig for an essay, De fontibus Diogenis Laertii. He was successful in gaining the prize, and the treatise was afterwards published in the Rheinisches Museum, and is still quoted as an authority. It is to this essay, written when he was twenty-three years of age, that he here refers.—TR.
The favourite uniform of the German Emperor, William II.—TR.
In the latter years of his life, Nietzsche practically made Italy his home.—TR.
See note on page 37.
The German words are, Einsamkeit and Vielsamkeit. The latter was coined by Nietzsche. The English word "multitude" should, therefore, be understood as signifying multifarious instincts and gifts, which in Nietzsche strove for ascendancy and caused him more suffering than any solitude. Complexity of this sort, held in check by a dominant instinct, as in Nietzsche's case, is of course the only possible basis of an artistic nature.—TR.