Friedrich Nietzsche, Miscellaneous Maxims and opinions (Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche).

Miscellaneous Maxims and Opinions, the first supplement to Human, All Too Human, first published in 1879.  A second supplement, The Wanderer and his Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten) followed in 1880.


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One should only speak where one cannot remain silent, and only speak of what one has conquered — the rest is all chatter, "literature", bad breeding.  My writings speak only of my conquests, "I" am in them, with all that is hostile to me, ego ipsissimus, or, if a more haughty expression be permitted, ego ipsissimum.  It may be guessed that I have many below me.  But first I always needed time, convalescence, distance, separation, before I felt the stirrings of a desire to flay, despoil, lay bare, "represent” (or whatever one likes to call it) for the additional knowledge of the world, something that I had lived through and outlived, something done or suffered.  Hence all my writings, — with one exception, important, it is true, — must be antedated — they always tell of a "behind me”.  Some even, like the first three Thoughts out of Season, must be thrown back before the period of creation and experience of a previously published book The Birth of Tragedy in the case cited, as anyone with subtle powers of observation and comparison could not fail to perceive).  That wrathful outburst against the Germanism, smugness, and raggedness of speech of old David Strauss, the contents of the first Thought out of Season, gave a vent to feelings that had inspired me long before, as a student, in the midst of German culture and cultured Philistinism (I claim the paternity of the now much used and misused phrase "cultured Philistinism").  What I said against the "historical disease" I said as one who had slowly and laboriously recovered from that disease, and who was not at all disposed to renounce "history" in the future because he had suffered from her in the past.  When in the third Thought out of Season I gave expression to my reverence for my first and only teacher, the great Arthur Schopenhauer — I should now give it a far more personal and emphatic voice — I was for my part already in the throes of moral scepticism and dissolution, that is, as much concerned with the criticism as with the study of all pessimism down to' the present day.  I already did not believe in "a blessed thing" as the people say, not even in Schopenhauer.  It was at this very period that an unpublished essay of mine, "On Truth and Falsehood in an Extra-Moral Sense” came into being.  Even my ceremonial oration in honour of Richard Wagner, on the occasion of his triumphal celebration at Bayreuth in 1876— Bayreuth signifies the greatest triumph that an artist has ever won — a work that bears the strongest stamp of "individuality” was in the background an act of homage and gratitude to a bit of the past in me, to the fairest but most perilous calm of my sea voyage and as a matter of fact a severance and a farewell.  (Was Richard Wagner mistaken on this point?  I do not think so.  So long as we still love, we do not paint such pictures, we do not yet "examine” we do not place ourselves so far away as is essential for one who "examines”.  Examining needs at least a secret antagonism, that of an opposite point of view” it is said on page 46 of the above-named work itself, with an insidious, melancholy application that was perhaps understood by few).  The composure that gave me the power to speak after many intervening years of solitude and abstinence first came with the book, Human, All-Too Human, to which this second preface and apologia is dedicated.  As a book for "free spirits" it shows some trace of that almost cheerful and inquisitive coldness of the psychologist, who has behind him many painful things that he keeps under him, and moreover establishes them for himself and fixes them firmly as with a needle-point.     Is it to be wondered at that at such sharp, ticklish work blood flows now and again, that indeed the psychologist has blood on his fingers and not only on his fingers?  


The Miscellaneous Maxims and Opinions were in the first place, like The Wanderer and His Shadow, published separately as continuations and appendices to the above-mentioned human, ail-too human Book for Free Spirits: and at the same time, as a continuation and confirmation of an intellectual cure, consisting in a course of anti-romantic self treatment, such as my instinct, which had always remained healthy, had itself discovered and prescribed against a temporary attack of the most dangerous form of romantics.  After a convalescence of six years I may well be permitted to collect these same writings and publish them as a second volume of Human, Ail-too Human.  Perhaps, if surveyed together, they will more clearly and effectively teach their lesson — a lesson of health that may be recommended as a disciplina voluntatis to the more intellectual natures of the rising generation.  Here speaks a pessimist who has often leaped out of his skin but has always returned into it, thus, a pessimist with goodwill towards pessimism — at all events a romanticist no longer.  And has not a pessimist, who possesses this serpentine knack of changing his skin, the right to read a lecture to our pessimists of to-day, who are one and all still in the toils of romanticism?     Or at least to show them how it is — done?  


It was then, in fact, high time to bid farewell, and I soon received proof.  Richard Wagner, who seemed all-conquering, but was in reality only a decayed and despairing romantic, suddenly collapsed, helpless and broken, before the Christian Cross.  Was there not a single German with eyes in his head and sympathy in his heart for this appalling spectacle?  Was I the only one whom he caused — suffering?  In any case, the unexpected event illumined for me in one lightning flash the place that I had abandoned and also the horror that is felt by everyone who is unconscious of a great danger until he has passed through it.  As I went forward alone, I shuddered, and not long afterwards I was ill, or rather more than ill — weary: weary from my ceaseless disappointment about all that remained to make us modern men enthusiastic, at the thought of the power, work, hope, youth, love, flung to all the winds: weary from disgust at the effeminacy and undisciplined rhapsody of this romanticism, at the whole tissue of idealistic lies and softening of conscience, which here again had won the day over one of the bravest of men: last, and not least, weary from the bitterness of an inexorable suspicion — that after this disappointment I was doomed to mistrust more thoroughly, to despise more thoroughly, to be alone more thoroughly than ever before.  My task — whither had it flown?  Did it not look now as if my task were retreating from me and as if I should for a long future period have no more right to it?  What was I to do to endure this most terrible privation?  — I began by entirely forbidding myself all romantic music, that ambiguous, pompous, stifling art, which robs the mind of its sternness and its joyousness and provides a fertile soil for every kind of vague yearning and spongy sensuality.  "Cave musicam" is even to-day my advice to all who are enough of men to cling to purity in matters of the intellect.  Such music enervates, softens, feminises, its "eternal feminine" draws us — down!  My first suspicion, my most immediate precaution, was directed against romantic music.     If I hoped for anything at all from music, it was in the expectation of the coming of a musician bold, subtle, malignant, southern, healthy enough to take an immortal revenge upon that other music.  


Lonely now and miserably self-distrustful, I took sides, not without resentment, against myself and for everything that hurt me and was hard to me.  Thus I once more found the way to that courageous pessimism that is the antithesis of all romantic fraud, and, as it seems to me to-day, the way to "myself” to my task.  That hidden masterful Something, for which we long have no name until at last it shows itself as our task — that tyrant in us exacts a terrible price for every attempt that we make to escape him or give him the slip, for every premature act of self constraint, for every reconciliation with those to whom we do not belong, for every activity, however reputable, which turns us aside from our main purpose, yes, even for every virtue that would fain protect us from the cruelty of our most individual responsibility.  "Disease" is always the answer when we wish to have doubts of our rights to our own task, when we begin to make it easier for ourselves in any way.     How strange and how terrible! It is our very alleviations for which we have to make the severest atonement! And if we want to return to health, we have no choice left — we must load ourselves more heavily than we were ever laden before.  


It was then that I learnt the hermitical habit of speech acquired only by the most silent and suffering.  I spoke without witnesses, or rather indifferent to the presence of witnesses, so as not to suffer from silence, I spoke of various things that did not concern me in a style that gave the impression that they did.  Then, too, I learnt the art of showing myself cheerful, objective, inquisitive in the presence of all that is healthy and evil — is this, in an invalid, as it seems to me, his "good taste"?  Nevertheless, a more subtle eye and sympathy will not miss what perhaps gives a charm to these writings — the fact that here speaks one who has suffered and abstained in such a way as if he had never suffered or abstained.  Here equipoise, composure, even gratitude towards life shall be maintained, here rules a stern, proud, ever vigilant, ever susceptible will, which has undertaken the task of defending life against pain and snapping off all conclusions that are wont to grow like poisonous fungi from pain, disappointment, satiety, isolation and other morasses.  Perhaps this gives our pessimists a hint to self-examination?  For it was then that I hit upon the aphorism, "a sufferer has as yet no right to pessimism” and that I engaged in a tedious, patient campaign against the unscientific first principles of all romantic pessimism, which seeks to magnify and interpret individual, personal experiences into "general judgments” universal condemnations — it was then, in short, that I sighted a new world.  Optimism for the sake of restitution, in order at some time to have the right to become a pessimist — do you understand that?  Just as a physician transfers his patient to totally strange surroundings, in order to displace him from his entire "past” his troubles, friends, letters, duties, stupid mistakes and painful memories, and teaches him to stretch out hands and senses towards new nourishment, a new sun, a new future: so I, as physician and invalid in one, forced myself into an utterly different and untried zone of the soul, and particularly into an absorbing journey to a strange land, a strange atmosphere, into a curiosity for all that was strange.  A long process of roaming, seeking, changing followed, a distaste for fixity of any kind — a dislike for clumsy affirmation and negation: and at the same time a dietary and discipline which aimed at making it as easy as possible for the soul to fly high, and above all constantly to fly away.  In fact a minimum of life, an unfettering from all coarser forms of sensuality, an independence in the midst of all marks of outward disfavour, together with the pride in being able to live in the midst of all this disfavour: a little cynicism perhaps, a little of the "tub of Diogenes” a good deal of whimsical happiness, whimsical gaiety, much calm, light, subtle folly, hidden enthusiasm — all this produced in the end a great spiritual strengthening, a growing joy and exuberance of health.  Life itself rewards us for our tenacious will to life, for such a long war as I waged against the pessimistic weariness of life, even for every observant glance of our gratitude, glances that do not miss the smallest, most delicate, most fugitive gifts.     In the end we receive Life's great gifts, perhaps the greatest it can bestow — we regain our task.  


Should my experience — the history of an illness and a convalescence, for it resulted in a convalescence — be only my personal experience?  And merely just my "Human, All-too-human"?  To-day I would rather believe the reverse, for I am becoming more and more confident that my books of travel were not penned for my sole benefit, as appeared for a time to be the case.  May I, after six years of growing assurance, send them once more on a journey for an experiment?  — May I commend them particularly to the ears and hearts of those who are afflicted with some sort of a "past” and have enough intellect left to suffer even intellectually from their past?  But above all would I commend them to you whose burden is heaviest, you choice spirits, most encompassed with perils, most intellectual, most courageous, who must be the conscience of the modern soul and as such be versed in its science: in whom is concentrated all of disease, poison or danger that can exist to-day: whose lot decrees that you must be more sick than any individual because you are not "mere individuals": whose consolation it is to know.     To walk the path to a new health, a health of to-morrow and the day after: you men of destiny, triumphant, conquerors of time, the healthiest and the strongest, you good Europeans!  


To express finally in a single formula my opposition to the romantic pessimism of the abstinent, the unfortunate, the conquered: there is a will to the tragic and to pessimism, which is a sign as much of the severity as of the strength of the intellect (taste, emotion, conscience).  With this will in our hearts we do not fear, but we investigate ourselves the terrible and the problematical elements characteristic of all existence.  Behind such a will stand courage and pride and the desire for a really great enemy.  That was my pessimistic outlook from the first — a new outlook, methinks, an outlook that even at this day is new and strange?  To this moment I hold to it firmly and (if it will be believed) not only for myself but occasionally against myself.  You would prefer to have that proved first?     Well, what else does all this long preface — prove?  Sils-Maria, Upper Engadine, September, 1886.  

Friedrich Nietzsche, "Ecce Homo" Ebook

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