Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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Previous Section   343. What our Cheerfulness Signifies   Next Section

   "Carcasse, tu trembles?     Tu tremblerais bien davantage,     Si tu savais, oil e te mene”  Turenne.  

What our Cheerfulness Signifies.

The most important of more recent events- that "God is dead”; that the belief in the Christian God has become unworthy of belief- already begins to cast its first shadows over Europe.  To the few at least whose eye, whose suspecting glance, is strong enough and subtle enough for this drama, some sun seems to have set, some old, profound confidence seems to have changed into doubt: our old world must seem to them daily more darksome, distrustful, strange and "old".  In the main, however, one may say that the event itself is far too great, too remote, too much beyond most people’s power of apprehension, for one to suppose that so much as the report of it could have reached them; not to speak of many who already knew what had taken place, and what must all collapse now that this belief had been undermined, because so much was built upon it, so much rested on it, and had become one with it: for example, our entire European morality.  This lengthy, vast and uninterrupted process of crumbling, destruction, ruin and overthrow which is now imminent: who has realised it sufficiently today to have to stand up as the teacher and herald of such a tremendous logic of terror, as the prophet of a period of gloom and eclipse, the like of which has probably never taken place on earth before?  Even we, the born riddle-readers, who wait as it were on the mountains posted twixt today and tomorrow, and engirt by their contradiction, we, the firstlings and premature children of the coming century, into whose sight especially the shadows which must forthwith envelop Europe should already have come how is it that even we, without genuine sympathy for this period of gloom, contemplate its advent without any personal solicitude or fear?  Are we still, perhaps, too much under the immediate effects of the event and are these effects, especially as regards our selves, perhaps the reverse of what was to be expected not at all sad and depressing, but rather like a new and indescribable variety of light, happiness, relief, enlivenment, encouragement, and dawning day?  In fact, we philosophers and "free spirits" feel ourselves irradiated as by a new dawn by the report that the "old God is dead"; our hearts overflow with gratitude, astonishment, presentiment and expectation.  At last the horizon seems open once more, granting even that it is not bright; our ships can at last put out to sea in face of every danger; every hazard is again permitted to the discerner; the sea, our sea, again lies open before us; perhaps never before did such an "open sea" exist.  
 

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