Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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Previous Section   338. The Will to Suffering and the Compassionate   Next Section

The Will to Suffering and the Compassionate.  Is it to your advantage to be above all compassionate?  And is it to the advantage of the sufferers when you are so?  But let us leave the first question for a moment without an answer.  That from which we suffer most profoundly and personally is almost incomprehensible and inaccessible to everyone else: in this matter we are hidden from our neighbour even when he eats at the same table with us.  Everywhere, however, where we are noticed as sufferers, our suffering is interpreted in a shallow way; it belongs to the nature of the emotion of pity to divest unfamiliar suffering of its properly personal character: our "benefactors" lower our value and volition more than our enemies.  In most benefits which are conferred on the unfortunate there is something shocking in the intellectual levity with which the compassionate person plays the role of fate: he knows nothing of all the inner consequences and complications which are called misfortune for me or for you!  The entire economy of my soul and its adjustment by "misfortune," the uprising of new sources and needs, the closing up of old wounds, the repudiation of whole periods of the past none of these things which may be connected with misfortune preoccupy the dear sympathiser.  He wishes to succour, and does not reflect that there is a personal necessity for misfortune; that terror, want, impoverishment, midnight watches, adventures, hazards and mistakes are as necessary to me and to you as their opposites, yes, that, to speak mystically, the path to one's own heaven always leads through the voluptuousness of one's own hell.  No, he knows nothing thereof.  The "religion of compassion" (or "the heart") bids him help, and he thinks he has helped best when he has helped most speedily!  If you adherents of this religion actually have the same sentiments towards yourselves which you have towards your fellows, if you are unwilling to endure your own suffering even for an hour, and continually forestall all possible misfortune, if you regard suffering and pain generally as evil, as detestable, as deserving of annihilation, and as blots on existence, well, you have then, besides your religion of compassion, yet another religion in your heart (and this is perhaps the mother of the former) the religion of smug ease.  Ah, how little you know of human happiness - you comfortable and benevolent people! For happiness and unhappiness are brother and sister - or even twins who grow up together - or in your case - remain small together!  But now let us return to the first question.  How is it at all possible for a person to keep to his path!  Some cry or other is continually calling one aside: our eye then rarely lights on anything without it becoming necessary for us to leave for a moment our own affairs and rush to give assistance.  I know there are hundreds of respectable and laud able methods of making me stray from my course, and in truth the most "moral" of methods!  Indeed, the opinion of the present day preachers of the morality of compassion goes so far as to imply that just this, and this alone is moral: to stray from our course to that extent and to run to the assistance of our neighbour.  I am equally certain that I need only give myself over to the sight of one case of actual distress, and I, too, am lost!  And if a suffering friend said to me, "See, I shall soon die, only promise to die with me" I might promise it, just as to select for once bad examples for good reasons the sight of a small, mountain people struggling for freedom, would bring me to the point of offering them my hand and my life.  Indeed, there is even a secret seduction in all this awakening of compassion, and calling for help: our "own way" is a thing too hard and insistent, and too far removed from the love and gratitude of others, we escape from it and from our most personal conscience, not at all unwillingly, and, seeking security in the conscience of others, we take refuge in the lovely temple of the "religion of pity."  As soon now as any war breaks out, there always breaks out at the same time a certain secret delight precisely in the noblest class of the people: they rush with rapture to meet the new danger of death, because they believe that in the sacrifice for their country they have finally that long sought for permission the permission to shirk their aim: war is for them a detour to suicide, a detour, however, with a good conscience.  And although silent here about some things, I will not, however, be silent about my morality, which says to me: Live in seclusion so that you can live for yourself.  Live ignorant of that which seems to your age to be most important!  Put at least the skin of three centuries between yourself and the present day!  And the clamour of the present day, the noise of wars and revolutions, ought to be a murmur to you!  You will also want to help, but only those whose distress you entirely understand, because they have one sorrow and one hope in common with you your friends: and only in the way that you help yourself: I want to make them more courageous, more enduring, more simple, more joyful!  I want to teach them that which at present so few understand, and the preachers of fellowship in sorrow least of all: namely, fellowship in joy!  
 

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