Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten).

The Wanderer and his Shadow, the second supplement to Human, All Too Human, first published in 1880.


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Man as THE Comic Actor of the World.  It would require beings more intellectual than men to relish to the full the humorous side of man's view of himself as the goal of all existence and of his serious pronouncement that he is satisfied only with the prospect of fulfilling a world mission.  If a God created the world, he created man to be his ape, as a perpetual source of amusement in the midst of his rather tedious eternities.  The music of the spheres surrounding the world would then presumably be the mocking laughter of all the other creatures around mankind.  God in his boredom uses pain for the tickling of his favourite animal, in order to enjoy his proudly tragic gestures and expressions of suffering, and, in general, the intellectual inventiveness of the vainest of his creatures— as inventor of this inventor.  For he who invented man as a joke had more intellect and more joy in intellect than has man.  Even here, where our human nature is willing to humble itself, our vanity again plays us a trick, in that we men should like in this vanity at least to be quite marvellous and incomparable.  Our uniqueness in the world!  Oh, what an improbable thing it is!  Astronomers, who occasionally acquire a horizon outside our world, give us to understand that the drop of life on the earth is without significance for the total character of the mighty ocean of birth and decay; that countless stars present conditions for the generation of life similar to those of the earth — and yet these are but a handful in comparison with the endless number that have never known, or have long been cured, of the eruption of life; that life on each of these stars, measured by the period of its existence, has been but an instant, a flicker, with long, long intervals afterwards — and thus in no way the aim and final purpose of their existence.  Possibly the ant in the forest is quite as firmly convinced that it is the aim and purpose of the existence of the forest, as we are convinced in our imaginations (almost unconsciously) that the destruction of mankind involves the destruction of the world.  It is even modesty on our part to go no farther than this, and not to arrange a universal twilight of the world and the Gods as the funeral ceremony of the last man.  Even to the eye of the most unbiased astronomer a lifeless world can scarcely appear otherwise than as a shining and swinging star wherein man lies buried.  

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