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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Previous Section   189. REASON AND THE TREE OF MANKIND   Next Section

Reason and the Tree of Mankind.  What you all fear in your senile short sightedness, regarding the over population of the world, gives the more hopeful a mighty task.  Man is some day to become a tree overshadowing the whole earth, with millions upon millions of buds that shall all grow to fruits side by side, and the earth itself shall be prepared for the nourishment of this tree.  That the shoot, tiny as yet, may increase in sap and strength; that the sap may flow in countless channels for the nutrition of the whole and the parts — from these and similar tasks we must derive our standard for measuring whether a man of today is useful or worthless.  The task is unspeakably great and adventurous: let us all contribute our share to prevent the tree from rotting before its time!  The historically trained mind will no doubt succeed in calling up the human activities of all the ages before its eyes, as the community of ants with its cunningly wrought mounds stands before our eyes.  Superficially judged, mankind as a whole, like ant-kind, might admit of our speaking of "instinct”.  On a closer examination we observe how whole nations, nay whole centuries, take pains to discover and test new means of benefiting the great mass of humanity, and thus finally the great common fruit tree of the world.  Whatever injury the individual nations or periods may suffer in this testing process, they have each become wise through this injury, and from them the tide of wisdom slowly pours over the principles of whole races and whole epochs.  Ants too go astray and make blunders.  Through the folly of its remedies, mankind may well go to rack and ruin before the proper time.  There is no sure guiding instinct for the former or the latter.  Rather must we boldly face the great task of preparing the earth for a plant of the most ample and joyous fruitfulness— a task set by reason to reason!  
 

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