Why I am So Clever1

Why do I know more than other people? Why, in general, am I so clever? I have never pondered over questions that are not really questions. I have never wasted my strength. I have no experience, for instance, of actual religious difficulties. I am quite unfamiliar with the feeling of "sinfulness." Similarly I lack a reliable criterion for determining a prick of conscience: from what one hears, a prick of conscience does not seem to me anything very worthy of veneration. . . . I dislike to leave an action of mine in the lurch; I prefer to omit utterly the bad result, the consequences, from any problem involving values. In the face of evil . consequences it is too easy to lose the proper standpoint from which to view an action. A prick of conscience seems to me a sort of "evil eye." Something that has failed should be all the more honored just because it has failed-this agrees much better with my morality.-"God," "the immortality of the soul," tcsalvation," a "beyond"-these are mere notions, to which I paid no attention, on which I never wasted any time, even as a child-though perhaps I was never enough of a child for that-I am quite unacquainted with atheism as a result, and still less as an event: with me it is instinctive. I am too inquisitive, too skeptical, too arrogant ', to let myself be satisfied with an obvious and crass solution of things. God is such an obvious and crass solution; a solution which is a sheer indelicacy to us thinkers-at bottom He is really nothing but a coarse commandment against us: ye shall not think! . . . I am much more interested in another question@n which the "salvation of humanity" depends much more than upon any piece of theological curiosity: the question of nutrition. For ordinary purposes, it may be formulated thus: "How precisely must thou nourish thyself in order to attain to thy maximum of power, or virt@ in the Renaissance style of virtue free from moralism?" Here my experiences -have been the worst possible; I am surprised that it took me so long to become aware of this question and to derive "understanding" from my experiences. Only the utter worthlessness of our German culture-its "idealism"-can to some extent explain how it was that precisely in this matter I was so baclzward that my ignorance was almost saintly. For this "culture" from first to last teaches one to lose sight of realities and instead to hunt after thoroughly problematic, so-called ideal goals, as, for instance, "classical culture"-as if we were not doomed from the start in our endeavor to unite "classical" and "German" in one concept! It is even a little comicaljust try to picture a "classically cultured" citizen of Leipzigl-Indeed, I confess that up to a very mature age, my food was quite bad@xpressed in moral terms, it was "impersonal," "selfless," "altruistic," to the glory of cooks and other fellow-Christians. For example, it was the Leipzig cookery, together with my first study of Schopenhauer (i865), that made me gravely renounce my "Will to Live." To become a malnutritient and to spoil one's stomach in the process-this problem seemed to me to be admirably solved by the above-mentioned cookery. (It is said that the year i866 introduced changes into this department.) But as to German cookery in general-what has it not got on its conscience! Soup before the meal (still called alla tedesca in the sixteenth century Venetian cook-books; meat cooked till the flavor is gone, vegetables cooked with fat and flour; the degeneration of pastries into paper-weights! Add to this the utterly bestial postprandial habits of the ancients, not merely of the ancient Germans, and you will begin to understand where German intellect had its origin-in a disordered intestinal tract. . . . German intellect is indigestion; it can assimilate nothing. But even English, which, as against German, and indeed French, diet, seems to me to be a "return to Nature"-that is to say, to cannibalism-is basically repugnant to my own instincts. It seems to me that it gives the intellect heavy feet, Englishwomen's feet. . . . The best cooking is that of Piedmont. Alcohol does not agree with me; one glass of wine or beer a day is enough to turn life into a valley of tears for me; in Munich live my antipodes. Admitting that I came to understand this rationally rather late, yet I had experienced it as a mere child. As a boy I believed that wine-drinking and tobacco-smoking were at first but youthful vanities, and later simply bad habits. Perhaps the wine of Naumburg was partly responsible for this harsh judgment. To believe that wine was exhilarating, I should have had to be a Christian-in other words, I should have had to believe in what, for me, is an absurdity. Strangely enough, whereas small largely diluted quantities of alcohol depressed me, great quantities made me act almost like a sailor on shore leave. Even as a boy I showed my bravado in this respect. To compose and transcribe a long Latin essay in one night, ambitious of emulating with my pen the austerity and terseness of my model, Sallust, and to sprinkle the exercise with a few strong hot toddiesthis procedure, while I was a pupil at the venerable old school of Pforta, did not disagree in the least with my physiology, nor perhaps with that of Sallust-however badly it may have agreed with dignified Pforta. Later on, towards the middle of my life, I grew more and more decisive in my opposition to spirituous drinks: 1, an opponent of vegetarianism from experience-like Richard Wagner, who reconverted in annot with sufficient earnest-ness advise all more spiritual natures to abstain absolutely from alcohol. Water answers the same purpose. I prefer those places where there are numerous opportunities of drinking from running brooks as at Nice, Turin, Sils, where water follows me wherever I turn. In vino veritas: it seems that here too I disagree with the rest of the world about the concept "Truth"-with me spirit moves on the face of the waters. Here are a few more bits of advice taken from my morality. A heavy meal is digested more easily than one that is too meager. The first condition of a good digestion is that the stomach should be active as a whole. Therefore a man ought to know the size of his stomach. For the sanae reasons I advise against all those interminable meals, which I call interrupted sacrificial feasts, and which are to be had at any table d'hdte. Nothing between meals, no coffee-coffee makes onLgloomy. Tea is advisable only in the morning-in small quantities, but very strong. It may be very harmful, and indispose you for the whole day, if it is the least bit too weak. Here each one has his own standard, often between the narrowest and most delicate limits. In a very enervating climate it is, inadvisable to begin the day with tea: an hour before, it is a good thing to have a cup of thick cocoa, free from oil. Remain seated as little as possible; trust no thought that is not born in the open, to the accompaniment of free bodily motion-nor one in which your very muscles do not celebrate a feast. All prejudices may be traced back to the intestines. A sedentary life, as I have already said elsewhere, is the real sin against the Holy Ghost.


The question of nutrition is closely related to that of locality and climate. None of us can live anywhere; and he who has great tasks to perform, which demand all his energy, has, in this respect, a very limited choice. The influence of climate upon the bodil functions, affecting their retardation or acceleration, is so great, that a blunder in the choice of locality and climate may not merely alienate a man from his duty, but may withhold it from him altogether, so that he never comes face to face with it. Animal vigor never preponderates in him to the extent that it lets him attain that exuberant freedom in which he may say to himself: I, alone, can do that. . . . The slightest torpidity of the intestines, once it has become a habit, is quite sufficient to turn a genius into something mediocre, something "German"; the climate of Germany, alone, is more than enough to discourage the strongest and most heroic intestines. Upon the tempo of the body's functions closely depend the agility or the slowness of the spirit's feet; indeed spirit itself is only a form of these bodily functions. Enumerate the places in which men of great intellect have been and are still found; where wit, subtlety, and malice are a part ,of happiness; where genius is almost necessarily athome: all of them have an unusually dry atmosphere. Paris, Provence, Florence, Jerusalem, Athens-these names prove this: that genius is dependent on dry air, on clear skies-in other words, on rapid organic functions, on the possibility of contenuously securing for one's self great and even s quantities of energy. I have a case in mind where a man of significant and independent mentality became a narrow, craven specialist, an d a crank, simply because he had no feeling for climate. I myself might have come to the same end, if illness had not forced me to reason, and to reflect upon reason realistically. Now long practice has taught me to read the effects of climatic and meteorological influences, from self-observation, as though from a very delicate and reliable instrument, so that I can calculate the change in the degree of at MOSpheric moisture by means of this physiological selfobservation, even on so short a journey as that from Turin to Milan; accordingly I think with horror of the ghastly fact that my whole life, up to the last ten years-the most dangerous years-has always been spent in the wron- places, places that should have been precisely forbidden to me. Naumburg, Pforta, Thuringia in general, Leipzig, Basel, Venice -so many disastrous places for my constitution. if I have not a single happy memory of my childhood and youth, it would be foolish to account for this by so-called "moral" causes-as, for instance, the incontestable lack of sufficient companionship; f or this lack is present to-day as it was before and it does not prevent me from being cheerful and brave. But it was ignorance of physiology-that confounded "Idealism"-that was the real curse of my life, the superfluous and stupid element in it; from which nothing good could develop, for which there can be no settlement and no compensation. The consequences of this "Idealism" explain all the blunders, the great aberrations of instinct, and the modest specializations" which diverted me from my life-task; as, for instance, the fact that I became a philologist-why not at least a doctor or anything else that might have opened my eyes? During my stay at Basel, my whole intellectual routine, including my daily schedule, was an utterly senseless abuse of extraordinary powers, without any sort of compensation for the strength I spent, without even a thought of its exhaustion and the problem of replacement. I lacked that subtle egoism, the protection that an imperative instinct gives; I regarded all men as my equals, I was 4@disinterested," I forgot my distance from others-in short, I was in a condition for which I can never forgive myself. When I had almost reached the end, simply because I had almost reached it, I began to reflect upon the basic absurdity of my life-'tldealism.3) It was illness that first brought me to reason.


The choice of nutrition; the choice of climate and locality; the third thing in which one must not on any account make a blunder, concerns the method of recuperation or recreation. Here, again, according to the extent to which a spirit is sui generis, the limits of what is perrriitted-that is, beneficial to him-become more and more narrow. In my case, reading in general is one of my methods of recuperation; consequently it is a part of that which enables me to escape from myself, to wander in strange sciences and strange souls@f that, about which I am no longer in earnest. Indeed, reading allows me to recover from my earnestness. When I am deep in work, no books are to be seen near me; I carefully guard against allowing any one to speak or even to think in my presence. For that is what reading amounts to. . . . Has any one ever actually noticed, that, during that profound tension to which the state of pregnancy condemns the mind, and fundamentally, the whole organism, accident and every kind of external stimulus acts too vigorouslv and penetrates too deeply? One must avoid accident and external stimuli as far as possible: a sort of self-circumvallation is one of the first instinctive precautions of spiritual pregnancy. Shall I permit a strange thought to climb secretly over the wall? For that is just what reading would mean.The periods of work and productivity are followed by periods of recuperation: to me, ye pleasant, intellectual, intelligent books! Shall it be a German book? I must go back six months to catch myself with a book in my hand. What was it? An excellent study by Victor Brochard, Les Seeptiques Grecques, in reading which my Laertiana I was of great help to me. The skeptics! the only honorable types among that double-faced, aye, quintuple-faced race, the philosophers! . . . Otherwise I almost always take refuge in the same books, few in number, books exactly fitting my needs. Perhaps it is not in my nature to read much, or variously: a library makes me ill. Neither is it my nature to love much or many kinds of things. Suspicion, even hostility towards new books is nearer to my instinct than "toleration," largeur de cteur, and other forms of "neighborly love." . . . Ultimately it is to a few old French authors that I return again and again; I believe only in French culture, and regard everything else in Europe which calls itself "culture" as pure misunderstanding. It is hardly necessary to speak of the German variety. . . . The few instances of higher culture I have encountered in Germany were all French in their origin, above all, Madame Cosima Wagner, who had by far the most superior judgment in matters of taste that I have ever heard. Even if I do not read, but literally love Pascal, as the most instructive sacrifice to Christianity, killing himself slowly, first in body, then in mind in accord with the logic of this most horrible form of inhuman cruelty; even if I have something of Montaigne's malice in my soul, and-who knows?-perhaps in my body, too; even if my artist's taste endeavors to protect the names of Moli6re, Comeille, and Racine, not without bitterness, against a wild genius like Shakespear -all this does not prevent me from regarding everr e the modem Frenchmen as charming companions also. I can imagine no century in history in which a netful of more inquisitive and at the same time more subtle psychologists could be drawn up to, gether than in present-day Paris. I will name a few at random-for their number is by no means small -Paul Bourget, Pierre Loti, Gyp, Meilhac, Anatole France, Jules LemoCitre; or, singling out one of strong race, a genuine Latin, of whom I am particularly fond, Guy de Maupassant. Between ourselves, I prefer this generation even to its great masters, all of whom were corrupted by German philosophy (Taine, for instance, by Hegel, whom he has to thank for his misunderstanding of great men and great ages). Wherever Germany penetrates, she corrupts culture. It was the war which first "redeemed" the spirit of France. . . . Stendhal is one of the happiest accidents of my life-for everything epochal in that life came to me by accident, never by recommendation-Stendhal is quite priceless, with his anticipatory psychologist's eye; with his grasp of facts, reminiscent of the greatest of all masters of facts (ex ungue Napoleoneum); and, last, but not least, as an honest atheist-a specimen both rare and difficult to discover in France- honor to Prosper M6rim6e! . . . Perhaps I am even envious of Stendhal? He robbed me of the best atheistic joke I of all people could have made: "God's only excuse is that He does not exist." . . . I myself have said somewhere-What hitherto has been the greatest objection to Life?-God. . . .


It was Heinrich Heine who gave me the highest -conception of a lyrical poet. I search vainly through the kingdoms of all the ages for anything to equal his sweet and passionate music. He possessed that divine wickedness, without which I cannot conceive ,of perfection; I value men and races, according to the necessity they have to imagine a god partaking of the nature of the satyr. And how masterfully he handles German! Some day men will declare of Heine and myself that we were by far the greatest of all artists in the German language; that we outstripped incalculably all that pure Germans could do with this language. I must be profoundly related to Byron's Manfred: I discovered all his abysses in my own soul-at thirteen I was ripe for this book. Words fail me, I have merely a glance of contempt for those who dare to mention Faust in the presence of Manfred. The Germans are incapable of a conception of greatness-witness Schuniann! Angry at this cloying Saxon, I once composed a counter-overture to Manfred, of which Hans von Billow declared he had never seen the like@ before on paper: it was a sheer violation of Euterpe. Seeking for my highest formula for Shakespeare, I invariably find only this: he conceived the type of CTsar. Such things a man cannot guess-he either is the thing, or he is not. The great poet draws only from his own experience-to such an extent that later he can no longer endure his own work. After glancing at my ZarathWtra, I pace to and fro in my room for a half hour, unable to control an unbearable fit of sobbing. I know of no more, heart-rending reading than Shakespeare: what he must have suffered to be so much in need of playing the clown! Is Hamlet understood? Not doubt but certainty drives one mad. But to feel this,. one must be profound, abysmal, a philosopher.We all fear the truth. And, to make a confession: I feel instinctively certain that Lord Bacon is the originator, the self-torturer, of this most appalling literature: what do I care about the wretched gabble of American fools and half-wits? But the power for the greatest realism in vision is not only compatible with the greatest realism in deeds, with the monstrous, with crime-it actually presupposes the latter. . . . We hardly know enough about Lord Bacon-the first realist in the, highest sense of the word-to be sure of everything he did, everything he willed, and everything he experienced in himself. To the devil with the critics! Suppose I had christened my Zaratkustra with a name not my own-with Richard Wagner's, for instance -the insight of two thousand years would not have sufficed to guess that the author of Human, all-tooHuman was the visionary of Zaratkustra.


In speaking of the recreations of my life, I must express a word or two of gratitude for the one which has afforded me by far the greatest and heartiest refreshment. This was undoubtedly my intimate relationship with Richard Wagner. I pass over my other relationships with men quite lightly; but at no price would I have my life deprived of those days at Tribschen-days of confidence, of cheerfulness, of sublime flashes, and of profound moments. I know not what Wagner may have been for others; but no cloud ever obscured our sky. And this brings me back again to France-I have no quarrel with Wagnerites, and hoc genus omne, who think to honor Wagner by believing him to be like themselves; for such people I have only a contemptuous curl of my lip. With my nature, so alien to everything Teutonic that the mere presence of a German retards my digestion, my first contact with Wagner was also the first moment in my life in which I breathed freely: I felt him, I honored him, as a foreigner, as the antithesis of and incarnate protest against all "German virtues." We who as children breathed the marshy atmosphere of the fifties, are necessarily pessimists with regard to the idea "German"; we can be nothing else but revolutionaries-we can give our assent to no state of affairs in which a hypocrite is at the top. It is a matter of indifference to me whether this hypocrite acts in different colors to-day, whether he dresses in scarlet or dons the uniform of a hussar.' Very good, then! Wagner, too, was a revolutionary-he Red from the Germans. The artist has no home in Europe except in Paris; that subtlety of all the five senses which is the condition of Wagner's art, that sensitivity to the nuance, to psychological morbiditythese are to be found only in Paris. Nowhere else is there this passion for problems of form, this seriousness about the mise-en-sc@ne, which is the Parisian seriousness par excellence. In Germany one can have no notion of the tremendous ambition that lives in the soul of a Parisian artist. The German is good-natured. IVagner was by no means good-natured. . . . But I have already said enough on the subject of Wagner's attachments (see Be, yond Good and Evil, Aphorism 2 69), and about those to whom he is most closely related. He is one of the late French ronianticists, that high-soaring and heaven-aspiring band of artists, like Delacroix and Berlioz, who are essentially sick and incurable, pure fanatics of expression, virtuosos through and through. . . Who was the first intelligent follower of Wagner? Charles Baudelaire, the same man who was the first to understand Delacroix-that typical decadent, in whom a whole generation of artists has recognized itself; he was perhaps the last of them too. . . . What is it that I have never forgiven Wagner? The fact that he condescended to the Germans-that he became a German Imperialist. . . . IN'herever Germany spreads, she corrupts culture.


All things considered, I could never have survived my youth without Wagnerian music. For I seemed condemned to the society of Germans. If a man wishes to rid himself of a feeling of unbearable oppression., he may have to take to hashish. Well, I had to@ take to Wagner. Wagner is the counterpoison to everything essentially German-he is a poison, I do not, deny it. From the moment that Tristan was arranged for the piano-my compliments, Herr von Biilow!-I was a Wagnerite. I deemed Wagner's previous works beneath m@they were too common, too "German.77 . . . But to this day l,am still looking for a work to equal Tristan in dangerous fascination, that gruesome yet sweet quality of infinity; I seek among all the arts in vain. All the bizarreries of Leonardo da Vinci lose their charm with the first note of Tristan. It is absolutely Wagner's non plifs idtra; the Mastersingers and the Ring were mere relaxation to him. To become more healthy-this is a step backwards for a nature like Wagner's. I regard it as a first-class bit of good luck to have lived at the right time, and to have lived precisely among Germans, in order to be ripe for this work: so strongly in me works the curiosity of the psychologist. The world must be a poor thing for him who has never been unhealthy enough for this "voluptuousness of Hell": it is allowable, it is even imperative, that one here employ a mystic formula. I suppose I know better than any one else the prodigies of which Wagner was capable, the fifty worlds of strange ecstasies to reach which no one but he had win,-s strong enough; and as I'am today sufficiently powerful to turn even the most dubious and dangerous things to my own advantage, and thus to grow more powerful, I name Wagner as the greatest benefactor of my life. The bond which unites us is the fact that we have suff ered greater agony, even at each other's hands, than most -men of this century are able to bear; and this will associate our names forever. For, just as Wagner is merely a misunderstanding among Germans, so surely am I, and ever will be. You must first have two centuries of psychological and artistic discipline, my dear countrymen! But you can never turn back the hands of the clock.


To the most exceptional of my readers I should like to say just a word as to what I really demand of music. It should be cheerful and yet profound, like an October afternoon. It should be unique, wanton, and tender, and like a dainty, sweet woman in roguishness and grace. . . . I shall never admit that a German can understand what music is. Those musicians, the greatest of them, who are called German, are all foreigners, Slavs, Croats, Italians, Dutchmen-or Jews; or else, like Heinrich Schiitz, Bach, and Hdndel, they are Germans of a strong race, a type now extinct. I myself have still enough of the Pole in me to let all other music go, if only Chopin is left to me. For three reasons I would except '"7agner's Siegfried Idyll, and perhaps also a few things of Liszt, who excelled all other musicians in the noble accent of his orchestration; and finally everything that has come from beyond the Alps-this side of the Alps. I would not know how to dispense with Rossini, and still less with my Southern counterpart in music, my Venetian maestro, Pietro Gasti. And when I say beyond the Alps, I really mean only Venice. Seeking to find another word for music, I inevitably come back to Venice. I do not know how to make a distinction between tears and music. I do not know how to think of joy, or of the south, without a shudder of fear.

On the bridge I stood
But lately, in the dark night.
From far away came the sound of singing;
In golden drops it rolled away
Over the glittering rim.
Gondolas, lights, music
Drunk, swam far out in the darkness... My soul, a stringed instrument,
Invisibly moved,
Sang a gondola song secretly,
Gleaming in bright happiness.
-Did any hearken?


In all these things-the choice of food, locality, climate, and recreation-the instinct of self-preservation dominates, expressing itself with least ambiguity in the form of an instinct of self-defense. To limit what one hears and sees, to detach one's self from many things-this is elementary prudence, the first proof that a man is not an accident but a necessity. The customary word for this instinct of self-defense is taste. It is imperative not only to say ig no" where "yes" would indicate "disinterestedness," but even to say "no" as seldom as Possible. One must separate from anything that forces one to repeat "no," again and again. The reason for this is that all expenditures of defensive energy, however slight, involve enormous and absolutely superfluous losses when they become regular and habitual. Our greatest expenditure of energy is comprised of these small frequent discharges of it. To preserve one's self intact, to hold things at a dis. tanc@o not deceive yourselves on this point!-is an expenditure of energy and one directed towards purely negative ends. The mere constant necessity of being on his guard may weaken a man so much that he can no longer defend himself. Suppose I were to step out of my house, and, instead of the quiet and aristocratic city of Turin, I were to find a German provincial town; my instinct would have to pull itself together to repel everything that would invade it from this downtrodden cowardly world. Or suppose I found a German y metropoli@that structure of vice in which nothing grows, but where every single thing, good or bad, is imported. Would I not have to become a hedgehog? ' But to have quills amounts to a squandering of strength; a twofold luxury, for, if we chose, we could dispense with them and open our hands instead. . . . Another form of prudence and self-defense consists in reacting as seldom as possible, and in detaching one's self from those circumstances and conditions which condemn one, as it were, to suspend one's "liberty" and initiative, and become a mere bundle of reactions. A good type of this is furnished by intercourse with books. The scholar who actually does little else than welter in @ sea of books-the average philologist may handle two hundred a da@finally loses completely the ability to think for himself. He cannot think unless he has a book in his hands. When he thinks, he responds to a stimulus (a thought he has read)-and finally all he does is react. The scholar devotes all his energy to affirming or denying or criticizing matter which has already been thought out-he no longer thinks himself. . . . In him the instinct of selfdefense has decayed, otherwise he would defend himself against books. The scholar is a decadent. With my own eyes I have seen gifted, richly-endowed, free-spirited natures already "read to pieces" at thirty-nothing but matches that have to be struck before they can emit any sparks-or "thoughts." To read a book early in the morning, at daybreak, in the vigor and dawn of one's strength -this is sheer viciousness!


At this point I can no longer evade a direct answer to the question, kow one becomes wkat one is. And here I touch upon the master stroke of the art of self-preservation-selfiskness. If we assume that one's life-task-the determination and the fate of one's life-task-appreciably surpasses the average measure, nothing would be more dangerous than to come face to face with one's self by the side of this life-task. The fact that one becomes what one is, presupposes that one has not the remotest suspicion ,of what one is. From this standpoint a unique meaning and value is given to even the blunders of one's life, the temporary deviations and aberrations, the hesitations, the timidities, the earnestness wasted upon tasks remote from the central one. In these matters there is opportunity for great wisdom, perhaps even the highest wisdom; in circumstances, where nosce teipsum would be the passport to ruin, the forgetting of one's self, the misunderstanding, the belittling, the narrowing and the mediocratizing of one's self, amount to reason itself. In moral terms: to love one's neighbor and to live,for others and for other thin-s may be the means of protection for the maintenance of the most rigorous egoism. This is the exceptional case in which I, contrary to my custom and conviction, take the side of the "selfless" tendencies, for here they are engaged in the service of selfishness and self-discipline. The whole surface of consciousness-for consciousness is a surface-must be kept free of any of the great imperatives. Beware even of every striking word, of every striking gesture! They all lead to the dangerous possibility that the instinct may "understand itself" too soon. Meanwhile the organizing "idea," destined to mastery, continues to grow in the depths-it begins to command, it leads you slowly back from your deviations and aberrations, it makes ready individual qualities and capacities, which will some day make themselves felt as indispensable to the whole of your task-gradually it cultivates all the serviceable faculties before it ever whispers a word concerning the dominant task, the "goal," the "purpose," and the "meaning." Viewed from this angle, my life is simply amazing. For the task of transvaluing values, more abilities were necessary perhaps than could ever be found combined in one individual; and above all, opposed abilities which must yet not be mutually inimical and destructive. An order of rank among capacities; distance; the art of separating without creating hostility; to confuse nothing; to reconcile nothing; to be tremendously various and yet to be the reverse of chaos-all this was the first condition, the long secret work and artistry of my instinct. Its superior guardianship manifested itself so powerfully that at no time did I have any intimation of what was growing within me-until suddenly all my capacities were ripe, and one day burst forth in full perfection. I can recall no instance of my ever having exerted myself, there is no evidence of struggle in my life; I am the reverse of a heroic nature. To "will" something, to "strive" after something, to have a "purpose" or a "desire" in my mind - I know none of these things from experience. At this very moment I look out upon my future-a broad future!-as upon a calm sea: no longing disturbs its serenity. I have not the slightest wish that anything should be, different than it is: I myself do not wish to be different. I have always been this way. I have never had a desire. A man who, after his forty-fourth year, can say that he has never troubled himself about honors, women, or money!not that they were lacking to me. . . . It was in this way, for example, that one day I became a University Professor-such an idea had never even entered my head, for I was hardly twenty-four. In the same way, two years before, I had one day become a philologist, in the sense that my first philological work,' my start in every way, was requested by my master, Ritschl, for publication in his Rheinisckes Museum. (Ritschl-I say it in all reverence-was the only genial scholar I have ever known. He possessed that engaging depravity which distinguishes us Thuringians, and which can make even a German sympathetic-even to arrive at truth we prefer roundabout ways. These words should not be taken as a deprecation in any sense of my Thuringian co-dweller, the intelligent Leopold von Ranke.


The question will be raised why I should actually have related all these trivial and, judged according to ordinary standards, insignificant details. I would seem to be hurting my own cause, more particularly if I am destined to assume great tasks. I rep ly that these trivial details-diet, locality, climate, recreation, the whole casuistry of self-love-are inconceivably more important than everything men have hitherto considered essential. It is just here that we must begin to learn afresh. All the things men have valued with such earnestness heretofore are not even realities; they are mere fantasies, or, more strictly speaking, lies arising from the evil instincts of diseased and, in the deepest sense, harmful natures-all the concepts, "God," "soul," "virtue, "sin," "Beyond," "truth," "eternal life." And yet men sought in them for the greatness of human nature, its "divinity. All questions of politics, of the social order, of education, have been falsified from top to bottom, because the most harmful men have been taken for great men, and because people were taught to despise the "details," more properly, the fundamentals of life. If I now compare myself with those creatures who have hitherto been honored as the first among men, the difference becomes obvious. I do not consider these so-called "first" men as human beings-for me they are the excrement of mankind, the products of disease and the instinct of revenge: they are so many monsters, rotten, utterly incurable, avenging themselves on life. . . . I would be their very opposite. It is my privilege to be extremely sensitive to any sign of healthy instincts. There is not a morbid trait in me; even in times of serious illness I have never become morbid; you will look in vain for a trace of fanaticism in my nature. No one can point out -I single moment of my life in which I have assumed either an arrogant or a pathetic attitude. Pathetic attitudes do not belong to greatness; he who needs attitudes is false. . . . Beware of all picturesque men t Life came most easily to me when it demanded the greatest labor from me. Whoever could have seen me during the seventy days of this autumn, when, without interruption, with a sense of responsibility to posterity, I performed so much work of the highest type-work no man did before or will do after m@would have noticed no sign of tension in me, but on the contrary exuberant freshness and gayety. Never have my meals been more enjoyable, never has my sleep been better. I know of no other manner of dealing with great tasks than as play: this, as a sign of greatness, is an essential prerequisite. The slightest constraint, a gloomy appearance, anv hard accent in the voice -all these things are objections to a man, but how much more to his work! . . . One must have no nerves. . . . Even to suffer from solitude is an objection-the only thing I have always suffered from is "multitude," the infinite variety of my own soul. At the absurdly tender age of seven, I already knew that no human speech would ever reach me: did any one ever see me disconsolate therefor? To-day I still possess the same affability towards everybody, I am even full of consideration for the humblest: in all this there is not an ounce of arrogance or contempt. He whom I despise divines the fact that I despise him; my mere existence angers those who have bad blood in their veins. My formula for greatness in man is amor fati: that a man should wish to have nothing altered, either in the future, the past, or for all eternity. Not only must he endure necessity, and on no account conceal it-all idealism is falsehood in the face of necessity-but he must love it. . . .

Next | Index