The morality of voluntary suffering.  Of all pleasures, which is the greatest for the men of that little, constantly imperilled community which is in a constant state of war and where the sternest morality prevails?  for souls, that is to say, which are full of strength, revengefulness, hostility, deceit and suspicion, ready for the most fearful things and made hard by deprivation and morality? The pleasure of cruelty: just as it is reckoned a virtue in a soul under such conditions to be inventive and insatiable in cruelty. In the act of cruelty the community refreshes itself and for once throws off the gloom of constant fear and caution. Cruelty is one of the oldest festive joys of mankind. Consequently it is imagined that the gods too are refreshed and in festive mood when they are offered the spectacle of cruelty  and thus there creeps into the world the idea that voluntary suffering, self-chosen torture, is meaningful and valuable. Gradually, custom created within the community a practice corresponding to this idea: all excessive well-being henceforth aroused a degree of mistrust, all hard suffering inspired a degree of confidence; people told themselves: it may well be that the gods frown upon us when we are fortunate and smile upon us when we suffer  though certainly they do not feel pity! For pity is reckoned contemptible and unworthy of a strong, dreadful soul;  they smile because they are amused and put into a good humour by our suffering: for to practise cruelty is to enjoy the highest gratification of the feeling of power. Thus the concept of the 'most moral man' of the community came to include the virtue of the most frequent suffering, of privation, of the hard life, of cruel chastisement not, to repeat it again and again, as a means of discipline, of self-control, of satisfying the desire for individual happiness  but as a virtue which will put the community in good odour with the evil gods and which steams up to them like a perpetual propitiatory sacrifice on the altar. All those spiritual leaders of the peoples who were able to stir something into motion within the inert but fertile mud of their customs have, in addition to madness, also had need of voluntary torture if they were to inspire belief  and first and foremost, as always, their own belief in themselves! The more their spirit ventured on to new paths and was as a consequence tormented by pangs of conscience and spasms of anxiety, the more cruelly did they rage against their own flesh, their own appetites and their own health  as though to offer the divinity a substitute pleasure in case he might perhaps be provoked by this neglect of and opposition to established usages and by the new goals these paths led to. Let us not be too quick to think that we have by now freed ourselves completely from such a logic of feeling! Let the most heroic souls question themselves on this point. Every smallest step in the field of free thought, of a life shaped personally, has always had to be fought for with spiritual and bodily tortures: not only the step forward, no! the step itself, movement, change of any kind has needed its innumerable martyrs through all the long pathseeking and foundation-laying millennia which, to be Sure, are not what one has in mind when one uses the expression 'world history'  that ludicrously tiny portion of human existence; and even within this so-called world history, which is at bottom merely much ado about the latest news, there is no more really vital theme than the age-old tragedy of the martyrs who wanted to stir up the swamp. Nothing has been purchased more dearly than that little bit of human reason and feeling of freedom that now constitutes our pride. It is this pride, however, which now makes it almost impossible for us to empathise with those tremendous eras of 'morality of custom' which precede 'world history' as the actual and decisive eras of history which determined the character of mankind: the eras in which suffering counted as virtue, cruelty counted as virtue, dissembling counted as virtue, revenge counted as virtue, denial of reason counted as virtue, while on the other hand well-being was accounted a danger, desire for knowledge was accounted a danger, peace was accounted a danger, pity was accounted a danger, being pitied was accounted an affront, work was accounted an affront, madness was accounted godliness, and change was accounted immoral and pregnant with disaster!  Do you think all this has altered and that mankind must therefore have changed its character? O observers of mankind, learn better to observe yourselves!

Friedrich Nietzsche - Daybreak
Book I - Aphorism # 18

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