33

Error about life necessary for life. Every belief in the value and worth of life is based on impure thinking and is only possible because the individual's sympathy for life in general, and for the suffering of mankind, is very weakly developed. Even uncommon men who think beyond themselves at all do not focus on life in general, but rather on limited parts of it. If one knows how to keep his attention primarily on exceptions, that is, on the great talents and pure souls, if one takes their coming into existence to be the goal of all world evolution and rejoices in their activity, then one may believe in the value of life--for one is overlooking other men, which is to say, thinking impurely. And likewise, if one does focus on all men, but takes only one type of drive, the less egoistical type, as valid and excuses mankind in respect to its other drives, then too one can hope something about mankind as a whole, and believe to this extent in the value of life--in this case, too, through impurity of thought. But whichever is the case, such a stance makes one an exception among men. Most men tolerate life without grumbling too much and believe thus in the value of existence, but precisely because everyone wills himself alone and stands his ground alone, and does not step out of himself as do those exceptional men, everything extrapersonal escapes his notice entirely, or seems at the most a faint shadow. Thus the value of life for ordinary, everyday man is based only on his taking himself to be more important than the world. The great lack of fantasy from which he suffers keeps him from being able to empathize with other beings, and he therefore participates in their vicissitudes and suffering as little as possible. On the other hand, whoever would be truly able to participate in it would have to despair about the value of life; if he were able to grasp and feel mankind's overall consciousness in himself, he would collapse with a curse against existence--for mankind, as whole, has no goals and consequently, considering the whole affair, man cannot find his comfort and support in it, but rather his despair. If, in everything he does, he considers the ultimate aimlessness of men, his own activity acquires the character of squandering in his eyes. But to feel squandered as mankind (and not just as an individual), as we see the single blossom squandered by nature, is a feeling above all feelings.
But who is capable of it? Certainly only a poet--and poets always know how to comfort themselves.

Friedrich Nietzsche - Human, All Too Human
Section One: Of First and Last Things - Aphorism # 33

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