Thoughts Out of Season, Part II

By Friedrich Nietzsche

Page 11

mortal brains! Through the brains of
sick and short-lived beasts that ever rise to the surface to breathe,
and painfully keep off annihilation for a little space. For they wish
but one thing: to live at any cost. Who would ever dream of any
"monumental history" among them, the hard torch-race that alone gives
life to greatness? And yet there are always men awakening, who are
strengthened and made happy by gazing on past greatness, as though
man's life were a lordly thing, and the fairest fruit of this bitter
tree were the knowledge that there was once a man who walked sternly
and proudly through this world, another who had pity and
loving-kindness, another who lived in contemplation,--but all leaving
one truth behind them, that his life is the fairest who thinks least
about life. The common man snatches greedily at this little span,
with tragic earnestness, but they, on their way to monumental history
and immortality, knew how to greet it with Olympic laughter, or at
least with a lofty scorn; and they went down to their graves in
irony--for what had they to bury? Only what they had always treated
as dross, refuse, and vanity, and which now falls into its true home
of oblivion, after being so long the sport of their contempt. One
thing will live, the sign-manual of their inmost being, the rare
flash of light, the deed, the creation; because posterity cannot do
without it. In this spiritualised form fame is something more than
the sweetest morsel for our egoism, in Schopenhauer's phrase: it is
the belief in the oneness and continuity of the great in every age,
and a protest against the change and decay of generations.

What is the use to the modern man of this "monumental" contemplation
of the past, this preoccupation with the rare and classic? It is the
knowledge that the great thing existed and was therefore possible,
and so may be possible again. He is heartened on his way; for his
doubt in weaker moments, whether his desire be not for the
impossible, is struck aside. Suppose one believe that no more than a
hundred men, brought up in the new spirit, efficient and productive,
were needed to give the deathblow to the present fashion of education
in Germany; he will gather strength from the remembrance that the
culture of the Renaissance was raised on the shoulders of such
another band of a hundred men.

And yet if we really wish to learn something from an example, how
vague and elusive do we find the comparison! If it is to give us
strength, many of

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