Thoughts Out of Season, Part II

By Friedrich Nietzsche

Page 42

the hours of man's life,
thinks the last the most important, that has prophesied the end of
earthly life and condemned all creatures to live in the fifth act of
a tragedy, may call forth the subtlest and noblest powers of man, but
it is an enemy to all new planting, to all bold attempts or free
aspirations. It opposes all flight into the unknown, because it has
no life or hope there itself. It only lets the new bud press forth on
sufferance, to blight it in its own good time: "it might lead life
astray and give it a false value." What the Florentines did under the
influence of Savonarola's exhortations, when they made the famous
holocaust of pictures, manuscripts, masks and mirrors, Christianity
would like to do with every culture that allured to further effort
and bore that _memento vivere_ on its standard. And if it cannot take
the direct way--the way of main force--it gains its end all the same
by allying itself with historical culture, though generally without
its connivance; and speaking through its mouth, turns away every
fresh birth with a shrug of its shoulders, and makes us feel all the
more that we are late-comers and Epigoni, that we are, in a word,
born with gray hair. The deep and serious contemplation of the
unworthiness of all past action, of the world ripe for judgment, has
been whittled down to the sceptical consciousness that it is anyhow a
good thing to know all that has happened, as it is too late to do
anything better. The historical sense makes its servants passive and
retrospective. Only in moments of forgetfulness, when that sense is
dormant, does the man who is sick of the historical fever ever act;
though he only analyses his deed again after it is over (which
prevents it from having any further consequences), and finally puts
it on the dissecting table for the purposes of history. In this sense
we are still living in the Middle Ages, and history is still a
disguised theology; just as the reverence with which the unlearned
layman looks on the learned class is inherited through the clergy.
What men gave formerly to the Church they give now, though in smaller
measure, to science. But the fact of giving at all is the work of the
Church, not of the modern spirit, which among its other good
qualities has something of the miser in it, and is a bad hand at the
excellent virtue of liberality.

These words may not be very acceptable, any more than my derivation
of the excess of history

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