Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Virtues of Vicissitude

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) - Prometheus Bound, 1611-12

'Whether it be hedonism, pessimism, utilitarianism, eudemonism - all of these ideas that measure the value of things according to pleasure or suffering, that is to say, according to secondary states and side-effects, are foreground ideas, and naive. Anyone conscious of having creative energies and an artist's conscience will look down on them not without mockery, but also not without pity. Pity for all of you! Although it is not pity in your sense, to be sure. It is not pity for social 'misery', for 'society' and its sick and injured, for the perennially depraved and downtrodden who lie around us everywhere; even less is it pity for the grumbling, oppressed, rebellious ranks of slaves who are looking to be masters (which they call 'being free'). Our pity is a more elevated, more far-sighted pity - we see how human beings are being reduced, how all of you are reducing them! And there are moments when we look at your pity especially with an indescribable anxiety, when we defend ourselves against this pity - when we find your seriousness more dangerous than any frivolity. If possible (and no 'if possible' can be more crazy) you want to abolish suffering! And we? - it seems that we want it to be, if anything, worse and greater than before! Well-being in your sense of the word - that certainly is no goal, it seems to us to be an end! A condition that would immediately make people ludicrous and contemptible - make us wish their downfall! The discipline of suffering, great suffering - don't you know that this discipline alone has created all human greatness to date? The tension of the soul in unhappiness, which cultivates its strength; its horror at the sight of great destruction; its inventiveness and bravery in bearing, enduring, interpreting, exploiting unhappiness, and whatever in the way of depth, mystery, mask, spirit, cleverness, greatness the heart has been granted - has it not been granted them through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering? In the human being, creature and creator are united: the human being is matter, fragment, excess, clay, filth, nonsense, chaos; but the human being is also creator, sculptor, hammer-hardness, observer-divinity, and the Seventh Day - do you not understand this opposition? Do you understand that you pity is for the 'creature in the human being', that which must be formed, broken, forged, torn, burned, annealed, purified - that which necessarily has to suffer and should suffer? And our pity - do you not understand whom our reversed pity is intended for, when it resists your pity as the worst of all possible self-indulgences and weaknesses?

Pity versus pity, then!'

From Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche