Nov 192010

Live with your century, but do not be its captive; render to your contemporaries what they need, not what they praise. Without sharing their guilt, share with noble resignation their punishment and bow with freedom under the yoke with which they can dispense no better than they can bear it. By the steadfast courage with which you disdain their good fortune, you will demonstrate to them that it is not your cowardice that submits to their sufferings. Consider them as they ought to be when you practice to influence them, but consider them as they are when you contemplate acting on their behalf. Seek their approval through their dignity, but reckon their good fortune to their unworthiness; in this manner your own nobility will summon up their own but their unworthiness will not obstruct your goal… Expel the arbitrary, the frivolous, the coarse from their amusements, and ultimately from their natures. Wherever you find them, surround them with noble, great and ingenious forms, encompass them with the symbols of all that is excellent, until at length reality is overcome by appearance and art by nature.

Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen in einer Reihe von Briefen, 9. Brief (1791) in: Sämtliche Werke, vol. 5, pp. 595-96 (H. Göpfert ed. 1980)(S.H. transl.)

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Nov 192010

Dreaming is the worst of drugs, because it is the most natural of all. It works its way into our habits like no other drug can. We take it unawares, like a poison slipped in a drink. It doesn’t hurt, doesn’t make you pale, and won’t knock you out, but the soul that takes it can’t be cured, for it can never let go of its poison, which is its very own self. (The Book of Disquiet, 173)

It’s a rule of life that we can, and should, learn from everyone. There are solemn and serious things we can learn from quacks and crooks, there are philosophies taught us by fools, there are lessons in faithfulness and justice brought to us by chance and by those we chance to meet. Everything is in everything. (The Book of Disquiet, 357)

I always live in the present. I don’t know the future and no longer have the past. The former oppresses me as the possibility of everything, the latter as the reality of nothing. I have no hopes and no nostalgia. (The Book of Disquiet, 100)

Let’s absurdify life, from east to west. (The Book of Disquiet, 372)

Reductio ad absurdum is one of my favorite drinks. (The Book of Disquiet, 297)

Freedom is the possibility of isolation. (The Book of Disquiet, 283)

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Nov 192010

From On the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemical Tract, translated by Ian Johnston.

Third Essay: What Do Ascetic Ideals Mean?


All great things destroy themselves by an act of self-cancellation. That’s what the law of life wills, that law of the necessary “self-overcoming” in the essence of life—eventually the call always goes out to the law-maker himself, “patere legem, quam ipse tulisti” [submit to the law which you yourself have established]. That’s the way Christianity was destroyed as dogma by its own morality, that’s the way Christendom as morality must now be destroyed. We stand on the threshold of this event. After Christian truthfulness has come to a series of conclusions, it will draw its strongest conclusion, its conclusion against itself. However, this will occur when it poses the question: “What is the meaning of all will to truth?” . . . Here I move back again to my problem, to our problem, my unknown friends (—for I still don’t know anything about friends): what sense would our whole being have if not for the fact that in us that will to truth became aware of itself as a problem? . . . Because this will to truth from now on is growing conscious of itself, morality undoubtedly dies. That great spectacle in one hundred acts, which remains reserved for the next two centuries in Europe, that most fearful, most questionable, and perhaps also most hopeful of all spectacles . . .

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Nov 192010

The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily. That is what tragedy means.

Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.

Actors are the opposite of people.

If an idea’s worth having once, it’s worth having twice.

Life is a gamble at terrible odds. If it were a bet, you would not take it.

If Beethoven had been killed in a plane crash at the age of 22, it would have changed the history of music… and of aviation.

It is better to be quotable than to be honest.

The days of the digital watch are numbered.

The truth is always a compound of two half-truths, and you never reach it, because there is always something more to say.

Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.

It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting.

We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.

Every exit is an entry somewhere.

Revolution is a trivial shift in the emphasis of suffering.

Eternity’s a terrible thought. I mean, where’s it going to end?

Never believe in mirrors or newspapers.

I agree with everything you say, but I would attack to the death your right to say it. [parodying the saying of Voltaire: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it.]

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Nov 192010

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth: but whether there are prophecies, they shall fail; whether there are languages, they shall cease; whether there is knowledge, it shall vanish away.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

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