Thursday, April 05, 2007

His ideas are like the lumber and trash of an old furniture-shop, collected together from all quarters

A sublime parable from the equally sublime Varieties of Unreligious Experience:

"I had a dream. I was a youth once more: my hair was flaxen, and my heart full of yearning. The Pessimist was my lover, and often I would see him strolling the market and town streets. I plucked geeseblooms with my fingers, singing to myself the liebeslieder he had taught me. The Grillen, who were once men, but now chirred their seed into the ground, were humming volubly overhead. I sang:

For true culture in the humanities it is absolutely necessary that a man be many-sided and take large views; for a man of learning in the higher sense of the word, an extensive acquaintance with history is essential. He, however, who wishes to be a complete philosopher, must gather into his head the remotest ends of human knowledge: for where else could they ever come together?

He loves me. I beamed, and the sun flowered me with kisses.

A man should not read too much, lest his mind become accustomed to the substitute and thereby forget the reality. Least of all should a man withdraw his gaze from reality for the mere sake of reading; as the impulse and the temper which prompt thought of one's own come far oftener from the real world than from that of books. . . The man of books lets it be seen that everything he has is second-hand; that his ideas are like the lumber and trash of an old furniture-shop, collected together from all quarters. Mentally, he is dull and pointless—a copy of a copy.

He loves me not. At this I let fall silver tears, swiftly becoming a brook, in which I saw reflected my own verlorn countenance. The Pessimist awoke me from my dream. I consider this ironical, as he is known in these parts for his exaltation of slumber, and still carries on his person that enchanted chalice with which men are led so often to dream. The Pessimist was agitated—he swatted about himself, as if covered with flies. 'Whatever is the matter?' I asked him. 'It is all the noise that bothers me so,' he said, and—

I must denounce as the most inexcusable and scandalous noise the truly infernal cracking of whips in the narrow resounding streets of towns; for it robs life of all peace and pensiveness. Nothing gives so clear an idea of the apathy, stupidity, and thoughtlessness of men as their toleration of this whip-cracking. The short sharp crack that paralyses the brain, tears and rends the thread of reflection, and murders all thoughts, must pain anyone who carries in his head anything resembling an idea.

Just then the Pessimist's truant son danced by, splashing in a marble fountain with a young flirt garlanded in exotic scents. Overhearing his father's words, he called out to his tanzliebchen: 'You shall dance and also scream to my whip-crack's brisk tempo! I did not forget the whip, did I?—No!'

The pretty girl, whose name was Life, chided him—'Please don't crack your whip so terribly! For well you know: noise murders thoughts'. What a terrible turn of events, I remarked to myself—that Life should agree with the Pessimist! Down the street, just at that very moment, a landsknecht was seen flogging his horse—and the truant son, no longer laughing but now in anguish, raced towards the beast, flinging his arms around its neck with a sob. He, too, could not bear the noise. Was it only I—I wondered—who not only could bear the noise of the whip, but—enjoyed it? Do I not, after all, take a whip to my mistress on a frequent basis? How she craves its schnalzing crack! She grows more loyal daily, and now and then she returns my blow with a comment or two. Is it true, then, that all lumber and trash is dull and pointless, a copy of a copy?"

From The Case of Lou Salome:

Nietzsche's next meeting with Lou was quite soon, in Lucerne. She was "detached." Nietzsche proposed marriage again, this time personally; Lou rejected the idea. Nietzsche was at last suspicious that Ree and Lou were lovers and that they were merely using him to legitimize the affair. It was within this mood that Nietzsche orchestrated a "photo opportunity" with Jules Bonnet (a famous Swiss photographer) that has become quite famous. In the photo, as Nietzsche supposedly choreographed it, Lou kneals in the front of a small farmer's cart, holding a whip, while Ree and Nietzsche stand in front of the cart, linked to Lou's hand by ropes. Nietzsche himself looks out of the picture to the right, somewhat disengaged. The picture speaks a lot of what Nietzsche must have felt. It was not long after this that Nietzsche wrote, "You go to women? Don't forget the whip."

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

On the morning of January 3, 1889, while in Turin, Nietzsche experienced a mental breakdown which left him an invalid for the rest of his life. Upon witnessing a horse being whipped by a coachman at the Piazza Carlo Alberto, Nietzsche threw his arms around the horse's neck and collapsed, never to return to full sanity. Some argue that Nietzsche was afflicted with a syphilitic infection (this was the original diagnosis of the doctors in Basel and Jena) contracted either while he was a student or while he was serving as a hospital attendant during the Franco-Prussian War; some claim that Nietzsche's use of chloral hydrate, a drug which he had been using as a sedative, deteriorated his already-weakened nervous system; some speculate that Nietzsche's collapse was due to a brain disease he inherited from his father; some maintain that a mental illness gradually drove him insane. The exact cause of Nietzsche's incapacitation still remains unclear. That Nietzsche had an extraordinarily sensitive nervous constitution and took an assortment of medications is well-documented as a more general fact.

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