Today’s Nugget-O-Wisdom

Knowledge of hardship. — Perhaps nothing separates men and eras from one another quite so much as the extent of their knowledge of hardship, mental as well as physical. With respect to the latter, it may be that our contemporaries are all amateurs who, lacking sufficient first-hand experience, must rely on conjecture, their frailties and infirmities notwithstanding. By contrast, those who lived in the age of fear — the longest of all ages — had to protect themselves from violence, and to that end had to be violent themselves. In those days, a man received a long schooling in bodily pain and privation, in the knowledge that even a certain cruelty toward himself, a willingness to suffer, was necessary for his preservation; in those days, a person gave his companions an education in enduring pain, inflicting it quite readily, and when he saw the most terrible things of this kind happen to others, he felt nothing but his own safety. Where mental hardship is concerned, I now look at every man to see if he knows it by experience or by description; if he still considers it necessary to feign this knowledge, say, as a mark of refinement; or if deep down in his heart, he does not believe in mental sufferings at all, and is the same at the mention of them as at the mention of great physical ordeals, which bring to mind his toothaches and stomachaches. So it seems to me with most people these days. The fact that so few have experienced pain of either kind, and that the sight of suffering has become comparatively rare, has important consequences: pain is considered more hateful and arouses more indignation than ever before; indeed, the mere thought of pain is considered almost unbearable, a source of moral anxiety and a reproach to the whole of existence. The emergence of pessimistic philosophies is by no means a sign of some great and terrible distress; rather, these question-marks regarding the worth of life arise when the human condition has been so improved and ameliorated that the inevitable mosquito-bites of body and soul are found to be altogether too gruesome and gory, and in the poverty of their experience with actual pain, people will even take being troubled by ideas to be suffering of the highest order. — There is already a remedy for pessimistic philosophies and the squeamishness which seems to me our real hardship, the real ‘crying need of the hour’: — but perhaps this remedy sounds too cruel, and would itself be reckoned among the signs on the basis of which one now proclaims: ‘existence is evil’. Well then! the remedy for this ‘hardship’ is: hardship.

—Friedrich Nietzsche


2 comments on “Today’s Nugget-O-Wisdom

  1. RV says:

    Odd, I just started reading The Birth of Tragedy, and halfway through the quote, without having read the attribution, thought, ‘Why, what a very Nietzschean passage.’ Go, me!

  2. Carlisa says:

    Thanks for this.

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