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TEACHERS of a PURPOSE February 27, 2012

Posted by aldelsol in FUTURE.
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The teachers of the purpose of existence.— Whether I contemplate men with benevolence or with an evil eye, I always find them concerned with a single task, all of them and every one of them in particular: to do what is good for the preservation of the human race. Not from any feeling of love for the race, but merely because nothing in them is older, stronger, more inexorable and unconquerable than this instinct—because this instinct constitutes the essence of our species, our herd.

It is easy enough to divide our neighbors quickly, with the usual myopia, from a mere five paces away, into useful and harmful, good and evil men; but in any large-scale accounting, when we reflect on the whole a little longer, we become suspicious of this neat division and finally abandon it. Even the most harmful man may really be the most useful when it comes to the preservation of the species; for he nurtures either in himself or in others, through his effects, instincts without which humanity would long have become feeble or rotten. Hatred, the mischievous delight in the misfortune of others, the lust to rob and dominate, and whatever else is called evil belongs to the most amazing economy of the preservation of the species. To be sure, this economy is not afraid of high prices, of squandering, and it is on the whole extremely foolish:—still it is proven that it has preserved our race so far. I no longer know whether you, my dear fellow man and neighbor, are at all capable of living in a way that would damage the species; in other words, “unreasonably” and “badly.” What might have harmed the species may have become extinct many thousands of years ago and may by now be one of those things that are not possible even for God. Pursue your best or your worst desires, and above all perish!— In both cases you are probably still in some way a promoter and benefactor of humanity and therefore entitled to your eulogists—but also to your detractors!

But you will never find anyone who could wholly mock you as an individual, also in your best qualities, bringing home to you to the limits of truth your boundless, fly like, frog like wretchedness! To laugh at oneself as one would have to laugh in order to laugh out of the whole truth—to do that even the best so far lacked sufficient sense for the truth, and the most gifted had too little genius for that! Even laughter may yet have a future! I mean, when the proposition “the species is everything, one is always none” has become part of humanity, and this ultimate liberation and irresponsibility has become accessible to all at all times. Perhaps laughter will then have formed an alliance with wisdom, perhaps only “gay science” will then be left.

For the present, things are still quite different. For the present, the comedy of existence has not yet “become conscious” of itself. For the present, we still live in the age of tragedy, the age of moralities and religions. What is the meaning of the ever new appearance of these founders of moralities and religions, these instigators of fights over moral valuations, these teachers of remorse and religious wars? What is the meaning of these heroes on this stage? Thus far these have been the heroes, and everything else, even if at times it was all that could be seen and was much too near to us, has always merely served to set the stage for these heroes, whether it was machinery or coulisse or took the form of confidants and valets. (The poets, for example, were always the valets of some morality.)— It is obvious that these tragedians, too, promote the interests of the species, even if they should believe that they promote the interest of God or work as God’s emissaries. They, too, promote the life of the species, by promoting the faith in life. “Life is worth living”—every one of them shouts—”there is something to life, there is something behind life, beneath it; beware!” From time to time this instinct, which is at work equally in the highest and the basest men—the instinct for the preservation of the species—erupts as reason and as passion of the spirit; then it is surrounded by a resplendent retinue of reasons and tries with all the force at its command to make us forget that at bottom it is instinct, drive, folly, lack of reasons. Life shall be loved, because! Man shall advance himself and his neighbor, because! What names all these Shalls and Becauses receive and may yet receive in the future! In order that what happens necessarily and always, spontaneously and without any purpose, may henceforth appear to be done for some purpose and strike man as rational and an ultimate commandment, the ethical teacher comes on stage, as the teacher of the purpose of existence; and to this end he invents a second, different existence and unhinges by means of his new mechanics the old, ordinary existence. Indeed! he wants to make sure that we do not laugh at existence, or at ourselves—or at him; for him, one is always one, something first and last and tremendous; for him there are no species, sums, or zeroes. His inventions and valuations may be utterly foolish and overenthusiastic; he may badly misjudge the course of nature and deny its conditions:—and all ethical systems hitherto have been so foolish and anti-natural that humanity would have perished of every one of them if it had gained power over humanity—and yet, whenever “the hero” appeared on the stage, something new was attained: the gruesome counterpart of laughter, that profound emotional shock felt by many individuals at the thought: “Yes, it is worth living! Yes, I am worthy of living!”—life and I and you and all of us became interesting to ourselves once again and for a little while.

— There is no denying that in the long run every one of these great teachers of a purpose was vanquished by laughter, reason, and nature: the short tragedy always gave way again and returned into the eternal comedy of existence; and “the waves of uncountable laughter“—to cite Aeschylus—must in the end overwhelm even the greatest of these tragedians. In spite of all this laughter which makes the required corrections, human nature has nevertheless been changed by the ever new appearance of these teachers of the purpose of existence—it now has one additional need, the need for the ever new appearance of such teachers and teachings of a “purpose.” Gradually, man has become a fantastic animal that has to fulfill one more condition of existence than any other animal: man has to believe, to know, from time to time why he exists, his race cannot flourish without a periodic trust in life! Without faith in reason in life!

And again and again the human race will decree from time to time: “There is something at which it is absolutely forbidden henceforth to laugh!” The most cautious friend of man will add: “Not only laughter and gay wisdom but the tragic, too, with all its sublime unreason, belongs among the means and necessities of the preservation of the species!”— And consequently! Consequently! Consequently! Oh, do you understand me, my brothers? Do you understand this new law of ebb and flood? There is a time for us, too!

GS-1

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