The Gay Science

A review of The Gay Science by Rob Mason

 The things people call love

 -- Avarice and Love-- what different feelings these two terms evoke! Nevertheless, it could be the same instinct that has two names-- once depreciated by those who have, in whom the instinct has calmed down to some extent, and who are afraid for their “possessions,” and the other time seen from the point of view of those who are not satisfied but still thirsty and who therefore glorify the instinct as “good.” The love of our neighbour--is not a lust for new possessions?  And likewise, our love of knowledge, of truth, and altogether any lust for what is new? Gradually we become tired of the old, of what we safely possess, and we stretch out our hands again.  Even the most beautiful scenery is no longer assured of our love after we have lived in it for 3 months, and some more distant coast attracts our avarice: possessions are generally diminished by possession.

Our pleasure in ourselves tries to maintain itself by again and again changing something new into ourselves; that is what possession means. To become tired of some possession means tiring of ourselves.  (One can also suffer of an excess—the lust to throw away or to distribute can also assume the honorary name of “love.”) When we see somebody suffer, we like to exploit this opportunity to take possession of him; those who become his benefactors and pity him, for example, do this and call the lust for a new possession that he awakens in them “love;” and the pleasure they feel is comparable to that aroused by the prospect of a new conquest.

Sexual love betrays itself most clearly as a lust for possession: the lover desires unconditional and sole possession of the person for whom he longs; he desires equally unconditional power over the soul and  over the body of the beloved; he alone wants to be loved and desires to live and rule in the other soul as supreme and supremely desirable If one considers that this means nothing less than excluding the whole world from a precious good, from happiness and enjoyment; if one considers that the lover aims at the impoverishment and deprivation of all competitors and would like to become the dragon guarding his golden hoard as the most inconsiderate and selfish of all “conquerors; if one considers finally, that to the lover himself the whole rest of the world appears indifferent pale and worthless, and he is prepared to make any sacrifice, to disturb any order, to subordinate all other interests—then one comes to feel genuine amazement that this wild avarice and injustice of sexual love has been glorified and deified so much in all ages--indeed, that this love has furnished the concept of love as the oppositeof egoism while it actually may be the most ingenuous expression of egoism.

At this point, linguistic usage has evidently been formed by those who did not possess but desired. Probably, there have always been too many of these. Those to whom much possession and satiety were granted in this area have occasionally made some casual remark about “the raging demon,” as that most gracious and beloved of all Athenians, Sophocles, did; but Eros has always laughed at such blasphemers; they were invariably his greatest favourites.
Here and there on earth we may encounter a kind of continuation of love in which this possessive craving of two people for each other gives way to a new desire and lust for possession—a shared higher thirst for an ideal above them. But who knows such love? Who has experienced it? Its right name is friendship.

Every day heroes

Only artists, and especially those of the theatre, have given men eyes and ears to see and hear with some pleasure what each man is himself, experience himself, desires himself; only they have taught us to esteem the hero that is concealed in everyday characters; only they have taught us the art of viewing ourselves as heroes—from a distance and, as it were, simplified and transfigured—the art of staging and watching ourselves. Only in this way can we deal with some base details in ourselves.  Without this art, we would be nothing but foreground and live entirely in the spell of that perspective which makes what is closest at hand and most vulgar appear as if it was vast, and reality itself.

Perhaps one should concede a similar merit to the religion that made men see the sinfulness of every single individual through a magnifying glass, turning the sinner into a great, immortal criminal. By surrounding him with eternal perspectives, it taught man to see himself from a distance and as something past and whole.

Notes from "The Gay Science" by Friedrich Nietzsche

The metaphorical short footbridge

There was a time in our lives when we were so close that nothing seemed to obstruct our friendship and brotherhood, and only a small footbridge seperated us.  Just as you were about to step on it, I asked : " Do you want to cross the footbridge to me?" -- Immediately, you did not want to any more; and when I asked you again, you remained silent.  Since then mountains and torrential rivers and whatever separates and alienates have been cast between us, and even if we wanted to get together, we couldn't,  But when you now think of that little footbridge, words fail you and you sob and marvel.

From Father to Son
Countless things that humanity acquired in earlier stages but so feebly and embryonically that nobody could perceive this acquisition, suddenly emerge into the light much later—perhaps after centuries; meanwhile they have become strong and ripe. Some ages seem to lack altogether some talent or some virtue, as certain individuals do too. But just wait for their children and grandchildren, if you have time to wait that long; they bring to light what was hidden in their grandfathers and what their grandfathers themselves did not suspect.  Often the son already betrays his father—and the father understands himself better after he has a son.