Quotes

The Wisest Men of All Ages

About life, the wisest men of all ages have come to the same conclusion: it is no good. Always and everywhere one has heard the same sound from their mouths—a sound full of doubt, full of melancholy, full of weariness of life, full of resistance to life. Even Socrates said, as he died: “To live—that means to be sick a long time: I owe Asclepius the Savior a rooster.” Even Socrates was tired of life. What does that prove? What does it demonstrate? At one time, one would have said (and it has been said loud enough by our pessimists): “At least something must be true here! The consensus of the sages must show us the truth.” Shall we still talk like that today? May we? “At least something must be sick here,” we retort. These wisest men of all ages—they should first be scrutinized closely. Were they all perhaps shaky on their legs? tottery? decadent? late? Could it be that wisdom appears on earth as a raven, attracted by a little whiff of carrion?

—Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols.

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Quotes

The Peak of the Mountain

From the standpoint of literature my fate is very simple. My feeling for the representation of my dreamlike inner life has made everything else trivial, and these other things have withered horribly and do not stop withering. Nothing else can ever satisfy me. But my strength for that representation cannot be counted on at all, perhaps it has already vanished forever, perhaps it actually will come over me once again, though the circumstances of my life are not favorable to that end. And so I waver, I fly incessantly to the peak of the mountain, but I can barely stay on top for an instant. Others waver as well, but in lower regions, with greater powers; if they risk falling, they are caught up by the kinsman who walks beside them for that purpose. But I waver up there; it is not death, alas, but the eternal torments of dying.

—Franz Kafka, Tagebücher, 546.

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Quotes

Our Greatness is Also Our Lack of Compassion

To be harmful with what is best in us.— At times, our strengths propel us so far forward that we can no longer endure our weaknesses and perish from them. We may even foresee this outcome without wishing to have it otherwise. Thus we become hard against everything in us that desires consideration, and our greatness is also our lack of compassion.

Such an experience, for which we must pay in the end with our lives, is a parable for the whole effect of great human beings on others and on their age: precisely with what is best in them, with what only they can do, they destroy many who are weak, unsure, still in the process of becoming, of striving; and thus they are harmful. It can even happen that, everything considered they are only harmful because what is best in them is accepted and absorbed by those alone whom it affects like a drink that is too strong: they lose their understanding and their selfishness and become so intoxicated that they are bound to break their limbs on all the false paths on which their intoxication leads them astray.

—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Aph. 28

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Quotes

I Know What I do Not Know

“…It is not true that the more you love, the better you understand; all that the action of love obtains from me is merely this wisdom: that the other is not to be known; his opacity is not the screen around a secret, but, instead, a kind of evidence in which the game of reality and appearance is done away with. I am then seize with that exaltation of loving someone unknown, someone who will remain so forever: a mystic impulse: I know what I do not know.”

—Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse.

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