Consider the cattle, grazing as they pass you by: they do not know what is meant by yesterday or today, they leap about, eat, rest, digest, leap about again, and so from morn till night and from day to day, fettered to the moment and its pleasure or displeasure, and thus neither melancholy nor bored. This is a hard sight for man to see; for, though he thinks himself better than the animals because he is human, he cannot help envying them their happiness – what they have, a life neither bored nor painful, is precisely what he wants, yet he cannot have it because he refuses to be like an animal. A human being may well ask an animal: ‘Why do you not speak to me of your happiness but only stand and gaze at me?’ The animal would like to answer, and say: ‘The reason is I always forget what I was going to say’ -but then he forgot this answer too, and stayed silent: so that the human being was left wondering.
118 What is our neighbor! – What do we understand to be the boundaries of our neighbor: I mean that with which he as it were engraves and impresses himself into and upon us? We understand nothing of him except the change in us of which he is the cause – our knowledge of him is like hollow space which has been shaped. We attribute to him the sensations his actions evoke in us, and thus bestow upon him a false, inverted positivity. According to our knowledge of ourselves we make of him a satellite of our own system: and when he shines for us or grows dark and we are the ultimate cause in both cases – we nonetheless believe the opposite! World of phantoms in which we live! Inverted, upside-down, empty world, yet dreamed of as full and upright!
Even the most beautiful scenery is no longer assured of our love after we have lived in it for three months, and some distant coast attracts our avarice: possessions are generally diminished by possession…
I attended a lecture about how we, as humans and groups, make choices. Part of the discussion afterward was about the different ways we make decisions.
Because I didn’t want to spend too much time on my post, I looked for a fitting quote by my favorite philosopher. The funny thing is that I found two versions of the quote that I wanted to use, and they translated the German word empfindungen into sensations and feelings. Feelings are sensations, but a sensation is not always a feeling… I don’t know if that makes sense.
For me, as a non-English speaker, they seemed to be slightly different. You can decide for yourself, but the quote’s meaning changes quite a bit for me, depending on what translation I use. I guess that the translators used their knowledge of what Nietzsche might mean because you can use both words to translate it according to the dictionary. It depends on the sentence which one you use. In the Dutch translation, they used the word ervaringen, which is usually translated to English as experiences, I guess that covers both the other translations.
I just wanted to share this experience of finding a quote about how we come to our thoughts and stumble on different thoughts about translating the text.
The quote is from:
The Gay Science by Friedrich Nietzsche
Gedanken. − Gedanken sind die Schatten unserer Empfindungen, − immer dunkler, leerer, einfacher, als diese.
-Thoughts are the shadows of our sensations – always darker, emptier, simpler. Translated by Jesefine Nauckhoff, 1974
-Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings always darker, emptier and simpler. Translated by Walter Kaufman, 2001
177 Learning solitude. – 0 you poor devils in the great cities of world politics, you gifted young men tormented by ambition who consider it your duty to pass some comment on everything that happens- and there is always something happening! Who when they raise the dust in this way think they are the chariot of history! Who, because they are always on the alert, always on the lookout for the moment when they can put their word in, lose all genuine productivity! However much they may desire to do great work, the profound speechlessness of pregnancy never comes to them! The event of the day drives them before it like chaff, while they think they are driving the event – poor devils! – If one wants to represent a hero on the stage one must not think of making one of the chorus, indeed one must not even know how to make one of the chorus.
90 Lights and shadows. – Books and drafts mean different things to different thinkers: one has collected in a book the lights that he was able swiftly to steal and carry home from the rays of some insight that dawned on him; another is able to convey only the shadows, the after-images in grey and black, of that which built itself up in his soul the day before.
6 Loss of dignity. – Reflection has lost all its dignity of form: we have made a laughing-stock of the ceremony and solemn gestures of reflection, and couldn’t stand an old-style wise man. We think too fast, while on our way somewhere, while walking or in the midst of all sorts of business, even when thinking of the most serious things; we need little preparation, not even much silence: it is as if we carried around in our heads an unstoppable machine that keeps working even under the most unfavourable circumstances. Formerly, one could tell just by looking at a person that he wanted to think – it was probably a rare occurrence – . that he now wanted to become wiser and was preparing himself for a thought: one would set one’s face as for prayer and stop walking: yes. one stood still for hours on the street once the thought ‘arrived’ – on one or two legs. The dignity of the matter required it!
I have lived secluded for many years now. Not that I have no contact with the world, but I keep my distance. I look at it and analyze what I see through a filter of philosophy and poetry. I also get older, and the advantage of youth is slipping away, wherein you see all the grownups as living in a different world. Authority impresses when you’re young, but now that I am 50, I have little illusion left that someone knows what they are doing. Sure, most people think they know what they are doing, but self-reflection is a sparsely dealt out gift.
I see all these world leaders and bosses being confident and proclaiming what has to happen. Some rally the sheep, and others threaten nuclear destruction out of a delusional belief in themselves. Thousands of leaders have a direction formed in their minds that they follow, and none of these thousands of direction point in the same direction. For me, an outsider, this seems strange. Don’t they see that you can’t defend your direction in the light of all those other ones? They can not all be true, and why would yours be?
I understand that living with some kind of “truth” in yourself makes life easier. Doubting is nerve-wracking and keeps you on your toes, but one of my adopted truths is that the period between birth and death is not to be used to feel calm and at ease or pick a side. I don’t have the obsession to find and keep some kind of peace in myself and a side… sides are for people who need company. For me, living still means growing or shrinking but, in any way, moving.
Consider the cattle, grazing as they pass you by: they do not know what is meant by yesterday or today, they leap about, eat, rest, digest, leap about again, and so from morn till night and from day to day, fettered to the moment and its pleasure or displeasure, and thus neither melancholy nor bored. This is a hard sight for man to see; for, though he thinks himself better than the animals because he is human, he cannot help envying them their happiness – what they have, a life neither bored nor painful, is precisely what he wants, yet he cannot have it because he refuses to be like an animal. A human being may well ask an animal: ‘Why do you not speak to me of your happiness but only stand and gaze at me?’ The animal would like to answer, and say: ‘The reason is I always forget what I was going to say’ -but then he forgot this answer too, and stayed silent: so that the human being was left wondering. But he also wonders at himself, that he cannot learn to forget but clings relentlessly to the past: however far and fast he may run, this chain runs with him. And it is a matter for wonder: a moment, now here and then gone, nothing before it came, again nothing after it has gone, nonetheless returns as a ghost and disturbs the peace of a later moment. A leaf flutters from the scroll of time, floats away- and suddenly floats back again and falls into the man’s lap. Then the man says ‘I remember’ and envies the animal, who at once forgets and for whom every moment really dies, sinks back into night and fog and is extinguished for ever…
We all live alone
pretending to look at the world through misformed glass
the windows don’t open in this cellar
we breathe through cracks we made
we love the fresh air to get in
not out there
My “fresh air”, so to say, is reading books from people that I can relate to. I would like to meet people that are still alive and have similar thoughts like these long-dead philosophers, but no one has taught me the secret sign that like-minded people give each other when they cross each other in life. I like to read Nietzsche, but it doesn’t really matter which philosopher you read because they all share a willingness to search and question and have all seen the underlying problems. Their answers might be different, but I don’t think that answers are that important to get wiser; maybe answers function is being an anchor, and having one might tempt you to throw it overboard in rougher weather or when tired of sailing
Underneath are some quotes from one of Nietzsche’s last books: Twilight of the idols, or how to philosophize with a hammer. The hammer he uses is not one we use for driving nails but one the doctor uses to test reflexes and abnormalities in the nervous system…just so you know. Stucked between these quotes is a famous one “Out of life’s school of war: What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” Because of all the (mis)use, it is now some kind of a platitude for me, but that doesn’t take away that you can still write a book about this one quote if you want.
19 Morality makes stupid. – Custom represents the experiences of men of earlier times as to what they supposed useful and harmful – but the sense for custom (morality) applies, not to these experiences as such, but to the age, the sanctity, the indiscussability of the custom. And so this feeling is a hindrance to the acquisition of new experiences and the correction of customs: that is to say, morality is a hindrance to the creation of new and better customs: it makes stupid.
35 Feelings and their origination in judgments. – ‘Trust your feelings!’ – But feelings are nothing final or original; behind feelings there stand judgments and evaluations which we inherit in the form of feelings (inclinations, aversions). The inspiration born of a feeling is the grandchild of a judgment – and often of a false judgment! – and in any event not a child of your own! To trust one’s feelings – means to give more obedience to one’s grandfather and grandmother and their grandparents than to the gods which are in us: our reason and our experience.
55 ‘Ways’. – The supposed ‘shorter ways’ have always put mankind into great danger; at the glad tidings that such a shorter way has been found, they always desert their way – and lose their way.
14 Association. —All strong feelings are associated with a variety of allied sentiments and emotions. They stir up the memory at the same time. When we are under their influence we are reminded of similar states and we feel a renewal of them within us. Thus are formed habitual successions of feelings and notions, which, at last, when they follow one another with lightning rapidity are no longer felt as complexities but as unities. In this sense we hear of moral feelings, of religious feelings, as if they were absolute unities. In reality they are streams with a hundred sources and tributaries. Here again, the unity of the word speaks nothing for the unity of the thing.
We are unknown to ourselves, we knowers: and with good reason. We have never looked for ourselves, – so how are we ever supposed to find ourselves? How right is the saying: ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’;! our treasure is where the hives of our knowledge are. As born winged-insects and intellectual honey-gatherers we are constantly making for them, concerned at heart with only one thing – to ‘bring something home’. As far as the rest of life is concerned, the so-called ‘experiences’, – who of us ever has enough seriousness for them? or enough time? I fear we have never really been ‘with it’ in such matters: our heart is simply not in it – and not even our ear! On the contrary, like somebody divinely absent-minded and sunk in his own thoughts who, the twelve strokes of midday having just boomed into his ears, wakes with a start and wonders ‘What hour struck?’, sometimes we, too, afterwards rub our ears and ask, astonished, taken aback, ‘What did we actually experience then?’ or even, ‘Who are we, in fact?’ and afterwards, as I said, we count all twelve reverberating strokes of our experience, of our life, of our being – oh! and lose count …
382 The final lesson of history. -“Ah, if only I had lived at that time!” -these are the words of foolish and frivolous human beings. We will instead, with regard to every bit of history that we have seriously considered, though it may be the most highly praised land of the past, cry out in the end: “anything rather than back there again! The spirit of that age would press down upon you with the weight of a hundred atmospheres, you would not enjoy what is good and beautiful about it, and you would not be able to digest what is bad.” -It is certain that the world to come will judge our age in the same way: it must have been unbearable, life in it has become unlivable. -And yet everyone puts up with his own age?-Yes, and precisely because the spirit of his age not only lies upon him, but is also within him. The spirit of the age offers its own resistance to itself and bears itself up.