Brief habits.— I love brief habits and consider them an inestimable means for getting to know many things and states, down to the bottom of their sweetness and bitternesses; my nature is designed entirely for brief habits, even in the needs of my physical health and altogether as far as I can see at all: from the lowest to the highest. I always believe that this will give me lasting satisfaction now—brief habits, too, have this faith of passion, this faith in eternity—and that I am envied for having found and recognized it:—and now it nourishes me at noon and in the evening and spreads a deep contentment all around itself and deep into me so that I desire nothing else, without having any need for comparisons, contempt or hatred. And one day its time is up: the good things part from me, not as something that has come to nauseate me—but peacefully and sated with me as I am with it, and as if we had reason to be grateful to each other and thus we shook hands to say farewell. Even then something new is waiting at the door, along with my faith—this indestructible fool and sage!—that this new discovery will be just right, and that this will be the last time. That is what happens to me with dishes, ideas, human beings, cities, poems, music, doctrines, ways of arranging the day, and lifestyles.— Enduring habits I hate, and I feel as if a tyrant had come near me and that the air I breathe had thickened when events take such a turn that it appears that they will inevitably give rise to enduring habits: for example, owing to an official position, constant association with the same people, a permanent domicile, or unique good health. Yes, at the very bottom of my soul I feel grateful to all my misery and bouts of sickness and everything about me that is imperfect,—because this sort of thing leaves me with a hundred backdoors through which I can escape from enduring habits.— Most intolerable, to be sure, really terrible, would be for me a life entirely devoid of habits, a life that would demand perpetual improvisation:—that would be my exile and my Siberia.
A firm reputation.— A firm reputation used to be extremely useful; and wherever society is still dominated by the herd instinct it is still most expedient for every one to pretend that his character and occupation are unchangeable,—even if at bottom they are not. "One can depend on him, he remains the same":—in all extremities of society this is the sort of praise that means the most. Society is pleased to feel that the virtue of this person, the ambition of that one, and the thoughtfulness and passion of the third provide it with a dependable instrument that is always at hand,—it honors this instrumental nature, this way of remaining faithful to oneself, this unchangeability of views, aspirations, and even faults and lavishes its highest honors upon it. Such esteem, which flourishes and has flourished everywhere alongside the morality of mores, breeds "character" and brings all change, all re-learning, all self-transformation into ill repute. However great the advantages of this way of thinking may be elsewhere, for the search after knowledge no general judgment could be more harmful, for precisely the good will of those who seek knowledge to declare themselves at any time dauntlessly against their previous opinions and to mistrust everything that wishes to become firm in us,—is thus condemned and brought into ill repute. Being at odds with "a firm reputation," the attitude of those who seek knowledge is considered dishonorable while the petrification of opinions is accorded a monopoly on honor:—under the spell of such notions we have to live to this day! How hard it is to live when one feels the opposition of many millennia all around! It is probable that the search after knowledge was afflicted for many millennia with a bad conscience, and that the history of the greatest spirits must have contained a good deal of self-contempt and secret misery.
The ability to contradict.— Everyone knows nowadays that the ability to accept criticism and contradiction is a sign of high culture. Some people actually realize that higher human beings desire and provoke contradiction in order to receive some hint about their own injustices of which they are as yet unaware. But that the ability to contradict, the attainment of a good conscience when one feels hostile to what is acccustomed, traditional, and hallowed,—that is still more excellent and constitutes what is really great, new, and amazing in our culture, the step of steps of the liberated spirit: who knows that?
What one should learn from artists.— How can we make things beautiful, attractive, and desirable for us when they are not?—and I rather think that in themselves they never are! Here we could learn something from physicians, when for example they dilute what is bitter or add wine and sugar to a mixture; but even more from artists who are really continually trying to bring off such inventions and feats. Moving away from things until there is a good deal that one no longer sees and there is much that our eye has to add if we are still to see them at all—or seeing things around a corner and as cut out and framed—or to place them so that they partially conceal each other and grant us only glimpses of architectural perspectives—or looking at them through tinted glasses or in the light of the sunset—or giving them a surface and skin that is not really transparent: all this we should learn from artists while being wiser than they are in other matters. For with them this subtle power usually comes to an end where art ends and life begins; but we want to be the poets of our life—first of all in the smallest, most everyday matters.
By doing we forego.— At bottom I abhor all those moralities which say: "Do not do this! Renounce! Overcome yourself!"—I am well disposed toward those moralities which goad me to so something and do it again, from morning till evening, and then to dream of it at night, and to think of nothing except doing this well, as well as I alone can do it! Whoever lives like that, one thing after another that simply does not belong to such a life drops off: without hatred or aversion he sees this take its leave today and that tomorrow, like yellow leaves that any slight stirring of the air takes off a tree; or he may not even notice that it takes its leave, for his eye is riveted to its goal, and forward, not sideward, backward, downward. "What we do should determine what we forego"—that is how I like it, that is my placitum [principle]. But I do not wish to strive with open eyes for my own impoverishment, I do not like negative virtues,—virtues whose very essence it is to negate and deny oneself something.
In favor of criticism.— Now something that you formerly loved as a truth or probability strikes you as an error: you shed it and fancy that this represents a victory for your reason. But perhaps this error was as necessary for you then, when you were still a different person—you are always a different person—, as are all your present "truths," being a skin, as it were, that concealed and covered a great deal that you were not permitted to see. What killed that opinion for you was your new life and not your reason: you no longer need it, and now it collapses and unreason crawls out of it into the light like a worm. When we criticize something, this is no arbitrary and impersonal event,—it is, at least very often, evidence of vital energies in us that are growing and shedding a skin. We negate and must negate because something in us wants to live and affirm, something that we perhaps do not know or see as yet! —This is said in favor of criticism.
nietzsche. the gay science. 1882.