Friedrich Nietzsche, “On the Genealogy of Morals”

“If we leave aside the ascetic ideal, then man, the animal man, has had no meaning up to this point. His existence on earth has had no purpose. “Why man at all?” was a question without an answer. The will for man and earth was missing. Behind every great human destiny echoes as refrain an even greater “in vain!” That’s just what the ascetic ideal means: that something is missing, that a huge hold surrounds man. He did not know ho to justify himself to himself, to explain, to affirm….the curse that earlier spread itself over men was not suffering, but the senselessness of suffering– and the ascetic ideal offered him a meaning.

The ascetic ideal was the only reason offered up to that point…In it suffering was interpreted, the huge hole appeared filled in, the door shut against all suicidal nihilism. The interpretation undoubtedly brought new suffering with it– more profound, more inner, more poisonous, and more life-gnawing suffering. It brought all suffering under the perspective of guilt…but nevertheless, with it man was saved. He had a meaning. From that point on he was no longer a leaf in the wind, a toy ball of nonsense, of “without sense.” He could now will something– at first it didn’t matter where, why, or how he willed: the will itself was saved.

We simply connote conceal from ourselves what’s really expressed by that total will which received its direction from the ascetic ideal: this hate against what is human, and even more against animality, even more against material things– this abhorrence of the senses, even of reason, this fear of happiness and beauty, this longing for the beyond away from all appearance, change, becoming, death, desire, even longing itself– all this means, let’s have the courage to understand this, a will to nothingness, an aversion to life, a revolt against the most fundamental preconditions of life– but it is and remains a will!…And to repeat at the conclusion what I said at the start: man will sooner will nothingness than not will…”


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