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After his discourse on metamorphoses, Zarathustra visits a “wise man”, listens to him profess his wisdom on the virtues and sleep, and offers his own critique of the man.
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People commended a wise man to Zarathustra as one who could speak well about sleep and virtue. The man was greatly honoured and rewarded for this, and all the youths sat before his chair. Zarathustra went to him, and sat among the youths before his chair. This is what the wise man said:
Be respectful and modest in presence of sleep! This is the most important thing! Avoid all who sleep badly and stay awake at night! Even a thief is modest in presence of sleep. He always steals softly through the night. The night watchman, however, is immodest; he immodestly carries his horn.
Sleeping is no small art. It is necessary for this reason to stay awake all day. Ten times a day must you overcome yourself: that causes wholesome weariness, and is an opiate to the soul. Ten times must you reconcile again with yourself, for overcoming leads to bitterness, and the unreconciled sleep badly.
You must find ten truths during the day. Otherwise you will seek truth during the night, and your soul will be hungry. You must laugh ten times during the day, and be cheerful; otherwise your stomach, the father of affliction, will disturb you in the night.
Few people know it, but one must have all the virtues in order to sleep well. Should I bear false witness? Should I commit adultery? Should I covet my neighbour’s maidservant? All these would conflict with good sleep.
Even if one has all the virtues, there is still one thing needed: to send the virtues themselves to sleep at the right time, so that they don’t quarrel with one another about you, you unhappy one!
Good sleep desires peace with God and your neighbour, and peace also with your neighbour’s devil too. Otherwise it will haunt you in the night. Good sleep desires that you honour the government, and obey, even a crooked government! We cannot help that power likes to walk on crooked legs.
He who leads his sheep to the greenest pasture will always the best shepherd. So it is with good sleep. I don’t want many honours, nor great treasures; they excite hysteria and lead to bad sleep. I would rather be without a good name and have little treasure.
A small party is more welcome to me than a bad one, but they must come and go at the right time to accord with good sleep. The poor in spirit also please me well. They promote sleep. They are blessed, especially if one always gives in to them.
So the days pass for the virtuous. When night comes, I take care not to summon sleep. It dislikes being summoned. Sleep is the lord of the virtues! Instead, I think of what I have done and thought during the day. Ruminating, patient as a cow, I ask myself: “what were my ten overcomings? And what were the ten reconciliations, and the ten truths, and the ten laughters with which my heart enjoyed itself?”
Pondering like this, and cradled by forty thoughts, it overtakes me all at once: sleep, unsummoned, the lord of the virtues. Sleep taps on my eyes, and they turn heavy. Sleep touches my mouth, and it remains open. It comes on soft soles to me, the dearest of thieves, and steals my thoughts from me. I then stand stupid, like this academic chair. But I do not stand much longer; soon, I lie down.
When Zarathustra had heard the wise man speak, he laughed in his heart: for by it, a light dawned upon him. He thought to himself:
This wise man seems a fool with his forty thoughts, but I do believe he knows how to sleep well. He who lives near this wise man is even happy! Such sleep is contagious. Even through a thick wall it is contagious.
A magic resides in his academic chair. The youths who sit before the preacher of virtue do not do so in vain. His wisdom is to keep awake in order to sleep well. And truly, if life had no purpose, and I had to choose nonsense, this would be the most desirable nonsense for me as well.
Now I know what people sought above all else when they sought teachers of virtue. They sought good sleep for themselves, and opiate virtues to promote it! To all these lauded sages of the academic chairs, wisdom is sleep without dreams: they know no higher significance of life.
Even today, there are some like this preacher of virtue, and not always so honourable. But their time has past. They will not stand much longer: there they already lie. Blessed are those drowsy ones: for they shall soon nod to sleep.
So thought Zarathustra.
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Nietzsche rips into the wisdom of the “academics”, brilliantly predicting the worst of the power of positive thinking new age self help movement of today.
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