Thus Spake Zarathustra: The Dwarfing Virtue

dwarfPrevious Post: Before Sunrise

When Zarathustra returns to the mainland from the Happy Isles, he discovers that his virtue now dwarfs that of the people who live there. He calls this the “bedwarfing virtue”.

* * *

When Zarathustra returned to the continent, he did not go to his mountain cave immediately, but wandered widely, questioning and ascertained this and that.

“A river that flows back to its source has many windings!” he said of himself jestingly.

He wanted to learn what had taken place among men while he was away, and whether they had become greater or smaller. When he saw a row of new houses, he marveled.

“What do these houses mean?” he wondered. “Truly, no great soul put them up as its opus! Perhaps a silly child has taken them out of its toy box? If only another child would put them back into the box! These rooms and chambers: can men go in and out of them? They seem to be made for silk dolls, or for dainty eaters who let others eat with them.”

Zarathustra stood still and meditated.

“Everything has become smaller!” he said sorrowfully. “Everywhere, I see lower doorways. He who is of my size can still go through them, but he must stoop! When will I arrive home, where I shall no longer have to stoop before the small ones!”

Zarathustra sighed, and gazed into the distance. The same day, however, he gave his discourse on the bedwarfing virtue:

I pass among these people and keep my eyes open. They do not forgive me for not envying their virtues. They bite at me, because I tell them that for small people, virtues are necessary small, and because it is hard for me to understand why small people are necessary!

Here am I like a rooster in a strange farm yard, at which even the hens peck. But I am not unfriendly to the hens on that account. I am courteous towards them, as towards all small annoyances. To be prickly towards what is small, seems to me wisdom for hedgehogs.

They all talk about me when they sit around their fires in the evening. They speak of me, but no one thinks of me! This is the new stillness which I have experienced: their surrounds me and spreads a mantle over my thoughts.

“What is this gloomy cloud about to do to us?” They shout to one another. “Let us make sure that it doesn’t bring a plague down on us!”

Recently, a woman seized her child who was coming toward me.

“Take the children away,” she cried. “Such eyes will scorch children’s souls.”

They cough when I speak. They think coughing is an objection to strong winds. They understand nothing of the boisterousness of my happiness!

“We do not have time for you, Zarathustra,” they object.

Why would I care about a time that “has no time” for me? If they altogether praised me, how could I go to sleep with their praise? It would be a spiked girdle to me. It would scratch me even when I took it off.

I also learned this among them: the praiser acts as if he gave back. In truth, however, he wants more to be given to him! Ask my feet if their lauding and luring strains please them! To such a beat, they don’t like to dance or to stand still. They want to lure me to small virtues and laud me. With the tapping of small happiness, they to persuade me to dance.

I pass among these people with my eyes open. They have become smaller, and continue to become smaller. This is due to their doctrine of happiness and virtue. They are moderate in virtue, because they want comfort. With comfort, only moderate virtue is compatible.

They learn in their way to stride on and stride forward. I call hobbling. They are a hindrance to all who are in haste. Many of them go forward while looking backwards, with stiffened necks. I like to run up against them.

Foot and eye do not lie, nor allow each other to lie, but there is much lying among small people. Some of them will, but most of them are willed. Some of them are genuine, but most of them are bad actors. There are actors who don’t know they are, and actors who don’t intend to be. The genuine are always rare, especially the genuine actors.

Of man there is little here. Therefore, their women become masculine. Only one who is man enough, will save the woman in a woman. This hypocrisy I found worst among them: that even those who command pretend to the virtues of those who serve.

“I serve, you serve, we serve,” chant the hypocritical rulers.

Alas if the first lord is only the first servant! My eyes alight in curiosity on their hypocrisy. I understand their fly happiness, and how they buzz around sunny window panes. I see so much kindness, and so much weakness. So much justice and pity, but so much weakness.

They are round, fair, and considerate to one another, as grains of sand are round, fair, and considerate to grains of sand. To modestly embrace a small happiness they call “submission”! At the same time, they peer modestly after a new small happiness. In their hearts they want one thing most of all: that no one hurt them. This is why they anticipate everyone’s wishes and do good to everyone.

That, however, is cowardice, though they call it “virtue. When they chance to speak harshly, those small people, then I only hear their hoarseness. Every breath of air makes them hoarse.

They are shrewd, and their virtues have shrewd fingers. But they lack fists. Their fingers do not know how to curl into fists. Virtue for them is what makes one modest and tame. With it, they have made the wolf a dog, and man himself the best domestic animal.

“We set our chair in the middle,” they say smirkingly to me “as far from dying gladiators as from satisfied swine.”

That, however, is mediocrity, though they call it moderation.

I pass among these people and let fall many words, but they don’t know how to take or to retain them. They wonder why I haven’t come to revile lust and vice. Truly, I haven’t come to warn against pickpockets either! They wonder why I am not ready to support and sharpen their wisdom, as if they have not yet had enough of wiseacres, whose voices grate on my ear like fingernails on a chalkboard!

When I call out “Curse all the cowardly devils among you that want to whimper and fold their hands and adore” then they shout “Zarathustra is godless.”

Especially those who teach of submission shout this. But their ears are precisely the ones in which I love to cry “Yes! I am Zarathustra, the godless!”

Those teachers of submission! Wherever there is anything puny, sickly, or scabby, there they creep like lice. Only my disgust prevents me from cracking them. This is my sermon for their ears: I am Zarathustra the godless, who says “Who is more godless than I, so that I may enjoy his teaching?”

I am Zarathustra the godless. Where do I find my equal? All those who give to themselves their Will, and divest themselves of all submission are my equals. I am Zarathustra the godless! I cook every chance in my pot. Only when it is quite cooked do I welcome it as my food.

Many a chance came imperiously to me, but still more imperiously did my will speak to it. Then it fell imploringly upon its knees. Imploring that it might find home and heart with me, and saying flatteringly “See, O Zarathustra, how a friend only comes to a friend!”

But why should I speak, when no one has my ear. Instead, I will shout it to the winds:

You become forever smaller, you small people! You crumble away, you comfortable ones! You will die by your many small virtues, by your many small omissions, and by your many small submissions! Your soil is too tender and too yielding! For a tree to become great, it seeks to twine hard roots around hard rocks!

What you omit weaves at the web of all human future. Even your inaction is a cobweb, and a spider that lives on the blood of the future. When you take, it is like stealing, you small virtuous ones. Even among thieves, honour says that “one shall only steal when one cannot rob.”

“It gives itself” is also a doctrine of submission. But I say to you, you comfortable ones, that it takes to itself, and will take more and more from you! Ah, that you would renounce all halfhearted willing, and would decide for idleness as intentionally as you decide for action! If only you understood me.

“Do what you will, but first be one who can will. Love your neighbours as yourselves, but first love yourselves. Love with great love, and with great contempt!” says Zarathustra the godless.

But why talk, when no one has my ear! It is still too soon for me to be here. I am my own forerunner among these people, my own cock crowing in dark lanes. But their hour comes! And with it, mine comes! Hourly, they become smaller, poorer, and less fruitful. Poor herbs! Poor earth!

Soon they will stand before me like dry grass and prairie, and weary of themselves, and pant for fire more than for water! Blessed is the hour of the lightning, the mystery before the noon! I will one day make running fires of them, heralds with flaming tongues. They will cry “It comes, it is near, the great noontide!”

So said Zarathustra.

Next Post: On the Olive Mount

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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2 Responses to Thus Spake Zarathustra: The Dwarfing Virtue

  1. Pingback: Thus Spake Zarathustra: Before Sunrise | Jim's Jumbler

  2. Pingback: Thus Spake Zarathustra: On the Olive Mount | Jim's Jumbler

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