The Traveler By: Friedrich Nietzsche

Caspar David Friedrich’s “Wanderer”

A traveler who had seen many countries, peoples and several of the earth’s continents was asked what attribute he had found in men everywhere. He said: “They have a propensity for laziness.”

To others, it seems that he should have said: “They are all fearful. They hide themselves behind customs and opinions.”

In his heart every man knows quite well that, being unique, he will be in the world only once and that there will be no second chance for his oneness to coalesce from the strangely variegated assortment that he is: he knows it but hides it like a bad conscience—why?

From fear of his neighbor, who demands conformity and cloaks himself with it. But what is it that forces the individual to fear his neighbor, to think and act like a member of a herd, and to have no joy in himself?

Modesty, perhaps, in a few rare cases.

For the majority it is idleness, inertia, in short that propensity for laziness of which the traveler spoke. He is right: men are even lazier than they are fearful, and fear most of all the burdensome nuisance of absolute honesty and nakedness.

Artists alone hate this lax procession in borrowed manners and appropriated opinions and they reveal everyone’s secret bad conscience, the law that every man is a unique miracle; they dare to show us man as he is, to himself unique in each movement of his muscles, even more, that by being strictly consistent in uniqueness, he is beautiful, and worth regarding, as a work of nature, and never boring.

When the great thinker despises human beings, he despises their laziness: for it is on account of their laziness that men seem like manufactured goods, unimportant, and unworthy to be associated with or instructed.

Human beings who do not want to belong to the mass need only to stop being comfortable; follow their conscience, which cries out:

“Be yourself! All that you are now doing, thinking, and desiring is not really yourself.”

You can find this passage in Friedrich Nietzsche’s work— Schopenhauer as Educator.

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