Fiery Furnaces

Zealously and with much shouting they drove their herd over their bridge: as if to the future there were but one bridge!

Verily, these herdsmen thesmelves still belonged among the sheep!

Little minds and capacious souls these shepherds had: but, my brothers, what little domains have even the most capacious souls been up to now!

Blood-signs they wrote on the way that they walked, and their folly taught that one proves the truth with blood.

But blood is the worst witness of truth; blood poisions the purest teaching, turning it into hearts’ delusion and hate.

“And if one goes through the fire for one’s teaching—what does that prove!

It is more, verily, if one’s own teaching comes out of one’s own blaze!
Sultry heart and cold head: where these come together there arises the roaring wind, the ‘Redeemer’.

(Thus Spoke Zarathustra Second Part, Section 4, by Friedrich Nietzsche, as translated by Graham Parkes)

I have boldened my favorite portion of this quote, which I’ve only incompletely reproduced here. This is one of my favorite quotes because it challenges what Nietzsche elsewhere calls the “seduction” of the martyr, the false logic that if some one is willing to die for a belief that it therefore has some credibility. People can hold beliefs and be willing to die for them for all sorts of psychological and social reasons that have nothing to do with the love of truth first and foremost. A herdish, follower of a person can march off to the stake out of blind obedience, as can the suicidal, the delusional, or the foolish and easily persuaded.

In contrast, the ideal here, is not someone willing to die for a “teaching” but someone willing to make the pursuit of her perspective into a matter of fire and passion and intense internal struggle and experiment and risk. It’s the willingness to embrace Nietzsche’s wisdom elsewhere when he writes that “one must still have chaos within, in order to give birth to a dancing star.”

The embrace of this sort of passionate approach to life and personally developed knowledge as summed up by Nietzsche in these lines sums me up. It’s all about the sultry heart and the cold head.

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