Thursday, September 3, 2009

further thoughts on courage


Courage and cowardice


Perhaps you are no coward

would not really fear a mob

Just because they happened to be many

And you one!


The One is always greater than the many

Because when you multiply fractions,

They diminish

But when you multiply anything whole

It grows.


Any man who is also men

Is less thereby

He compromises himself

One true man is greater than the world.



            A man is timid, apologetic, weak, miserable. The advice given is "trust yourself, be courageous, fear not rejection,"––as if his inconfidence lacked meaning. Rather do I say "doubt yourself all the more, worm that you are, for it is in good reason that the confident man loves himself and you despise yourself. Your inconfidence is a stroke of brilliance––trust it for what it is: a signal to analyze your faults and to reinterpret them as virtues, transform them, or eliminate them altogether. Only when you have doubted the sand will you find reason for the rock, giving a firm basis for your confidence.” It is the severe self doubter who harbors the foundation of the greatest confidence.

            To take your opinion from another, never do this.Iinvent your own truth, instigate your own judgment. Do not wait for praise and say "Ah! I must be a good singer, for behold this praise." Rather, laugh at your own jokes. Judge yourself and expect this to be the universal verdict of all wise people. This makes you eccentric and strange, and so all great men appear to their contemporaries.

            Your sacrament is to trust yourself.

            Whining, complaining, pouting, blaming, shirking, revenging––all unmanly virtues, all boyish and absurd. What is manly and womanly? What is strong and confident? Loving oneself, and so loving the truth, loving reason, loving justice, loving beauty, and willingly suffering for them in their attainment and preservation.

            Be a man. Formulate and interpret your past in a way that gives you the most power; be in the habit of attributing control to your decisions, and act accordingly.

            Control your reactions to others. Loving others means enduring their words. You must be powerful enough for this. This power comes from profound self respect, which cannot be faked. It can be earned, nevertheless, by analyzing the words of others and seeing even their insults and cruelties as symptoms of love.

            If you want it, deserve it.

* *
* *

            Sincerity is divine. Sincerity defeats all opposition, for we are not belligerent nor angry, but simply simple in our love. The others are sentimental, and this because of insincerity.

            What can our sincerity do? Consider what is privileged in this world. A marriage is sanctified because a priest is paid. A man feels handsome because a pretty face kissed it. A child's deeds are acceptable because mom and dad do the same. Now I show you a new power, you holy men: whatever you touch becomes pure. You may sanctify anything your heart loves. Whatever you practice is sacrament be it ever so base in another's eyes. Grant it the poetry which spiritualizes.

            Therefore, do not say: "I will assume my sin rather then debating it; I will declare my guilt just in case; I will make emblems of my error and marginalize my good deeds; I will claim lofty ideals and apologize that I am not worthy of them; I will malign my name and hope some brave knight defends my honor"––thus speaks weakness.

            Rather, we stand on our own two legs and create our own standards. The rejection of popular standard is not the rejection of standard. Rather it is the only honest appreciation of standard.

            Show backbone. Do not bend on a matter no matter how insignificant, if you are right. Nietzsche writes that we ought to take the blame of being wrong, especially when we are right—a show of greatness. And indeed, to insist on your own rightness, to have to insist at all, shows weakness. Being is its own insistence. Yet never deceive, and what an impertinence to suggest it, though one may take the punishment without the confession.

            And when you are tortured, when you are tormented, you must never submit, never give in. Sooner hell than give up. Prefer fire to forfeit.

            And it is a self-torture to become utterly true. To make a man true, you must make him ugly. What is true is ugly by the popular estimate. And even if it becomes beautiful, it is first ugly.

            Faced with death, Socrates laughed, Jesus sweat blood. It is obvious who was more man.

            One of my favorites was a young girl who was not a good singer according to most ears, but sweet enough to herself that she sang wherever she walked, on buses, at work, upon waking and as she combed her hair. Any lack of talent could scarcely mask the purity of mind and delicacy of heart behind that breath.

            For one must boast of life. Merit is no basis for boasting. Only self doubt must boast. Yet there is the boast of joy in the self, of our life and being.

            For the poets, they seek something noble to praise, and often are too noble to lie. They seek the worthy in order to prove that they themselves are worthy—and they are less the poets for it. The true poet doesn’t seek beauty, but has a beautiful eye which sees beauty everywhere.

            Put faith in yourself—nowhere else! If you lack that, no other faith will save you. If you have no faith in yourself, every other faith will kill you.

            For it is not self doubt which must be overcome: let it be encouraged! The reason for self doubt must be defeated. The doubt must be asked: are you functioning well? And what action do you call me to execute?

            We ought to distrust most what feels best. This is a first step and a continual step. Rub your eyes with a little cynicism whenever they are clouded with trusts and distrusts. Instincts are genius, and trusting your gut includes trusting the gut's cynicism.

* *
* *

            As for the shy, let us learn a lesson from Tchaikovsky, that great musician, who was shy since a boy. For what reason? Because he was overly sensitive to pain (he cried out in terror in the night as a boy, for music wouldn't leave his head; his worst day was his separation from his mother; as an adult he couldn't appear before the Tsar because of timidity until he was doped up; he couldn’t conduct nor even attend most of his early symphonies). Those sensitive to pain foster a special sort of life, a certain repertoire of emotions, withholding outbursts, strong negative affects, anything that would devastate their fragile heart. For oversensitivity to pain makes one sensitive to nuances others overlook, and leads to exaggeration and withholdings others misunderstand. One develops a sort of discipline by compulsion––no self severity is even called for. The principle "Resist not evil," has been called a consequence of a state of oversensitivity. Shyness is simply a shrewdness for the overly sensitive; it reduces assault. In shyness, others feel as if they are greater than you, more important than you, because you shrink from them, because you are too tense for wit, because you generally displease in their company. Yet timidity can be a mere trick––one may even play at smallness––but he also realizes that greatness commands, and he must step out of this role to throw down the arrogance of whosever dares lay even his smallest finger on his work—no man has such a right over us. None but my peers possess even the ability to see my work. Tchaikovsky said "the whole of my discomfort is due to that I am very proud, that I am unable to sacrifice myself to others, even those very near and dear to me." This pride seemed shy, being instead great.

            Inwardness: an initial sensitivity or overactivity of the spirit which makes one vulnerable, followed by the shock of the external, a pain with three obvious consequences:

1. A strong memory impression.

2 A desire to redesign the defense.

3 A new power in the ability to repeat the reaction of pain through fearing it—wariness as strength—to enforce an intentional defense.

            And so while it might rightly be said, “Better confidently wrong than timidly right,” still, there is a time when you are better to be timidly wrong than confidently right, to develop the right attitude towards rightness and wrongness. For even the feeling of imperfection is a form of perfection, with place and time. Discontentment is part of maturity. Tremble at dawn, but at noon, shout your arrogance.

            Timid concern spreads more misery then bold brash. Be confident even if reckless. For fearful hands spread the most poison. The confident assault heals.

* *
* *

            And again, what does a God have to do with being recognized as a God? That he has to say proves his animal, that he hints proves his child. It is precisely a God who must be the most humble of all. Then his animal and child also            are God.

            Confidence is beautiful. “God helps those who help themselves,” said Benjamin Franklin, To which a pastor I heard countered, “No, God helps those who can’t help themselves”—despite all evidence it seems! Reversals and inversions are second nature to Americans. However, for those too pathetic to help themselves, has there ever been an aura of divinity around them? Men help such people, or else the suffer to death. But to those who help themselves, they are the Gods, their spirit the Divine. Do not deny the obvious interpretation in favor of pretty ideals.

            For if the core holds, the outer may bend and quaver with no worries. But if the core melts, the outer must staunch and stone. It is like an egg that is wet yoke inside, and so rigid shell outside, but once the chick hatches, it is soft feathers and tender meat outside, and bones in the inner. Therefore, if you are inwardly uncertain, you will priggishly insist on outward signs of strength.

* *
* *

            Even indecisiveness is a decision. Each man must himself choose, you cannot escape this, and all of life is continual choice. There are a thousand recommended roles, careers and marriages which make sense by external recommendation, or make sense by inner recommendation (dead echoes of the external), of peers and parents and well-meaning strangers—a thousand roles all evil and wrong. To be happy, you must be a fool. To be happy, you must do the self-evidently wrong, childish, lazy, ambitious. Dare greatness.

            The greatest faith in all the world, and no less great for its rarity, is to be faithful to yourself above the world. You must have full faith in yourself: this is the only faith that will save you, the only faith that will make you immortal, the only faith that is faith.

            The truth stands alone.


                I too walked my woods, and no she-wolf trifled with me, and had she nor would she soon forget it, because my thoughts were over difficult matters and trials of darker labyrinths than I yet heard reports of, when the summer warmth fell away from under my feet, and a thunderstorm had envoloped the woods and myself. Afternoon was now midnight, and since I was already lost in that mazy way, I had no place better to be. Soon thunder and lightning, soon that fevered flow of outrageous power I feel whenever thunder answers me. And I envisioned Pascal, bent over the same storm, asking his sky father to save a pathetic sinner. Disgust. I faced the brow of that strom –  over black a darker black – and I address him: “Do your worst. Thunder bells or deepest hells, what business do I have with you: go your way, I fear you not.” I walked my path, head up, chin high, browing the wind and rain whip—no matter: such fury gives me an inner peace.

            And now you settle over me like a piss drizzle intellectual? Have off! I need you stronger than this, if you are to ride at my side.



Perfection Is Easy


No comments: