What is courage?
But Zarathustra looked at the people and was amazed. Then he spoke thus:
The human being is a rope, fastened between beast and Übermensch — a rope over an abyss. [i]
A dangerous across, a dangerous on-the-way, a dangerous looking back, a dangerous shuddering and standing still.
What is great in the human being is that it is a bridge and not a goal: what can be loved in the human being is that it is a going-over and a going-under.
I love those who do not know how to live except by going under, for they are those who go over and across.
I love the great despisers, for they are the great reverers and arrows of longing for the other shore.
I love those who do not first seek behind the stars for a reason to go under and be sacrifices, but who sacrifice themselves to the earth, that the earth may one day belong to the Übermensch.
I love him who lives in order to understand, and who wants to understand, so that one day the Übermensch may live. And thus he wills his own going under.
I love him who works and invents, that he may build a house for the Übermensch and prepare earth and animal and plant for him: for thus he wills his own going under.
I love him who loves his virtue: for virtue is the will to go under and an arrow of longing.
I love him who holds back not one drop of spirit for himself, but wants to be wholly the spirit of his virtue: thus he strides as spirit across the bridge.
I love him who makes of his virtue his addiction and his undoing: thus he wants for his virtue’s sake to live on and to live no more.
I love him who wants not to have too many virtues. One virtue is more virtue than two, because it has more knots for one’s undoing to latch on to.
I love him whose soul squanders itself, who wants no thanks and does not give back again: for he always bestows and does not want to preserve himself.
I love him who is ashamed when the die falls to his favor, and who then asks: Am I really a false player? — for he wants to perish utterly.
I love him who casts golden words before his deeds and always holds even more than he promises: for he wills his own going under.
I love him who justifies those to come in the future and redeems those gone in the past: for he wants to perish by those in the present.
I love him who chastises his God because he loves his God: for he has to perish by his God’s wrath and anger.
I love him whose soul is deep even in being wounded, and who can perish from the smallest experience: thus he goes gladly over the bridge.
I love him whose soul is overfull, so that he forgets himself, and all things are in him: thus all things become his going under.
I love him who has a free spirit and a free heart: then his head is simply the entrails of his heart, yet his heart drives him to his going under.
I love all those who are as heavy drops, falling singly from the dark cloud that hangs over humanity: they herald the coming of the lightning, and as heralds they too perish.
Behold, I am a herald of the lightning and a heavy drop from the cloud: but this lightning is called Übermensch.
[i] “abyss”: Abgrund, a place where the ground falls away. The idea is that there is no Grund given, no foundation or reason provided, for human existence — an idea that for Nietzsche leads to nihilism, but then, through that, to creative freedom.
[ii] Buddhism. Noble truth.
[iii] The verb translated by “understand” here is erkennen. This term and the related noun Erkenntnis are usually translated “to know” and “knowledge,” but “understand(ing)” is usually more apt for the way Nietzsche (and Zarathustra) uses the words.
[iv] Compare Luke 17:33: “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” *Oldenberg on the bodhisattva?*
[v] The phrase zugrunde gehen means “to perish,” “go to ruin,” “be destroyed,” “die,” and so on, but it also has connotations of “getting to the ground” of things. Nietzsche’s writing of it as zu Grunde gehen brings out the more literal meaning of “going to ground,” but for the sake of readability it will usually be translated as “to perish.”
[vi] Compare Hebrews 12:6: “For whom the Lord loveth he chastiseth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”
[vii] A passage in the notebooks reads: “I am too full: thus I forget myself, and all things are in me, and beyond all things there is nothing more: where have I gone?” This is the first intimation of an experience that is crucial to Zarathustra’s understanding of the world, a mystical state of the soul’s expansion in which the “I” undergoes dissolution.
[viii] In his notebooks Nietzsche quotes Napoleon as saying: “The heart belongs to the entrails” . . . Mais oui.