“… the law that every man is a unique miracle; they dare to show us man as he is, uniquely himself to every last movement of his muscles…”
— Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844—1900
Friedrich Nietzsche was one of the most audacious and controversial philosophers who ever lived.
He has gone down in history as a man who was willing to question everything that was passed down to him—even his culture’s most cherished beliefs about God, death, purpose, and morality.
Nietzsche is one of our all-time favorite philosophers at HighExistence. We’ve written about his theory of the Übermensch; his concept of amor fati, the “love of your fate”; some of his unforgettable quotes; his little-known drug use; and his ideas about suffering as a catalyst for growth.
It’s safe to say that we adore Friedrich around here. And today, we’re going to further express our love by sharing a rare passage from his book, The Untimely Meditations, taken from the essay, ‘Schopenhauer as Educator‘ (which I recommend in full).
This passage truly displays Nietzsche at his best: provocative, penetrating, uncompromising, and defiant. In it, he unabashedly laments the tragedy of conformity and extols the supreme beauty of individuality. Take it in slowly. Reflect on it at length. These words could quite literally change the course of your life.
Friedrich Nietzsche’s Stunning Meditation on the Tragedy of Conformity
“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 constrains 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. With the great majority it is indolence, inertia, in short that tendency to laziness of which the traveller spoke. He is right: men are even lazier than they are timid, and fear most of all the inconveniences with which unconditional honesty and nakedness would burden them.
Artists alone hate this sluggish promenading in borrowed fashions 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, uniquely himself to every last movement of his muscles, more, that in being thus strictly consistent in uniqueness he is beautiful, and worth regarding, and in no way tedious.
When the great thinker despises mankind, he despises its laziness: for it is on account of their laziness that men seem like factory products, things of no consequence and unworthy to be associated with or instructed.
The man who does not wish to belong to the mass needs only to cease taking himself easily; let him follow his conscience, which calls to him: ‘Be yourself! All you are now doing, thinking, desiring, is not you yourself.'”
— Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844–1900
Thanks to Ryan Trimble for sharing the passage that inspired this.