Strength First

December 18, 2019


"A psychologist knows few questions so attractive as those concerning the relations of health to philosophy, and in the case when he himself falls sick, he carries with him all his scientific curiosity into his sickness. For, granting that one is a person, one has necessarily also the philosophy of one's personality, there is, however, an important distinction here. With the one it is his defects which philosophize, with the other it is his riches and powers. The former requires his philosophy, whether it be as support, sedative, or medicine, as salvation, elevation, or self-alienation; with the latter it is merely a fine luxury, at best the voluptuousness of a triumphant gratitude, which must inscribe itself ultimately in cosmic capitals on the heaven of ideas. In the other more usual case, however, when states of distress occupy themselves with philosophy (as is the case with all sickly thinkers—and perhaps the sickly thinkers preponderate in the history of philosophy), what will happen to the thought itself which is brought under the pressure of sickness? This is the important question for psychologists: and here experiment is possible. We philosophers do just like a traveler who resolves to awake at a given hour, and then quietly yields himself to sleep: we surrender ourselves temporarily, body and soul, to the sickness, supposing we become ill—we shut, as it were, our eyes on ourselves. And as the traveler knows that something does not sleep, that something counts the hours and will awake him, we also know that the critical moment will find us awake—that then something will spring forward and surprise the spirit in the very act, I mean in weakness, or reversion, or submission, or obduracy, or obscurity, or whatever the morbid conditions are called, which in times of good health have the pride of the spirit opposed to them (for it is as in the old rhyme: "The spirit proud, peacock and horse are the three proudest things of earthly source"). After such self-questioning and self-testing, one learns to look with a sharper eye at all that has hitherto been philosophized; one divines better than before the arbitrary by-ways, side-streets, resting-places, and sunny places of thought, to which suffering thinkers, precisely as sufferers, are led and misled: one knows now in what direction the sickly body and its requirements unconsciously press, push, and allure the spirit—towards the sun, stillness, gentleness, patience, medicine, refreshment in any sense whatever. Every philosophy which puts peace higher than war, every ethic with a negative grasp of the idea of happiness, every metaphysic and physic that knows a finale, an ultimate condition of any kind whatever, every predominating, aesthetic or religious longing for an aside, a beyond, an outside, an above—all these permit one to ask whether sickness has not been the motive which inspired the philosopher. The unconscious disguising of physiological requirements under the cloak of the objective, the ideal, the purely spiritual, is carried on to an alarming extent,—and I have often enough asked myself, whether, on the whole, philosophy hitherto has not generally been merely an interpretation of the body, and a misunderstanding of the body."


- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Joyful Wisdom


Strength is not the only thing.


Strength is not even the most important thing.


But for men, strength should be the first thing.


Strength, health, bodily fitness and balance in chemistry, stimulation, and musculature must be set on a good path, one in line with one's highest ideals of life before developing one's theories about marriage, business, politics, etc. As integrated organisms, we think with our bodies, and there is no way for corruption and illness of the body not to effect our thinking and our valuations of things.


To think clearly, to love happily, to live well, and -- for whatever you love -- to fight well, you must put strength first.



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