On the Flies of the Marketplace

“Flee, my friend, into your solitude!

I see you dazed by the noise of the great men and stung all over by the stings of the little men. Woods and crags know how to keep a dignified silence with you. Be like the tree that you love with its wide branches: silently listening, it hangs over the sea. Where solitude ceases the market place begins; and where the market place begins the noise of the great actors and the buzzing of the poisonous flies begins too. In the world even the best things amount to nothing without someone to make a show of them: great men the people call these showmen. Little do the people comprehend the great-that is, the creating. But they have a mind for all showmen and actors of great things. Around the inventors of new values the world revolves: invisibly it revolves. But around the actors revolve the people and fame: that is “the way of the world.” The actor has spirit but little conscience of the spirit. Always he has faith in that with which he inspires the most faith in himself. Tomorrow he has a new faith, and the day after tomorrow a newer one. He has quick senses, like the people, and capricious moods. To overthrow-that means to him: to prove. To drive to frenzy-that means to him: to persuade. And blood is to him the best of all reasons. A truth that slips into delicate ears alone he calls a lie and nothing. Verily, he believes only in gods who make a big noise in the world! Full of solemn jesters is the market place-and the people pride themselves on their great men, their masters of the hour. But the hour presses them; so they press you. And from you too they want a Yes or No. Alas, do you want to place your chair between pro and con?

Do not be jealous of these unconditional, pressing men, you lover of truth! Never yet has truth hung on the arm of the unconditional. On account of these sudden men, go back to your security: it is only in the market place that one is assaulted with Yes? or No? Slow is the experience of all deep wells: long must they wait before they know what fell into their depth. Far from the market place and from fame happens all that is great: far from the market place and from fame the inventors of new values have always dwelt. Flee, my friend, into your solitude: I see you stung all over by poisonous flies. Flee where the air is raw and strong. Flee into your solitude! You have lived too close to the small and the miserable. Flee their invisible revenge! Against you they are nothing but revenge. No longer raise up your arm against them. Numberless are they, and it is not your lot to shoo flies. Numberless are these small and miserable creatures; and many a proud building has perished of raindrops and weeds. You are no stone, but you have already become hollow from many drops. You will yet burst from many drops. I see you wearied by poisonous flies, bloody in a hundred places; and your pride refuses even to be angry. Blood is what they want from you in all innocence. Their bloodless souls crave blood, and so they sting in all innocence. But you, you deep one, suffer too deeply even from small wounds; and even before you have healed, the same poisonous worm crawls over your hand. You are too proud to kill these greedy creatures. But beware lest it become your downfall that you suffer all their poisonous injustice. They hum around you with their praise too: obtrusiveness is their praise. They want the proximity of your skin and your blood. They flatter you as a god or devil; they whine before you as before a god or devil. What does it matter? They are flatterers and whiners and nothing more. Often they affect charm. But that has always been the cleverness of cowards. Indeed, cowards are clever!

They think a lot about you with their petty souls; you always seem problematic to them. Everything that one thinks about a lot becomes problematic. They punish you for all your virtues. They forgive you entirely-your mistakes. Because you are gentle and just in disposition you say, “They are guiltless in their small existence.” But their petty souls think, “Guilt is every great existence.” Even when you are gentle to them they still feel despised by you: and they return your benefaction with hidden malefactions. Your silent pride always runs counter to their taste; they are jubilant if for once you are modest enough to be vain. That which we recognize in a person we also inflame in him: therefore, beware of the small creatures. Before you they feel small, and their baseness glimmers and glows in invisible revenge. Have you not noticed how often they became mute when you stepped among them, and how their strength went from them like smoke from a dying fire? Indeed, my friend, you are the bad conscience of your neighbors: for they are unworthy of you. They hate you, therefore, and would like to suck your blood. Your neighbors will always be poisonous flies; that which is great in you, just that must make them more poisonous and more like flies. Flee, my friend, into your solitude and where the air is raw and strong! It is not your lot to shoo flies. Thus spoke Zarathustra.

—Friedrich Nietzsche

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