Literature · Philosophy

The Greatest Weight

“What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, in the same succession and sequence–even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!’ Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.’ If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are or perhaps crush you. The question in each and every thing, ‘Do you desire this once more and innumerable times more?’ would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?” ((Nietzsche, Friedrich, “The Greatest Weight” in The Gay Science, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1974), 273-274.))

4 thoughts on “The Greatest Weight

  1. You like to start with difficult questions, don’t you Marius?

    The answer to the question… honestly, it would depend on the life led, for me. More joy than pain, i dont think any mortal can ask for more than that in their life. Many dont get that. If a life has more joy than pain contained in its years… with that balance, the thought of repeating life exactly, down to the minutest of nuances becomes bearable, i think. If you can turn to that demon and look him square in the eye and tell him “I have had a good life. Thankyou” the repeating it doesnt seem so bad.

    What would crush anyone, i think, is knowing that you are repeating each event, through each life. That is taking away free will, and it is not really life any more… you are simply watching and experiencing a movie on loop.

    Happy to have found you, Marius. You are missed.

    1. Paul, the pleasure is always mine.

      So we endure and grow, we learn and sometimes we even lose. But what is someone to feel when they sit in the middle of the balance, with equal measure of joy and pain? In the end, I think despair.

  2. And an astronomer said, Master, what of Time?
    And the Prophet answered:

    You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable. You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit according to hours and seasons. Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing.

    Yet the timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness, and knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream. And that that which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into space.

    Who among you does not feel that his power to love is boundless? And yet who does not feel that very love, though boundless, encompassed within the centre of his being, and moving not from love thought to love thought, nor from love deeds to other love deeds? And is not time even as love is, undivided and paceless?

    But in your thought you must measure time into seasons, let each season encircle all the other seasons. And let today embrace the past with remembrance and the future with longing.

    Gibran, Khalil, “Time”, The Prophet

    1. What a beautiful piece to read. Time is but a manifestation of our need to order the world, and we forget that we are in fact beings with little boundary to what we are and who we can become. The way we think, feel, and experience is infinite. It is too easy, though, to feel small and insignificant, to forget that we have a unique place in the world. People dream of too many tomorrows, ponder the meaning of yesterdays, and forget to live and remember. We dream and miss the little things, forget the simple pleasures. And sometimes, in small moments that pass too quickly, we feel how infinite we are and it fills a person to the point of bursting.

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