The Last Man

an excerpt from Thus Spake Zarahustra, by Friedrich Nietsche (translated by Walter Kaufmann)

Prologue, section 5

When Zarathustra had spoken these words he beheld the people again and was silent.  “There they stand,” he said to his heart; “there they laugh.  They do not understand me; I am not the mouth for these ears.  Must one smash their ears before they learn to listen with their eyes?  Must one clatter like kettledrums and preachers of repentance?  Or do they believe only the stammerer?

“They have something of which they are proud.  What do they call that which makes them proud?  Education they call it; it distinguishes them from goatherds.  That is why they do not like to hear the word ‘contempt’ applied to them.  Let me then address their pride.  Let me speak to them of what is most contemptible: but that is the last man.”

And thus spake Zarathustra to the people: The time has come for men to set himself a goal.  The time has come for man to plant the seed of his highest hope.  His soul is still rich enough.  But one day this soil will be poor and domesticated, and no tall tree will be able to grow in it.  Alas, the time is coming when man will no longer shoot the arrow of his longing beyond man, and the string of his bow will have forgotten how to whir!

“I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.  I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves.

“Alas, the time is coming when man will no longer give birth to a star.  Alas, the time of the most despicable man is coming, he that is no longer able to despise himself.  Behold, I show you the last man.

“‘What is love? What is creation?  What is longing?  What is a star?’ thus asks the last man, and he blinks.

“The earth has become small, and on it hops the last man, who makes everything small.  His race is as ineradicable as the flea-beetle; the last man lives longest…”

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