Actio in distans
When a man stands in the midst of his own noise, in the midst of his own surf of plans and projects, then he is apt also to see quiet, magical beings gliding past him and to long for their happiness and seclusion: women. He almost thinks that his better self dwells there among the women, and that in these quiet regions even the loudest surf turns into deathly quiet, and life itself into a dream about life. Yet! Yet! Noble enthusiast, even on the most beautiful sailboat there is a lot of noise, and unfortunately much small and petty noise. The magic and the most powerful effect of women is, in philosophical language, action at a distance, actio in distans: but this requires first of all and above all – distance.
Woman and music
Why is it that warm, rainy winds inspire a musical mood and the inventive pleasure of melodies? Are they not the same winds that fill the churches and arouse thoughts of love in women?
I am afraid that old women are more skeptical in their most secret heart of hearts than any man: they consider the superficiality of existence its essence, and all virtue and profundity is to them a veil over this “truth,” a very welcome veil over a pendulum – in other words, a matter of decency and shame, and no more than that.
The strength of the weak
All women are subtle in exaggerating their weaknesses; they are inventive when it comes to weaknesses in order to appear as utterly fragile ornaments who are hurt even by a speck of dust. Their existence is supposed to make men feel clumsy, and guilty on that score. Thus they defend themselves against the strong and “the law of the jungle.”
Simulating – oneself
Now she loves him and looks ahead with quiet confidence – like a cow. Alas, what bewitched him was precisely that she seemed utterly changeable and unfathomable. Of steady weather he found too much in himself. Wouldn’t she do well to simulate her old character? To simulate a lack of love? Is this not the counsel of – love? Vivat comoedia (Long live comedy!).
On female chastity
There is something quite amazing and monstrous about the education of upper-class women. What could be more paradoxical? All the world is agreed that they are to be brought up as ignorant as possible of erotic matters, and that one has to imbue their souls with a profound sense of shame in such matters until the merest suggestion of such things triggers the most extreme impatience and flight. The “honor” of women really comes into play only here: what else would one not forgive them? But here they are supposed to remain ignorant even in their hearts; they are supposed to have neither eyes nor ears, nor words, nor thoughts for this – their “evil”; and mere knowledge is considered evil. And then to be hurled, as by a gruesome lightning bolt, into reality and knowledge, by marriage – precisely by the man they love and esteem most! To catch love and shame in a contradiction and to be forced to experience at the same time delight, surrender, duty, pity, terror, and who knows what else, in the face of the unexpected neighborliness of god and beast!
Thus a psychic knot has been tied that may have no equal. Even the compassionate curiosity of the wisest student of humanity is inadequate for guessing how this or that woman manages to accomodate herself to this solution of the riddle, and to the riddle of a solution, and what dreadful, far-reaching suspicions must stir in her poor, unhinged soul – and how the ultimate philosophy and skepsis of woman casts anchor at this point!
Afterward, the same deep silence as before. Often a silence directed at herself, too. She closes her eyes to herself.
Young women try hard to appear superficial and thoughtless. The most refined simulate a kind of impertinence.
Women easily experience their husbands as a question mark concerning their honor, and their children as an apology or atonement. They need children and wish for them in a way that is altogether different from that in which a man may wish for children.
In sum, one cannot be too kind about women.
Mothers find in their children satisfaction for their desire to dominate, a possession, an occupation, something that is wholly intelligible to them and can be chattered with: the sum of all this is what mother love is; it is to be compared with an artist’s love for his work. Pregnancy has made women kinder, more patient, more timid, more pleased to submit; and just so does spiritual pregnancy produce the character of the contemplative type, which is closely related to the feminine character: it consists of male mothers.
The Greeks, to be sure, prayed: “Everything beautiful twice and even three times!” They implored the gods with good reason, for ungodly reality gives us the beautiful either not at all or once only. I mean to say that the world is overfull of beautiful things but nevertheless poor, very poor when it comes to beautiful moments and unveilings of these things. But perhaps this is the most powerful magic of life: it is covered by a veil interwoven with gold, a veil of beautiful possibilities, sparkling with promise, resistance, bashfulness, mockery, pity, and seduction. Yes, life is a woman.
– Would any link be missing from the whole chain of science and art, if woman, if woman’s work, were excluded from it? Let us acknowledge the exception – it proves the rule – that woman is capable of perfection in everything which does not constitute a work: in letters, in memoirs, in the most intricate handiwork – in short, everything which is not a craft; and precisely because in the things mentioned woman perfects herself, because in them she obeys the only artistic impulse in her nature, which is to captivate.
– And finally, woman! One-half of mankind is weak, chronic- ally sick, changeable, shifty – woman requires . . . a religion of the weak which glorifies weakness, love and modesty as divine: or better still, she makes the strong weak – she succeeds in overcoming the strong. Woman has always conspired with decadent types – the priests, for instance – against the “mighty,” against the “strong,” against men. Women avail themselves of children for the cult of piety . . .
– Are you a slave? If so, you cannot be a friend. Are you a tyrant? If so, you cannot have friends. In woman, a slave and a tyrant have all too long been concealed. For that reason, woman is not yet capable of friendship: she knows only love. In a woman’s love is injustice and blindness towards all that she does not love. And in the enlightened love of a woman, too, there is still the unexpected attack and lightning and night, along with the light. Woman is not yet capable of friendship: women are still cats and birds. Or, at best, cows. Woman is not yet capable of friendship. But tell me, you men, which of you is yet capable of friendship?
Read More: A Collection of Writings on Women