Nietzsche’s mask

One of the themes I’ve indexed on my wiki is the mask:

One of the most striking passages is from Beyond Good and Evil:

Everything profound loves a mask; the most profound things even have a hatred for image and parable. Might not nothing less than the antithesis be the proper disguise for the shame of a god walking abroad? A questionable question: it would be odd if some mystic had not already risked something to that effect in his mind. There are occurrences of such a delicate nature that one does well to cover them up with some rudeness to conceal them; there are actions of love and extravagant generosity after which nothing is more advisable than to take a stick and give the eyewitness a sound thrashing: that would cloud his memory. Some know how to cloud and abuse their own memory in order to have their revenge at least against this sole confidant:–shame is inventive. It is not the worst things that cause the worst shame: there is not only guile behind a mask–there is so much graciousness [Gute] in cunning. I could imagine that a human being who had to guard something precious and vulnerable might roll through life, rude and round as an old green wine cask with heavy hoops: the refinement of his shame would want it that way. A man whose shame is profound encounters even his destinies and delicate decisions on paths which few ever reach and whose mere existence his neighbors and closest intimates must not know: his mortal danger [Lebensgefahr] is concealed from their eyes, and so is his regained sureness of life [Lebens-Sicherheit]. Such a concealed man who instinctively needs speech for silence and to be silent and who is inexhaustible in his evasion of communication, wants and sees to it that a mask of him roams in his place through the hearts and heads of his friends; and supposing he did not want it, he would still realize some day that in spite of that a mask of him is there–and that this is good. Every profound spirit needs a mask: even more, around every profound spirit a mask is continually growing, owing to the constantly false, namely shallow, interpretation of every word, every step, every sign of life that he gives. —


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