The Works of Frederick Schiller Part 559

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Now, we know that the movements of the bodily frame which cause the feeling of pain run counter to the harmony by which it would exist in well-being; that is, that they are diseased. But disease cannot grow unceasingly, therefore they end in the total destruction of the frame.

In relation to pain, it is thus proved that it aims at the death of the subject.

But, the motions of the nerves under pleasant sensations being so harmonious to the continuance of the machinery that the condition of mind which const.i.tutes pleasure is that of the greatest bodily well-being, should not rather, then, pleasant sensation prolong the bloom of the body eternally? This inference is too hasty. In a certain stage of moderation, these nervous motions are wholesome, and really a sign of health. But if they outgrow this stage, they may be the highest activity, the highest momentary perfection; but, thus, they are excess of health, no longer health itself.

We only call that condition of the natural motions health in which the root of similar ones for the future lies, viz., those which confirm the perfection of succeeding motions; thus, the destiny of continuance is essentially contained in the idea of health. Thus, for example, the body of the most debilitated profligate attains to its greatest harmony at the moment of excess; but it is only momentarily, and a so much deeper abatement shows sufficiently that overstraining was not health.

Therefore one may justly accept that an overstrained vigor of physical action hastens death as much as the greatest disorder or the worst illness. Both pain and pleasure draw us towards an unavoidable death, unless something be present which limits their advance.

S 26.--Excellence of this Abatement.

It is just this (the limit to their growth) which the abatement of the animal nature causes. It must be no other than this limitation of our fragile frame (that appeared to have lent to our opponents so strong a proof against its perfection) which ameliorates all the evil consequences that the mechanism otherwise makes unavoidable. It is exactly this sinking, this la.s.situde of the organs, over which tinkers complain so much, that prevents our own strength destroying us in a short time; that does not permit our positions to be always increasing towards our destruction. This limitation shows each pa.s.sion the period of its growth, its height and decline (if indeed the pa.s.sion does not die out in a total relaxation of the body), which leaves the excited spirits time to resume their harmony, and the organs to recover. Hence, the highest pitch of rapture, of fear, and of anger, are the same as weariness, weakness, or fainting. But sleep vouchsafes more, for as Shakspeare says:--

Sleep, that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care, The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath, Balm of hurt minds, great Nature's sweet restorer.


During sleep, the vital forces restore themselves to that healthy balance which the continuance of our being so much requires; all the cramped ideas and feelings, the overstrained actions which have troubled us through the day, are solved in the entire relaxation of the sensorium; the harmony of the motions of the mind are resumed, and the newly-awakened man greets the coming day more calmly.

In relation to the arrangement of the whole, also, we cannot sufficiently admire the worth and importance of this limitation. The arrangement necessarily causes many, who should be no less happy, to be sacrificed to the general order and to bear the lot of oppression. Likewise, many, whom we perhaps unjustly envy, must expend their mental and bodily strength in restless exertion, so that the repose of the whole be preserved. The same with sick persons, the same with unreasoning animals. Sleep seals the eye of care, takes from the prince and statesman the heavy weight of governing; pours new force into the veins of the sick man, and rest into his hara.s.sed soul; the daylaborer no longer hears the voice of the oppressor, and the ill-used beast escapes from the tyranny of man. Sleep buries all cares and troubles, balances everything, equips every one with new-born powers to bear the joys and sorrows of the next day.

S 27.--Severing of the Connection.

At length arrived at the point in the circle where the mind has fulfilled the aim of its being, an internal, unaccountable mechanism has, at the same time, made the body incapable of being any longer its instrument.

All care for the well-being of the bodily state seems to reach but to this epoch. It appears to me that, in the formation of our physical nature, wisdom has shown such parsimony, that notwithstanding constant compensations, decline must always keep in the ascendancy, so that freedom misuses the mechanism, and death is germinated in life as out of its seed. Matter dissolves again into its last elements, which travel through the kingdom of nature in other forms and relations, to serve other purposes. The mind continues to practise its thinking powers in other circles, and to observe the universe from other sides.

We may truly say that it has not by any means exhausted this actual sphere, that it might have left this sphere itself more perfect; but do we know that this sphere is lost to it? We lay many a book aside which we do not understand, but perhaps in a few years we shall understand it better.

The Works of Frederick Schiller Part 559

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The Works of Frederick Schiller Part 559 summary

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