times uses a word that sounds strange on the lips of a thinker: "dance." It connotes for him joy, but joy that goes with the meeting of danger and risk. The dancer is a fine balancer, as when one treads a tight rope or goes on smooth ice. He ventures, goes ahead on a basis of probabilities and possibilities. Nietzsche speaks of bidding farewell to assured conviction or the wish for certainty, of balancing oneself on delicate ropes and possibilities, of dancing even on the edge of abysses. Some think that by dancing he meant playing with words and arbitrary thinking, f but it is something, he tells us, that just the philosopher has got to do well—a quick, fine, glad dealing with uncertainties and dangers is the philosopher's ideal and art. In a sense, all movement involves risk, even walking does, and dancing is only a heightened instance. It may be not quite irrelevant to remark that one of Nietzsche's tests of books or men or music was, whether there was movement in them or no, whether they could walk and still more dance; also that he himself liked to think, walking, leaping, climbing, dancing—above all on lonely mountains or by the sea where the paths were hazardous. g He had a kind of distrust of ideas that came to one seated over a book, and thought he had, so to speak, caught Flaubert in the act, when he found him observing, "on ne peut penser et écrire qu'assis." The venturesome element in life, above all in the life of thought, only lent it a new charm. Though at first the large amount of accident and chaos in the world oppressed him, he came to say "dear accident," "beautiful chaos." For once he would have agreed with George Eliot,
"Nay, never falter: no great deed is done
By falterers who ask for certainty."
The mind, he felt, reaches the acme of its power in dealing with uncertainties; it is the weaker sort who want the way assured beyond doubt.
Because of his variations of mood, it is not easy definitely
- Joyful Science, § 347. One recalls Shelley's words, "Danger which sports upon the brink of precipes has been my playmate."
- Ibid., § 381
- Ibid., § 366.
- Ecce Homo, II, § 1; Twilight of the Idols, i, § 34.
- Will to Power, § 963.