“To become a human being is an art,” writes Novalis in Logological Fragments I.
However, Novalis appears to have a fairly pessimistic view of just how well our species is doing at perfecting this art.
He writes, in Miscellaneous Observations, of discerning a “gross self-interest” prevalent in society, a result of the “wretched narrow-mindedness” of the masses, who are focused no farther than their noses, doing all “for the sake of Earthly life.” To these poor creatures, only the “present situation is the most lively, the highest attainable,” and they know “nothing higher than this.” He “thinks and cares only for his base pleasures.” At best, this sort can acquire the cunning of a slave belonging to dull master, says Novalis.
Even such a man’s religion, which should exalt him, “merely works as an opiate” which helps alleviate some of the pain or consternation of his world.
Novalis seems to resent this under-development of society due to the implications for all members of the group– even the more enlightened ones. “In so far as we are contemporaries,” he writes in Logological Fragments I, even the more enlightened are “hindered” in their “higher development” by the underachieving Society to which they belong. “Divinatory, magical, truly poetical people cannot come into being under circumstance such as ours.”
How inconvenient for the great-minded! Evidently, the masses do not recognize, as Novalis does, that “the Artist stands on the human being as a statue does on a pedestal.”
Novalis implies that, when it comes to Society, what is most harmful is not necessarily the lack of knowledge, but the lack of the ability to understand our neighbors, to feel a true sympathy, or love, for them. “Love popularizes the personality,” he writes, “it makes individual things communicable and understandable.” Without this understanding and sympathy, we’re just a bunch of blockheaded pedestals stumbling around, bumping into each other.
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