The Free Spirit

by Peter Saint-Andre

I seek a searching certainty,
A pale and subtle happiness,
Through discipline and mastery
(Experimenting here no less
In action than in thought).
My birdlike flights in bracing air
And colder heights will, freely sought,
Help bring me knowledge hard and spare.

The certainties that I can find
Require endurance, strength, and vigor
In how I exercise my mind,
Reflection that is full of rigor,
A terseness and simplicity
Of thinking and deliberation.
These free me from authority
And lead me out to liberation.

Although my certainties are few,
They cleanse and purify my mind
Of views not grounded in what's true.
Through joy and innocence combined
I come to live without vexation,
Reposing calmly in my soul;
My thoughts lead me to moderation,
For they decide each act and goal.

[...]

(What follows are notes for stanzas yet to be written.)

A great liberation: a will to strength and self-determination, to certainty and health. Certainty not in faith but grounded in the few facts of which you can be sure. Thus a sparing certainty in both thought and action, achieved through self-mastery and discipline of the heart (which is no longer in the fetters of love and hatred) and a probing, cautiously reasoning mind. Just as science finds its certainties in experiment, so also you find certainties in living experimentally. (Is this the meaning of a joyous science?) The result is a pale, subtle happiness of light and sunshine - thus also of shadow - curiosity combined with a tender contempt. A birdlike flight of freedom in colder heights. The riddle of this great liberation is mastery not only over your all-too-human vices but even over your own virtues - to venture and adventure in the inner world of your experience, to circumnavigate the vast realms of humanity.

The free spirit is purified by knowledge, and emerges simpler and emotionally cleaner for it. When you live so as to know better, you are without envy or vexation, but instead repose in joy and benevolence, wisdom and innocence. Your few certainties free you from a host of tormenting ideas (good and evil, eternal life, belief in a savior, etc.). You seek enlightenment and redemption within yourself, not from blindly following other thinkers or doers. Thus you act in accordance with your own standard, you determine for yourself what is honorable and useful, you become a complete person who does everything with your own highest good in view.

What knowledge you can find is achieved through intellectual probity, rigorous reflection, terseness, coldness, simplicity, deliberation, self-containment of your feelings, and a healthy dose of silence. A free spirit of inquiry, of seeking after truth, of liberation from tradition and authority, of self-education. Only with great energy, strength, and endurance of mind do you attain to a wholly individual freedom of opinion and perception of the world. This earnest commitment to living for the sake of knowledge alone is a refined heroism in which your life acquires value primarily as an instrument and means of knowledge. Thus do you taste the sweetest honey of knowledge and bask in the sunshine of a constant spiritual joyousness.

As a free spirit, your actions are animated by a cautious reserve and a wise moderation, because thought and inquiry have become decisive in your life. Your disposition is made cheerful through knowledge and the art of living. You become tender and benevolent even toward your vices and weaknesses, because you view yourself and others objectively - you do not hide anything of yourself from yourself. You are determined to maintain an equilibrium and composure in the face of life, even a gratitude toward it, for you seek only the bare minimum from life, an unchaining from desire, an independence from the sway of circumstances. Paradoxically, even though this free-spirited knowing and close attention to your own requirements and standards breaks down traditional morality, it strengthens your individual virtues, your moderation, your justice, your tranquility.

(Human, All Too Human, passim)

Peter Saint-Andre > Writings > Nietzsche