No Comment, Quotation — November 8, 2008, 12:25 am

Schiller’s Rules of Engagement

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Lebe mit deinem Jahrhundert, aber sei nicht sein Geschöpf; leiste deinen Zeitgenossen, was sie bedürfen, nicht was sie loben. Ohne ihre Schuld geteilt zu haben, teile mit edler Resignation ihre Strafe und beuge dich mit Freiheit unter das Joch, das sie gleich schlecht entbehren und tragen. Durch den standhaften Mut, mit dem du ihr Glück verschmähest, wirst du ihnen beweisen, daß nicht deine Feigheit sich ihren Leiden unterwirft. Denke sie dir, wie sie sein sollten, wenn du auf sie zu wirken hast, aber denke sie die, wie sie sind, wenn du für sie zu handeln versucht wirst. Ihren Beifall suche durch ihre Würde, aber auf ihren Unwert berechne ihr Glück, so wird dein eigener Adel dort den ihrigen aufwecken und ihre Unwürdigkeit hier deinen Zweck nicht vernichten… Verjage die Willkür, die Frivolität, die Rohigkeit aus ihren Vergnügungen, so wirst du sie unvermerkt auch aus ihren Handlungen, endlich aus ihren Gesinnungen verbannen. Wo du sie findest, umgib sie mit edeln, mit großen, mit geistreichen Formen, schließe sie ringsum mit den Symbolen des Vortrefflichen ein, bis der Schein die Wirklichkeit und die Kunst die Natur überwindet.

Live with your century, but do not be its captive; render to your contemporaries what they need, not what they praise. Without sharing their guilt, share with noble resignation their punishment and bow with freedom under the yoke with which they can dispense no better than they can bear it. By the steadfast courage with which you disdain their good fortune, you will demonstrate to them that it is not your cowardice that submits to their sufferings. Consider them as they ought to be when you practice to influence them, but consider them as they are when you contemplate acting on their behalf. Seek their approval through their dignity, but reckon their good fortune to their unworthiness; in this manner your own nobility will summon up their own but their unworthiness will not obstruct your goal… Expel the arbitrary, the frivolous, the coarse from their amusements, and ultimately from their natures. Wherever you find them, surround them with noble, great and ingenious forms, encompass them with the symbols of all that is excellent, until at length reality is overcome by appearance and art by nature.

Friedrich Schiller, Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen in einer Reihe von Briefen, 9. Brief (1791) in: Sämtliche Werke, vol. 5, pp. 595-96 (H. Göpfert ed. 1980)(S.H. transl.)

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