Where a Man’s Treasure Lies, There Lies His Heart

I’m not in agreement with everything in Nietzsche’s writing, but on occasion some of his pronouncements strike me as being exceptionally insightful or relevant to what I want to write about. So is it with the following from the Preface to The Genealogy of Morals: An Attack, 1887:

We knowers are unknown to ourselves, and for a good reason: how can we ever find what we have never looked for? There is a sound adage which runs: “Where a man’s treasure lies, there lies his heart.” Our treasure lies in the beehives of our knowledge. We are perpetually on the way thither, being by nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind. The only thing that lies close to our hearts is the desire to bring something home to the hive. As for the rest of life—so-called “experience”—who among us is serious enough for that? Or has time enough? When it comes to such matters, our heart is simply not in it – we don’t even lend our ear. Rather, as a man divinely abstracted and self-absorbed into whose ears the bell has just drummed the twelve strokes of noon will suddenly awake with a start and ask himself what hour has actually struck, we sometimes rub our ears after the event and ask ourselves, astonished and at a loss, “What have we really experienced? — or rather, “Who are we, really?” And we recount the twelve tremulous strokes of our experience, our life, our being, but unfortunately count wrong. The sad truth is that we remain necessarily strangers to ourselves, we do not understand our own substance, we must mistake ourselves; the axiom, “Each man is farthest from himself,” will hold for us to all eternity. Of ourselves we are not “knowers” …

Indeed, since as conscious as we may be of our own being – what that represents in terms of what we are in the world other than “a thing among many other things” continues to be a mystery. At least not until such time that we begin to appreciate our unique talent to define our place in the world – and are willing to accept the responsibilities that follow from this – will we be able to get an inkling of what we might be for ourselves. And eventually it will become apparent to us that our true significance and destiny are entirely tied up with the meaning and purpose of the universe, and in fact constitutes the treasure in our heart. It is there for us to discover, and I can only hope that – as a species – we will eventually get to that point. But, clearly – that is not going to happen anytime soon …