Of the Modern Reader
So Zarathustra dwelt among the trees, in the musty flat spaces where the air was stifling, and his breath was shallow; his face set grim; and his body ached, ached as if he had been run upon by a multitude. And he had.
There was a wind and a fluttering as of birds, and a man stepped out of the air. He seemed warm and old but young enough to be butchered, as is the fate of unproductive sheep. And the man spoke: ‘I know you, Zarathustra; you are one who goes both after and before; your words are quoted in the this-and-that, in the high rooms, away from the ale-dens and the shepherds’ huts; but only the high rooms, where the pretenders use you for their scorn.
'Where did you hope to be? Now that gravity is conquered? Now those men can float in heaven, and women too! Your enemies are emptying out at the same speed that your friends turn against you!
‘Are you lost? Are you ever-found? For I am the Modern Reader; I can smell the gas. I have new gods, and they all hate you.’
Zarathustra sat down and studied the back of his hand for a long time. Or maybe a short time. This is a sacred place, where only the infernal dwell to tell the time. And he spoke: ‘I knew you, Modern Reader, back before the stars were done.’ He laughed but it sounded like a croak, like a drying toad. ‘Do not speak to me of gods, gods you claim as yours, gods you claim are new. They have always been. If death for gods is prejudice, then life for gods is law!
‘Equality: have I not spoke to you of this? If you have ears, why do you not hear? These are dry things. When all were made equal, all were held apart. The sound of the screeching and the shrill barracks are but the sound of misery made up into dollars, your modern man.
‘But you worship Happiness now, she is the everywhere of the under-man. You worship her so much you ache for misery, you fall under it, and you die from it.
‘But you say gravity is in the grave? Get behind me, fool! You have built boxes around it. You have imprisoned it and you visit daily like the good, long-suffering wife of the willful wrong-doer! You put on lipstick and perfume for it, you wear a summer dress, you skip gaily on ahead to the rusty old conjugal caravan. So that now it grows stronger every day. Soon, it will crush you under its weight, its heaving, hairy, sweaty mass.
‘You no longer even know its name to cry it out in the night.’
‘And Relevance?’ the Modern Reader asked.
And Zarathustra spoke: ‘Relevance? She is new. She is a shy one. She is from the desert, so I love her, though she is the enemy of all. Beware of any who call upon her. Keep for her a second stick! But you will not need them. She is too quick for you, Modern Reader. If you approach her baring even a twig or a ball of twine, she will wither you down with a simple glance or a flick of her hair, and suck from you every ounce of gold you thought you had between your ears; between your ribs and spine; between your heels and between your hands.
‘And he that calls upon her is the under-man, but it is not just this that makes him so. He has overcome his other, and this has made of him a self; and because of this it has made for him a self. So he must call on Relevance (though she is his enemy) or lose completely what he has become; and this he is afraid of most, because he is always on a stage now, always, and he is never quite sure he has learned his lines.
‘The Voluntary Beggar wept when he saw this happen, though he grew rich again, but he did not want to; and now he cannot give his wealth away. The riches stick to him like scales on a venomous snake.
‘And remember this, Modern Reader: you have not smelt the gas; you have only read the lines.’
Thus spoke Zarathustra.