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Contemplating the kine

“Consider the cattle, grazing as they pass you by: they do not know what is meant by yesterday or today, they leap about, eat, rest, digest, leap about again, and so from morn till night and from day to day, fettered to the moment and its pleasure or displeasure, and thus neither melancholy nor bored.  This is a hard sight for man to see; for, though he thinks himself better than the animals because he is human, he cannot help envying them their happiness–what they have, a life neither bored nor painful, is precisely what he wants, yet he cannot have it because he refuses to be like an animal.  A human being may well ask an animal: ‘Why do you not speak to me of your happiness but only stand and gaze at me?’  The animal would like to answer, and say: ‘The reason is I always forget what I was going to say’–but then he forgot this answer too, and stayed silent.” — Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations (trans. Hollingdale)

Published inFriedrich NietzscheLit & Crit


  1. I’ve never seen a cow leap. A bull, yes, with some horrible spurred cowboy on its back, but cows only seem to mosey.

    • i wondered about that, too. i thought maybe nietzsche had missed it with the leaping cows, or maybe he was familiar with cows who lived in a more natural domesticated environment and were friskier. anyway, what i wanted to quote was the part about how they always forget what they were about to say. the rest is to give it context.

  2. (That was leading toward a point, only I posted it accidentally before I got there. Now it seems better to leave the comment as some sort of existential fragment, as if the bull/cow activity level had a meaning unto itself.)

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