When water is planked over so that it can be walked upon, when gangway and railings span the stream: truly, he is not believed who says: “Everything is in flux.”
On the contrary, even simpletons contradict him. “What?” say the simpletons, “Everything in flux? But there are planks and railings over the stream!
“Over the stream everything is firmly fixed, all the values of things, the bridges, concepts, all “Good” and “Evil”: all are firmly fixed!”
But when hard winter comes, the animal-tamer of streams, then even the cleverest learn mistrust; and truly, not only the simpletons say then: “Is not everything meant to – stand still?”
“Fundamentally, everything stands still” – that is a proper winter doctrine, a fine thing for unfruitful seasons, a fine consolation for hibernators and stay-at-homes.
“Fundamentally, everything stands still” – the thawing wind, however, preaches to the contrary!…
O my brothers, is everything not now in flux? Have not all railings and gangways fallen into the water and come to nothing? Who can still cling to “good” and “evil?”…
“You shall not steal! You shall not kill” – such words were once called holy; in their presence people bowed their knees and their heads and removed their shoes.
But I ask you: where have there ever been better thieves and killers in the world than such holy words have been?
Is there not in all life itself – stealing and killing? And when such words were called holy was not truth itself – killed?
Or was it a sermon of death that called holy that which contradicted and opposed all life? – O my brothers, shatter, shatter the old law-tables!…
…Thus spake Zarathustra.
Zarathustra was a contemporary of Heraclitus and Gautam Buddha. It is a strange coincidence that all these three great teachers have basically given a single approach to life: life is a flux, everything is constantly changing, and that which does not change is dead. Change is the very spirit of life; permanency is part of death.
It was against all the old traditions and against all other traditions which were going to be born after Zarathustra. They were all believers in permanence. To them, change was a quality of dreams, and permanence was the quality of reality – that which changes is unreal and that which remains always the same is real. Against these three teachers all the teachers of the world, religious or philosophical, are agreed upon this point.
But I’m in favor of Zarathustra and Gautam Buddha and Heraclitus – because the whole scientific research of three hundred years has proved them true, not the whole crowd of all the philosophers and all the saints and all the theologians of the world.
Zarathustra is approved by science – so is Gautam Buddha, so is Heraclitus. Of course, in their own day they were laughed at. They were saying something against the mob, against the whole long past, against all the thinkers and against a certain desire in man’s psychology: man wants things to be permanent. And this point has to be remembered. Man is afraid of change. He is afraid of change because nobody knows what the change will bring.
You are acquainted with that which is permanent; you know how to deal with it. You have learned everything about it. You feel at ease with it; it is no longer strange, unfamiliar.
But if life is going to be a constant flux, a moment-to-moment change, that means you are always going to encounter the unknown. That creates a deep fear, because you will not be ready to face it beforehand. You will have to respond spontaneously. This is the problem.
Spontaneousness needs alertness, needs a certain depth of consciousness – because if every moment life is changing, then every moment you have to be ready to respond to the unknown, to the unfamiliar, to the strange. You cannot be prepared for it because you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. You cannot have a rehearsal; it is not a drama.