Cheerful readiness: A proper response to being surprised

I will be heading to Banff in about a week. I will not know the participants; I will not know what we will do exactly; I will not know what will happen; I will have never worked with my friend Ian nor taught before with another person. I know only that it will be a philosophical drama concerned to dramatize surprise. Therefore, it is perfect.

Recall that the ethical disposition Ian and I are calling ‘being open to being surprised’ may be characterized, depending on the occasion, by cheerful readiness, a sense of perplexity, or a deep fascination. As usual, Nietzsche–that gnomist–found a better, succincter way of speaking about my life. In Twilight of the Idols, he writes, ‘To get into only those situations in which illusory virtues are of no use, but in which, like the tightrope-walker on his rope, one either falls or stands–or gets off…’ This is how I seek to live each day of my life. For me, there is only the life of the tightrope walker, the life of stepping on and either falling, standing (possibly proceeding), or else getting off. And, in all of this, because of all this, the tightrope walker is cheerful.

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