Who is Ulrich?

Is Ulrich the sort of person who can be a role model in this aimless world?

It is not difficult to describe the basic traits of this thirty-two-year-old man Ulrich, even though all he knows about himself is that he is as close to as he is far from all qualities, and that they are all, whether or not he has made them his own, in a curious fashion indifferent to him. With a suppleness of mind, owing simply to his being gifted in various directions, he combines a certain aggressiveness. His is a masculine mind. He is not sensitive toward other people and rarely puts himself in their place, except to get to know them for his own purposes. He is not respecter of rights unless he respects the person whose rights they are, which is not very often. With the passage of time, a certain inclination toward the negative has developed in him,a flexible dialectic of feeling that easily leads him to discover a flaw n something widely approved or, conversely, to defend the forbidden and to refuse responsibilities with a resentment that springs from the desire to create his own responsibilities. Despite this need, however, and apart from certain self-indulgences, he lets himself be guided morally by the chivalrous code that is followed by almost all men as long as they live in secure circumstances in middle-class society, and so, with all the arrogance, ruthlessness, and negligence of a man call to his vocation, he leads the life of another man who has made of his inclinations and abilities more or less ordinary, practical and social use. (I,159-160)

 Is he fit to be a philosopher king?

Comparing the world to a laboratory had rekindled an old idea in his mind. Formerly he had thought of the kind of life that would appeal to him as a vast experimental station for trying out the best ways of being a man and discovering new ones. That the great existing laboratory was functioning rather haphazardly, lacking visible directors or theoreticians at the top, was another matter. It might even be said that he himself would have wanted to become something like a philosopher king; who wouldn’t? It is so natural to regard the mind as the highest power, the supreme ruler of everything. That is what we are taught. Anybody who can dresses up in intellect, decks himself out in it. Mind and spirit, in combination with a numinous other something, is the most ubiquitous thing there is. The spirit of loyalty, the spirit of love, a masculine mind, a cultivated mind, the greatest living mind, keeping up the spirit of once cause or another, acting in the spirit of this or that movement: how solid and unexceptionable it sound right down to its lowest levels. Beside it everything else, be it humdrum crime or the hot pursuit of profits, seems inadmissible, the dirt God removes from His toenails. (I,160-161)

 What to do with all this spirit emanating from these great minds?

It is constantly being spewed out in truly astronomical quantities on masses of paper, stone, and canvas, and just as ceaselessly consumed at a tremendous cost in nervous energy. But what becomes of it then?Does it vanish like a mirage? Does it dissolve into particles? Does it evade the earthly law of conservation? The motes of dust that sink and slowly settle down to rest inside us bear no relation to all that expense. Where has it gone, where and what is it? If we knew more about it there might be an awkward silence around this noun, “spirit.”


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