the jewel on thin ice

If the jewel which every one desired to posses lay far out on a frozen lake where the ice was very thin, watched over by the danger of death, while, closer in, the ice was perfectly safe, then in a passionate age crowds would applaud the courage of a man who ventured out, they would tremble for him and with him in the danger of his decisive action, they would grieve over him if he were drowned, they would make a god of him if he secured the prize.  But in an age without passion, in a reflective age, it would be otherwise.  People would think each other clever in agreeing that it was unreasonable and not even worth while to venture so far out.  And in this way they would transform daring and enthusiasm into a feat of skill, so as to do something, for after all "something must be done."  The crowds would go out and watch from a safe place, and with the eyes of connoisseurs appraise the accomplished skater who could skate almost to the very edge (i.e. as far as the ice was still safe and the danger had not yet begun) and then turn back.  The most accomplished skater would manage to go out to the furthermost point and then perform a still more dangerous-looking run, so as to make the spectators hold their breath and say: "Ye Gods! How mad; he is risking his life."

~Soren Kierkegaard in This Present Age

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