Sunday, February 12, 2012

Asking For A Sign

The Sign In My Backyard. 
"This sign I give unto you: every people speaketh its language of good and evil: this its neighbour understandeth not." Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book For All And None by Nietzsche, Friedrich

Time for another blog post. It has been a weird last couple of months and I say that without remorse. But I had been asking for someone to send me a sign that I was on the right path. So, in the last few days I've found myself thinking about Nietzche's book Thus Spoke Zarathustra. This act itself seems to have lead to my sign. It's amazing that Nietzche predicted my becoming a Übermensch so long ago. It's a sign from the past. Something like the one in my backyard that I stole but not quite.

Let me explain. For those of you who haven't read the book, or tried but couldn't get through it, I'll give you a bit of a background (and I won't give away the ending). Suffice to say a it's a dense and esoteric treatise on philosophy and morality. The book stars a character coincidentally called Zarathustra, who in real life was an ancient Persian prophet who was the first to preach that the universe is engaged in a fundamental struggle between good and evil (which had a profound effect on the moral set up of both the Christian and Jewish faiths). This concept of good versus evil thing, of course, lead to all sorts of messes in today's modern world. So, Nietzsche names his character Zarathustra because as he puts it, “Zarathustra created this most calamitous error, morality; consequently, he must also be the first to recognize it.” In short, Nietzsche reinvents Zarathustra in order to correct the philosophical mistakes he felt the prophet made. It's like the first "what if" scenario in literary history.

He creates the concept of the Übermensch (roughly translated as "overman"– sometimes “superman” but should really be referred to without the male connotation) as his ideal of a creative, independent, spiritual genius. It's the final step in an evolution of humanity from the ape (I've met a few) through to man (meaning that not as a male thing) to overman. An overman is very sexy, highly intelligent (like readers of this blog) and he or she has his own morality, self directed and suited only to him or her.

In order for one to become a full overman one has to create their own values. You cannot subscribe to those thousands of peoples with their thousand different conceptions of good and evil: a conception of good that expresses the goals they hope to achieve. So, I looked, and voila, I have unknowingly been doing this for very many years. Alas, THE SIGN.

But I'm not totally 'there' yet. I must still remind myself to suffer. Suffering is evidently as essential to becoming an overman as ketchup is to french fries. And change is essential. The new Zarathustra asserts that life and wisdom are like dancing women: constantly changing, always seductive. Those who have a healthy attitude toward life and truth enjoy their constantly changing nature. People who see truth as fixed, which is what religion and politics would have us believe, have sadly grown tired of life. I'm okay with change, and have the laundry to prove it. And if I must I can put up with the dancing women thing.

The best part, and the one that convinced me I'm on the verge of overman status, is that Nietzsche states that only the most original in society can rise above the masses and shine. Therefore, an artist has a better chance to hit overman status than a political or religious leader.

So move over: I am about to arrive. I have seen the sign. Now leave me alone. I have a mountain cave to disappear to for quite a while and there is a dance floor to be installed.

9 comments:

  1. I am a proud member of the illiteracy club and have been listed (gold star) as one who could not claw my way through Nietzsche. I tried one day, well okay, one hour. I’ve confined my search for the meaning of life to things like who makes the best steak and where are my socks? The thing of it is that I have suffered like the time I tried to read Nietzsche. There have been many moments of suffering sprinkled thoughout my life. All of these events are similar in that these painful moments were unsettling events that leaped over my general comfort threshold. Suffering actually points out what is good about your life. You may not recognize how wonderful your life is until you’ve hurt. Ouch.
    All that said, my general growth has been, as confirmed by my wife the Peach, as more of a cro-magnum man. I know all about those caves you mentioned. As I swirl my single malt on ice and cranking up the TV, I find myself throwing roses before your feet along with select high quality lagers, in recognition that you among my friends have become a overman. Now don’t go and suffer too much. Too much of a good thing is bad.

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    1. May your steaks always be succulent and your socks always be found. And your single malt 12 years old. Thanks Mike!

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  2. Suffering? Check. Independent morality? Check. Dancing? Check. Okay! I'm ready to embrace my overman status! All except for that part about accepting/embracing change. Drat. There's always a hidden clause that messes up the works. I will go along with change, but only because I have to, and I'll kick and fight the whole way :)

    Nice summary! I had thought maybe I'd get around to reading Nietzche eventually, but I kind of like reading your Cliff notes instead. Thanks!

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    1. Please don't misinterpret my ramblings as either comprehensive nor accurate! I left a ton out. But that's the nice thing about a book that reads like a smörgåsbord... you pick out what your appetite calls for at the time. lol

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  3. I might read Nietzche yet, but not yet. Until then, I like the Cliff Notes. I did watch a biography about him not long ago, and it looks like he had the suffering part down pat. It's kind of inspirational to think that he could write what he did with the miseries he had.

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    1. Yes, his sister stated in a forward to one of the editions that he was let down by friends and was in forced solitude just before he wrote the book, and supposed he might have made the fictional Zarathustra in order to have an amiable companion. I think I'll stick to my imaginary rabbit friend...

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  4. Ah, Random, Nietzsche is our patron saint. No philosopher valued what we artists do more than he [certainly those who followed Plato would have us banned from The Republic]. Nietzsche had Darwin on his mind when he came up with the Uebermensch: he embraced Darwin's theory in so far that it eliminated any religious claims on mankind; but he was worried that Darwin's 'evolutionary ape' would impoverish mankind's special place and purpose. This was why Zarathustra came to save us and offer us a beautiful dream.

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    1. This worries me to no end as well sometimes. I'd be glad to be saved but think Zarathustra would see my computer as a religious figure... lol

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  5. LOL
    can't tell you how much I enjoyed this blog topic, Rand. Not every day you skim blogs and come across a discussion of Nietzsche. And a thoughtful one too. Drinks are on me when you find your way up to Ottawa. Thus spoke etc. etc.

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