Saturday, April 27, 2013

Zarathustra Revisited

When was the last time you sat down and read some Nietzsche? If you’re over 50, I suspect that, like me, your answer might be “College.” If you’re under 50, your answer might be, “Who?”

Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher, born 1844, died 1900. He was infamous for asserting that “God is dead,” admired Buddhism and created a notion of the superman that far preceded Clark Kent and was later shamefully distorted as leading to Nazism, He went insane (syphilis?) in 1888 after having written books with provocative titles like The Antichrist, Twilight of the Idols, Ecce Homo and perhaps his tour-de-force Thus Spoke Zarathustra. He had a love-hate relationship with Richard Wagner, sported a big handlebar mustache and never married.

Back in those college days, my brother-in-law was a big Nietzsche fan and inspired by him, I purchased The Portable Nietzsche, a 704 page paperback that cost a whole $2.25. New. Lately, some quotes I had memorized back then have been floating to the surface of my always churning mind and this morning, I pulled out that old book from the shelves and noted my underlines from so many lifetimes ago. Not only I had accurately memorized the quotes word for word, but re-discovered some others that felt like old friends. A most delightful reunion it has been—Zarathustra holds up! And so I’ll yield the floor to my friend Fred, who has brought me comfort and strength in a time of need.

• One must become a sea to receive a polluted river without becoming unclean.

• Where one can no longer love, there one should pass by.

• This is my good; this I love, it pleases me wholly…This bird builds its nest with me, therefore I love and caress it, it dwells with me, sitting on its golden eggs.”

• Who among you can laugh and be elevated at the same time?Whoever climbs the highest mountain laughs at all tragic seriousness.

• Flee, my friend, into your solitude and where the air is raw and strong. It is not your lot to shoo flies.

• Mistrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful.

• There is more valor when one refrains and passes by, in order to save oneself for the worthier enemy.

• What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.

• And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.

And finally, Nietzsche’s famous quote about music. Few people know the phrase just before it, in bold below, which now has endeared him to me forever.

• How little is required for pleasure. The sound of a bagpipe. Without music, life would be an error.

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