Monday, April 25, 2011

Struggling with Zarathustra

I'm trying to slog my way through the only one of Nietzche's works that I could get at the library on short notice...and turns out its pretty challenging (or possibly just completely nonsensical). I'm not sure I'm getting much from it. Based on the prologue, it seems like I might be better off coming back to it after reading more of his other stuff, or not at all. My one small victory so far is that I've finally come across a section that at least seems to bear thinking about, a portion of his "On Love of the Neighbor" section:
Do I recommend love of the neighbor to you? Sooner I should even recommend flight from the neighbor and love of the farthest. Higher than love of the neighbor is love of the farthest and the future; higher yet than the love of human beings I esteem the love of things and ghosts. This ghost that runs after you, my brother, is more beautiful than you; why do you not give him your flesh and your bones? But you are afraid and run to your neighbor.
You cannot endure yourselves and do not love yourselves enough: now you want to seduce your neighbor to love, and then gild yourselves with his error. Would that you could not endure all sorts of neighbors and their neighbors; then you would have to create your friend and his overflowing heart out of yourselves.
You invite a witness when you want to speak well of yourselves; and when you have seduced him to think well of you, then you think well of yourselves.
I'm boiling this down to kind of no shit version that says that it can be better to be inwardly focused than outwardly focused...too much "caring" about every little tragedy that happens to other people can be a distraction from self discipline. Of course, the trouble with a book that at least on its surface is pretty nonsensical is that it would be pretty easy to read meaning into it that you just want to find. I admit I might be doing that here...but you go and try to read a page or two of this, and tell me you wouldn't be excited the first time you felt like you maybe kind of understood something.


  1. Cool stuff.

    I see it as that, mixed with a call for giving up tribalism for global citizenship(love of the farthest) or striving to follow ideals.(giving the better ghost your flesh)

    Overall, well worth thinking about.

  2. I hadn't thought about the giving up tribalism angle...that's interesting. I'll have to look for that more as I keep reading. He seems very big on warrior culture (I believe this is probably my no shit statement of the day), there's a line a little earlier on, "War and courage have done more great things than love of one's neighbor," and then he also goes into a theory by which you should love your enemy, and be so proud of him that you can celebrate even when he defeats you. Depending how literally you take the war aspect (actual killing or just confrontation?), I could see a global citizenship/anti tribal aspect there, too.