Friday, April 8, 2011

Final MA Presentation on Nietzsche's Zarathustra

On the Spirit of Gravity
In facing the spirit of gravity, Lampert explains, Zarathustra finally “confronts his mortal enemy in a way that finally exposes it completely” (p. 196). It is the “master of the world,” meaning the age-old will-to-nothingness within man. “As such it is the force holding everyone” stagnant – it is nihilism. When this oppressive spirit within man was mentioned in “The Dancing Song,” it was only as a precursor for a victory yet to come. It is in this section of Zarathustra that Nietzsche makes clear why it is the master of the world, how it can be overcome, and why defeating it would mean the rise of a new age. The reason it is master of the world, is because it gives things an unwarranted weight that makes them, and, hence, life, seem intrinsically bogged down, heavy and hopeless. Thus, it “is Zarathustra’s special devil because, as master of the world,” it must also be what is mastered by Zarathustra. If it is the weight of a nihilistically intuitive worldview and sentimentality, then it is, indeed, Zarathustra’s special devil, that is, his special task, and the task that he has known all along, and which has been ominously weighing down on him from the moment he stepped out of his cave. For this adversary is not a weak or cowardly one, albeit subterranean in nature. This is a most worthy adversary of Zarathustra’s, and one which will require every ounce of his free spirit in order to claim victory over it, and, to be sure, it is his “most important victory” (Lampert, p. 197). The reason being is that Zarathustra’s mission is a revaluation of all values  that is, in giving a new value, a new weight, to all things. He can only achieve this, after getting rid of what currently gives things their weight and value – that, of course, being the spirit of gravity. It is his one true stumbling block in achieving and living out his mission.

Lampert explains that this victory is not merely a doing away with this spirit of gravity through ascension and light feet, but rather re-centering the gravity, to give less weight to those things which have been a stumbling block to humanity, and more weight to those things which are worthy of greater significance, but which have been deprived of it by this anti-life-affirming spirit. The very notion of the eternal return, which is itself the heaviest of burdens, is to be used to reform the spirit of gravity into something worthy of the overman, and which can replace the mainstream descent of mankind with ascension. This requires an affirmative will, which demands that only the consummation of life eternally return, not a nihilistic spirit that saps humanity of its precious vitality (which is something of utmost importance to Nietzsche) preventing the very possibility of the overman.

One of the tactics the spirit of gravity uses is grounding its inexorable demands of individuals in claiming they owe it to their very nature, or are obliged out of duty to others and to themselves, to prostrate themselves before the divine truths that come from a God that loves them and wants what is best for them, that they follow conventions and morality of custom that have merely been foisted upon mankind for millennia. Hence people feel the need to adopt the views of men who have been dead for centuries, in order to please the herd, who have completely fallen for the spirit of gravity, as if it is genuine, absolute truth a priori  as if it is the holiest of spirits compelling them towards what they ought to do to achieve righteousness and transcendence. It makes one feel as if they are only being authentic when being as inauthentic as possible, and that they are consummating themselves with nature, all the while they are living in a state of anti-nature. It is the turning of truth upon its head, and the propagation of conventional truths and morality generation after generation, limiting the horizon, stifling individuality, and castrating any hope of reaching a oneness with a genuine state of nature. As Lampert says, “The spirit of gravity is the force that ties one’s deepest loyalties to external matters that come out of the past, bearing the weight of grave tradition and certified as one’s own by every authority that counts” (p. 198). A real, true “own,” however, is one’s true, natural self, free from unwarranted guilt and external compulsions like convention. A free spirit works from internal compulsion; that is, what belongs to him/herself, and not from the dogmas of herd-mentality that come from without. That is a form of slavery, not free-spiritedness. Therefore, Zarathustra advocates a love of oneself as what truly belongs to a person’s desires, thoughts and feelings, minus the desires, thoughts and feelings of what Heidegger referred to as the “they-self.” The love of one’s own is dominant through all and everyone, Nietzsche realized, but wished to compel people to free themselves from being bogged down by the love of what is their own through acquisition, rather than what is really and truly their own genuinely.

Lampert says that, to be specific, one can think of the spirit of gravity as Platonism, which has always been Nietzsche’s main target. I think of it more as being the spirit of Platonism, that is, the intrinsic drive within the herd towards Platonic type thinking, hence why at the end of the Anti-Christ he refers to Christianity, which is Platonism for the people, as an “intrinsic depravity.” It has mastered the world by making its demands appear sacrosanct and worthy of reverence by claiming them to be not only holy, but the true, authentic nature within man – that is, its crafty claim that our true nature is to transcend our bodies and the things of this world. What has followed from this poisonous cobweb spinning, is that everything that grounds our centre of gravity towards the earth and this life has been decentred, in the process replacing our joy in life with a solemnity in life, poisoning life through the human mind with its anti-natural, anti-life-affirming venom, replacing good, strong, ascending instincts, with bad, crippling, degenerate ones. Humanity has for too long believed that the undignified, and what saps us of any and all dignity whatsoever, is what is truly dignified. Therefore, humankind will only ever truly progress, when it finally sees through these subterranean tactics; and in freeing itself from such shackles, it will ascend. Humanity, or a given individual, must allow themselves to find their place within nature, once again, and the only way we can accomplish this, is when we do away with this most wearying, vitality-sapping, utterly depressant spirit of gravity, and, in the process, all the products of its venom and vitriol will have also been done away with – Platonism, Christianity, dualism, the will-to-equality, pessimism, and so on. It is all nihilism, and it is, for Nietzsche, an awful annihilation of the human spirit. This can well be paralleled with his words in Ecce Homo:
And lest I leave any doubt about my very decent and strict views in these matters, let me still cite a proposition against vice from my moral code: I use the word vice in my fight against every kind of antinature or, if you prefer pretty words, idealism. The proposition reads: The preaching of chastity amounts to a public incitement to antinature. Every kind of contempt for sex, every impurification of it by means of the concept ‘impure,’ is the crime par excellence against life – is the real sin against the holy spirit of life.
The chapter begins with a poetic play on words that are to exemplify and mirror Zarathustra’s very bodily being, which itself, in all its movements, activities, joyful instincts and creativity opposes the spirit of gravity, which is not swift enough to overtake Zarathustra’s dancing feet. Rather than to go under, his aim is to ascend towards the heights of the soul that is worthy of love, a soul that is to overcome the many ignoble lies of Plato and Christianity and is, therefore, able to love itself. It is not loving one’s neighbour which is the most noble, honest and righteous form of love, as propagated by popular convention post-Christianity, but rather a person’s love for him or herself. For one has to be able to love oneself before they can truly love another, and put oneself before others, in order to take others into consideration at all. This is Zarathustra’s special art-form, Lampert explains, for it teaches one to love themselves, in order to locate their greatest and most profoundest of inner qualities; their eyes of care and concern are fixed inwards, rather than merely outwards towards people, who, for the most part, may not care about them at all. Hence why “the classical distinction between love of one’s own and love of the good collapses for the artist who discovers in what is his own what is most lovable or what is good in itself” (p. 200). This is how the spirit of gravity or Platonism is to be overcome. The good is to be located in the self and the love of the self, not in Plato’s World of Ideas and not in Christianity’s notions of morality, holiness and the Kingdom of Heaven. As Nietzsche rightly quipped in Will to Power note 871, “Has it been noticed that in heaven all the interesting men are missing? [ ... If one reflects with some consistency, Nietzsche continues, and moreover with a deepened insight into what a great man is, no doubt remains that the church sends all great men to hell—it fights against all greatness of man.] That is, if the Christian heaven exists, it is filled with people who were, in life, too cowardly to fulfill their passions, to push their creativity to its fullest infinitude of potential, and to dare to even question authority. Zarathustra is not of this kind.

He who embraces the infinite horizon of life, annihilating all “boundary stones” in his way, will “rebaptize the earth” Nietzsche tells us, and he is called “the light one.” “But whoever would become light and a bird must love himself,” Zarathustra teaches. And they must love themselves with a “wholesome and healthy love,” so that they can tolerate being themselves and alone with themselves, without the need of fleeing themselves into another, as with the masquerade and pretense of loving their neighbour out of so-called duty, when really it is out of an inner need to be more and feel like more – in fact, to no longer have to peer into the disingenuous wasteland  of themselves. Such a gravity-laden command, found in Mark 12:31, of loving one’s neighbour as much as oneself, despite who one’s neighbour might be, Nietzsche believes, has spawned the greatest of lies and hypocrisies perpetrated against human life so far, especially by those who have been the greatest of burdens to themselves and to others, giving them holy reason to intrude in the affairs of their neighbours out of what they call “love.” Not to mention that to make a duty out of life, sucks the life out of life.

From birth, Zarathustra explains, we are burdened with the notions of “good” and “evil,” which are craftily and vengefully presented to us as invaluable knowledge that has, we are to believe without question, been gifted to us by the grace of God himself. Nietzsche satirizes Matthew 19:14 and Mark 10:14, where Christ says, “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” having his Zarathustra claim, or insinuate, that it [this Gospel verse] is [designed] for the purpose of filling little children with perverted lies that keep them from even being able to love themselves, due to the unwarranted guilt that the spirit of gravity demands they be infected with while they are still too helpless to defend themselves intellectually. Zarathustra then denies ardently that life is a burden, that is, a veil of tears, as Christianity, AKA: the spirit of gravity, would have us believe; rather, it is man who “is a grave burden to himself,” for “he carries on his shoulders too much that is alien to him,” that is, the external compulsions that do not belong to his true nature, and true desires. “He loads too many alien grave words and values on himself,” says Zarathustra, “and then life seems a desert to him.”

Zarathustra rightly admits, however, that what is noblest and greatest in an individual is also a burden, that is, it is burdensome for the profound, prolific free spirit who, like Zarathustra, demands that they locate this greatness within themselves, uncovering what is most awesome in their soul. It is no easy task, especially since the spirit of gravity stands before the soul like a giant cyclops, refusing to see or hear anything other than his own tunnel-vision, preventing the entrance to the greatness within oneself to even be suspected, let alone seen. However, he who discovers this profundity within himself, is able to create his own values, and say, “this is my good and evil,” and with that is able to stifle the mole and dwarf, that is, the petty, who express their will-to-power with the poisonous life-violations of absolute morality, a high and mighty claim to a, “Good for all, evil for all.” But life is not a cookie cutter – far from it – which is why he ends by telling those who asked him for “the way” what his way is, “for the way – that does not exist.”

 Nor, moreover, is Zarathustra impressed by those who are satisfied with everything in life, always saying yes to things big and small – omni-satisfaction, Zarathustra calls it while demanding a refined palpate, a rank of taste. He says he loves blood and wants it mixed with the colours of life; that is, he loves life with a whole heart, and if he says Yea to something, it is not like the ass who says it to everything, but, rather, because it speaks to his very soul, and calls out to him, and, thus, he to it. A satisfaction with everything, on the other hand, is akin to falling in love with deadness – a morbid romance with mummies and ghosts, stagnant values that one is either too lazy or afraid to overcome – that is, a love of things rather than life: empty, superficial love, void of passion, void of the depths of the bodily soul – void of creation and revaluation. Such people as this love simply for the sake of loving, out of the will-to-convention and the virtues that make small. Instead of any kind of person, or soul, as Zarathustra calls it, within them, they have merely phantoms passing through them from moment to moment. There is no person to be found, or to hold on to. There is no one to do any grasping for life.

He calls cursed those who are only able to either “become evil beasts or evil tamers of beasts” and nothing else. They are cursed, for their horizon is forever limited, and their lives are as meagre and as bland as can be. The same goes, Zarathustra explains, for those who do nothing but wait: “the publicans and shopkeepers and kings and other land- and storekeepers.” Their lives are boring, gloomy and dry, and instead of trying to do and be more, they simply look ahead, as if better things may come tomorrow, without them having to even try to better themselves and their lives. They are men and women of sloth and boredom. “This, however, is my doctrine,” Zarathustra says: “he who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance: one cannot fly into flying.” If one is to ascend, therefore, they must be able to first put one step forward and enhance their vitality and lust for life. Before Zarathustra learned to fly like a bird, he explains to them, he first had to learn to climb to the heights of high masts. This was his way of reaching his truth, he explains, and “preferred to question and try out the ways themselves.” “A trying and questioning was my every move,” he says, “and verily, one must also learn to answer such questioning. That, however, is my taste – not good, not bad, but my taste of which I am no longer ashamed and which I have no wish to hide.” That is, one cannot fear going out into the world, trying and experiencing new things, thinking new and often frightful thoughts and ideas, and searching for themselves, in order to then be true to that self that they have discovered and which must never stagnate and be satisfied with complacency, but, rather, always change and overcome itself. We each have to find our own way, however, for there can never be one way. Life is far too dynamic, and each person is unique – just like everybody else.

On Old and New Tablets:
Joy and innocence are not things to be sought, only had; rather it is guilt and suffering that are sought. However, Zarathustra, and those of his kind, feel no joy if they do not give it in return, unlike the rabble, who are complacent in living as if not alive at all.
Those with an unclean spirit, monstrous in their foul pessimism, like Schopenhauer, are despisers of life and the world, and claim the world to be objectively bad, but that is only because they are bad, that is, failures in it from the start, who hang their heads in shame and so wish to throw shame upon the world. Their nausea is to be overcome, for it is infectious, and takes flight.
Without laughter and dance, life is not worth living, for nothing would be worth doing. A day goes unfulfilled if deficient joy and laughter.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Third MA Presentation on Nietzsche's Zarathustra

On Passing By
On his way back to his cave Zarathustra came across the gate of a giant city. A man consumed by wrath and indignation stood between him and the entrance, forbidding Zarathustra to enter, for he cared about his hero too much, to have him experience the disgust, nausea and contempt that he had experienced there himself. He was enraged by the inhabitants of the city, frothing at the mouth as he warned of their stupidity and retardation, fuming about their press, their educational system, their morality of custom, their religiosity, their decadence – their weakness. He tells Zarathustra that such a place is hell itself for a hermit such as he – that is, a man of rumination, thoughtfulness and concern. He tells Zarathustra that it is a city where “you could find nothing and lose everything.” That is, he himself has gained nothing there but heartache and misery, rather than the enrichment of his soul, and, in the process, he has lost his patience, his kindness, his love of humanity – possibly even his mind. Nothing consumes him now but indignation and disdain. “Don’t you smell the slaughterhouses and ovens of the spirit even now?” he asks Zarathustra. “Does not this town steam with fumes of slaughtered spirit?” In this way he betrays that his own spirit has been slaughtered by the rabid base-mindedness of the mob there, and now all that is left in him is the need to lash out at a city that has taken everything from him that made him the life-affirming free spirit that he once was, turning him into the man of resentment and hostility, standing before Zarathustra now.

He rants that they are easily fulfilled by base things such as alcohol, the empty words of disinterested spirits (or frozen spirits, as he calls them) and are mindlessly led like sheep by the status quo. He detests them more than anything he could ever possibly imagine, and so he spits and snarls as he raves and points his finger at the gate. The virtuous among them are not, this supposed disciple of Zarathustra explains, virtuous in Zarathustra’s sense, but rather virtuous in their sense. The virtuous ones of this morbid, forlorn city dwelling ominously behind the gate are flatterers, phonies, play-actors and liars; that is, they are the representatives of the inhabitants of the city, telling them what they want to hear, by merely echoing and affirming their thoughts, beliefs and so-called truths. They are the moral heroes of the town because they exalt the social mores and attitudes of the people within it, and so the citizens cheer on these ostentatious thinkers, writers and orators, and, in doing so, they cheer on their own vulgar, impoverished egos. They count on these so-called virtuous ones of theirs to justify their petty lives, petty thoughts, petty feelings, petty piety, petty virtues. So this man of wrath and dismay pleads with his master to spit at the entrance of the city, rather than enter it, and keep walking. For it is a city of “shopkeepers,” meaning plebeians of small lives and low-mindedness.

Zarathustra at this point silences this ranting, raving fool, foaming at the mouth, for he is officially as nauseated by him as he is by the town of degenerates. He feels that his teachings have been defamed by coming out of the mouth of such an unsophisticated, vengeance-fuelled fool such as this. He asks him why he so masochistically spent so much time in a lifeless place that he hates so much, until he himself was destroyed by it and made into a mere shell of the man he once was. All this madman can offer anyone now is his nihilistic wrath of despondence and unfaith. He has dark, hopeless veils over his eyes, and can’t affirm, since he no longer feels that anything there is salvageable. Zarathustra reprimands him for now being led and controlled by so much hateful resentment and revenge, two things which he has made clear that he despises. The fool has allowed the muck and swamp of a people he refers to as frogs and toads to pollute his spirit and turn him into one as well. He is called the ape of Zarathustra because he is merely an imitation of Zarathustra’s very high standard, and is too apish to realize that he is acting in a way that is pitiful and lowbrow in the eyes of the philosopher and poet that he so thoroughly admires. But Zarathustra realizes, after a long silence, that this misguided disciple of his was right in there being nothing to better or worsen in that great city, and wishes it the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, making his feelings towards the city just as hostile and acrid as the fool’s, if not more so. This shows, Lampert explains, that “Zarathustra and the fool have the same advice for each other based on” the irony “that each can see in the other but not in himself,” showing that “to abide in the place that is loathed,” thoroughly “corrupts the one who loathes,” even to the point of blindness towards the self. Before he leaves, however, he gives one piece of wisdom for the plight of the fool before him that “where one can no longer love, there one should pass by. And continuing on in his journey, he left the fool and the great city behind. Perhaps if he had not heeded the warnings of the fool, and entered this great city, he himself would have lost all of his loving nature as well, and become as this fool, whose very presence is a warning on its own of what Zarathustra, or any free spirit, for that matter, could turn into, if consumed by the wrong surroundings  for too long.