I happened to (re)read Thus Spoke Zarathustra for a book club right after finishing Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism, an interesting juxtaposition for Nietzsche gets a bit of a bad wrap for TSZ fueling the Nazi idealogy.
If anything, TSZ reads to me more like a rejection of totalitarianism and any idealogy or institution that encourages you faith in a set of principles you did not author yourself.
But mostly the book reads to me as a-political – and much more the excruciating account of existential crisis, someone searching all possible paths for a way out, and rejecting them all.
Some of my favorite bits…
From the introduction:
He discusses that issue here in terms of “revenge,” especially against time, and he begins to worry that, with no redemptive revolutionary hope in human life, no ultimate justice in the after-life, and no realm of objective “goods in themselves” or any natural right, human beings will come to see a finite, temporally mutable, contingent life as a kind of burden, or curse, or purposeless play, and they will exact revenge for having been arbitrarily thrown into this condition
My brother, if you have one virtue, and it is your virtue, then you have it in common with no one.
Let your virtue be too high for the familiarity of names, and if you must speak of it, then do not be ashamed to stammer about it.
Then speak and stammer: “This is my good, I love this, thus I like it entirely, thus alone do I want the good.
I do not want it as a divine law, I do not want is as a human statute and requirement. It shall be no signpost for me to overearths and paradises.
It is an earthly virtue that I love: there is little prudence in it and least of all the reason of the many.
The logic / ideology / slippery slope (cf Arendt in Origins of Totalitarianism)
But his poor reason did not comprehend this madness and it persuaded him. “What does blood matter?” it said. “Don’t you at least want to commit robbery in the process? Take revenge?”
Cf. “but don’t take my word for it”
Indeed, I counsel you to go away from me and guard yourselves against Zarathustra! And even better: be ashamed of him! Perhaps he deceived you.
He descends again because he longs to love:
My impatient love floods over in torrents, downward, toward sunrise and sunset. From silent mountains and thunderheads of pain my soul roars into the valleys.
Too long have I longed and gazed into the distance. Too long I belonged to solitude – thus I forgot how to be silent.
I have become mouth through and through, and a brook’s bound- ing from high boulders: I want to plunge my speech down into the valleys.
And may my torrent of love plunge into impasses! How could a torrent not finally make its way to the sea!
He views “slave morality” as driven by revenge and envy. I disagree with him that this is the only motivation for values like equality (system stability / keeping peace is a better motivation for equality, forgiveness,etc).
“We want to exact revenge and heap insult on all whose equals we are not” – thus vow the tarantula hearts.
“And ‘will to equality’ – that itself from now on shall be the name for virtue; and against everything that has power we shall raise our clamor!”
You preachers of equality, the tyrant’s madness of impotence cries thus out of you for “equality”: your secret tyrant’s cravings mask themselves thus in your words of virtue!
Aggrieved conceit, repressed envy, perhaps the conceit and envy of your fathers: it erupts from you like a flame and the madness of revenge.
What is silent in the father learns to speak in the son; and often I found the son to be the father’s exposed secret.
They resemble the inspired, but it is not the heart that inspires them – but revenge. And when they are refined and cold, it is not the spirit but envy that makes them refined and cold.
Their jealousy even leads them along the thinkers’ path; and this is the mark of their jealousy – they always go too far, such that their exhaustion must ultimately lay itself to sleep in snow.
From each of their laments revenge sounds, in each of their praisings there is harm, and being the judge is bliss to them.
But thus I counsel you my friends: mistrust all in whom the drive to punish is strong!
Truthful – thus I call the one who goes into godless deserts and has broken his revering heart.
In the yellow sand and burned by the sun he may squint thirstily at islands rich with springs, where living things rest beneath dark trees.
But his thirst does not persuade him to become the same as these comfortable ones; for where there are oases, there are idols as well.
Hungry, violent, lonely, godless; thus the lion-will wants itself.
Free from the happiness of the servant, redeemed of gods and adorations, fearless and fearsome, great and lonely; thus is the will of the truthful.
In the desert the truthful have always dwelled, the free spirits, as the rulers of the desert; but in the cities dwell the well-fed, famous wise men – the draft animals.
This is maybe my favorite passage in the book. Gloom (of the ‘sublime ones’) is not beautiful:
I saw a sublime one today, a solemn one, an ascetic of the spirit; oh how my soul laughed at his ugliness!
With his chest sticking out like those who hold their breath he stood there, the sublime one, silently:
Adorned with ugly truths, his hunter’s spoils, and rich in tattered clothing; many thorns clung to him also – but I saw nary a rose.
He had not yet learned laughing and beauty. Gloomy this hunter returned from the woods of knowledge.
There is still contempt in his eyes, and nausea lingers on his lips.
As of yet his knowledge has not learned to smile and to be without jealousy; his torrential passion has not yet become calm in its beauty.
Indeed, not in satiety shall his yearning keep silent and submerge, but in beauty! Grace belongs to the graciousness of the great-minded.
Hahahaha, the memories fly away like birds:
Is my experience of yesterday? It has been a long time since I experienced the reasons of my opinions.
Would I not have to be a keg of memory if I were also to have my reasons with me?
It is already too much for me to keep my own opinions, and many a bird flies away.
Do you know the terror of the one who is falling asleep? –
He is stricken with terror down to his toes because the ground is fading and the dream begins.
Darkly I walked recently through cadaver-colored twilight – darkly and hard, biting my lip. Not only one sun had set for me.
This footnote is instructive: attempting and tempting…
Nietzsche frequently alludes to his favorite deity, Dionysus, as the Versucher-Gott, i.e. as the tempter god, attempter god (experimenter). I render this wordplay as “searcher” and “researcher” to preserve the wordplay, but wherever this particular combination occurs in TSZ or elsewhere, one should suspect Nietzsche is exploring the relationship between searching, attempting (experimenting, researching) and tempting.
Courage also slays dizziness at the abyss; and where do human beings not stand at the abyss? Is seeing itself not – seeing the abyss?
“My longing for this laughter gnaws at me”:
– Meanwhile the shepherd bit down as my shout advised him; he bit with a good bite! Far away he spat the head of the snake – and he leaped to his feet. –
No longer shepherd, no longer human – a transformed, illuminated, laughing being!
Never yet on earth had I heard a human being laugh as he laughed!
Oh my brothers, I heard a laughter that was no human laughter – and now a thirst gnaws at me, a longing that will never be still.
My longing for this laughter gnaws at me; oh how can I bear to go on living! And how could I bear to die now! –
But the dawn came too early, and glowed me awake, this jealous one! She is always jealous of my morning dream embers.
Seems like a key passage:
And often it swept me off my feet and up and away, in the midst of my laughter, where I flew quivering, an arrow, through sun-drunken delight:
– off into distant futures not yet glimpsed in dreams, into hotter souths than any artist ever dreamed of; there, where dancing gods are ashamed of all clothing:
– so that I must speak in parables and limp and stutter like the poets; and truly, I am ashamed that I must still be a poet! –
Where all becoming seemed to me the dance of gods and the mischief of gods, and the world seemed unloosed and frolicsome and as though it were fleeing back to itself:
– as an eternal fleeing from and seeking each other again of many gods, as the blissful contradicting, again-hearing, again-nearing each other of many gods:
Where all time seemed to me a blissful mockery of moments, where necessity was freedom itself, which played blissfully with the sting of freedom:
Where I once again found my old devil and arch-enemy, the spirit of gravity, and everything he created: compulsion, statute, necessity and consequence and purpose and will and good and evil:
For must there not exist something over which one dances, dances away? Must not, for the sake of the light and the lightest – moles and heavy dwarves exist? –
Thus the devil once spoke to me: “Even God has his hell: it is his love for mankind.”
And recently I heard him say these words: “God is dead; God died of pity for mankind.”
The “soothsayer of the great weariness” is the nihilist.
Also, the “penitent spirit”:
you are disenchanted of yourself!
You harvested nausea as your single truth. Not a word of yours is genuine anymore, except your mouth: namely the nausea that clings to your mouth.” –
Is Z celebrating self-loathing (as a form of honesty)?
I’ve never found anyone who despised himself more deeply; that too is elevation. Oh no, was he perhaps the higher man whose cry I heard?
I love the great despisers. Human being, however, is something that must be overcome.” –
Who do all of these stand for? Misreadings of the first three parts? Inner voices / steel men?
the king on the right and king on the left, the old magician, the pope, the voluntary beggar, the shadow, the conscientious of spirit, the sad soothsayer and the ass; the ugliest human
We came hungry for something to behold, we wanted to see what brightens gloomy eyes.
And what does the cave represent? Is it a reference to Plato?
Is this because it can bring about virtue (w/o God)?
Nothing more delightful grows on earth, oh Zarathustra, than a tall, strong will:
Also KEY – the market speaks to ALL/NONE:
When I came to mankind for the first time, I committed the hermit’s folly, the great folly: I situated myself in the market place.
And when I spoke to all, I spoke to none.
A sort of spin on Pascal’s gamble:
it is better to be foolish with happiness than foolish with unhappiness, better to dance ponderously than to walk lamely.
So unlearn moping and all rabble sadness! Oh how sad even today’s rabble clowns seem to me! But this today is of the rabble.
My suffering and my pity – what do they matter! Do I strive for happiness? I strive for my work!
See also: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2002/04/08/after-god
The ubermensch was meant to be “the man who was able to live without religious solace.”
For the rest of his thinking life, Nietzsche strove to sustain belief in the possibility of the flight; that is, in a new future for humanity. He derided the cowardice of the “little bluestocking” George Eliot, who had forsaken the Christian church but who nevertheless insisted—typical of the English!—that Christian morality must be preserved for the sake of society. But why should a society based on lies be protected? Why can’t we live with the truth? After the worldly convulsions that man’s understanding of his new rights and dominion would bring—events that took no certain shape in Nietzsche’s mind—a new type of being would emerge, he announced, as superior to men today as men are to apes. Nietzsche’s Übermensch, that Frankenstein’s monster of the twentieth century, is never physically described, apart from possessing the robust good health that his creator coveted. He was meant to be, simply, the man who was able to live without religious solace, supported by faith in himself alone.