In Chapter 7, “Reading and Writing,” of Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche writes:
“Of all that is written, I love only what a person hath written with his blood. Write with blood, and thou wilt find that blood is spirit. It is no easy task to understand unfamiliar blood; I hate the reading idlers. He who knoweth the reader, doeth nothing more for the reader. Another century of readers—and spirit itself will stink.”
The above excerpt affirms the “gutsy” and brazen spirit of Nietzsche’s affirmation of life rather than the denial of it that is often found in many religions. Nietzsche was a truly brilliant, arrogant (and rightly so) insufferable prick—even more so because his very logical philosophy rings so truly. Nietzsche is by all means a very complex philosopher and one shouldn’t take his writings at face value. Thus Spake Zarathustra is no exception since it is a literary work expressing various aspects of his philosophy summed up as the “Will to Power” through the overman or “Übermensch” by the means of parables and colorful allegory. Nietzsche’s philosophy is, first and foremost, a declaration of freedom—in all respects, including the intellect. This freedom often inferred a complete dissolution from the chains of Judeo-Christianity (which I will get to in a more in-depth future blog-post).
Books that are “written in blood,” or in other words, the drawing inspiration from the pre-rational mind deep from the unconscious, for example are far much deeper and passionate then the detached, stiff sober writings of the purely cold and rational intellect. The purely cerebral works of academics and philosophers have no place in Nietzsche’s world. It is this disturbing descent into the rabbit hole that is the unconscious that the best writings are realized. Jung did it. This dichotomy was often represented as the two dualities embodied in Apollo and Dionysus. Apollonian order and rationality struggling against the Dionysian glorification of the purely instinctual were the almost cosmic forces at play inherent in man and society.
Much like the periods of the sun’s daylight and the night’s darkness and faint illumination of the pale moon, one cannot exist without the other force to balance each other out in an almost Taoist-like fashion. Each side serves as a viable function. Dionysian existence was the means to accept the tragedy inherent in our angsty, emo-ridden world and an affirmation of it despite the most terrible circumstances that one might experience. Yet, his philosophy would often be expressed in such related aspects of the Dionysian: the will to power, the eternal recurrence and the Overman. It is these “evil” and painful Dionysian forces in the universe that incite fear in people that they are wholly shunned. Zarathustra goes to great lengths to affirm life in spite of the darkness and potential terrors one might find in the shadowy corners of the world.
Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy tells us further about looking for the light in tragedy:
“But what changes come upon the weary desert of our culture, so darkly described, when it is touched by the magic of Dionysus! A storm seizes everything decrepit, rotten, broken, stunted; shrouds it in a whirling red cloud of dust and carries it into the air like a vulture. In vain confusion we seek for all that has vanished; for what we see has risen as if from beneath the earth into the gold light, so full and green, so luxuriantly alive, immeasurable and filled with yearning. Tragedy sits in sublime rapture amidst this abundance of life, suffering and delight, listening to a far-off, melancholy song which tells of the Mothers of Being, whose names are Delusion, Will, Woe.”
Nietzsche embraced the chaotic and irrational passions and conquers them through his ideal figure of the Übermensch rather than simply extinguish them that many philosophers before him had taught. Although Nietzsche had often disagreed with Plato, he still owes much of his inspiration from the ancient philosopher. In Republic IX, 588a-589b, Plato has intellectual and carnal appetite at odds with one another and illustrates this in an allegory, suggesting the human soul contains three features: the man (logos), a lion (thymos) and a hydra (eros). A healthy person is encouraged to use the man to train the lion in order to keep the thrashing hydra beast and its irrational passions at bay so that peace may be achieved. The opposite may be said for someone who has not tamed the hydra within.
Likewise, the Übermensch as represented as Zarathustra is a master over his irrational soul or “hydra” and wholly embraces it with all its fortitude and ugliness. Nietzsche however seems to disregard the dualism posited by Plato in regards to the body of being made up of physical and non-physical (spiritual) substances through the affirmation that “blood is spirit.” People do not have bodies. They are bodies. It is their physical characteristics that truly define their existence, here in the now, instead of the stressing of the metaphysical and mystical qualities of another world.
Writing from fiery inspiration of the belly is the true creative hallmark of every writer. Without the passionate drive to create, every work of art cannot exist. In fact, every living thing and person on the face of this planet cannot exist without the inherent drive to create and promulgate its interests by the fuel of the passions. It’s the call of the Dionysian lust which inspires passion. The true Übermensch masters both Apollo and Dionysus within one’s self. Zarathustra is the “lone wanderer” within the valley of life, taking on an almost spiritual sojourn that is of itself a most arduous task:
“Before my highest mountain I stand and before my longest wandering. To that end I must first go down deeper than ever I descended-deeper into pain than I ever descended, down into its blackest flood.”
Yet Zarathustra does not waver in face of adversity and instead laughs in the faces of his obstacles:
“Ye tell me, “Life is hard to bear.” But for what purpose should ye have your pride in the morning and your resignation in the evening? Life is hard to bear: but do not affect to be so delicate! We are all of us fine sumpter asses and she-asses.”
In other words: Don’t be a pussy. Those who constantly whimper to avoid pain and suffering remain little men and bereft of virtue and good merit. The writer likewise must face the scourges of the mind, of their existence and slay them with a sword of triumph (or at least conquer them and keep them enslaved to their will).
“I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity—through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!”
Most people live constrained and enchained to their past, while others live in a non-existent future which has not happened yet. Both the past and the future are different forms of non-existence, against which we compare and define the present moment. The teacher, Zarathustra knows ultimately that both these theoretical states of existence are irrelevant since the true joy of living and creating exists in the present moment, right here, right now.
His vision of the present is one of a bright, heroic future that proceeds from the magnificent now. The debilitating implications of eternal reoccurrence (that the universe is in an infinitely, constant samsara-like loop) becomes of no consequence because the self-realization that the higher-man Zarathustra has overcome these obstacles within and without. Without this knowledge, mankind remains enslaved to their pasts, their customs, to the decadence of society and perpetual mundane worldliness. Get some balls and move on with life! Volition is your friend. Write something that you truly love, not what you think someone else might like. Stumbling over artist or writer’s block? Cut it down! Do not do what you hate. Do what inspires. Do not slink into the corner in the face of difficulty. Follow your bliss. It’s entirely up to you.