The dinner table is a marvellous mess of empty cups of wine, mostly empty plates save for the bits of salad dressing that linger, and the cheesecake crumbs from the dessert the two of you shared. The candlelight flickers, as you step out onto the balcony to take in the starry night. Somewhere a slow melody plays. The type that urges a couple in love to hold each other and dance.
And that’s what she wants. She wants to dance with you.
But your think: I don’t dance.
And in that instance, you allow your perceived image of yourself to ruin the beautiful moment.
I don’t dance.
I know I have said that to myself plenty of times and it has resulted in me passively watching life while individuals who are willing to feel the moment and allow that feeling to take over their senses enjoy being alive.
And of course, dancing isn’t the only example of the way we think of ourselves and perceive ourselves that can force us into the passenger seat of life and make us passive. For some, it’s the notion that they are the type of person who doesn’t speak in public. For others, it can be the opposite. They might believe that they have to be the centre of attention in order to get the party started. They aren’t the type of person who can sit back and observe.
There are thousands of examples of how our perceived image keeps us in comfortable patterns, which can be important but can rob us of the spontaneity of life.
Once you have set an identity, it can be extremely difficult to break that mould but it is precisely in this breaking and reforming that we can achieve what Nietzsche called the Ubermensch or the Overman.
I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?
Nietzsche believed that our purpose on Earth was to create something that is beyond ourself. Now, this can be a little vague. What exactly classifies as going beyond ourself? For Nietzsche, this Ubermensch was someone who wasn’t concerned with happiness, reason, virtue, or pity. Rather, it was in the replication of lighting where the Ubermensch resided.
I love all those who are as heavy drops, falling one by one out of the dark cloud that hangs over men: they herald the advent of lightning, and, as heralds, they perish. Behold, I am a herald of the lightning and a heavy drop from the cloud; but this lighting is called overman.
One of the wonderful things about Nietzsche’s writing is that we can interpret it in several ways. My interpretation of the text could very well differ from your interpretation, which is why it’s always good to delve into such writing yourself and see what you can pull from it.
What I pulled from this is that lightning is bright, it strikes powerfully, it’s random and chaotic, and the spark dies as quickly as it arrives.
Lightning is spontaneity.
And in order to overcome oneself, you have to be open to life’s spontaneity and those feelings that spark within you precisely before you hear that voice that tells you what you are or who you are.
The feeling that tells you to dance or to run or to embrace a loved one or to listen or to speak or to create.
In short, to be part of life and take action. That is what lightning is. That is my Ubermensch.
What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be loved in man is that he is an overture and a going under.
Change is the essence of life. Everything changes. You can look out of your window and see the spring flowers blossoming or the auburn hew of fall approaching or even the withering beauty of stark naked trees, knowing that in time those branches will bud with fresh green leaves.
Likewise, you change. Or at least your appearance does along with the people around you. Those who are there and those who used to be there. And while everything is transitioning and changing, one thing that doesn’t change without conscious effort and action on your part is your identity and belief set.
It’s in that sense you are a bridge between who you used to be and who you can be. In order to cross this bridge, you require a flash of lightning, and the spontaneity to take the first step. You require a little bit of chaos.
I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves.
Don’t think of your image. Don’t think about your preconceived notions. Don’t live in the judgement of your past.
You can become anew through action, through spontaneity, and by embracing the chaotic lightning within you.
So, that perhaps next time there is that urge to dance and be free, you can give into it, fully, completely, without the shackles of your past identity imprisoning you from feeling alive.
Source: Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche (Walter Kaufmann translation)