The Value Of Overcoming Our Own Perceived Image

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)

Friedrich Nietzsche On The Necessity Of Selfishness

Often selfishness is considered a character flaw. Since childhood, you’re taught to be unselfish, to be less self-centered and to play well with others. It’s the belief that for a community to get along we must forgo certain aspects of ourselves, certain likes or desires in order to create unity.

By this standard, it is easy to see why selfishness is considered a bad flaw to posses. However, Friedrich Nietzsche put forth an argument that selfishness is not an evil but rather a great good. It’s something that we must take care of and use rather than suppress and disregard.

And at that time it also happened – and verily, it happened for the first time – that his word pronounced selfishness blessed, the wholesome, healthy selfishness that wells from a powerful soul – from a powerful soul to which belongs the high body, beautiful, triumphant, refreshing, around which everything becomes a mirror – the supple, persuasive body, the dancer whose parable and epitome is the self-enjoying soul. The self-enjoyment of such bodies and souls calls itself “virtue”.

It may seem odd to have words like healthy, wholesome, virtue and powerful associated with selfishness, however, it makes sense when you understand the meaning behind Nietzsche’s use of selfishness.

For Nietzsche, there is nothing better than to live a life that is one’s own. A life in which you are the leader and you don’t merely accept what has come before you as fact or what others say as virtues or moral’s but rather you create your own life through the use of your will.

It is in this creation that one must be selfish. You use your selfishness as a filter or a screen to allow only those things that bring self-enjoyment or meaning into your life while casting away whatever is considered contemptible. This is your own happiness. The things that you consider to be good for you or evil for you. Not what has been considered good or evil. It is a personal creation of life that you must seek and in order for this to take place, you have to be selfish.

And what was considered virtue and called virtue was playing wicked tricks on selfishness! And “selfless” – that is how all these world-weary cowards and cross-marked spiders wanted themselves, for good reason.

“Selfless” people were associated with the word “sham” for Nietzsche. The reason being is that all their “wisdom” and talk did not come from their own experience. It was upon the experiences of people in the past who had used the creative will to create their own meanings. It is almost a false virtue where one is acting virtuously by being “selfless” but in reality, it is cowardice and the lack of will that makes the individual conform.

It is a type of self-love that Nietzsche is trying to teach. You look out for yourself and you create your own life which includes principles or actions that you agree with and you protect this in a selfish manner from outside influence. In this manner, you set yourself apart from the herd and get on your own path in life.

One must learn to love oneself – thus I teach – with a wholesome and healthy love so that one can bear to be with oneself and need not roam.

Otherwise, you may live a burdensome life and find that these burdens are not even your own but rather adopted from others.

“Yes, life is a grave burden.” But only man is a grave burden for himself! That is because he carries on his shoulders too much that is alien to him. Like a camel, he kneels down and lets himself be well loaded. Especially the strong, reverent spirit that would bear much: he loads too many alien grave words and values on himself, and then life seems a desert to him.

What Nietzsche calls for is uncomfortable because you have to examine your life. Many of us, myself included, follow what our loved ones tell us. This comes from a good place because they want us to be happy or stable. And in order to meet these expectations, we begin to take on a burden that’s not our own. We get trapped in the rat race which we have no desire to participate in but because we don’t want to seem selfish we continue down the path that others have set for us.

To disturb this way of living is difficult but so is being an individual. The safe path is following other people. The unknown is following your own will. The goal is to experience life fully and that requires selfishness on your behalf.

Essay: The Becoming of The Overman

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche is able to establish the core of his philosophical doctrine through use of a parabolic story. The central point of the message is that of the overman and Nietzsche argues that the overman is the ultimate destination of humans (p. 12). Through the parable of Zarathustra, Nietzsche puts forth the idea that the overman is a state of becoming that can be attained by following ones own body and will.

Zarathustra claims that the human is something that must be overcome (p. 13). The reason for this is because the human being is considered a bridge between a beast and the overman. The human is still transforming and becoming and it is the overman that the human must become (p. 14). This becoming is accompanied by a degree of faith in the belief that the human can be something more than it is right now and through sacrifice, one can invent the overman (p. 15). Zarathustra demonstrates this sacrifice at the start of the parable, by first leaving mankind for the mountains and then, after many years, descending from the mountains. Each time sacrificing his comfort and his accustomed way of life in order to seek the uncomfortable unknown (pp. 9-10). Another comfort that must be sacrificed is the thought of the afterlife (p. 13).

The acceptance of the idea that God is dead is needed because Zarathustra believes that such a concept creates false hope. It is something that brings order through fear and with it, restricts the full experience of life (p. 261). Instead, the overman is loyal to the earth and understands that there is nothing outside of the earth so, one’s life must have meaning in the present instead of living for the afterlife (p. 31). It is through the body and senses that one comes to associate him or herself with the earth and dissociate themselves from God. Hence, the body becomes the guide and this parable can be viewed as empowering, for it means that all one needs is themselves, to look inwards to find their path in life (pp. 85-86). This concept of inner strength is visited throughout the parable and in particular, with the reference to the winter for like winter, Zarathustra believes that he has a strength which is yet to be uncovered because at the moment it is concealed (p. 174).

This inner strength leads towards the will to power, which, is the idea that one brings their own thoughts and observations towards everything they encounter in life (pp. 112-113). It’s almost a childlike curiosity where one does not take anything at face value but rather seeks a deeper understanding and explanation. Will to power is a procreative will of life. A life that is created by you, through your own experiences and your own reflections of those experiences. Thus, it’s a life that is your own (112-113).

Due to the emphasis on the individual, Zarathustra puts forth the argument that one cannot become the overman by following others because by following, one becomes an imitator, a trickster who does not comprehend the teachings, like the character of the Magician (p. 255) or “Zarathustra’s ape” (pp. 175-178). Instead one must follow their own command (p. 200). By following one’s own senses, Zarathustra opens himself towards chance. Although having trust in chance can be daunting, Zarathustra proceeds to teach that this trust is what is needed in order to become the overman for through the trust of chance, one comes to face what they wish not to face and this is when growth can take place (pp.154-155). Similar to Zarathustra, one must overcome the distrust towards uncertainty in order to move towards the overman (p. 163).

Through this trust and the will to power one comes to create their own path. A subjective path that only they can walk upon. The reason being, there is no universal “way” or “path,” rather it is all based on the individual and their own experiences, which adds to the idea that one has to lead their own life, rather than follow (p. 195). So, Zarathustra’s way of life is his own way.

Additionally, it is not enough to just create but one must also recreate (p. 202). The creation and recreation of one’s own thoughts are demonstrated when Zarathustra speaks of the three great human sins. Instead of thinking about them as sins, he puts forth this notion of how each can be considered good if one is able to go beyond the constraints of human thought. In this way, selfishness comes to be viewed as an important part of achieving the overman rather than simply considering selfishness as a character flaw (p. 193).

It is in the creation of the overman that one must be selfish. Zarathustra teaches how selfishness can be used as a filter to allow only those things that bring self-enjoyment into your life while casting away whatever is considered contemptible (p. 195). This is your own happiness. The things that you consider to be good for you or evil for you. Not what has been considered good or evil. It is a personal creation of life that one must seek and in order for this to take place, one has to be selfish (p. 193). It is a type of self-love that Nietzsche, through the parable fo Zarathustra, tries to teach.

However, this selfishness comes under contest if the herd is allowed to dominate. Hence,  the herd becomes something that one must avoid for the herd puts the “you” before the “I” (p. 60-61). The herd makes the individual follow established norms and takes away the creative process of life. Through this, one’s own intuition takes a back seat to the herd mentality of the group (p. 9).

This is why solitude is important to Zarathustra. Through solitude, Zarathustra is able to cleanse himself from the thoughts of the herd and the norms which have been established without the will to power (p. 145). It is in the solitude that one can connect with their intuitions or inner thoughts. The thoughts that come when the hour is the stillest bring with them humility for they allow one to realize what they already know, which, is that there is more to them. The human they are at the moment is not all they can be and through their own actions they can become more (pp. 145-147). Such an idea is central to the parable of Zarathustra for he urges all people to go beyond themselves. Solitude is one of the ways this can be accomplished.

Ultimately, the parable of Zarathustra is not one of the character, Zarathustra, becoming the overman. Rather it is the process of how one can become the overman. Zarathustra is a prelude to such a being (p. 209). Which is why when he speaks of the old tablets and the new ones, he shows that even these new tablets are unfinished. They are left uncompleted for the next being to write on and the tablets will always be uncompleted for the future generations to rewrite and recreate (p. 198). This recreation is fundamental to the concept of the overman and Zarathustra demonstrates this concept at the end of the parable as well when he detaches from his new friends because part of self-overcoming is not to get attached to established norms, even if they are created through the will to power (p. 327).

In this way, the parable of Zarathustra works as an example of becoming. Zarathustra is never satisfied with what he has said or what he has done rather he looks to create more and to question what he knows. As well, he uses his body as a guide. This process allows Zarathustra to edge closer to the fundamental concept of Nietzsche, the overman, for the overman is always becoming too.

You Cannot Lead Your Own Life By Following Others

In recent years, through the use of social media, idolizing others has become more prevalent than ever before. In so far as people become imitators and act like those whom they wish to be in the hopes that they will achieve some kind of identity. We look at others and see how they have lived life, what path they have walked on and hurry to follow their steps before they disappear. I have noticed this in myself. Trying to imitate people I admire or whom I wish to be like. There are good values and habits you can pick up through imitation but using such a thing to understand yourself is difficult to do.

Your identity cannot be taught. An individual is not formed by matching the steps of those who walk before him or her. In fact, the first steps are usually backward, away from others, steps that strip away what you think you know and understand, the concepts and ideas you possess that are not really yours but instead the thoughts of others that you formulate and believe until you think they are yours. Through backward steps, you begin to move towards your own life.

Two texts have influenced this line of thought are, Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche. In both texts, a central theme is finding your path in life and in both texts, the answer is simple, your path is subjective and unique to you and that it cannot be taught and in order to find it, you have to create it by trusting your own sensations and observations.

You have found the deliverance from death. It came to you from your own seeking, on your own path, through thinking, through meditation, through knowledge, through illumination. It did not come through a teaching! And – this is my thought, O Sublime One – no one is granted deliverance through a teaching!

Siddharta says this to the Budhha once he has heard his teachings. Up until this point, it had been Siddharta’s quest to find Budhha and hear his teachings in the hopes that the answers will lie in his words and yet, what he finds is that what made Budhha, Budhha cannot be taught. The subjective experience that included joys and happiness, trials and tribulations, peaks and abysses cannot simply be poured into another and have them understand. Budhha went through his life in order to become Budhha.

The Teaching of the illuminated Buddha contains a great deal, it teaches many how to live righteously, avoid evil. But there is one thing that so clear, so venerable Teaching does not contain it: does not contain the secret of what the Sublime One himself has experienced, he alone among the hundreds of thousands. That is what I thought and realized when I heard the Teaching. That is why I am resuming my wandering – not to seek a different, a better teaching, for I know that there is none; but to leave all teachings and all teacher and to reach my goal alone or die.

Similarly, Nietzsche, through Zarathustra, speaks of being wary of those who say they have the answer. Nietzsche goes as far as to say that be even suspicious of his own words and his own teaching.

Now I go alone, my disciples. You too go now, alone. Thus I want it. Verily, I counsel you: go away from me and resist Zarathustra! And even better: be ashamed of him! Perhaps he deceived you.

What should you follow then? What can you trust? How do you find your identity? How do you find your path?

Through yourself.

But this is what the will to truth should mean to you: that everything be changed into what is thinkable for man, visible for man, feelable by man. You should think through your own senses to their consequences.

And what you have called world, that shall be created only by you: your reason, your image, your will, your love shall thus be realized. And verily, for your own bliss, you lovers of knowledge.

Siddhartha echoes these sentiments as well.

This sensation filled him fully, and he mused about it as he slowly walked away. He mused deeply, descending to the very bottom of this sensation as if through deep water, all the way down to where the causes rest. For, it seemed to him, thinking is recognizing causes, and that is the only way in which sensations become insights: they are not lost, they become substance and begin to radiate what is within them.

I will be my own pupil: I will get to know myself, the secret that is Siddhartha.

You have to encounter life through your own senses. Make sense of life through your own observation. Give meaning to what you find meaningful and all the while, you must keep an open mind, a questioning mind towards all things that you do not know and especially towards what you believe you know for you may be wrong. It’s a cycle of creating and recreating through your sensations and thought.

A will to the thinkability of all beings: this I call your will. You want to make all being thinkable, for you doubt with well-founded suspicion that it is already thinkable. But it shall yield and bend for you. Thus your will wants it. It shall become smooth and serve the spirit as its mirror and reflection. That is your whole will, you who are wisest: a will to power – when you speak of good and evil too, and of valuations. You still want to create the world before which you can kneel: that is your ultimate hope and intoxication.

It’s almost a childlike curiosity and observation where one does not take anything in face value but rather seeks a deeper understanding and explanation. Will to power is a procreative will of life. A life that is created by you through your own observations and experiences, through your own reflections and thinking and thus, it’s a life that is your own.

With the process of creation, you come to create your path. A subjective path that only you can walk upon.

“This is my way; where is yours?” — thus I answered those who asked me “the way.” For the way — that does not exist.

The opposite of this is that you become molded into a form that is not yours by following the steps of others. It is my belief that it is better to remain formless, eternally seeking and wandering, than be formed into someone else.


Reflections: Nietzsche’s “God Is Dead”

Nietzsche first said this in Thus Spoke Zarathustrawhere the character, Zarathustra, descends from the mountains to impart his knowledge on the people that live in the town below. During his descends, he encounters an old man who lives by a faith-based understanding. After his talk with the man, Zarathustra says:

Could it be possible? This old saint in the forest has not yet heard anything of this, that God is dead!

What does this statement mean?

In order to understand it, one has to first understand the context of the times Nietzsche wrote his book. At the time, scientific knowledge was blossoming. What was unknown was now beginning to be known. What was once attributed to beyond human understanding was being reeled back in and was known through the powers of man’s mind. Along with this, what was still unknown was not readily attached to some higher power but rather, it was starting to be accepted that what is still unknown could be or will be known sometime in the future. That the things that are not known by us are not beyond us but rather, we are capable of knowing them too.

Alongside this, also came the dethronement of man’s special position. The sun did not revolve around us. We revolved around it. Earth was just one of many planets, our galaxy one of many galaxies. Nothing special. Evolution showed us a map of how we came to be the dominant species. We were not chosen. It just how the chips fell.

So, we were not special then why would there be a special God to take care of us after death? If we are just another animal on this planet then why would we have a special God?

This meant that the human foundation upon which man had made his life was beginning to crack. Namely, a faith-based existence that is living for the future.

It is through this, the statement “God is dead” comes to be understood.

Now, what does this mean to me?

God is hope. God is fairness. God is a future. God is the answer to the suffering of life. God is a path.

People come to bear the trials and tribulations of their lives in the hopes that if they lived the proper life, they will then get neverending bliss.

Take this away, what is left?

The individual. You come to understand that there is no future. Only the present. In the book, Nietzsche through Zarathustra speaks a lot of the earth and how man needs to come back to earth and not be shepherded towards some future that does not exist. This means that we, as an individual, need to create his or her own meaning in life.

A meaning that allows for hope. A meaning that is worth the suffering. A meaning that shows you the path through the maze that is life.

There is a freedom in this statement. There is also anxiety because now you have to make a decision. Take responsibility. Cannot defer your life. Cannot lead yourself blindly. Open your eyes and see that life is what you make out of it. The meaning you give to it.

This is my understanding of this statement.