I read the complete works of Nietzsche while I rode the train to work each morning and evening. I was in the process of obtaining a divorce. My life was in turmoil and I was wearing combat boots. On one of these mornings, as the train sped over the rails, a drunken man saw what I was reading. He yelled, "Hey! Hey!" His voice had the clarity and resonance of a professional spokesperson. I looked at the man. All of the other passengers looked at me.
The speaker began again, "Nietzsche boy! Hic... Hey! Hey man! Are you a philosopher? Women hate philosophers."
After he imparted this wisdom, he closed his eyes and began to snore. My ears reddened. When the adrenaline in my blood had dispersed, I realized that the man was a Bodhisattva, and that he spoke the truth. I looked out of the window, in the direction of the deities, and said thank-you, while the messenger snored. I decided to remain on the philosopher's road. I am stubborn. I realized that Nietzsche could have profited from the same advice. Friedrich had no luck with the ladies in his life. He was part of a love triangle. The other two-thirds were Lou Salome and his friend, Paul Rée.
After his collapse, on January 3, 1889, on the Piazza Carlo Alberti, in Turin, his mother and sister took care of him. Nietzsche had been to a restaurant, and was walking to his lodgings. He collapsed, and when he awoke, he was insane. He survived for eleven years, but he could not function normally. A year prior to this tragedy, Georg Brandes gave lectures in Copenhagen. These talks were intended to explain Nietzsche's philosophy to an eager public. The topic was the monumental task of the revaluation of all values. Take a moment, and think about the caliber of intellect that is required to attempt such thoughts. Think also of the degree of courage that is required to share these ideas with the public.
Historically, the rare individual who attempts such thoughts is jailed, killed or exiled. Their ideas are discredited by the holders of power. It is difficult to read Nietzsche. It is extremely easy to misinterpret him. It is important to remember that every teacher is different. One kind of teacher talks slowly. He gives a general outline of his lesson before he explains in detail. Not so with Nietzsche. His thought process was faster than most humans achieve. If he had stopped to clarify his thoughts, he would have lost much.
He moved forward into new territory. Most people do not have the heart to go. Momentum can overcome fear. It is necessary for success. If you want to walk with Nietzsche, save your questions and your energy. If you are strong enough, he will reveal a perspective that you have never dreamed of. There is no assurance that you will find it agreeable.
We envy the eyesight of an eagle. But would we be happy, if we possessed it? If we saw things that we had not noticed before. If we learned our own inner-functions. If we knew the mechanics of a relationship. To know the law does not exempt us from being obliged to obey. Nietzsche spoke about the herd. We have chosen to form herds, and this strategy has served our species. Nietzsche told us that our morals and values are based on this herd system. He knew it was time for change. We should admit that we are living as a herd. Some sheep stray and they walk on two legs. We should recognize the value of contrary people. Indeed, evolution is a process of mutating randomly in a constantly changing environment.
What are the detriments of being in a herd? The herd invites the plunder of the innocent, the elderly and the weak. What is beneficial for a herd is usually detrimental for an individual. The intelligence of a herd is equal to its most primitive member. A herd can be manipulated. Easily. If we act like food, we are food. If we do not act like food, we inspire fear in the herd. Therefore, we are considered evil.
If I made a film about Nietzsche's life, I would portray his collapse. Here is my version: Donald Sutherland is Nietzsche. Because of his magnificent mustache. Nietzsche is in Turin, because he enjoys the local climate and food. Nietzsche is writing his book, The Revaluation Of All Values. His friend, Georg Brandes, is presenting it to the European public. It is a very radical book. One afternoon, Nietzsche walks to his favourite restaurant. A street urchin enters the rear door of the restaurant. Nietzsche is exhausted. He has been writing and thinking.
Before he arrives at the restaurant, we see the kitchen. We see a man putting two items into the hand of a cook. A small packet of powder and a bag of money. The man turns to exit and pats the street urchin on the head. He leaves in a carriage. It bears the mark of the Vatican. The cook mixes the powder into Nietzsche's lunch. The substance is a new drug from South America. It is not lethal, but it causes insanity. A perfect solution. It will neutralize Nietzsche and negate his work. Nietzsche finishes his last meal.
He collapses on the Piazza. The film is finished and the pigeons fly away. The nervous herd assured themselves, that he had always been a lunatic. Historians say that Nietzsche suffered from syphilis. They say that his collapse is consistent with this disease. Who knows? Nietzsche's books will remain forever. They are a beacon for those who are courageous and those who hunger for knowledge.
Copyright © 2019 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.