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Embrace the status quo. We must first affirm the horror of all existence to in order to affirm the beauty of life

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Embrace the status quo. We must first affirm the horror of all existence to in order to affirm the beauty of life

Sadegh Kabeer, doctoral candidate in Middle Eastern politics and previously worked as a journalist based in the United Arab Emirates, 2008


Salomé argues that after his conception of the eternal recurrence Nietzsche became transfigured. His contradictions were not only heightened to an unbearable degree but he became irreparably torn between an unbridled loathing and an equally powerful desire to embrace the eternal recurrence of the same.[lxviii] Salomé concludes that madness was the only logical possibility for such a fractured and tormented soul. But these ad hominem remarks miss the point. Nietzsche’s credo that ‘Pain does not count as an objection to life’ flies in the face of Salomé’s diagnosis.[lxix] Rather than circumventing or merely resigning oneself to suffer existence interminably à la Schopenhauer, the task is to assimilate this very pain and suffering that has destroyed and crippled so many; the ‘free spirit’ is to ‘adopt a child’s attitude towards what used to constitute the seriousness of existence.’[lxx] The most solemn concepts of ‘God’ and ‘sin’ ‘will seem no more important to us than a child’s toy and a child’s pain seem to an old man, – and perhaps “the old man” will then need another toy and another pain, – still enough of a child, an eternal child!’[lxxi] This new existential comportment of the self evinces what is most essential in Nietzsche’s conception of the tragic. Nietzsche’s distinct and profound understanding of the tragedy of existence is perhaps the deepest of the chasms separating him from his predecessor Arthur Schopenhauer, and is visible as early as his first published work, The Birth of Tragedy (1872). For Nietzsche it is a matter not of reconciliation or resignation, but as we have seen, of redemption immanently procured. ‘The type of a spirit that takes into itself and redeems the contradictions and questionable aspects of existence…Dionysus versus the ‘Crucified’: there you have the antithesis. It is not a difference in regard to their martyrdom – it is a difference in the meaning of it.[7] Life itself, its eternal fruitfulness and recurrence, creates torment, destruction, the will to annihilation…One will see that the problem is that of the meaning of suffering:[8] whether a Christian meaning or a tragic meaning. In the former case, it is supposed to be the path to a holy existence; in the latter case, being is counted as holy enough to justify even a monstrous amount of suffering. The tragic man affirms even the harshest suffering:[9] he is sufficiently strong, rich, and capable of deifying to do so. The Christian denies even the happiest lot on earth: he is sufficiently weak, poor, disinherited to suffer from life in whatever form he meets it. The god on the cross is a curse on life, a signpost to seek redemption from life; Dionysus cut to pieces is a promise of life: it will be eternally reborn and return again from destruction.’[lxxii] What separates the ‘Christian’[10] from the tragic man is what they take to be the meaning of their suffering and its significance within the greater scheme of things. For Nietzsche once again this is a matter of incorporation. The metabolism of the ‘Christian’ is unable to digest ‘the contradictions and questionable aspects of existence’ so he strives to negate this world and to seek salvation in another residing in ‘the beyond’. For the tragic man ‘adventure, danger and even pain…become a necessity’.[lxxiii] The tragic hero, the exemplar being Sophocles’ Oedipus, is defined by the free acceptance of his determination by fate. Heroically bearing the truth of one’s finitude is an act of affirmation that allows him to achieve something like authenticity, or even better, sovereign empowerment. Conclusion For Nietzsche, the doctrine of eternal recurrence stands opposed to the Day of Judgment, when eternal bliss and damnation will be handed down from on high.[lxxiv] ‘Have I been understood? – Dionysus against the Crucified…’[lxxv] The Wiederkunft or ‘Second Coming’ of the spirit of great health, the overhuman, redeems mankind from two millennia of enslavement under the yoke of vengefulness and bad conscience. With the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, God was ‘paying himself back’. God was ‘the only one able to redeem man from what, to znew affirmative praxis through his incorporation of the eternal recurrence of the same. Man’s redemption ceases to be beyond his grasp and that is why Nietzsche holds the Dionysian ideal of the eternal recurrence to be antithetical to the Day of Judgement: when man emerges as truly sovereign he becomes entitled to judge for himself.[lxxvii] The Dionysian philosopher flatly repudiates the loathsome desire for time’s end. The eternal recurrence of the same becomes synonymous with ‘the innocence of becoming’.[lxxviii] Each time our life repeats itself just as it was a thousand times before. But with each repetition we are different; each time we have incorporated the lessons of the previous recurrence, but have forgotten it in our innocence. This in turn affects the repetition of the same. Everything is the same and yet we have changed, which provokes everything to thus be renewed and invested with a novelty which had been absent hitherto. Upon the arrival of the final figuration of the overhuman the condemnation of man and existence itself will be banished once and for all – the overhuman will partake in his own redemption and thereby become ‘the meaning of the earth.’[lxxix] Only now does the final metamorphosis proclaimed by Zarathustra take hold: the lion becomes a child.[lxxx] The overman, guardian of the sacred ‘Yes’, wills his own will in the creation of new values so as to emerge a circulus vitiosus deus;[11] what Nietzsche calls elsewhere ‘the Roman Caesar with Christ’s soul.’[lxxxi] Error, falsehood, delusion, the passions etc… are not to be blindly swept aside – they are the stuff of knowledge and the well-spring of human civilization. The efforts of instrumental reason to placate and deprive nature of its abundance and vivacity are a road to nowhere, a veritable cul-de-sac. Its advocacy of an anthropomorphic and lopsided vision acts as merely another mask for the insatiable striving of the human organism as it assimilates alien forces in the quest for stable and secure conditions for the production and reproduction of life. Human beings however are moving apace toward self-destruction as they continue to live in thraldom to resentiment and bad conscience. Nietzsche admonishes us to cultivate counterdispositions in order to undercut the malign drives and habits responsible for the preponderance of those values which hasten and ensure the degeneration of the most vital and life-affirming instincts.[lxxxii] These cultural configurations must be defanged and set upon a new course. Nietzsche sees the doctrine of the eternal recurrence of the same as this possibility. It is to endow the earth with a new centre of gravity, breaking it out of its aimless stupor and select the composition of future (over)humanity. This task is not for the faint of heart. He tells us that we must first deracinate from each one of our souls every trace of compassion and pity before we will be able to proceed. It seems, almost despite himself Nietzsche has transposed an incarnation of the Day of Judgement into the immanent flow of time. ‘Damnation’ is stripped of the eternal – those not up to the challenge are instead assured their extinction – while those ‘free spirits’ who manage to incorporate the eternal recurrence will steer the course along which future generations will continue to develop and build: ‘Future history: more and more this thought will be victorious – and those who do not believe in it must ultimately die out in accordance with their nature! Only those who consider their existence to be capable of eternal repetition will remain: with such ones, though, a state is possible which no utopian has yet reached!’[lxxxiii]

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