Thus Spake Zarathustra

Thus Spake Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche.

A review for all, and for none.

I make no differentiation between authors and artists. To me a skilled author is an artist. Their words capture our minds, then force us to pay the ransom with our hearts.

However, what art is is not the subject of this post, if you’re interested in my thoughts on how art is defined please visit this post.

Art, is amazing in how it impacts us. Equally amazing is the arrogance of some artists. Have you ever encountered one who alludes, directly or indirectly, that if you don’t understand their work you must be an idiot?

I have, entirely too many times.

In this instance, the artist I am referring to is Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche has an impressive ability to wrap ugly thoughts and superficial truths in stunningly beautiful words. Don’t be fooled by the glory of the garments when the concepts they cover are reprehensible.

And thus we arrive at my thoughts on Nietzsche’s work, “Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All and None”. In this example of his work, Nietzsche takes the firm view that his readers are stupid. In fact, he blatantly states this in as many words with the challenge, “whoever is able to grasp me may grasp me! Your crutch, however, I am not.” I do not consider my readers to be idiots, so I won’t presume to simplify Nietzsche’s words.  As written, they speak loud and plain.

The artistic tactic utilized, that if you need an explanation you’re obviously not capable of true understanding, is clearly illustrated in the tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen.

Since none of us likes thinking we lack the intelligence to grasp some arcane concept, we dig deep into the work in question in order to see what everyone else allegedly sees. And when we dig deep enough into anything, be it a piece of dung or a work of philosophy, we uncover new things, new understandings, new thoughts, and new revelations.

Don’t be fooled.

What we’ve just uncovered isn’t in the thing being examined, it is from somewhere deep within ourself. We are all extraordinarily complex beings, capable of thoughts far beyond our wildest dreams. All we need do is look, and we will see.

“Thus Spake Zarathustra” is just such a work. Yes, “Thus Spake Zarathustra” is full of really beautiful words, artistically combined into eloquent, memorable sentences. However, the thoughts these so memorable sentences express are often repugnant. Examples of errant philosophy? “All that proceeds from power is good”, “The fleetest beast to bear you to perfection is suffering”, “All thy passions in the end become virtue, and thy devils angels”, along with innumerable others.

Repugnant as such sentiments are, the one I personally find utterly abhorrent is this, “Every one being allowed to learn to read, ruineth in the long run not only good writing but also thinking.” Of those two elements, Nietzsche has completely mastered the art of good writing. Sadly, in regarding the second element, that of good thinking, “Thus Spake Zarathustra” is an utter failure.

A further failure is in how often these memorable little sound bite sentences don’t have context with the other memorable little sounds bites so closely packed around them.  At times this is so predominant as to render the work virtually incomprehensible.  Naturally when this happens we find ourselves re-reading in order to find context that just isn’t there.  The result of this re-reading is our learning much of it by rote.  We can quote it, but we don’t actually understand it. {Of course, pretending to understand makes us appear smarter than the person who blurts out, “The Emperor is naked!” Or does it?}

Throughout the work Nietzsche looks down his nose at humanity, and he makes no excuse for doing so. Nietzsche’s arrogance is illustrated in this line, “Ye look aloft when ye long for exaltation; and I look downward because I am exalted.

Perhaps if you look deep enough into this work you’ll find Nietzsche is really saying the opposite of the things he writes. After all, Nietzsche isn’t directly portraying himself as Zarathustra is he? Unfortunately, you’re now looking so deep what you are actually seeing is the Emperor’s new clothes, not the sickly, diseased flesh of the thoughts they conceal.

My opinion of this work, like many of my thoughts, is conflicted. “Thus Spake Zarathustra” is unquestionably a work of literature. The composition of individual thoughts is so elegant as to be breathtaking. The writing style is bold, powerful, and eloquent.  For those reasons, every author can learn from this work.

And then there is my conflicted view…

Please don’t read “Thus Spake Zarathustra” with eyes, heart, and mind wide open as you seek deep, hidden truths. Save such mental and emotional energy for philosophical works that warrant it. Considered as a work of philosophy, “Thus Spake Zarathustra” is simply not worth your time.

I believe we all search for truth, and we all have an unquenchable thirst for meaning. But know this… that meaning does not dwell in arcane works. No, that meaning dwells within your own heart, and it is there that you should seek it.

{PS. While you’re here, please browse around. I label my own work, Malmaxa, as “Philosophy, couched as Fantasy.”  However, please do not compare it with Nietzsche, I fear you will do us both a great disservice.}

About C.G.Ayling

Musing misuser of words, lover of lyrical literature, author, occasional contrary thoughts. An honorable man’s name, in memoriam.
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