By Richard Girard
"The irrationality of a thing is no argument against its existence, rather a condition of it."
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844--1900), German philosopher. Human, All Too Human, aphorism 332 (1878).
"To exercise power costs effort and demands courage. That is why so many fail to assert rights to which they are perfectly entitled--because a right is a kind of power but they are too lazy or too cowardly to exercise it. The virtues which cloak these faults are called patience and forbearance."
Friedrich Nietzsche (18441900), German philosopher. The Wanderer and His Shadow, aphorism 251 (1880).
"How is freedom measured, in individuals as in nations? By the resistance which has to be overcome, by the effort it costs to stay aloft. One would have to seek the highest type of free man where the greatest resistance is constantly being overcome: five steps from tyranny, near the threshold of the danger of servitude."
Friedrich Nietzsche (18441900), German philosopher. Twilight of the Idols, "Expeditions of an Untimely Man," aphorism 38 (1889).
"Authority poisons everybody who takes authority on himself."
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924), Russian revolutionary leader. Quoted in: Tamara Deutsche, Not By Politics Alone, chapter 2 (1973), to Kropotkin in May 1919.
Quo vadis? It is Latin for where do we go, what direction do we take from here? It is the question every one of us had asked at some point in our life, when we are met with a choice of two or more directions that our lives may take, and there is no easy, simple, or obvious answer.
Nor is it possible for us as human beings to honestly and honorably accept the demands or dictates of others in this matter. We can ask for their suggestions, their guidance in this matter, but the awful burden of choice cannot be shared, but must be borne alone, like Earth upon the shoulders of Atlas.
At times, this awful burden of choice is so all-encompassing that it leaves us paralyzed. We feel trapped in a repeating cycle of inaction from which survival, let alone freedom to act and to choose, is the delusion of a fevered dream. Something is required to lift us out of this moribund funk, some sort of challenge to our preconceptions of reality that is the equivalent of a high colonic on a cosmic scale, loosening and cleansing us of our creative destitution.
And for me, all of this leads to Nietzsche.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was inarguably one of the two or three most important philosophers of the Nineteenth Century. He was also a man whose philosophy has been misunderstood and abused by everyone from Adolf Hitler to Leo Strauss to Ayn Rand.
An admirer of Judaism, Nietzsche's writings were used by anti-Semites (including his sister after Nietzsche took ill and finally died) to justify their vile hatred of the Jews. Nietzsche taught of the Superior Man (Ãbermensch; I prefer the translation of "Superior Man"--borrowed from Confucius--to Superman), but Nietzsche also taught the duty of the Superior Man to his less capable brethren.