Thursday, June 22, 2006

Nietzsche and Eternal Return

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"The alternatives of creating or dying off remind one of Nietzsche's remarks about life and the Will to Power. Nothing can remain stable. If a living thing does not increase, it must decrease. There is no such thing as the Will to Live. What is alive does not need to strive for life. What is not alive cannot strive at all.

In order to create, man must be willing to face near destruction, to let go of everything he has. Only by doing this is it possible for something new to come into being, for somthing to be created. Without destruction or near destruction there can be no creation."

--Joan Stambaugh, Nietzsche's Thought of Eternal Return, 53.

Where to begin with Nietzsche's concept of time? Of what use is Nietzsche's concept of eternal return? I'm reminded of a t-shirt that has this picture of Nietzsche in one corner with the quote, "God is dead." In the bottom right corner is an image of God with the quote, "Nietzsche is dead." Ah, the irony. Anyway, in Nietzsche's diluted universe, there was no such thing as death. That's right, Nietzsche is still alive, somewhere, forever. This moment is here, forever. There is no "past" per se and no "future" per se, but only the now in existence. We have lived such a world forever, and will continue to live in this world forever. In other words, you have read this posting for all time, and you will continue to read it forever (now, that's a scary thought...).

Now, besides this unempirical, flamboyant, and downright arrogant view of "reality," maybe Nietzsche was on to something. What do I mean? Well, reading Nietzsche, if it doesn't totally depress you, will open your mind to limitless things. We take for granted this thing called "time." We think on a horizontal plane. Nietzsche takes this horizontal plane, spits in its face, and throws it in the trash. Nietzsche is looking for no mere metaphysical conception of reality, but rather the reality behind reality. He throws out the normal understanding of time for the metareality of nothingness. The abyss is time - it is nothing and it amounts to nothing.

That's where the Will to Power comes in. The only thing we can do in this life, now and forever, is to assert our will over the universe. The ubermensch is he who understands this sad fact - that the only coping mechanism in the universe is to assert one's own will. Pretty depressing stuff, I'd say. I can't even make it outside to exercise, muchless assert my will over the universe.

Now, what does this have to do with Christian theology? Or, more importantly, what does theology have to learn from Nietzsche? While the rantings of Nietzsche are often too vague to comprehend, I think there is something to be learned in his method. A classically trained philologist, Nietzsche sought to perfect his method of getting at the root of things. He tried to take nothing for granted. A "rugged individualist," Nietzsche tried to be as intellectually honest as possible. He firmly believed that he was able to experience reality without dillution (whether he did or not is open to debate!). He was willing to take whatever steps necessary to arrive at the "truth."

In this way, I think it's imperative for Christian thinkers to take risks, to take whatever steps are necessary to arrive at the "truth." Nietzsche can teach us to be honest with ourselves and others. While he's certainly not the model for Christian understanding, there is definately something to learn from his method. I think Christian thinkers should study Nietzsche, even at the risk of becoming severely depressed!


At 8:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forget Nietzsche, you can get everything good about him from Kierkegaard.

At 11:57 AM, Anonymous Jake said...

I think Nietzsche did not make distinction between Christianity and Christendom as Kierkegaard did. They both blamed Christendom for the cesspool society is in; Nietzsche saying churches are like God's tombs for example. But I think Kierkegaard is right in attempting to rescue true Christianity. Nietzsche attempts to hide from choice and from responsiblity; prefering instead to posit an ungrounded and irresponsible basis of value. I think Kierkegaard called that defiant despair. hmm.

At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Phillip said...

Nietzche is delicious but Christ or more accurately Paul was for him a competitor, personally if one is to trace the roots of Protestantism's inevitable tendency to destruction one should first read Stirner's 'The Ego and His Own'. While on the subject of great philospohers Badiou's Paul and the foundation of Universalism is a ripping good read.


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