Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Nietzche and the eternal return......

I am fed up with politics so its time for Nietzche and the eternal return......
Nietzsche asks that we should always be aware passionately of our ourselves and our possibilities. He asks us to pick ourselves up not go along with the crowd, which is just not existing but something that is very special and characterised by passion. He calls it his greatest idea. It has the idea of eternal return or eternal recurrence.

The ancient Greeks had a theory that time was circular as did indeed the Hindus. Time was a great wheel that moved forever around and around. It was only the Christians who saw time moving from the creation to the last judgement. And it is rather ironic that modern quantum physics sees space and time as a continuum.

Nietzche toyed with the idea of a scientific proof of eternal recurrence but never published it. All we have are a few jottings from his notebook. What is more interesting is that he sees eternal recurrence as a kind of test- a test of our own attitude toward life, a test of our ability to live life without the illusions and evasions that really give rise to the “otherworldly that he is so bitterly against. The way the test goes is something like this. I imagine if you had to live your life , not just once but over and over again. The repetition gives your live some weight and in particular each moment. It is this notion of weight and consequently lightness that Milan Kundera talks about in his novel “ The Unbearable Lightness of Being” . At the beginning of the book he toys with the idea that if an event just happened once we can say “It happened it is over” . If something is repeated an infinite number of times then we would be much less willing to say “OK, lets do it again.” .

The test is to ask the question How much do you love your life? How much are you consumed with regret? It is very important to say. Thinking this, as Nietzsche puts it that terrible thought that would make us grasp for the possibility of living our life over and over again with enormous enthusiasm. It is a sign of something pathetic if you answer “ No I would rather not do it at all..

I think of Kierkegaard discussion of repetition. Where he argues that we should turn it into becoming a sense of meaning. It comes down to the issue of whether you really accept life itself, and that means your life. We all wish in some sense that life was different Perhaps that we had a different voice,body or culture. We imagine being born in a different time in a different century. We imagine being richer than we are. Nietzsche himself had very poor health, chronic insomnia, terrible headaches and various illnesses all of his life and died very young. Nevertheless it is clear that Nietzsche would have said in reply to this thought of “eternal recurrence” “ How godly, how divine! .This what I want to do. To live my life exactly as it is over and over again.

One can take this a number of different ways. It leads us back to the issue of freewill and fate and how one becomes who one is, because in a sense what this test asks is “How satisfied are you with yourself?”. It does not have to be totally fatalistic. On one hand Nietzsche celebrates what he calls “amor fati”, the love of life, the love of being just who you are, of having a life. At the same time it is clear that eternal recurrence has a different implication. Eternal recurrence can be seeing how your life is, seeing what you really do not like because you are not willing to repeat it, and then changing yourself, cultivating yourself, and not simply are, but who you would be. There are all sorts of limits to this, depending on who we are and how we find ourselves and how we fit ourselves into society. But fate here is not blind resignation to what will happen. It is rather acceptance to our own limitations and it is rather trying to make something of ourselves in accordance with who we could already be.

No comments:

Post a comment