on the run
Friedrich Nietzsche, The gay science
Book one – 26
What is life? Life-that is: continually shedding something that wants to die. Life-that is: being cruel and inexorable against everything about us that is growing old and weak-and not only about us. Life-that is, then: being without reverence for those who are dying, who are wretched, who are ancient? Constantly being a murderer? -And yet old Moses said: “Thou shalt not kill.”
Life for us human beings starts somewhere around the time we start to remember.
The horizon, your future, is often clad in mist, is what people often say. I disagree, if I look to the future with my minds eye I don’t see a fog, a grayish wall of nothing, I see outlines extending from the present. I see some general direction and contours of what might be. I know off course that around the corner the road might turn another way, but I see a future and not a grey wall of doubt that leads you blindly to anxiety. The future might seem tough and overwhelming every now and then but remember, you wouldn’t have arrived at this point from the past if that road was impassible. Air out your brain, let the grey mist be blown away so you can see the outlines of your life and future, the things that matter and the facts you must obey. Life might not always seem fair but that’s just a misunderstanding, life does not know what is fair or unfair, those are just concepts we invented and why there is religion and faith. Life is just there and it is what we live with a few things we know and a lot that we don’t.
If I go outside now and walk to the water and stand still for a while I would hear nothing, maybe my breath and the beating of my heart. It is so silent here that no matter what you do it will automatically calm you down. I am not sure if I really need that silence for myself, but I really like the experience of living far away from a busy city with all its temptations and distractions. It was some kind of a gamble or dare to myself when I moved here over 10 years ago. I had a nice job and after work I went out to be amongst my friends and socialize. I was actually pretty comfortable with that life, maybe to comfortable. Moving to Norway changed all of that, no place to go in the evening in these small towns with maybe a 1000 people. There was one store in the first place I lived and no social live to speak of. It was difficult in the beginning, you get confronted with your own thoughts all the time, something I avoided back in Holland by going out so often. But I am now used to that and like those confrontations with myself, or maybe I am just used to myself now, something I wasn’t when I lived in the city, amongst the people and all the distractions. I guess the silence gave me a voice and a chance to hear myself.
It is really popular In our modern culture to say that someone should “make up their own mind”. That you should trust your own feelings and don’t listen to what others say. If you understand that advice as just another platitude than there is not so much harm in it but if you take them literally than there is a big problem. The problem is that you assume that we can make up our own mind but the best we can do is to stick with an internal narrative that is for the most part plagiarized.
When I was in my early twenties I thought for a brief moment that I had all the answers in me, like most people do when their young. After living in different parts of the world, and looking around, I realized that the world is more complex, my inexperienced certainty seemed to be baseless. I started asking people about their thoughts on specific subjects, and got different answers or none at all. I realized that people either have an opinion, are clueless or don’t care. The ones with an opinion often use it as a shield to protect themselves in a discussion or when confronted with undermining facts. The problem with a shield is that as long as it works there is no need to change it, as long as you stay around like minded people your fine. And if you’re among strangers you hold it tighter. These people have their opinion and I wondered where they got it from, or if they ever doubted it. How can you not doubt your opinion? If the next 10 people you meet have a different one, you cannot all be right.
If you ask people to lay down their shield, to step back and look where their opinion comes from, they often cannot do that, don’t understand the question, or get angry. It’s hard to recognize that you don’t know, and that you are vulnerable without a shield.
I’m rereading the book Human all too Human from Friedrich Nietzsche. I have read the book before, and if I look at it I can clearly see the evidence of that. In this book Nietzsche writes in aphorisms, short pieces that are mostly self-contained, they are not clearly linked together. The advantage of this is that you can read one aphorism and think about it separated from the rest of the book. I have been doing that for the last week, but because I also wanted to write about the aphorisms and tried to analyze them, I used more time than I thought. It made me wonder how much I really understood them when I read them for the first time 15 years ago and read the book in a couple of weeks. Maybe I am so much slower now. Or was I less critical in the past and skipped over the bits that made no sense to me back then?
At the end of your life you look back.
We often think, as people, that life is endless. The days flow together, in a week, a month and before you know it, ten years. Looking at it like this, there seems to be no end and you take your time for granted. But the reality is, of course, very different. What is life more than a memory. You have an experience, process it with your biases, your colors, and archive it. Later you open the drawer with the memories in it and put on your glasses containing new life lessons, convictions, and experiences, and use them to look at those old times. That’s our life, colored memories, strung to each other like a web spun from old desires, dreams and stale air anchored to those sparse, valuable moments that make it all worthwhile. Life viewed like this is a construction and time plays a small role in it. This web is two dimensional, seen from the side it’s a few moments thick. All these ambiguous memories and old stories are not as important as those lasting once. Those lasting moments often fit in a few beats of your heart, so in the time you have left, you can still fit, worth a lifetime of new valuable ones.
I try to imagine what I would feel like if the doctor told me that I would die within the next few weeks. The best way to find this out is probably to delve into your own experiences, looking for something with a similar impact, and how you dealt with it in the past?
When your car breaks down after you hit something in the middle of the night. When the apple was rotten, and you needed it for that recipe. When your lover cheated on you, or your grandmother died. In all these cases you were probably shocked at first, out of breath, felt helpless, or empty. If you have been through these experiences several times you might power on immediately after the initial shock, and if it is your first time it could slow you down to a standstill, unable to think or act. But can you compare the loss of a lover or death of a friend with the message that you soon are going to die?
Both the USA and the USSR developed their large arsenals because history teaches them that war is a possibility and probably a necessity. Both were afraid that if either one had the chance of destroying the other, that it could happen. They either made a large arsenal to strike first or hit back hard after an attack. Either way it would be disastrous for both countries with millions of people dead not by a long war, diseases, or famine but by a few phone calls and some presses on 2, – dollar launch buttons.
The USSR was a Communist country, guided by strict rules that guided their past and future. The Russians where convinced that they could win a nuclear war. There would be large destruction, but the conventional war, after the nuclear destruction, could be won. From Napoleon to Hitler their large unwelcome land is there biggest asset that has shaped their history for years and guided their choices in the development and deployment of nuclear weapons.
We have a blind spot in our eyes. We miss part of the picture, but we don’t. Our brain fills in the gaps and like our nervous system or bowel movements it does it without our guidance.
For many years now, research has found out that our brain presents us with questionable answers. One of the articles that is interesting is “Priming and communication: Social determinants of information use in judgments of life satisfaction”. As an example, they will ask a group of students if they are happy and they give a response, after that they ask how many dates they had this year and there was no correlation between the two questions, more or less dates didn’t seem to influence the amount of happiness. But if you first ask how many dates they had and then asked about their happiness they found a correlation. Having a number, your dates this year, gives your brain an easier quantification to work with so it answers more realistic the question if you are happy. You should now that the students denied the correlation.
A primer is something that is a cause of. Lots of thought’s, meanings and hunches have a primer, a cause. But do we know that, can we see that or is that fact permanently fixated before our blind spot colored in by our brain.