On Nietzsche’s Late Notebooks
Notebook 36, June - July 1885 36
My ‘compassion’. - This is a feeling for which no name satisfies me: I experience it when I see a waste of precious capacities, for example at the sight of Luther - what force, and what insipid provincial problems (at a time when in France, the bold and cheerful scepticism of a Montaigne had already become possible!). Or when I see a man falling behind what he could have become, due to some stupid chance. Or worse, when thinking about mankind’s lot - as when, with fear and contempt, I happen to observe the European politics of today, which is certainly also helping to weave the fabric of all mankind’s future. Yes, what might ‘man’ become if - -! This is my kind of ‘compassion’; even if there’s no one suffering whose suffering I would share.
There is in Nietzsche a very human and recognizable form of striving, which comes off as having transcendent importance to those who perhaps haven’t yet realized they are permitted to strive. That is to say, Nietzsche is liberating to a whole class of very earnest people who never quite pieced together before that one can express one’s feelings in thoughts — indeed, that those feelings don’t even come into their own without thoughts. Feelings in the great multitude rise up and sound like a klaxon heard by only one — they themselves. And they are left to connect their thoughts with that blaring feeling as if doing a puzzle. What Nietzsche really represents to many people, taken at its base, is the radical innovative idea that with enough intelligence you can feel more. — Yet another revelation to the human race. A figure like Beethoven isn’t associated with unintelligence, surely. But he is more associated with feeling in general. Someone like Nietzsche manages to convey great feeling — convey that he is alive — courtesy, of all things, of thoughts. Even after that gift to the populace, Nietzsche’s thoughts remain the chief obstacle to people enjoying him. The solution for many is to enjoy him without understanding him, which is not enjoying him at all. That very human and recognizable element is something it is possible to feel estranged from in this day and age. This is not a matter of ex1
changing one viewpoint for another. For example, Nietzsche’s preoccupation with Europe’s place in world-history, the presumption that Europe would remain central, certainly feels dated today. But the problem is not, in a conceit of the present, that our present living viewpoint is the truer one. The word ‘living’ should be in quotes. The fact is that any longing, any preoccupation with anything at all in a certain area — for example, the intersection of politics and the world-historical — is already dated. It is ‘always already’ dated, to use a phrase originally pregnant with meaning, now a byword of pedants. Today, it is possible to feel that such longing, such striving is ‘always already dated’. It is dead. Certainly, that is how it feels to me. Today, we are confronted with — in this UFO era — the problem of surrender, the problem of the meaning of surrender. The fact of an eternalist perspective, the existence of such a perspective which, if it cannot be fully held, can nonetheless be glimpsed, has an alienating effect. One is separated from a sense of urgency, or rather: urgency arrives on the doorstep already dead. Of course, the flipside is the irreducible urgency of every moment. But that is not in the cards for mankind today. It’s not the lesson allowed to be learned. Human beings are captive of their own sense of urgency, their own constant notion that this or that is absolutely urgent. The negation of that blind belief is the total disenfranchisement of the UFO experience. The question of will is absolutely central in the abduction phenomenon. The experience of having no will, of being absorbed within a stronger, alien will is, of course, the prelude to the rediscovery of God’s will. Humans are ‘willful’ creatures at present, but their willfulness is at the infant stage. A baby in a crib kicks its legs, throws out its arms, squirms, jostles, tries to move in all directions. So it is situationally that the human will goes here, there, nowhere in particular. Yet we have never encountered an other to that will, a negation. We have in a way never become conscious that we have a will because we have never encountered its opposite. Human beings are being invited in the UFO experience to experience the total alienation from their own will, which provides a kind of clearing that can in turn provide a place to root for the eternalist perspective. But incidentally, we see this all the time in child-rearing: the child and the parent have a contest of wills. The child frequently gives way because the adult’s will is stronger. The reason why the adult’s will is stronger is because the child is on profoundly uncertain footing, being new to
the world. As the child forms a stronger notion of the world, and grows more secure in the thought of having a place in it, the child’s will also becomes stronger until the parent can no longer dominate it. This lesson of total alienation, inviting one to surrender, we are also encountering world-historically. The emancipation from centuries of theocratically-supported monarchies around the world have resulted in the truth of what those monarchies always were: a lording over the collective wealth by a few. Democracies started up under the theory of popular sovereignty. But over time, anthropological patterns had to reassert themselves. Popular sovereignty disappeared from the American imagination, for example, and was replaced by a strange notion of division of labor: the idea that government and a country’s destiny was best handled by a political class. A perfect synergy of mutually-supporting notions led to a people happily handing over its power — perpetually. And the old patterns reassert themselves, complete with military centurions in the streets, elected officials who speak of ‘ruling’ and not ‘governing’, a whole courtier class that calls itself a fourth estate, etc., and above all: a lording over the collective wealth by a few. Self-governance is a lost cause. But so is hope of averting an environmental disaster. Ecological collapse and sudden climate change are near certainties. Continued pollution, the disease resulting from it, the destruction of natural habitats — all foregone conclusions. Overpopulation: here again, the question of human will foregrounds itself. Where are the people who would voluntarily renounce fucking? Where are the four billion people out of seven who would say: we happily give up any thought of having children so that the species may survive —? One is therefore totally helpless in every direction. In Nietzsche there is precisely this unexamined striving, this unexamined longing for the better. One wonders whether it hasn’t become — dated.