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Friedrich Nietzsche, in my humble opinion, is the most important modern philosopher, and by a very long way. It was he who spoke about the crisis of values of the modern West. And, most famously it was he who proclaimed that, “God is dead”. You owe it to yourself to read the passage in The Gay Science where this is said. The statement itself is from the mouth of the madman, who goes searching through the village with a lamp alight at midday searching for God, declaring that “we have killed him” and asking whether we will be adequate to the task of replacing Him. It is really a fantastic piece of prose (even in translation). And it’s only about a page long. If you get a chance to read it please do.
To understand the emotion behind Nietzsches writing – and at its best it is incredibly powerful – it helps to know that most of his adult life he was in pain. He felt very powerfully the need to ‘triumph over ourselves’. My personal opinion is that this explains much of his advocacy of the “Overman” – the person who transcends themselves by their own efforts – which Nietzsche proclaimed.
It was Nietzsche who also said, “That which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger”. This is just plain silly. Any of us with a permanent injury know this to be the case. And the worst injuries may not be physical. I think we can understand this statement when we know Nietzsche was in pain – and it may even lead to us having great compassion for him. But it is still plain silly.
To say, “That which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger”
- doesn’t admit our vulnerability. It is talking about some invulnerable, bodiless being that none of us have the luxury of being. And,
- it denies our connections to the past. We carry our past with us. The past traumas can often be healed, but this is a very different thing to denying the past.
The attraction of this statement, I think, is that we like to challenge ourselves. We enjoy getting better at things and attaining a sense of mastery. However, to do this to my way of thinking means knowing our limitations and responding to all the strengths and weaknesses of what we are working with (clay, paint, our relationships, a corporation – whatever it is has both strengths and limitations). Mastery is attained by understanding our vulnerability and working with our situation. To try and triumph over ourselves means to split ourselves into the judge and the judged. This can lead to extraordinary internal conflict – and this is usually a distraction from what it is we are wanting to master.
If we can accept our vulnerability and be sensitively in touch with our situation, then I think we will attain mastery of any skill more readily, and also be more compassionate people.
Also, I have finished the text of a free report called “It’s Not About Success“. It’s a guide to satisfaction through authenticity. It is much longer than a normal post of 300-500, the report is about 17,000. It is full of practical things you can do to experience the core of who you are and living from your core (authenticity). I plan to release the report in a few weeks as a PDF, to promote a course I will be offering, on living more authentically. Any comments you have on it would be very valuable to me. Thanks.