Finding Nemo

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Philosophy Part XVII: Leave a Legacy

I've always wanted to go to the office naked
Critics say its an unreadable "gorgeous disaster"
What are we, really?  Are we just talking apes?  Are we really made in God's image, the perfect animal?  (Why then wisdom teeth, the appendix, tonsils, our useless tail bones, nipples on men?)  Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) had a shocking answer.  In Thus Spoke Zarathustra humans were nothing more than a bridge between apes and the Ubermensch (supermen)!

In the same work, Nietzsche offers an alternate, darker ending.  The "Last Man" is the ultimate couch potato, much like the fat slurping blobs in Wall-E.  "We have found happiness," says the Last Man, and blinks in dull contentment.

Nietzsche offers a choice: we can continue to consume comforts, minimize danger, discourage creativity until the world becomes so safe we are reduced to parasites.  (Ouch, that hurt.)  Or we might aspire to become Ubermensch.  Nietzsche loved the ancient heros of Greek tragedy, how they lived; virtuously, heroically!    He found Christianity especially cancerous.  It encouraged people to throw their lives away, to live meekly in the hopes of an "afterlife."

Dark Utopia
He instructed people to throw all their energies back into this life.  "It is life, this life, that alone counts for anything."  Only in this way could we avoid the fate of the Last Man, and evolve into something greater.

I identify with Nietzsche on several levels.  To begin with, he is perhaps the first philosopher to think about the problem of our future.  Today its common to worry if we will destroy ourselves or become some bionic hybrids, an Ubermensch Nietzsche could never conceive!  But more importantly, Nietzsche touches on something I will call Legacy.  Where Kierkegaard talked of living passionately, Neitzsche talks of living Heroically.  Of pouring your energy into life and doing Something Great.  I couldn't help but think of Ayn Rand and her dark vision of Utopia, with the masses of humanity doomed to their lazy destructive ineptitude; and the few Chosen Ones flown to a mountain paradise where they can pour their energies into creating a New Race.

Apart from the subtle references to genocide and Aryans, I have to admit the first time I read Rand I felt a strong connection to her primary message.  Word hard.  Be brilliant.  Leave a Legacy.  There is something profoundly important there, and that is this: your life is a gift.  It is short and should not be thrown away.  Do something with it, make a difference in this world.

Or you too will one day wake up, old, with that gnawing regret that comes from a life wasted.

1 comment:

  1. Nietzsche's good; I really prefer Kierkegaard though. Something about the great Dane's works that speaks to me.