How Little Fritz Became the Great Nietzsche

If history could've buried Nietzsche, it would have. Cuz he said things that were not merely offensive, but downright heretical (.. such as 'God is dead'). The Dark Ages would've had him drawn & quartered. Progress.

Few people with whom I spoke -- and I chat with some fairly educated folk, including professors -- knew very much about the man. The ones who did tho, seemed to like him the least.

The more religious a person was, the more they disliked Nietzsche, as a general rule. And 'dislike' is putting it mildly. I mean, people got pretty fired up reading his aphorisms .. especially those on religion & morality.

NietzscheI'm like » Dude, I didn't write the book. Okay? I'm just reading it.

But you don't have to read many headlines these days to know that organized religion has had its share of problems. We're talking BIG problems.

Serious morality issues continue to plague the church. You know. You read the news. And that's hypocritical, cuz they claim to represent & champion the moral standard. Especially when 'tolerance' isn't considered a Christian virtue.

» Nietzsche & Religion

So, at least in our day, it's not unreasonable to find fault with religion. And I doubt things were much different back in Nietzsche's day.

The reason history hasn't been able to bury Nietzsche .. is cuz he was brilliant. Remarkably perceptive. No doubt about it. Anyone who grapples with his ideas - even on a casual level - will readily admit. Tolstoy was only partially correct.

That's why he's still one of the youngest ever tenured professors (at age 24). And note that being a professor meant his intellect was highly developed.

Is God Dead?Most people associate Nietzsche with an arrogant 19th century intellectual who found fault with religion because of its hypocritical morality.

Yeah okay. But Nietzsche wasn't the first or only to do so. Remember what Jesus said?

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying the scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

For they say and do not. You don't hear that verse preached from many pulpits. Seems little has changed over the centuries.

No one is immune to error cuz we're all human, and therefore fallible (by definition). You know anybody who's not-capable of making a mistake? I don't.

But hypocrisy is particularly odious .. such as that practiced by politicians when they write laws to punish those who do the very same things they themselves do in secret (.. in an airport bathroom, for example).

••• today's entry continues here below •••

Alice Miller» Little Alice Miller

Of all the people I read after .. on how Fritz became Nietzsche, little Alice Miller climbed the furthest up his butt and shined the most penetrating & insightful searchlight on his life.

Impressive women. (She died earlier this year in France at age 87.)

In her book titled » The Untouched Key, she dedicates Part Two (of this 3-part book) to Nietzsche. And she digs way deeper, psychologically, than anyone else I found.

There's also some stuff in there on Stalin, Hitler, Dostoevsky & others (Kafka), but the meat of her book focuses on little Fritz. (That's what his family called him.) And there she focuses her formidable powers (of perception & insight) .. because she was a Polish Jew (born 1923), who suffered under the Nazis.

And the Nazis used Nietzsche's words to validate their plans and stoke up the people. Supposedly the soldiers carried his sayings with them in their backpacks as they marched off to war.

In a way, Alice is similar to Nietzsche. She speaks her mind and doesn't sugar-coat. In discussing her motivation for the book, she says (page 75, translated from the German):

NaziMy work with the Nietzsche material made me realize that society's ignorance about the injuries inflicted on children represent a great danger for humanity.

Sentences from Nietzsche could never have been misinterpreted in support of fascism and the annihilation of human beings if people had understood his words for what they were: the encoded language of of a child who was forbidden to express his true feelings.

Young men would never have been willing to march off to war with his words in their pack if they had known that his ideology promoting the destruction of morality and traditional values such as charity & mercy stood for the raised fist of a child starved for truth who had suffered under the domination of hypocrisy.

Those are fairly obtuse terms, but they capture the thrust of where she's headed. And go there she does. With very detailed specifics.

Alice is famous for writing The Drama of the Gifted Child (1981), which I have not read. (Library lists it as 'missing'.) I first heard about her when she died earlier this year. She wrote about a dozen books.

None of Nietzsche's biographers spend much time dwelling on his childhood .. where Alice focuses ALL her attention. Even the two-thousand page biography dedicates only 10 pages to his childhood. Factor in her unique psychological insights, and no one comes close to the emotional penetration she provides.

Her insights become even more interesting when we analyze them in light of Nietzsche's philosophy .. when, for example, we find that Nietzsche values falsity above truth.

Think about it. For him, the truth was not the most important thing .. relative to 'appearances'. Why might that be? Maybe his truth suk'ed .. is what Alice implies.

In other words, he could fashion an 'appearance' that was more valuable than the reality of his 'truth'. Alice doesn't delve into his philosophy like this. I'm simply putting together one plus one, applying her insights to his philosophy. For myself.

Nietzsche teenager» No Fun for Little Fritz

Little Fritz was the only male in a house that included his young mother, grandmother, two paternal aunts, and a sister .. all of whom tried to outdo each other (day after day), training him to be a "strong" man.

His father lost his mind when Fritz was 3 or 4. Dad continued living with the family for nearly a year before he finally died.

As you might imagine, his dad's insanity & death really messed with the young boy's head. He loved his father.

Medieval Discipline

Little Fritz was locked in a dark closet (isolation) whenever he had an outburst.

"He was not allowed to cry, scream or be in a rage. He was only supposed to be well-disciplined and do brilliant work."

Alice doesn't buy the syphilis story (.. neither does this medical research center):

Historians locate the cause of his tragic ending in a venereal disease he supposedly contracted as an adolescent. The outcome is in keeping with moral standards: the just, though delayed, punishment, in the form of a fatal disease for having visited a prostitute. This is similar to the present attitude toward AIDS.

But what those who raised and taught Nietzsche actually did to the boy did not happen so long ago that we can no longer find out about it. Young graduate students can uncover the story, read the letters from his sister and others.

And then she takes off .. for 50 pages, presenting facts & insight. Fascinating. The movie » Good Will Hunting comes to mind. Brilliant but troubled youth.

Basically, Alice Miller comes at it from the standpoint (I'm paraphrasing) » Dear parents, you mistreat your children (thru ignorance, abuse & neglect) at your peril .. and this mistreatment presents a risk to society at large and humanity itself. So ya might wanna lighten up, hoss, and get with the program.

You should see the way she shined a light up Stalin's butt. Most impressive. (Coulda swore I saw him smile.)

And especially her look at Dostoevsky .. who I am familiar with. That's where she won my respect. Cuz she caught things that I knew but failed to connect. I didn't put together one and one .. things that were obvious in retrospect, but only after she shined her light on certain observations. What insight.

Nietzsche was a professor at the University of Basel (Switzerland) where Alice Miller did her post-grad work after the war. Interesting coincidence.

I could continue, and probably won't be able to resist adding to it later, cuz there is so much more to share, but I'd really like to keep today's entry short as possible (.. unlike the Che entry, which grew rather large). The curious can read her book for themselves.

It is not easy to distill Nietzsche (the madman whom the Nazis idolized), so today's entry represents a challenge.

Nietzsche» Nietzsche's Insanity

Okay, one more thing. Uno mas cosa. The question of insanity plays a key role in the Nietzsche story .. cuz it speaks to the issue of credibility .. depending upon how a person might approach his ideas.

Was it syphilis or did he go stark raving mad on his own? Of course, nobody knows for sure.

But I think, from reading him, and reading about him, you definitely get the feeling it would not be unreasonable to think Nietzsche went mad on his own .. withOUT the syphilis, I mean. Just a hunch, but I have reasons, too.

Me? My gut says it wasn't syphilis. There ya have it. That and $1.60 will buy you a cup of Ethiopian coffee here in Newport Beach. =)

But syphilis is definitely the kinder, gentler, more palatable explanation .. especially for Nietzsche scholars. (Otherwise their hero is a nut-case.)

And it's not like the family wasn't conducting a full-scale public relations campaign for years .. trying to preserve his reputation. Especially his sister Elizabeth, whose income depended on her brother's writings.

I think the main point is that it wouldn't be unusual to think Nietzsche cracked on his own. No, that would not be a stretch.

Another line of thought acknowledges Nietzsche saw things we mere commoners never could. Did he see something that made him go nuts?

» Nietzsche teenagerChildhood Snapshot

I'll close with this snapshot as the best illustration I found on Nietzsche's formative years (pg 81):

Soon after the death of his father, Nietzsche's little brother died too, leaving Fritz as the only male in the house in a household of women. This might have turned out well if one of these women treated him with tenderness.

But they all tried to outdo one another in teaching him self-control and other Christian values.

The originality of his imagination and the honesty of his questions were too much for their sense of morality, and so they attempted to silence the child's curiosity, which made them uncomfortable, by strict supervision and a stern upbringing.

Here comes the good part:

What else can a child do, when so completely at the mercy of a regimen like this? Except to adapt and suppress his genuine feelings with all his might? That is what Friedrich did, and he soon became the model child and a model pupil.

One biographer describes a scene that clearly illustrates how extreme the boy's self-denial was. Caught in a heavy rain on the way home from school, Friedrich did not quicken his pace but continued to walk slowly with his head erect.

His explanation was that, "Upon leaving school one must go home in a calm and mannerly way. For that is what the regulations require."

We can only imagine the training that must have preceded such behavior.

What do you think now? Would be hard NOT to go nuts, no? Yes, this is how little Fritz became the great Nietzsche (.. whom the Nazis adored). Seems the ladies succeeded, in a way. At a cost.

» Minister | Pastor | BishopTraining for the Family Profession

And here's the kicker. Both of Friedrich's parents came from families where the dad was a Protestant minister (Lutheran, I think). For generations both families (.. the mom's & the dad's) had produced a succession of such ministers (.. pastors, I think).

Now, what did his mom + grandmother + both aunts + sister Elizabeth all train little Friedrich to be? That's right » a minister. Just like his dad, and his dad's dad, and his mom's dad, and their dads before them.

And if you're gonna be a mnister and working for the Big Guy himself, well then, of course, your behavior needs to be beyond reproach. Right? At least that's the idea that comes with the job. Else you'd be a hypocrite, right? (.. a topic about which Nietzsche seemed to have some things to say).

That would be a heavy load for any boy. Doesn't sound like much fun, does it?

See it? They were preparing little Fritz for his religious profession .. the one he inherited from his dad .. who lost his mind and babbled incoherently for close to a year before he died .. after he spent his life serving God.

Doesn't seem right, does it? Doesn't seem fair .. certainly not to that little boy who loved his dad. Betcha Fritz had a few questions he wanted God to answer. Questions he had to answer himself.

Being the only remaining male offspring meant Friedrich (at age 4 or 5) was expected to carry on in his father's sted. (Here's where my lightbulb lit up.) Easy to see how he might've had a problem with religion. Think about it. For him, God was dead.

There's Nietzsche. It ain't pretty, but his ideas should make more sense.

People who really like Nietzsche seem to like him because of the way he gave the finger to religion (.. with intellectual vigor). And people who don't like him .. don't like him for the very same reason. Interesting, no?

But that doesn't mean his points & ideas weren't valid. Yet the prevalence of religion in his childhood is especially interesting given that a main topic for Nietzsche was morals (.. or "what is right & what is wrong" .. sometimes termed ethics).

» Steinman Park | Lancaster PennsylvaniaEffects of Witnessing Parental Insanity

The most freaked I've ever been .. was when I called my mom once. She had cancer and was home, but had gone back into the hospital.

She lived up in Connnecticut while I was working down in Pennsylvania.

What are you doing back in the hospital, mom? I asked. She started repeating » "The black lady. The black lady. The black lady..."

A chill shot thru me. It was like I was paralyzed. Extremely uncomfortable.

Nurse grabbed the phone (bet it was a black nurse) and explained that mom had had a reaction to the chemo. (She was always very sensitive to drugs and chemo is poison they pump straight into your veins.) Soothing voice, the nurse. Very calm.

Mom saying things that sounded like she'd lost her mind really freaked me out. Caught me completely off guard. Suk'ed the air right outta my lungs. Like a punch in the gut. The person whose belly you climbed out of.

I was shook up for days. Spooked. The cancer itself didn't freak me out like that.

I was in my 20's and we had only spoke on the phone for a minute. So I can only imagine how freaked little Fritz musta felt and what effect it might've had on him.

[ Mom was okay later. I mean, she never said any more crazy sounding things. (No more chemo, either.) But cancer is very bad. All my friends liked my mom. Mom stayed with me & the Dog when she visited me in Hawaii.

We were living downtown Waikiki (.. the Dog being a city-boy, who loves the soothing sound of traffic & police sirens.) Ala Wai blvd .. right below 2 strippers. Sandy & Bambi =) ]

Always interesting to see how these entries turn out. Must be the yoga.

And note I haven't even gotten into what Nietzsche actually said. But that kind of commentary is much easier to find.

Nor have I expounded upon the notion that Nietzsche's insanity - in a way - can be viewed as validating his ideas .. the opposite of what we might ordinarily expect. (Something I alluded to in both previous entries on Nietzsche.) But I need to ponder that idea more first. It's there, but still vague.

Nietzsche lived ~ a hundred years ago. Some people live that long. So Nietzsche didn't live so very long ago .. in the grand scheme of things.

That's it. I'm done. Don't try to get me to write more.

Nietzsche is a trip. For more along these lines, here's a Google search preconfigured for the query » nietzsche.

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This page contains a single entry by Rad published on October 27, 2010 10:27 AM.

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