In her book titled » The Untouched Key, little Alice Miller quotes a guy (named Richard Blunck, on page 88) who devoted himself to Nietzsche's life & work for 40 years. This is possibly the best thing I've read on what it's like to actually read Nietzsche & grapple with his ideas .. something you might call » the Nietzsche experience. (Incoming!)
Blunck's comments confirm & validate my earlier impressions .. to a remarkable degree.
In an intro to a two-thousand-page biography on Nietzsche by Curt-Paul Janz, Blunck writes (my emphasis):
"Those who come across a book of Nietzsche's for the first time, immediately sense that more is required to understand it than mere intellect, that more is involved here than following someone's logic from premise to conclusion.
They will feel they have wandered into an immense force field that is emitting shock waves of a far deeper nature than can be registered by the intellect alone. They will be struck less by the opinions and insights expressed than by the person behind those opinions & insights.
Readers will often react defensively, as if they have something to defend. If readers pursue these ideas that confront, and sometimes even assault..."
That's right .. this is the guy selected to write the intro to a two-thousand-page biography (published 1987). The mother of all biographies. Now, here's what I wrote in a previous entry (dated Oct 11, 2010, before I found Alice's book):
* "Reading Nietzsche feels like someone walking thru your mind wearing a bandolier of grenades, lobbing them, one after another, at everything we (in the Christian Western world) hold sacred."
* "Need to armor-up before entering Nietzsche's garden .. cuz you know it's coming at you. Protective gear. Bulletproof vest. Kevlar, the lightweight one. Lock-n-load. Incoming!"
* "Reading Nietzsche feels like a self-induced spiritual crisis. Yes, it's good to challenge ourselves. (I hope.) Yo Friedrich, bring it, Dawg. Bring your Nazi-inspiring philosophy."
* "Nietzsche challenges me like that. Tho in a different way. He goes deep .. to the very foundations of our Western belief systems. An area normally off-limits."
••• today's entry continues here below •••
That guy (Richard Blunck) devoted himself to Nietzsche's writings for 40 years. Surprising how closely my observations parallel his, no?
I'm surprised I was able to articulate my impressions so quickly .. in considerably less than 40 years. (Must be the Moleskine.)
Common theme » reading Nietzsche is a battle that goes deep, beyond the intellect. (That's why grappling with his ideas can be fatiguing.)
Never heard anybody describe the things I was sensing ('til now), so I wondered if I was the only one.
The reason Nietzsche goes deep .. is cuz he questions our values, some of which have bypassed our intellect and been deposited there & assimilated via our culture (.. which is why different cultures esteem different values, and even the same values are esteemed differently).
Nietzsche also notes that our values affect our will. Then he examines our values in light of the things we will. (We all have a free will, right?)
Considering Blunck dedicated 40 years of his life, he obviously fancies Nietzsche. He said some other things tho, that are hard to swallow .. such as:
"If you stick with Nietzsche (thru the labyrinth & past the minotaur) he will bring you closer to life and its secrets than any other thinker."
Whoa! Normally I'd dismiss such comments as hyperbole. But the way I sync'ed with his ealier comments made me look again. I haven't read enough Nietzsche to confirm or deny such statements.
One of the key terms Blunck uses in conjunction with his description of Nietzsche's work is » authenticity (.. something I strive for here .. by limiting the scope of my topics of discussion to things for which I have first-hand experience).
Here's another quote that lifted both eyebrows:
"Such authenticity does not consist in collecting knowledge and ordering things in a rational manner, little as can be done without such processes, but is a feature of the heart's courage, and the dauntless and indefatigable nature of the mind. It must be lived and suffered if it is to attain that intellectual force which Nietzsche's work demonstrates."
That passage touches upon the notion I've been hinting at in every Nietzsche entry to date .. about how I have this vague impression that Nietzsche's insanity (..somehow..) actually validates his ideas .. which is opposite what you'd normally think.
Note how the terms 'lived' & 'suffered' imply the notion that experience trumps mere intellectual knowledge and academic theorizing.
If you want to write about and discuss ideas that are supposed to take the human race into the next millenium (beyond the astrology & religious dogma of previous milleniums), you have to actually GO THERE .. to the place where those ideas live. No? I mean, if you want to be taken seriously.
[ Most ideas can be safely explored without actually adopting them for yourself. But Nietzsche's are so far out there, or maybe cuz they're so strong, or maybe cuz they go so deep .. that they somehow affect you .. even when you don't consciously adopt them as your own. Tho I'm not sure why. Or how this can be. ]
And if you go on a journey to a faraway place, there's a chance you might not return. (Ground Control to Major Tom.) Only the courageous would dare go on such a journey (.. or the crazy).
What is insanity anyway but a one-way trip .. wherein the casual tourist cannot return (.. or chooses not to).
A famous Nietzsche quote:
"When you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
Only someone who has gazed (for long) into it would know how it feels to assimilate the abyss. The abyss is neither pretty nor pleasant.
When Baudelaire said he felt "the wind of the wing of madness," he was standing near the abyss, watching birds fly in & out. Big black ones .. that can take you with them.
You don't have to be a prophet to look at the history of the human race here on planet earth, note the dominant trends (.. wars & rumors of wars with ever increasingly powerful weapons), and venture a prediction of the future (.. boom).
Uno mas quote (.. from Blunck):
"Nietzsche's authenticity, when combined with a profound understanding of human nature and a prophetic farsightedness and clarity of vision, is apparent to an extent unequalled in the history of Western thought."
Quite a boast, no? The mere ability to write those words and mean them .. is remarkable in itself .. even if the claim is not true. That fact that *anybody* thinks so.
Might be worth noting what what little Alice had to say about Blunck's comments:
"The author of these lines actually comes very close to the truth. Tho he got caught in the labyrinth he mentions and was unable to track down its biographical origins. If he had dared to do so, his life and work in the Third Reich would surely have been jeopardized. For Nietzsche was very much in vogue when Blunck was doing his work in pre-WW II Germany.
His glorification of the "barbaric hero" was taken literally and was lived out with all its horrible consequences. But the very way the National Socialists adapted Nietzsche's ideas for ther own purposes shows how dangerous it can be to view the last links in a biographical chain in isolation, while remaining uninterested and blind to the earliest links in the chain."
Today's entry follows one I made last week, titled » How Little Fritz Became the Great Nietzsche. I actually cut today's entry off the end of that one, and pasted it here, cuz it seemed to suggest a new topic heading, and last week's entry was growing longer than I wanted.
It's really extraordinary that we're able to get to know this man - quite intimately - who lived a hundred years ago. And that his ideas are still able to exert such force.
Here's the gist of what Nietzsche said (I'm paraphrasing) » "Don't let them seduce you with things that *sound* nice .. but will actually do you harm."
For more along these lines, here's a Google search preconfigured for the query » friedrich nietzsche