December 3st, 2010
Nietzsche Independent Study
Friedrich Nietzsche: Pain, Suffering and the Death of God
In order to understand Nietzsche, one must actually feel, physically and emotionally, the pain which was the catalyst that inspired him. The phenomenon of pain effects humans different than animals, as humans are both emotionally and physically aware of the pain. Human beings know what it is to tell the great lie of our culture. This lie is the denial of suffering in everyday life. The human capability to shape the pain into something distant, a layer inside our consciousness wrapped around our pain, suffocating the pain. This process lessens the intensity, helping to feel less of its nature. This manipulates the pain into something that fits into the way humans look at life . Nietzsche's understanding of pain shows it to be not necessarily the same as displeasure, and certainly not the same as pleasure, but believing the idea that "pain is pleasure."
When emotional or physical pain strikes too hard, one is neither prepared or programmed for such an impact. The transfiguration that follows is the explanation of how we learn from life. It may be senseless to go into that process now, as it is of a highly specific nature; each process is differently structured for each individual. This is much like the internal crystal of a snowflake. As each individual has a special and unique way of interpreting the pain that they feel. This process is what brought forth Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, the man who metaphorically came climbing out of the caves, expressing Nietzsche’s belief that life is pain. Zarathustra is a way of dealing with pain out of sheer necessity. Zarathustra’s internal fibers were so fine that the pain struck to rip through much of him. He reached an uncommonly deep thread that was so finely tuned that when struck, brought forth the most penetratingly beautiful music.
Nietzsche believes that human wisdom is elevated in direct proportion to the depths of human suffering, as well as the overcoming of suffering. Direct experience of the harsh and impersonal nature of the universe leads to a unique understanding of reality. This sets a person above and beyond the comparatively shallow belief systems and illusionary hopes of the mass of humanity of “the herd.” For the herd, suffering is an affliction upon humanity, either shaped as judgment by higher forces or as part of our “pitiful lot in life.” For Nietzsche, however, suffering is an opportunity. It challenges us as individuals to discover previously unfathomed strength within ourselves. It is the well-spring of greater human existence.
Nietzsche writes in Beyond Good and Evil that,
The discipline of suffering, of great suffering—know ye not that it is only this discipline that has produced all the elevations of humanity hitherto? The tension of soul in misfortune which communicates to it its energy, is shuddering in view of rack and ruin, its inventiveness and bravery in undergoing, enduring, interpreting, and exploiting misfortune, and whatever depth, mystery, disguise, spirit, artifice, or greatness has been bestowed upon the soul—has it not been bestowed through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering?
The act of taking on profound human suffering as a means of personal empowerment makes an individual greater than other human beings. It allows individuals to cast aside old values and beliefs and forge their own intimate meaning in life. In doing so, they emerge free of the herd. They can rightfully look down upon those still squandering their lives, avoiding suffering as much as possible. Individuals can react in fear when suffering comes forth, relying on ridiculous belief systems and avoidance mechanisms to fight suffering. Far better to face it courageously with unflinching hardness of spirit, learning what it can teach and experiencing the entire endeavor as a transformation, rather than as an affliction. This...