What is life-affirmation? To be sure it is the heart of all of Nietzsche's books (dare I say even of every word?). It is a holy Yes-saying to life, to one's world as it has been, is now, and as one will make it. The one who affirms life is not passive, but rather is alive and passionate; she does not give in to weariness or resign to a thing outside herself; she takes responsibility for who she is and through that loves life to such an indeterminate extent that the prospect of living it all again repeatedly does not frighten her. A major obstruction in the way of life-affirmation is the view typical of philosophy: that human mortality is tragic. In Western philosophy especially, one can easily trace even to the beginning of Western civilization (to Plato and Aristotle, for ex-ample) the idea that there exist in the universe binary opposites, and that from these we must choose sides: positive or negative, good or bad.
It is with these choices, the idea goes, that we give meaning to our lives (again, as good or bad). Nietzsche rejects this idea, in fact at-tacks it, claiming that this view of existence encourages that the individual look for good [and meaning] out of him and elsewhere (SR),3 that with this view we are forced to make a life-defining choice between alternatives that are not our own, that we ourselves have not selected, however right they may be. This is in fact a denial of life, a failure to embrace and love one's life enough to trust it. Instead, Nietzsche advances his own idea that meaning is not found on one side (of good and bad), but rather within the chaos of life, within the tension of opposing forces.
[...] It is a task that can very easily crush one for the weight of responsibility born. Yet, if one can indeed bear it, i.e., bear it for its own sake, and then love even the burden, the reward is life-affirming: And truly it demands something godlike in him who has cast off the common motives of humanity and has ventured to trust himself for a taskmaster. High be his heart, faithful his will, clear his sight, that he may in good earnest be doctrine, society, law to himself, that a simple purpose may be to him as strong as iron necessity is to others.” Mary Oliver, intro., Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (New York: Random House, Inc., 2000) emphases mi- ne)14 Both types of people are handed the same lot, but whereas the life-deniers seek sanctuary from themselves and this burden that is life, the life-affirmers take all they are given, not as a burden or even as a gift, but simply because it is theirs, and for that reason by itself do they love it. [...]
[...] Indeed, Eternal Recurrence must be taken “literally,” or Adrian Del Caro, ed., Robert Pippen, ed. Thus Spoke Zarathustra (United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2006) xix and Lawrence J. Hatab, Nietzsche's Life Sentence: Coming to Terms with Eternal Recurrence (Great Britain: Routledge; Taylor & Francis Group, 2005) Title else it is easy to drop the challenge as a mere metaphor because “metaphors aren't true anyways.” It takes courage to look at yourself, and even more to love yourself. For self-love requires that you have the courage also to recognize and let go of all that is not you, of all that you have taken as given fact from the institutions (or “superstitions”) of life-deniers that inevitably surround you: “In that protest which each considerate person makes against the superstition of his times, he repeats step for step the part of the old reformers, and in the search after truth finds, like them, new perils to virtue” (H).21 Such peril exists when you shed the skin that has for so long been your security and comfort, leaving you feeling uncomfortably vulnerable and lost, and that is what makes the path to life-affirmation the terrifying and lonely journey that it is and has to be. [...]
[...] Better said, life for her that affirms is both a gift and a burden. In fact, it is all contraries together, fighting with each other, creating tension: “The strongest and most evil spirits have so far advanced humanity the most: they have always rekindled the drowsing passions—all ordered society puts the passions to sleep; they have always reawakened the sense of comparison, of contradiction, of joy in the new, the daring, and the untried; they force men to meet opinion with opinion, model with model” It is through this tension that the desire to overcome is cultivated. [...]
[...] Any world-historical teleology—whether in social-political projects, utopian dreams, or even visions of scientific-technological advances over ignorance and subjection to nature—is, for Nietzsche, one of those ‘shadows' of God that can no longer be sustained after God's demise. (NLS)9 According to Hatab, “each of these possibilities can be diagnosed as projects of ‘evasive diversion,' of overt or subliminal recoilings from saying Yes to the concrete conditions of life as actually lived” (NLS, see footnote 9). If we were to take one representative from each of the above nihilistic groups and present them with the prospect of Eternal Recurrence, all of them would flinch at the mere idea. [...]
[...] EH . Ecce Homo 5. DSA . Divinity School Address 6. H . History 7. NLS . [...]
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