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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Living with Nietzsche

Boxing up my books, getting ready to move to a new apartment, I came across my four or five books by Nietzsche. I was in one of those dangerous reading moods where I'm attracted to difficult topics bound to cause me problems. Brushes with Nietzsche will often leave me feeling mentally beaten up, wondering how I was suckered into the fight. However, using my new tools on the internet, such as Wikipedia, I thought I'd give it another go. Perhaps if I learned a few things about his life, I'd have at least a small advantage over him, and after that advantage had been spent, I'd quit for the day and come back another time. I was hoping to put the books into the box, with him as an ally, or at least as a subdued enemy. Probably overly ambitious, almost an obsessive-compulsive need to understand everything... Usually a sign that I should find some friends to hang out with, or get some exercise, or something like that.

Later on, I went to Borders and came across "Living with Nietzsche", by Robert Solomon. This seemed to be just the book I was looking for.
I read a bit of it. Maybe I'll read more later. It seems like a kind of aikido approach to Nietzsche. Use his own momentum to your advantage, without hurting either of you. It takes some of the concepts he ridicules most, such as pity, and gives them a more sympathetic understanding, showing that we can still use Nietzsche's insights on these topics without taking the poison along with it. Not that the knowledge won't still change you in important ways, but that knowledge will be yours, not associated with N as the "guru". Indeed, N seems to want this, but the circumstances under which he wrote maybe prevented him from taking such a tact.

Thinking of the title later on, it reminds me of such topics as "living with alcoholism", or "living with depression". In the end, one hopes that one can learn something from these illnesses. That since one is stuck with them, and they are quite powerful, perhaps one can channel their power in a positive direction? However, if this were the underlying meaning of the title, then is the advice responsible? Would you really wish alcoholism on someone in order that they extract meaning from this destructive force?

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