Week's End Thoughts & Reflections, November 10, 2018
Rally to protect the Mueller investigation
Waterfront Park, Portland, Oregon
Is it hyperbole to suggest that we are facing a full-blown constitutional crisis with the forced resignation of Jeff Sessions and the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general? Each day brings fresh evidence that Whitaker is a political hack who was elevated to this position for reasons we all can guess. What can we do? For a start, we can contact our elected officials to beg and beseech them to pass legislation that will protect the Mueller investigation. Here in Portland I am fortunate. My message to my congressional representatives is that I support their commitment to protect the Mueller investigation and uphold the rule of law. Senator Ron Wyden demonstrated that commitment with a fiery address at Thursday night's rally at Waterfront Park. As he noted after being mistakenly referred to as Senator Merkley, he was certain he spoke for Jeff Merkley as well as for himself.
Unsubstantiated allegations of voting fraud leveled by the president, Rick Scott in Florida, and Brian Kemp in Georgia are a taste of what we can expect in 2020.
Sue Prideaux is an English novelist and the author of prize-winning biographies of Edvard Munch and August Strindberg. Her new biography of Friedrich Nietzsche, I Am Dynamite!, is a joy to read. Prideaux is fine storyteller whose accounts of Nietzsche's intellectual development, his tempestuous relationships with Richard and Cosima Wagner, Lou Salomé, his sister Elizabeth, and others, his poor health and many physical afflictions, and his peripatetic wanderings through Europe are captivating. She is also quite good on the books and ideas.
Prideaux suggests that it is not clear exactly what happened in Turin on the morning of January 3, 1889, though the story is well known. A sad and solitary figure left the house where he lodged on Piazza Carlo Alberto as usual. Upon witnessing a horse being beaten mercilessly by a cabbie, Nietzsche broke down. Sobbing, he threw his arms around the horse's neck and collapsed. He never recovered.
This much was familiar to me. I was not aware of details pertaining to his progressively erratic and delusional behavior that raised concern among his friends in the weeks and months leading up to his collapse and his condition immediately afterward. Prideaux's account is harrowing and heartbreaking for one who has found in Nietzsche a somewhat kindred spirit since coming to him by way of Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future some forty-five years ago in Dr. Long's class on phenomenology and existentialism.
I heartily recommend I Am Dynamite! if you are at all interested in intellectual history. Not only is it enlightening, it's a good read, almost a page-turner, in the best sense of that term.
Keep the faith.
Postscript, 6:35 pm
I polished off the Nietzsche bio this evening. At the end Prideaux includes a selection of Nietzsche's aphorisms that seem to her to have strong contemporary resonance. She compares them to Bob Dylan's lyrics in their ability to mean what the reader happens to see in them. It's little wonder I like her book. Here are some I particularly like.
Isn't life a hundred times too short to be bored?
My formula for human greatness: amor fati, love your fate. Want nothing different, neither backward or forward for all eternity. Not just to tolerate necessity—but to love it...
Man does not strive for happiness; only the Englishman does that.
The advantage of a bad memory is that one can enjoy the same good things for the first time several times.
Man is a rope fastened between animal and superman—a rope over an abyss.
Art is the supreme task, the truly metaphysical activity in this life.
How can a man know himself? He is a thing dark and veiled; and if the hare has seven skins, man can slough off seventy times seven and still not be able to say: "this is really you, this is no longer outer shell."
Some men have sighed over the abduction of their wives, but more over the fact that nobody wished to abduct them.
You need hashish to get rid of unbearable pressure. Well then, I need Wagner. He is the antidote to all things German.
To live alone one must be an animal or a god, says Aristotle. But you can be both—a philosopher.
Today's philosophers want to enjoy the divine principle of incomprehensibility.
Mystical explanations are considered deep; the truth is they are not even shallow.
You repay a teacher badly by becoming merely a pupil.
How to corrupt a youth: instruct him to hold in high esteem only those who think like him.
Become what you are.