Beyond Good and Evil

by: Friedrich Nietzsche

"From High Mountains": Aftersong

Nietzsche was very ill during the 1880s, and he found the clean, mountain air did wonders to improve his health. He spent many of his happiest moments and wrote many of his greatest works in solitude in the Alps. No wonder, then, that he should associate freedom of spirit with heights, and with mountains in particular.

The image of the bent bow also pops up a number of times in Nietzsche's writing. He compares inner struggle and self- overcoming to the bending of a bow, and speaks harshly against democrats and Jesuits for trying to "unbend" this bow. Like the bending of a bow, this struggle creates great inner tension, but, he argues, the tightly bent bow shoots arrows the farthest. This image of the bow also fits in with Nietzsche's conception of humans as a kind of bridge between animal and overman. We are not ends in ourselves: we are merely a means, a bow that must be bent in order to shoot for the overman, our ultimate goal.

Nietzsche also plays frequently with youth and wickedness. He concludes the previous chapter with an affectionate reference to his "wicked thoughts." For Nietzsche, "wicked" is not a negative term, but rather suggests a kind of lightness and slyness, a refusal to remain fixed in place. It would be the perfect adjective to describe a free spirit. That Nietzsche's speaker is a "wicked archer" suggests that he has freed his spirit through a process of self- overcoming. Nietzsche associates this freedom of spirit with youthfulness: one only grows old if one allows oneself to get fixed in place. Thus, as the speaker has grown older chronologically, he has grown younger spiritually.

Lastly, we might remark on the importance of friends to Nietzsche. He lived a very lonely life, and rarely had friends who understood him at all. He longed for a disciple who would not admire him abjectly, but who would be able to engage with his thoughts, criticize them, and move beyond them. Sadly, Nietzsche never found such a disciple, and his "new friends" never arrived.