It is impossible to serve both truth and the people. Philosophers who want to please the people will inevitably end up justifying and rationalizing popular prejudice. Granted, their relationship with the people is mutually beneficial, but the people have given up the higher pursuit of the truth. That pursuit, followed by true philosophers, carries no fame and no rewards, but only suffering and sacrifice that strengthen the spirit.
Zarathustra laments that he is so full of wisdom, spirit, and life that he must always give and never receive. He feels loneliness in never having to need anyone or anything.
Zarathustra sings a song to dancing girls about life and wisdom. Both are women, always changing, always seductive, and so similar to one another that one loves one because of the other, and makes them both jealous as a result. After his song, evening falls, and Zarathustra becomes sad, feeling unable to justify his being alive.
Zarathustra thinks back on his youth and the ideas and ideals he held then. All that remains unchanged from this time is his will, which has helped him to overcome his losses and to strive ever forward.
Zarathustra claims that everything that lives obeys, and if you can't obey yourself, someone else will command you. Commanding is more difficult and dangerous than obeying, but we are all driven to it by our fundamental will to power. The powerful obey themselves and command others. Those who are commanded submit so that they may command those who are even weaker. Because power can only be gained through obedience, life always seeks to submit, change, and overcome itself. As a result, life is characterized by change: nothing—not truth, not morality, not God—is permanent or absolute.
The solemn, sublime seeker of truth is noble in his pursuit, but he still needs to learn about beauty and laughter, and to practice graciousness and kindness. Zarathustra values lightness and kindness in a powerful person because such a person is also capable of great solemnity and cruelty. There is no virtue in being kind simply because one hasn't the power to be cruel.
Modern people accumulate the learning of all past ages and parade this knowledge as their own. They take pride in their skepticism, in being free from faith and superstition, but this is only because they themselves are empty and have created nothing of their own.
Zarathustra criticizes contemplative people who claim that they merely want to perceive the world without interfering with it. He says that they feel guilty imposing themselves upon the world, and so they repress their will to create. They want to reflect, like the moon, rather than radiate, like the sun. Beauty is not a thing one views from afar. Beauty is where the acts of willing and creating are at their strongest.
Zarathustra criticizes scholars for being uncreative and petty, accumulating knowledge as if it were an amusing pastime.
While Zarathustra admires poets for their creativity, he complains that they try to appear deeper than they are. Ultimately, one finds old prejudices and assumptions at the bottom of their pretty writings. Zarathustra also leaves us with a little warning, saying of poets, "we lie too much."
Great events—such as the invention of new values—are hardly noticed. The state and the church make all sorts of self-important noises, but they have no real impact on things. The people take little notice of what Zarathustra has said, as they are more interested in a ghost of Zarathustra that flew by crying out "It is time! It is high time!"
The chapter, "On Self-Overcoming," contains one of the more comprehensive accounts of Nietzsche's philosophy of the will to power. The concept of the will to power underlies all of Nietzsche's mature thought, and all of his conclusions should theoretically follow from this one principle. The principle, in brief, states that all life strives for power. This one word, "power," comprehends a number of different things, though. On the one hand, there is the externalized, physical power of the barbarian who rapes, conquers, and pillages, and on the other hand, there is the internalized, spiritual power of the ascetic monk, who fasts and meditates. In both of these cases, and in all others, we might get a better handle on the concept of power by thinking of it as freedom from external constraint. The barbarian doesn't have to do what other people tell him to do because he can kill them, while the ascetic monk has even freed himself from the demands of his body.
The concept of self-overcoming is central to the will to power, because all great power requires power over oneself. As Zarathustra suggests, all things must obey something, and those that cannot obey themselves must obey someone else. For instance, barbarian hordes may seem powerful, but because they lack self-control and discipline, a more tightly controlled and disciplined army can overwhelm them.
Because great power can only be achieved through self-overcoming and self- mastery, the struggle of all life—its will to power—is a will to self-overcoming. We all seek the means to free ourselves as much as possible. This exercise takes place on different levels. For a slave, it might consist in seeking physical freedom, or if this is impossible, at least as much freedom and power as a slave can have. For an ascetic, as we suggested, this might be an effort to find freedom from bodily needs and desires. For a philosopher, this might be an effort to find freedom from the prejudices and assumptions of the past so as to afford a clearer view of the truth. Nietzsche's conception of the overman is based on an ideal of total freedom: nothing constrains or controls the overman but himself, so he is the creator of his entire universe.
All these efforts for increased power and freedom demand change: we must change in order to overcome ourselves. Because the will to power is the fundamental drive of all life, and because power evokes change, change is therefore the fundamental characteristic of all life. In the "Dancing Song," we see both wisdom and life portrayed as constantly changing. The only thing that remains constant, as Zarathustra suggests in the "Tomb Song," is the will that motivates this change. Thus, any attempt to see a moral code, or anything else, as permanent, represents to Nietzsche a weakening of vital forces—giving up the drive for self-overcoming. If we are to thrive, we must thrive on change.
In "On the Land of Education" we begin to witness what will be a series of attacks on the world of Nietzsche's contemporaries, focusing primarily on his contemporaries' nihilism. The scientific skepticism that precipitated the death of God has created no new values or goals, according to Nietzsche. As a result, modern life is empty, directionless, and devoid of will. Scholars seek only an "immaculate perception" of the truth, looking to dig up knowledge without any particular goal in mind. Poets, too, craft only pretty words that invariably are founded in older moral codes that they have not yet outgrown. In the Christian world, self-overcoming was practiced with the goal of pleasing God and going to heaven. Nietzsche thinks that these goals are now absent, and that there seems to be little to replace them. Nietzsche chillingly foresees that if we put our wills into nationalistic ideals, we will unleash wars of horrific magnitude. The "great events" in this world are not so obvious and imposing as the nation-state. He has Zarathustra propose the overman as the new goal instead. Both scholars and poets could conceivably aim for such a goal, but those at present are mostly aimless.