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Zarathustra hears a soothsayer predicting a great future emptiness, where we will feel incapable of creating anything new, nor even capable of dying out. This prediction puts Zarathustra into a deep depression, during which he dreams that he is a watchman in a castle full of coffins. Suddenly, a wind comes and bursts the gates open and a coffin bursts open full of laughter. One of Zarathustra's disciples interprets this dream as meaning that Zarathustra will awaken us from our gloom and emptiness with his life and laughter.
Zarathustra complains that he has never yet found a complete human being, only "inverse cripples" who excel in one attribute, but who are weak in everything else. He could not bear the present and the past if he could not look forward to a future of whole human beings that redeem this past. The trouble with the past is that we cannot change it. The will suffers, because, no matter how much change and creation it may effect in the future, it cannot change the past. We come to see this suffering of the will as a kind of punishment, and so see all life as suffering and punishment, and seek to cease trying to will anything in order to escape from this punishment. Zarathustra suggests that this pessimism results from seeing the past as an immovable thing that simply occurred without human influence. If we can come to see the past as something that we willed, we can find redemption from our suffering and punishment.
Zarathustra claims to have three kinds of human prudence. First, he suggests that it is better to be deceived from time to time than always to be on guard for deceivers. Second, he admires vain people, because their efforts to please are entertaining and because they are unaware of their own modesty. Third, he scoffs at the small things that people call "evil," suggesting that greatness is only possible through great evil.
Zarathustra leaves the people once more to strengthen himself in solitude. He knows, but is still unable to speak about, the culmination of his philosophy (which we shall see in Part three is the eternal recurrence).
The chapter "On Redemption" revisits the theme of the will to power. Seeking power over—and freedom from—everything external to it, our will finds itself stumped when it confronts the past. I can act in the present to direct my future, but there is nothing that I can do to change my past. All life thrives on change, and the past is a permanent, immobile reminder of our seeming powerlessness.
Zarathustra gives us two analyses of the will when it is confronted with this impediment. In the first analysis, the will suffers because it is unable to overcome this obstacle. Because the past is an immovable feature of life, we come to see all life as unchangeable suffering. The will cannot touch the past, and it suffers so long as this is the case. The only way to overcome this suffering, according to this first analysis, is to stop the act of willing entirely. Thus, the will is turned against itself in a spiritual equivalent to suicide. In this analysis, Nietzsche is almost certainly thinking primarily of Buddhism. Buddhist meditation is essentially an attempt to extinguish the self, and all the desires and passions fueled by selfishness. The ideal of nirvana is a total extinction of the self that Nietzsche would see as the undesirable self- destruction of the will.
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