Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Part III: Chapters 10–16
On the Three Evils
Zarathustra praises the three great "evils" that Christian morality condemns: sex, the lust to rule, and selfishness. Sex is only an evil for those that hate their bodies, but it can be a joyous affirmation of the present moment for others. The lust to rule is just another way of saying "will to power": it is the force that drives all change and improvement in this world and it only seems evil to those who remain subservient. Selfishness is little more than taking pride in and enjoying oneself. Only the cowardly, who have reason to be ashamed of themselves, might find selfishness unattractive.
On the Spirit of Gravity
We take life too seriously, attached to notions of universal good and evil, as if we can only be forgiven for living if we steadfastly follow the good. This is the "spirit of gravity," which sees life as a burden to be borne. Zarathustra urges us to learn to love ourselves (not an easy task, he admits) and to see life not as a test or a burden, but as a joy in which we create our own good and our own evil. Rather than look for the only way to live, we should be able to say, "This is my way; where is yours?"
On Old and New Tablets
This chapter is broken into thirty parts, and touches briefly on many of the themes of Nietzsche's philosophy. The "tablets" under discussion are different moral codes, clearly an allusion to the tablets that bore the Ten Commandments. Throughout the chapter, Zarathustra urges us to break the old tablets of our old moralities. Only the world-weary and those who hate life would suggest that they know what is good and what is evil and that these standards are eternal and fixed. The world is in a permanent state of becoming, and not in a state of being. Change is the only constant in the universe, and those who preach that there is a fixed moral code are trying to deny the dynamism of life. Zarathustra alludes to the Pharisees, who had Jesus crucified for trying to create a new system of morals. Zarathustra urges us to be creators, like Jesus, though he also feels that dancing and laughing are important ingredients in the well being of any creator.
In trying to fully face the thought of the eternal recurrence, Zarathustra is overcome with nausea and falls unconscious. After regaining consciousness, he spends the next seven days convalescing. Then he speaks about how humans are the cruelest animals: we love to watch others in pain, and we call this fascination "pity." Zarathustra's nausea comes over him with the thought that if everything recurs eternally, that means that humans, in their mediocrity and smallness, must also recur without change. Zarathustra's animals respond that his destiny is to be the teacher of the eternal recurrence.
On the Great Longing
Zarathustra addresses his soul, speaking of how he has given everything to it to enrich it. But who should be grateful: himself as the giver, or his soul as the receiver?
The Other Dancing Song
Zarathustra dances with life, portrayed as a woman. He whispers in her ear that he knows of the eternal recurrence. The chapter ends with a bell tolling and the claim that "all joy wants eternity."
The Seven Seals (or, The Yes and Amen Song)
Zarathustra finally comes to a full acceptance of the eternal recurrence, singing the joyous refrain: "For I love you, O eternity!"
Throughout most of Part III, Zarathustra wrestles with the consequences of the eternal recurrence, finally accepting it in the final two chapters. In "The Convalescent," we find that Zarathustra has a hard time accepting the recurrence because he cannot accept the eternal recurrence of mediocre humans, but the previous chapters seem largely concerned with the fact that humans are mediocre because they cannot comprehend the eternal recurrence.
Everything that Zarathustra (or Nietzsche) criticizes about humanity can be reduced to the human inability to see the world as being in a state of change. Change is motivated by the will to power, and the will to power is the essential feature of life, so a denial of change amounts to no less than a denial of life. A desire to see things as fixed motivates us to think that there is one true morality, or one true God, or one absolute truth. Zarathustra criticizes this desire as "the spirit of gravity," insisting that we should not feel weighed down by absolutes. The "spirit of gravity" serves the double purpose of, first, denoting the weight that we place on absolutes, and, second, denoting the seriousness of such absolutism that is so contrary to laughter and dance. If there is a "right" way of looking at the world, we will never be inspired to create our own point of view.
Given his constant criticisms of Christianity, it might seem peculiar that Zarathustra should praise Jesus as the creator of a new way of seeing, but Nietzsche's attitude toward Jesus is more ambivalent than his polemics against Christianity might suggest. While Nietzsche reviles the Gospels and despises Christendom, he has a great deal of respect for Jesus himself, as a man. While the Christian morality that Jesus preaches is often (though not always) contrary to Nietzsche's own views, Nietzsche still admires Jesus for having the courage and the will to create his own moral viewpoint. Nietzsche's attitude toward Jesus is similar to his attitude toward the Jews. On the one hand, he sees the Jews as the originators of the slave morality of ressentiment, which he despises. On the other hand, he deeply admires the strength of will and originality with which the Jews turned all their disadvantages into advantages.
The "three evils" of chapter ten can also be understood as being inspired by the spirit of gravity. Sex is one of the most fundamental expressions of joy in one's body and in one's earthly life. As such, it attaches us to the world of the moment and the world of change, and is contrary to the spirit of gravity. The lust to rule is little more than the will to power, and so naturally opposes the spirit of gravity. Zarathustra associates selfishness with an interest in oneself and a desire to improve oneself. Such selfishness would require self- overcoming and change, and so would also be contrary to the inertial forces of the spirit of gravity.
Zarathustra praises "evil" at a number of points in the book, which might seem odd since "evil" is such a negative word. His point is that things that are considered "evil" are only considered "evil" from a certain moral viewpoint. If we are to change, we must overcome our old moralities, and cast them aside, acting contrary to what they dictate. Thus, all change and all overcoming is necessarily "evil" according to those who are stuck in their old ways.
This praise of change and the disparagement of the spirit of gravity ultimately point to the eternal recurrence. In embracing the eternal recurrence, we are rejecting the spirit of gravity, and accepting that all things change. The nature of this change is recurrence. Zarathustra often associates laughter, joy, and dancing with such a point of view, because, in a world without absolutes, there is nothing that needs to be taken seriously. The eternal recurrence, as Zarathustra embraces it in the final two chapters, is the acceptance that every moment in one's life is not a single moment, but one that will be repeated throughout eternity. In a sense, it is the ultimate love of living in the present.
On one hand, nothing is fixed and permanent: there are no "things," no "truths," no absolutes, no God. On the other hand, everything is permanent in the sense that no moment passes for a fixed good. Every moment will be repeated eternally, but none of these moments have some ultimate meaning or purpose attached to them. Life is what we make it, and nothing more. If we can take responsibility for each moment, seeing it not as something that is happening to us, but something that we have made happen, we can enjoy each moment as a feeling of power that stretches out for all eternity.
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