page 1 of 3
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.
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?"
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.
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?
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."
Take a Study Break!