This continues my previous article on Nietzsche’s section in Thus Spoke Zarathustra called the The Tree on the Mountainside.
The young man is learning what it will take to achieve excellence as a human being. He is inventing his soul, building it up like one builds an elaborate castle. He has learned that mundane things, everydayness, as Heidegger calls it, will never satisfy his thirst for life. Mediocrity is not the path to the Übermensch.
Zarathustra smiled and said: “Some souls will never be discovered,
unless they are first invented.”
“You speak the truth, Zarathustra. I no longer trust myself since aspiring to the heights, and no one trusts me anymore – how did this happen? I’m changing too fast. My today contradicts my yesterday. I often skip steps when I climb – no step forgives me that. If I am at the top then I always find myself alone. No one speaks with me, the frost of loneliness makes me shiver. What do I want in the heights? How ashamed I am of my climbing and stumbling! How I mock my violent panting! How I hate the flying one! How weary I am in the heights!”1
When you decide to follow a path of transformation, you learn very quickly it is not the path of least resistance. Your family and friends will sometimes treat you differently. They will try to convince you that you’re making mistakes in your life that will lead to destruction and misery. You will doubt yourself and your choices. During the process of the intensification of consciousness, you will be very lonely. No one can help you overcome yourself. You must do it alone. The “frost of loneliness” will make you shiver until such a time when your upper branches break through the loftiest boughs and rise into the full brilliance of the sun’s light.
The tree that towers above other trees and all animals stands alone. It is not a social event, where all trees join together in harmony. If it desires to communicate, it is very difficult to do so, since most of its peers are not concerned with what it might say. So, it stands there basking in the sunlight and waits, but for what? It searches within the dark cloud. It waits for the lightning.
Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue? Where is the madness, with which you should be cleansed?
Behold! I teach you the Superman: he is this lightning, he is this madness!2
Zarathustra has already announced that he is “a prophet of the lightning and a heavy drop from the cloud.”3 In another place, he says “I want to teach humans the meaning of their being, which is the overman, the lightning from the dark cloud ‘human being.’4 Lightning emanates from the dark cloud. Human being is that dark cloud, and only the lightning will free the young man from the mundanity and banality of everydayness.
This young man is, in Colin Wilson’s term, an outsider. Zarathustra is attempting to point him to greatness, and away from the usual human mediocrity which is so common. Even though he did not call it such, Nietzsche had the Outsider in mind. Colin Wilson writes:
For the Outsider, the world into which he has been born is always a world without values. Compared to his own appetite for a purpose and a direction, the way most men live is not living at all; it is drifting. This is the Outsider’s wretchedness, for all men have a herd instinct that leads them to believe that what the majority does must be right. Unless he can evolve a set of values that will correspond to his own higher intensity of purpose, he may as well throw himself under a bus, for he will always be an outcast and a misfit. But once this purpose is found, the difficulties are half over. Let the Outsider accept without further hesitation: I am different from other men because I have been destined to something greater; let him see himself in the role of predestined poet, predestined prophet or world-betterer, and a half of the Outsider’s problems have been solved.5
May all our young women and young men heed these words and create the values that are so needed in our day. The earth cries out for them to fulfill their destinies.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Trans. Adrain Del Caro. Cambridge: New York, 2006.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Trans. R.J. Hollingdale. Penguin: New York, 1961.
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