Lately, this Nietzsche quote keeps resurfacing in my brain; I’m completely engrossed by its imagery and eccentricity. I imagine a crowd of dancers, celebrating life, knowing deep within their core that beauty, light, love, and freedom are completely possible. You just might have to separate yourself from the naysayers. The crowd who could not hear the music reminds me of people who dwell in the rigidity of black and whites, who can’t live with the grey of life. People who can’t dance; they’re too busy going to board meetings and cubicles, keeping busy with the “right” images to bear, people who have settled for regularity instead of extraordinary. So one crowd is viewed as insane; the other as refusing to hear. I know which side I want to be on. I want to dance in open fields with the free, the eccentric, the dreamers, those on the fringes…
This quote got me wondering what else there was to Nietzsche’s persona. One time, I saw some cheesy (ignorant is probably more accurate) Christian t-shirt for sale that said “God is dead”-Nietzsche. “Nietzsche is dead.” -God. I can’t stand most Christian t-shirts (minus my pastor’s awesome “What Wouldn’t Jesus Do?” t-shirt in which Jesus is hang-gliding). This one especially irks me because it suggests that as Christians, you shouldn’t listen to anything Nietzsche says. But Nietzsche has the imago dei (Image of God) in him. And I’m discovering just how beautiful this image is. Stunning. Makes me want to invite him on a hike to muse about life, light, and darkness. Too bad he really is dead, though (circa 1900).
I imagine Nietzsche’s persona to be an intriguing mix of light and darkness; a mix we all have, perhaps, but looks different in each one of us. Some of his words, for example, leave me breathless in beauty:
“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”
“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
“What else is love but understanding and rejoicing in the fact that another person lives, acts, and experiences otherwise than we do…?”
Others make me want to shout, “Amen!”
“I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time.”
“In truth, there is only one Christian and He died on a cross.”
“I would only believe in a God that knows how to dance.” (I’m a big believer that there will be dancing in Heaven. And if God isn’t dancing, I imagine s/he’ll at least be DJ-ing)
Others seem dark:
“The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.”
“Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torment of man.”
And others make me scratch my head in confusion, brewing up possible ideas for what he meant:
“Does wisdom perhaps appear on the earth as a raven which is inspired by the smell of carrion?”
“Kalau diinjak cacing akan bergelung. ini cerdik. dengan demikian berkurangnya peluang diinjak lagi. dalam bahasa moral: tahu diri” (I might not be so confused if I understood German).
It makes me mad that at a young age, I was presented (in the name of Christianity) with the notion that I shouldn’t listen to this guy because he has beef with God. And having beef with God is bad (unless it’s the ram you’ve just sacrificed) (more not-so-funny sarcasm). All of these quotes remind me that we can never completely understand the soul of another. I’ve been asking friends and family if they’ve ever heard about him or read any of his literature, hoping somehow I could figure out who this guy is and what he really meant by some of his elusive words.
All of this makes me realize how quick I am to want to compartmentalize people, as if codifying them in boxes will somehow make me be able to understand them better. But people don’t live in boxes. Most of us live in homes, yes, but we go into the outside world and dance and play and work and sing and write and dream and run. Nietzsche was no different. Nietzsche wasn’t meant for little ol’ me to place in a box. He’s a person with a story. A story that I don’t have figured out. And that’s ok. Sometimes mystery and wonder are just as much inspiring traits to have as honesty and candidness.
I see such beauty and inspiration dripping from his penned words. And I see darkness too. A bit of hopelessness. That suicide is somehow a consolation. But each of us display hues and shades of darkness and light; some of us are just more willing to acknowledge both the light and darkness within us. I had a conversation like this in an open field on a spring afternoon with a beautiful soul. The two of us, laying in the grass, mused about what it means to love the darkness and the light. I don’t have any answers. Just some thoughts… That darkness and beauty do coexist within me. I need not be afraid of the darkness, for it is human. But I have nothing to fear. The light, the beauty, the imago dei that fills our souls with life. That will never leave.
Thanks, Colleen, for lying in the fields.
Thanks, Needtobreathe, for teaching me about the juxtaposition of darkness and light.