The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Thursday, July 20, 2006
Current Affairs ... Personal Reflections ... Philosophy ...

I’m sitting at my computer after having dinner, sipping a little glass of B&B.; I listened to a CD lecture on Nietzsche while preparing my stir-fry, and two points got stuck in my mind. First off was Nietzsche’s disdain for the desire shared by so many people to have a predictable and comfortable life, to avoid tumult and surprise. Well, two nights ago here in my over-rated little town of Montclair, New Jersey, a macho thunderstorm came roaring thru. Nothing that you southerners couldn’t ride out on the porch, but a bit much for our precious little community. It knocked down a lot of trees, blew out the power, and caused some property damage.

I went without power for 24 hours, and had to put up with some traffic jams on the way to and from work; the town had to temporarily close various roads to clean up the damage. It wasn’t really much, but the locals seemed shell-shocked. You can read about their angst on the Barristanet blog. If that sort of thing interests you. The power goes out fairly frequently here (well, not quite like in Baghdad or Khartoum; maybe every two months or so). And they favor tall old trees in Monty Clair, so the city won’t cut them down before they fall down. Thus, seeing tree trunks and limbs blown on to the road is not exactly a new thing.

My point is, if a few wind gusts and lightning bolts could cause such consternation, what would we Montclairians do if we had to face what the people of southern Lebanon and northern Israel are now going thru, i.e. war? Or suppose we were in New Orleans at about this time last year (reminder, we’re coming up on the 1 year anniversary of Katrina)? Going back to Nietzsche, the boring and routine way of life starts looking pretty good pretty quickly, once it’s taken away.

But I know what the great madman was getting at. He was urging us to find a cause in our lives, find a passion to follow. Find something that makes living on the edge fulfilling, makes taking a few bruises and losses all worth while. This makes me think of the Phil Collins / Genesis song “Land of Confusion” aka “This Is The World We Live In”. It’s a good song which tries to be an inspirational song. An interesting cover was recently released by Disturbed.

One line in the song goes “I won’t be coming home tonight; my generation is going to put things right.” At the age of 20, I would have been elated by that sentiment. Nietzsche would have applauded. Who cares if you’re going to sleep in a smelly cellar instead of your own comfortable bed, so long as you’re out there with your peers changing the world?

At age 53, however, I’m less than impressed. The world we live in is a rather tough nut to crack. Not to say that you can’t do any good; not to say that it’s not worthwhile to try. But don’t expect to find any one theory or political doctrine or manifesto or religion (or special concert produced by Bob Geldoff) that is going to make us all act as responsible, cooperative world citizens. The human brain is hard-wired to be tribal. That ain’t gonna go away any time soon, unfortunately. The Israelis and Hezbollah are now vigorously adding another chapter to the thousands and thousands of chapters in that litany of proof.

One other interesting thing about Neitzsche; he more or less came up with the idea for the movie “Groundhog Day” (which I still need to see). His doctrine of eternal recurrence asks whether it would be worthwhile if all you had to look forward to was an afterlife EXACTLY the same as your current life. I won’t go thru all the philosophical ramifications of that question, but it certainly is very good food for thought.

As to check up on how old and behind the times my observation linking Neitzsche with Groundhog Day is, I did a search on Google and some other search engines. And yea, “eternal recurrence” is hooked up with Groundhog Day all over the web. My blog is maybe the 10,000th site to make the point. Oh well. Eternal recurrence, indeed. Trees are toppling in Montclair, and Israel is at war again. It’s just another Groundhog Day, unfortunately. And yet, if I had to do it all over again, Friedrich, . . . .

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:51 pm      

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