Archive for the Rants on other people’s rants/Book reviews Category

Thus spake Nietzsche!

Posted in Rants on other people's rants/Book reviews with tags , , , , on October 16, 2011 by gauravrants

This note has 2 reasons behind it- First is to highlight some of the gems from Nietzsche’s magnum opus – ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’ , a piece of work that is more insightful and poetic than any other work that I know of, and some bits from his other essays too, and the second purpose is to encourage you folks to go through his works and explain to me the difficult parts that went way above my head.:-D This note will undergo perpetual editing and additions as my knowledge of Nietzsche is too little and I’ve only just begun to understand him.

“One must speak with thunder and fireworks to feeble and formant senses” he says and that is what he does-

#One must still have chaos in one to give birth to a dancing star. I tell you: ye still have chaos in you.

#Good and evil, joy and woe, are merely coloured vapours before the divinely dissatisfied one (his Superman)

#Let thy virtue be too high for the familiarity of names!

(Nietzsche asks elsewhere, ‘Is virtue a virtue?’, when a virtuous person is praised by others for the good he does “to them”, obedience, chastity, justness…and in ‘The Gay (joyous :-D) Science’ that if you possess a virtue you are its victim! )

# The will of the weaker persuades it to serve the stronger; its will wants to be master over those weaker still: this delight alone it is unwilling to forgo”

#Man is something to be surpassed!

# We love living, not because we love life but because we love living.

#I should only believe in a God who knows how to dance.

# We are sorest bent and most troubled by invisible hands

#Many a soul one will never discover, unless one first invent it.

# The preachers of death, those that despise life, they cling to the last straw of life, and still mock their own clinging to it.

#Never yet did the truth cling to the arm of the absolute one!

#Older is the pleasure in the herd than the pleasure in the ego.

#If the goal of humanity be still lacking, is there not also lacking- Humanity itself?

#After preaching through the first chapter of ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’, Zarathustra ends it by saying-

‘Do not believe in me! You who call thyself my believers, you have not yet sought yourselves, and yet you say you found me! Now do I bid you lose me and find yourselves; and only when ye have denied me,  shall return unto you!

Verily, with other eyes, my brethren, shall I then seek my lost ones…with another love shall I then love you…and once again shall ye have become friends unto me.’

# But thus do I counsel you me friends; distrust all those in whom the desire to rule is powerful!

# ‘Tis night: now do all songs of loving ones awake. And my soul too, is a song of a loving one.

#The greatest events, are not our noisiest, but our stillest hours!

#Men who have nothing but a big mouth, or a big belly or a big eye, it is reversed cripples that I call them.

#Why does Zarathustra speak different to his pupils, than to himself?

#In the end, one experiences only oneself.

#From the chapter titled ‘Before Sunrise’ he praises the sky and makes beautiful comparisons with it-

‘Up to thy height to toss myself- that is my depth! In thy purity to hide myself, that is mine innocence’.

‘Together did we learn to ascend beyond ourselves to ourselves’

‘We smile our knowledge to each other’

‘Good and evil themselves, are but passing clouds before thy eternity’

# ‘They do not forgive me for not envying their virtues’

#Is there anyone more godless than I? So that I may go and enjoy his teaching?

#The ungodliest utterance came from a God himself, the utterance ‘There is but one God and you shall have no one else except me’

#Is not everything in a state of flux?

#Life was dearer to me than all my wisdom had ever been.

#God’s pity knew no modesty.

#In that ye have despaired, there is much honour. For ye have not learnt to submit yourselves, ye have not learned petty policy.

#What the populace once learned to believe without reasons, who could, refute it to them by the means of reason?

Some more quotes other than from ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’-

#Morality is the herd-instinct in the individual.

#On the death of God, he was really the one who put the bullet in his head-

“The free spirits among us will feel joy at this news of the death of God. Our heart overflows with gratitude,astonishment, presentiment, expectation- at last the horizon seems to us again free, and even if it is not bright, at last our ships can put our again, no matter what the danger; every daring venture of knowledge is again permitted; the sea, our sea, is again open to us; perhaps there has never been such an open sea.

#The churches now are the tombs of God.

#He’s not too fond of Scientific inquiry though- “Science can only give descriptions, what is Music, it says a vibration within a gaseous medium, but does not really “explain” it’.

#Everywhere Nietzsche insists that the purpose of humanity is to produce great humans. Speaks of “quality versus quantity” while replying over to Darwin’s theory.

#On democracy and politics-

“The better the state is organised, the duller the humanity will be”,

“As little state as possible”.

“It is not the desire of power that I object to, but the misrepresentation of it that is endemic to our political institutions”.

“The robber and the man of power who promises to protect the community from robbers are at the bottom of beings and of the same mould, but the latter attains his ends by different means than the former”.

“Politics is prostitution of the intellect.

#In pitying, neither do we benefit ourselves nor the object of pity.

#On the priestly classes all over-

‘It is their physical impotence which makes their hate so violent and sinister, so cerebral and poisonous’

He explains how such classes first venerated qualities like meekness, value of suffering and humility, and found faults with life-affirming notions too- as boldness became arrogance, pride became self-love.

#The last line of ‘The Genealogy of Morals’-

‘Man would sooner prefer void as his purpose, rather than be void of any purpose.’

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Why read ‘Why read?’?

Posted in Rants on other people's rants/Book reviews with tags , , , on October 16, 2011 by gauravrants

‘The Death of Sigmund Freud’ was the book that had introduced me to Mark Edmundson. It was mild curiosity for the dramatic title that had led me to buy this book. What happened while and after reading it was nothing short of a life-changing revelatory experience. In a few hundred pages Edmundson had managed to teach me all the essentials of Freud’s theories with simple examples and anecdotes and a comprehensive and precise explanation on the rise of Hitler, a phenomena that proved many of the theories of the dying Freud, and yet the most valuable and inspiring bits of thought that I carried away from the book were Edmundson’s personal musings. As one proceeds through the book one can vaguely guess that somewhere between the insightful lines and erudite writing, the author Edumundson, manages to surpass his subject, Freud and others; and especially at the end of the book it is proven beyond doubt. How this is so may be the matter of another article or I hope that you’ll want to read that book too by the end of this article which is about his other book, a book that I was simply obsessed about reading since I knew of it, mainly because of its title- ‘Why read?’.

Edmundson’s ‘Why read?’ is many things.

One of the things it is, is essentially a defense and vigorous advocacy of the study of humanities, especially and mostly, literature. It is also a sharp critic of the current methods of teaching of literature in American Universities and the perceptions of the teachers regarding their subject. Throughout the whole book Edmundson maintains a dialogue with the fellow teachers of literature, attacking their techniques and beliefs and daring to inspire his colleagues to inspire their own students, by being more direct and personal while teaching.

‘Why read?’ is also the great intellectual King Kong beating out its chest for the supremacy of books as a medium of true learning, and effusively preaching that they are an irreplaceable aid for personal mental growth. Great books don’t bore, but rather “we” bore the great books is what he claims, and I must agree to that. Edmundson also says once, that we are still trying to become contemporaries of the great authors. Books, he says, are the only source of wisdom replete with emotional force and in a time where religious faith is depleting by the expansion of science, only literature and poetry can provide an alternative, and a far better alternative at that, to the gap left behind.

‘Why read?’ is a warning against the current state of mankind and also simultaneously a promise of all that we could collectively and individually achieve. It warns us against the ‘cool’, spectatorial and consumer culture. A culture that “inhibits us from showing feeling and which stifles us from achieving anything original, where expressions of exuberance seem to occur with quotation marks around them and where kids celebrating a football game play the roles of kids on TV celebrating a football game”. A culture that breeds people who are taught that the facade and self-deception of “knowingness” is the most essential, it gives us authoratative figures who speak in self-assured tones who seem to have answered all of life’s questions, who admire nothing and who are hardly surprised. Reading the book one knows how a true student must be; that the true student is the one who has not resolved these issues yet and shall probably never will, but through conscious growth of the intellect and by the growth in the very spectrum of feelings itself the student instills life, in this otherwise very still life. Every word of the book resonates with your own soul, permanently amplifying it. But Edmundson warns, every growth and new discovery of truth becomes “banal” too, and hence this process of self-discovery and expansion through the reading of great books must be a life long process.

‘Why read’ is a gentle praise of the students who opt for humanities rather than, to use the Indian jargon- “medical, engineering or MBA”. It praises them for being honest to their own selves, and also for being among the very few who truly want to study what they are passionate about.’Why read?’ is an urgent plea to the teachers and Universities that these students deserve better.

‘Why read?’ dares every teacher of literature to begin their discourse by questioning their students personal beliefs and their religion. For, if literature is to be expected to change lives, then it is very natural of Edmundson to say that first the forces that have already shaped the students’ life must be challenged and brought out for scrutiny in the open. Today’s literature courses, or for that matter reading in general, is where one sees the book as if either from a distance, or either sees it too close. From a distance in the sense that people do not allow literature to change their lives and remain mere spectators, and too close in the sense that mainstream literary critics are too busy classifying books into styles and genres and, to use Edmundson’s words- quarantining these great works of intellect to eras and movements and styles. ‘Why read?’ also says that only the teachers who’ve had their own life changed by reading are the only true teachers. It arouses in these teachers the sense of pride that they are the sole guardians entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the legacy of ‘Shakespeare, Milton and Dante’.

‘Why read?’ is about why we should all read and how we should read. It proves its claim that books are the tools of personal discovery and growth by being such a book itself. Edmundson says and proves at the same time that few pleasures are greater than being influenced by something great, by writing a book that touches your very soul. It is a humble explanation as to why the truth that we learn through socialisation is not adequate. It encourages us to ‘marry our minds’ with that of the masters, to try to feel what they had felt, and to try to perceive what they would feel about the present if they were here alive. From a personal view, I realised that the only authors that I truly “read” were Sagan, Feynman, Kundera and Orwell. For in their words alone I had surrendered my mind and allowed it to be influenced and it made me feel extremely lucky for that, whereas for all others I was a cold distant spectator,a mere consumer.But I can say now I have learnt how to read.

‘Why read?’ is all of these things and more.This little book will stir you with its passion, challenge your beliefs with its audacity, and at the very least it will do what it claims to answer in its title itself; it will give you some damn good reasons to read. –

Gaurav Somwanshi