Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Ray of Hope In a World Where People Are Strangers to Themselves

Linda and I, on the subway in NYC

Two years ago I was teaching in New York City and Linda was with me. We took the subway from Queens to Manhattan. As we arrived at Times Square Station, we departed the train and walked towards the turnstile. I saw a young man reading a book. I looked. He was reading Nietzsche's On the Geneology of Morals. My heart leapt for joy. Why?

  1. Here was a young man who was reading. That is encouraging, any way you look at it.
  2. Here was a young man who was reading a book. This is, for the most part, better than reading something on your iphone. It suggests an ability to focus, to endure, to non-link and non-tweet. That is rare. This kid has a chance to actually learn something.
  3. Here was a young man who was reading a challenging book. "Best-sellers" are mostly not challenging. If they are, they remain mostly unread, even though they might rarely sell well. Like, e.g., the best-selling but mostly unread The Closing of the American Mind. (Bought that, read that.)
  4. Here was a young man reading a philosophically challenging book. He was reading a "Big Picture, Big Questions" book. He has an expanding mind. He's taking in deep ideas. He is a ponderer. One can't read Nietzsche and multitask.
  5. Here was a young man reading a philosophically challenging book who has obviously not succumbed to the death trap of neural-shallowness. (See here, here, here, here, and here.)
But Niezsche is an atheist, right? Correct (probably).

Better that someone think deeply about important issues, even contrary issues, than someone who never thinks about what they believe. (WARNING: The dangers of thoughtless religion. The Real Jesus, among other things, caused people to examine their own hearts. WARNING: The danger of "lukewarm religion.")

I'm home in Monroe and open my copy of A Geneology of Morals. I re-read the first sentences from Nietzsche's Preface. He writes:

"We are unknown, we knowers, ourselves to ourselves: this has its own good reason. We have never searched for ourselves - how should it then come to pass, that we should ever find ourselves? Rightly has it been said: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Our treasure is there, where stand the hives of our knowledge. It is to those hives that we are always striving; as born creatures of flight, and as the honey-gatherers of the spirit, we care really in our hearts only for one thing - to bring something "home to the hive!"

As far as the rest of life with its so-called "experiences" is concerned, which of us has even sufficient serious interest? or sufficient time? In our dealings with such points of life, we are, I fear, never properly to the point; to be precise, our heart is not there, and certainly not our ear... Of necessity we remain strangers to ourselves, we understand ourselves not, in ourselves we are bound to be mistaken, for of us holds good to all eternity the motto, "Each one is the farthest away from himself" - as far as ourselves are concerned we are not "knowers."" (K 143-150)

I love the thought of someone, anyone, reading stuff like this. This young man is a ray of hope in a world of self-strangers.

Search yourself out, and be searched-out by God. Examine youself, and be-examined.

Know, and be known.

This is the kind of pre-thinking that, eventually, led me to Christ.