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Free Life

“A free life is still free for great souls.” [Page 163. All quotations in this post are from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra from The Portable Nietzsche, W. Kaufmann, ed.]

What does that mean? I’m not sure.

When I was an undergraduate, Nietzsche was my favorite philosopher. His writings are more suggestive than systematic. Scholars have interpreted his fundamental ideas in very different ways.

Let’s worry less about what Nietzsche thought than what we think. In other words, let’s use some of his remarks as stepping stones to think for ourselves.

Those who are not sages little understand those who are. “Little do the people comprehend the great – that is, the creating.” [163] It seems clear that Nietzsche thinks it is only the creating ones who lead a free life.

Presumably, the only way to understand the creators who lead a free life is to become one. How?

There is no way!

“’This is my way; where is yours?’ – thus I answered those who asked me ‘the way.’ For the way – that does not exist. / Thus spoke Zarathustra.” [307]

(Incidentally, this is no different from what great philosophers such as The Buddha , Plato, and Descartes have also stated.  [Click here for more on how to increase creativity.])

Even if there is no universal path or way to leading a free life, Nietzsche does offer suggestions or hints. The most important of these concerns solitary stillness.

“Yesterday, toward evening, there spoke to me my stillest hour: that is the name of my awesome mistress.” [257]

Do you, too, love stillness? A free life is impossible without loving stillness.

Stillness is apprehended in solitude. Do you, too, love solitude?

“Flee, my friend, into your solitude! . . . Where solitude ceases the market place begins; and where the market place begins the noise of the great actors and the buzzing of the poisonous flies begins, too.” [163]

Any extraordinary way to a free life of creativity requires rejecting the ordinary way of the world, the way of the market place.

The louder the market place, the more difficult this becomes. However, even today it is still possible.

Do you seek to accomplish great tasks? Do you desire to be part of great events?

“[T]he greatest events – they are not our loudest but our stillest hours. Not around the inventors of new noise, but around the inventors of new values does the world revolve; it revolves inaudibly.” [243]

Notice how he connects the idea of a free life with creativity and fresh valuations.

Has it ever struck you how conditioned we all are? Have you ever noticed that, the more familiar you are with someone else, the easier it is to predict how that person will react in certain circumstances? Have you ever admitted how conditioned you yourself really are?

Nietzsche is suggesting that we don’t need to stay that way. He is telling us that a free life beyond conditioning is possible for us.

Remaining a slave to our conditioning is unnecessary. Living more freely is optional.

“The earth is free even now for great souls. There are still many empty seats for the lonesome . . .” [163]

This is a message of hope!

Your way to being a great soul is by making stillness your lover, by embracing your condition thereby transforming loneliness into solitude.

He doesn’t tell how exactly how to do this in any particular case. He wrote the book, though, to tell us that leading a free life is still possible.

Unbind yourself. Don’t worry about changing everyone else: “No longer raise up your arm against them. Numberless are they, and it is not your lot to shoo flies. . . Flee, my friend, into your solitude . . .” [165 & 166]

Your way is to overcome yourself, thus showing others how to live. “Your highest thought, however, you should receive as a command from me – and it is: man is something that shall be overcome.” [160]

Do not worry about being alone. “Our longing for a friend is our betrayer.” [168]

Besides, until you lead a free life, you cannot be a friend. “Are you a slave? Then you cannot be a friend.” [169] The love friends share is a great benefit of leading a free life.

A final suggestion is this: when you do something, do it wholeheartedly. Doing it wholeheartedly is doing it from stillness. In my preferred terminology, that means infusing Becoming with Being [click here for that distinction], or doing it from awareness rather than from thought.

For example, consider writing something. How should you write? From stillness:

“Of all that is written I love only what a man has written with his blood. Write with blood, and you will experience that blood is spirit.” [152]

Every act can be a spiritual act.

That’s an idea that I have suggested before [click here for more on bringing Being into Becoming]. Of course, it’s not original; it’s been suggested by The Buddha and many, many other philosophers.

As always, I encourage you to test the ideas I present for yourself. Why not lead live more freely? Why not become a great soul?

Why not find your unique Way?

Posted in intellectual well-being

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