Friday, May 18, 2007

A DGB Rendition of Nietzsche's 'Tightrope, Abyss, and Superman' Philosophy

We all need to climb onto the Nietzschean tightrope overlooking the abyss of our existence - not all the time, but on a decently regular basis - so that we can reflect on, feel on, and act on, the dialectical contrasts between our 'non-being' vs. our 'being and becoming' selves. Some people - let us call this first group of people the 'risk takers' - may need to visit their existential tightrope more often than others, while other people - let us call this latter group of people the 'security seekers' - may not want to visit their existential tightrope at all, or at least, as seldom as possible.

Having reflected on this situation for a while, I have come to the conclusion that it might be useful to differentiate between different types of 'existential tightropes'. Specifically, I have distinguished between ten different types of existential tightropes that offer ten different types of challenges to our existence.

Common to all these different Nietzschean tightropes is the Nietzschean idea of the 'Superman philosophy', the 'will to power', or better translated in most cases perhaps - 'the will to excel'.

In this regard, we can talk about 1. the 'Apollonian-Socratean-Platonic tightrope' of law, ethical idealism, and civil order; 2. the 'Dionysian tightrope' of pleasure, sensuality, sexuality, hedonism; 3. the 'Rousseauian tightrope' of love and romance; 4. the 'Marxian tightrope' of social and political activism, 'self-fulfilling' vs. 'self-alienating' work, issues pertaining to economic stability and status, and our propensity for 'acting on our goals' as opposed to just sitting around and 'thinking about them'; 5. the 'Hegelian tightrope' of negotiating conflicting differences of opinion and want; 6. the 'Spinozian-Scholastic spiritual tightrope' of wholism, unity, family, community, and altruism. 7. is the 'Heraclitean-Aristolean-Baconian-Lockean' tightrope of science, process-thinking, and empiricism; 8. is the 'Jamesian tightrope' of common sense, simplicity, and pragmatism; 9. is the 'Derridian rebellious-deconstructionist tightrope' of anti-status-quo, process and structure. In a more negative vein, unless we are talking about the area of 'sports and games', we might talk about man's obsession with 10. the 'Anaxamanderian-Foucauldian tightrope' of power, control, revenge, and war.

The essence of all these Nietzshean tightropes, metaphorically speaking, is that every time we step onto, or climb onto, one of these tightropes, we are going to feel an adrelanine rush - a mixture of anxiety and excitement - to the extent that we are actually going to tightrope walk to the other side, over the abyss opposite our 'home base-cliff' that we just left the sweet security of.

In each case, we might reflect, feel, and act on the actual essence of the tightrope walk of our life and existence. The adrenaline rush and the contrast to what we just left then is this: that we are actually walking on the tightrope, using our mental faculties, and our passion, our adrenaline rush, and our arms and legs to actually get us to the other side, and in so doing, stretching the limits of our capabilities and potentialities to their maximum -- as opposed to just 'hanging out there', hanging onto the rope for dear life, waiting for someone to come and rescue us from the rope overlooking the abyss - the danger and anxiety - of our existence...This is the difference between 'existential self-suffiency' and 'existential dependency'. We can also contrast the combined adrenaline rush of anxiety and excitement of being on one of our existential tightropes with the safety of the home-base cliff which can become our prison rather than our home if we are unwilling to leave its safety for the danger of the tightrope walk across the abyss.

This is my interpretation of Nietzsche's 'Superman philosophy', and it is the starting-point of my own personally modified post-Hegelian, post-Nietzschean, post-a-lot-of-philosphers-and-ideas...'Gap Multi-Dialectical, Humanistic-Existential Philosophy'...

The 'tightrope' formula is generally fairly simple: the more responsibilities we take on - up to a certain threshold of tolerance at least - the more we challenge our own capabilities and potentialities; in contrast, the more we seek to avoid responsibilities - at least of the kind that would legitimately challenge our abilities and potentialies - the more we are going to wrestle with the problem of 'existential insufficiency and alienation' - and extended further if it is happening more or less all the time - of a 'beingless existence' - or worded otherwise - an existence without the challenge and meaning of 'self-striving' and 'self-fulfillment'...We all have to 'go to trial' at various points in our lives -- the Franz Kafka/Joseph K. type of trial...(Franz Kafka, The Trial, 1925, "SOMEONE must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning..." ). The type of trial I am talking about is an 'existential trial' - a trial about the accountability and responsibility we all must take for leading and/or having led, either a meaningful, substantiated life with many 'tightrope climbings and extensions of our existence' - or the opposite - the type of life where we are always watching someone else take on the responsibilites and challenges while we watch from the sidelines, we watch from the home base cliff while someone else is climbing one of the existential tightropes. At the end of the day we are left feeling unfulfilled and unsubstantiated by our lack of courage and/or effort. In this case, we see and feel the abyss with the greatest of clarity, first with anxiety, by looking down rather than ahead to the other side of the cliff, to our goal, But even worse is when we feel the abyss in the pit of our stomach and in the core of our heart because we have led a life that has not sufficiently contacted ourselves and the limits of our capabilities, and/or not contacted anyone else in a sufficiently meaningful way. (See Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, 1948.) The good news is that we can change the direction - and the substance - in our life, at any moment in time, with any change in behavior, small and/or large. But to do this, we cannot avoid the Nietzschean existential tightrope(s).

david gordon bain,
democracy goes beyond narcissism

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