To truly understand Nietzsche, one must have gone through what I will call a “passage of suffering”—which is actual suffering. Suffering almost has to be a goal to understand his ideas. One has to go through a kind of striving and suffering that includes, “self loathing,” before you can achieve an authentically lived life.
One has to accept that they have been totally absorbed in an inauthentic, phony, irrational, check-list, merit badge existence; like you have been an actor your whole life in a bad play; that you finally acknowledge that you haven’t been living, you have been acting.
Once you recognize what you are willing to give your life in return for—the nice little house in the suburbs, your comfortable occupation, and children with straight teeth—and that you are now willing to surrender and sacrifice everything that makes you what you are today—then and only then will you will discover who you really are and what you can become.
If you are not able to do that, then according to Nietzsche you will be stuck in a situation of “self loathing,” This is the inevitable consequence of not willing to make that sacrifice. Once you begin to realize that everything you thought was so important and have placed such a high premium on, have been little more than habit and sloth and manipulation and exploitation of only living half a life; you come to a realization that indeed you are the tortured victim of self mistrust and fraud. You are finally overcome and it is in the depths of that kind of suffering that you finally look for everything you must give up that contributed to that inauthentic life.
Once you come to grips with what is in your unconscious, what really has a claim upon your life, and how long you have suppressed it—it is only at this point that you begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel? No! It is only then that you see that you are in a tunnel and you are going to stay in that tunnel and you have to make the best of it—there is NO OTHER WAY.
Nietzsche is not giving us an easy way out by just taking a pill and going to sleep. He is making us aware of the suffering involved with discovery and making real progress. We must be willing to destroy the old before we can create anew and that destruction process is painful. This is even more than Socrates’ admonition to “know thyself.” To know oneself to Nietzsche is to understand our “divided nature,” and making ourselves worthy—worthy of what?—to finally make yourself worthy of one’s self. If you don’t do this Nietzsche feels you are just a puppet, an instrument of another person’s purpose. Much of this explanation of Nietzsche and suffering comes from Professor Robinson’s lecture on Nietzsche from The Teaching Company programs on philosophy.
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