What if a demon (Nietzsche)

The greatest weight.— What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence – even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!”
Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?… Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?

–From Nietzsche’s The Gay Science.


5 thoughts on “What if a demon (Nietzsche)”

  1. Couldn’t help replying with Kundera’s take on Nietzsche’s parable:

    If every second of our lives recurs an infinite number of times, we are nailed to eternity as Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross. It is a
    terrifying prospect. In the world of eternal return the weight of unbearable responsibility lies heavy on every move we make. That is why
    Nietzsche called the idea of eternal return the heaviest of burdens (das schwerste Gewicht).

    If eternal return is the heaviest of burdens, then our lives can stand out against it in all their splendid lightness.

    But is heaviness truly deplorable and lightness splendid?

    The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be
    weighed down by the man’s body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier
    the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become.

    Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his
    earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant.

    What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?


  2. If Nietzsche’s fear was a reflection on the truth of the matter, then this life is perhaps only one somewhere in the middle of an infinitely recurring series of identical lives. Those who opt for suicide do not know they’re not actually ending it all, but their act could be understood (sub specie myself) as a protest against the cycle. The rest of us, regardless of our ignorance of our place in “history” are voting in the affirmative. Let the good times roll. Of course, it my life were a veritable mess . . . well, what to do? what to do?


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