on the doorstep of the moon
October 15th is the birthday of one of the most important thinkers in the history of philosophy, possibly the most influential philosopher in my personal history.
I discovered the work of Friedrich Nietzsche in the first year of my undergraduate degree in Philosophy at the University of Cardiff. I was drawn to the beautiful, frightening titles of his books, particularly The Birth of Tragedy, and his enormous, almost threatening, and nearly unspoken reputation. Before I’d ever read or heard anything of Nietzsche I understood that he, that his work, was monolithic. In my second and third years at Cardiff I got to know his work, in particular The Birth of Tragedy, which lived up to everything I’d imagined from the name. What marked Nietzsche out for me was that among a pantheon of dry, dogmatic, and severely logical thinkers, this was a philosopher whose writing was literary, sublime, spiralling in a grand chaotic challenge; it struck me at the core from the beginning and has remained burning unforgettably inside me ever since. Today I’ve no doubt that everything I write and think is somehow inspired by my discovery of Nietzsche. This might not entirely be a good thing. But nevertheless.
Nietzsche was my Copernicus.
In his honour I’m presenting a short story? – more like prose poetry – that came to me from I’m not sure where, somewhere mad, influenced by the wisdom of Silenus:
“There is an old legend that king Midas for a long time hunted the wise Silenus, the companion of Dionysus, in the forests, without catching him. When Silenus finally fell into the king’s hands, the king asked what was the best thing of all for men, the very finest. The daemon remained silent, motionless and inflexible, until, compelled by the king, he finally broke out into shrill laughter and said these words, “Suffering creature, born for a day, child of accident and toil, why are you forcing me to say what would give you the greatest pleasure not to hear? The very best thing for you is totally unreachable: not to have been born, not to exist,
to be nothing.
The second best thing for you, however, is this—to die soon.”
– From The Birth of Tragedy