A Big What If


As I’ve been reading Nietzsche, I’ve wondered what Western Civilization would be like if his dad would have lived past Friedrich’s fifth birthday. Certain experiences have such profound influences on personality, like death, abuse, neglect, drugs, torture, rape, attempted genocide, molestation, messy divorce, adultery, betrayal, etc. What I think we know about Nietzsche was that he really loved his dad and missed him something fierce after his death. So much so, that I wonder at the influence it had on his seemingly negative attitudes and philosophy. Would he have comprehended The Twilight of the Idols? Would he merely have continued his course in theology and become a pastor? Would he have had such a negative view of women and “the rabble” if his father had been there to guide him? Not taking anything away from Nietzsche’s genius, but I’m getting at his motivation: I just wonder how much our philosophical milieu would be different because of that. Then, of course, that got me thinking about my life. Certain negative experiences I had growing up definitely affected my personality toward melancholy. My demeanor might not appear this way, because I truly enjoy being around people, but in my alone time, I drift toward the dark and despairing. I’m not predicting greatness in my future legacy, but I do think it gives me motivation in seeing things quite differently than my friends. Does that mean our outlooks are essentially determined by our experiences? No. I know some victims of atrocities who are quite well-adjusted. But they are the exception. I also perceive that the majority of people who haven’t dealt with much heartache live in a self-satisfied bubble, with no motivation to see things differently. Perhaps I’m just a whiner, lol. Could be. Just saying, experience profoundly affects perception, and thereby, what we produce.

2 thoughts on “A Big What If

  1. When my father died, I found a new experience of the world. There was, of course, the grief, sadness and anger that never entirely go away. But my relation to nearly everything changed. It was something that I didn’t even know could change. It was like a person who has only heard of one language suddenly encountering a foreign tongue. He didn’t even know he had a language previously; he always assumed it was the way all humans communicated. This attitude, this new lens that was gifted to me upon this event changed the way I experienced nearly everything in the world. And I was in the throes of adulthood when this happened; I can’t imagine how different things are when you experience such a loss as a child.

    This event changed my religious journey as well, though not in the ways I would have initially predicted. I never really got angry or blamed God (though admittedly, this caused great suspicion in me at the time. “I must not believe in the Divine if I’m not angry at it”). Previously, any crisis of faith I encountered was my problem. There was something that I needed to fix or resolve in myself. The world is fine, the tradition is fine, the church is fine, its just me that’s not fine. But after I lost my dad: “you know what, maybe I’m fine and its everything else that isn’t”. I started seeing much larger systemic problems in all the various social, political, and theoretical structures around me.

    I only read Nietzsche after all of this and it might be one of the reasons why it had such an impact upon me. I wish I would have read him before so I would be able to form a better contrast.

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    • Thanks for sharing, man. If you don’t mind, what were some of the social, political, and theoretical structures that got called into question during this time? Are they still in question? Your prerogative.

      I definitely (or maybe “maybe” is a better word here) feel like Kant felt when he read Hume- I feel as if Nietzsche is awakening me from my intellectual slumber. Not that I was an utter moron before, but he’s just giving me the opportunity to call into question everything sacred: God, freedom, equality (essentially the liberal/Enlightenment ideals), love-and see what’s left after I’m done with the hammer. Ball busting and eye opening stuff.

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