Break (h2so4 17)

What will save the world? Nothing. What will create the world anew? You will. But not until you break. JS channels Zarathustra for us, and isn’t very nice about it.

1. Everything is your fault.

In this article I am aiming to hurt you. Rough you up. Fuck up your shit. But it’s because I love you. Then I’m going to blame you, yes you, for all of the world’s good and its evil too. That’s right, you are to blame for all injustice. But you can still redeem yourself. And somehow herein I’m going to explain what the death of God means to Nietzsche, and what that means to us. (And, as an added bonus, I’ll explain what this all has to do with Beck’s album, Mutations.) But more importantly, I’m going to try my best to get you to break your revering heart. Because only that way does the long twilight become night.

As Beck sings in “Cold Brains,” “A bird of song/ Is heard no longer/ In the evacuated heavens/ The drain is drawn/ And drained and gone/ And on and on/ It doesn’t matter.” The heavens are evacuated because God is dead. So, because the earth’s meaning was previously thought to derive from its creation by a heavenly being, the earth is left feeling abandoned—it lacks meaning, or a ground for meaning, or a way of determining what matters.

The death of God is not something Nietzsche necessarily celebrated. Nietzsche didn’t kill God, he simply noticed that, in a secularizing world without agreement as to a universal standard of truth or justice, God had quietly died. For Nietzsche that is a sadness and a burden. It leaves humans unmoored, in need of justification, because the death of God removes the universal, external standard by which actions and morals may be judged. When we put it this way, we recognize that the phrase “God is dead” basically diagnoses the conditions of a secular world, where there are no universal standards of right or good. God does not unify or order the modern world.1 Hence, like I said, humans: unmoored, in need of justification.

So justification then becomes a problem. If God is dead, who will judge? Who will tell us what is right or how will we justify the standards we erect and enforce? Who will replace God?

Nietzsche would tell us right away (were he ever to speak so plainly) that in asking such a question we have failed to grasp what the death of God means. There is no replacement for God. If God is dead, then only humans can be responsible for humans and what they do. Only humans can create the world now. Only humans can decide what is good, what is evil, and how to judge. So the death of God is a sadness and a burden, but also an opportunity.

Those of us living in this age that takes for granted (though not absolutely) that it is secular are in a hard position with regard to understanding what all this means. (We’ll leave aside for the moment that this age is secular only in name, and that its politics, etc., are now its theologies.) It doesn’t occur to us that, hey, it used to be the case that the order of the world was set by God and insured by kings. We know that political power is man-made and, in liberal democracies, we tend to believe that political power is something we consent to in order to guarantee for ourselves the security of a well-ordered society. So, since our power structures are justified by that consent we give, what’s the big problem? we might ask. Who cares that God is dead? I’ll get back to that.

OK. So Nietzsche demonstrates that only humans can create the world now that God is dead. He goads us not to replace God with ourselves or another deity, but instead to embrace the difficulty of what freedom is. Freedom means: freedom from God’s unchanging law—that is, freedom from a law we did not make or choose—but freedom also means responsibility for freedom. Freedom is now “up to us.” We have to decide what it means for us, and insure its survival. Rather than being an absolute liberation, freedom has demands. Thus, the death of God increases the measure of human responsibility for human actions.

In “Nobody’s Fault But My Own,” Beck sings, “When the moon is a counterfeit/ Better find the one that fits/ Better find the one that lights the way for you.” If the heavens are vacant and the moon is no longer the work of a heavenly creator, you’ll have to find something else to follow—you’ll have to invent the moon that can light the way for you. Nietzsche wrote: “‘This is my way; where is yours?’—thus I answered those who asked me ‘the way.’ For the way—that does not exist.”

Beck tells us: “When the road is full of nails/ Garbage pails and darkened jails/ And their tongues are full of heartless tales/ That drain on you/… Tell me that it’s nobody’s fault/ Nobody’s fault but my own.” When the road is full of nails, when life isn’t easy, who will lead? Who will redeem you, make your troubles “OK”? Well, in a world lacking consensus on absolute truth, there is no absolute to refer to. You have only yourself—or we have only ourselves—as human, to rely on. Nothing that happens is anyone’s fault but yours. Find justification for your world on your own. As Nietzsche would say, “Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do—back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning.” There is no heaven and hell, and there is no other life than this one to which we can look to justify or punish good and bad actions. Therefore you must create the virtue that you seek. Make the earth a place worthy of you—and in doing so you will become worthy of it.

So Nietzsche gives us will to power. Will to power offers a way to a human- generated standard: it is the path to the “revaluation of all values.” Will to power basically means that humans are beings capable of creating things beyond what the world has seen thus far. Humans can project values into the future and change the world. (For better, and for worse. And since without God there is no such thing as a universal truth, no one will be able to say with universal certainty what “better” and “worse” are.)

In a little while I’m going to upset the little narrative of smoothness you’ve made of your life, accuse you of laziness, and blame you for a lot of stuff. But first we have to deal with Nietzsche so it will all make sense. If you’re really impatient, I suppose you could skip ahead to section 5. Patience, however, is a virtue, and some things require time more than they require will, as we shall see.

2. I’ve got three words for you: Camel, Lion, Child

So humans can change the world. No duh. But how? It’s not like centuries of habit change overnight. But nor does God die overnight. The age in which Nietzsche lived (and in which we still live) was trying to make a shift in thinking but always landing back at familiar starting points. It’s hard to let go of God, especially when the world without him is so much harder. It’s hard for humans to be the ones who bear every burden and carry all the blame. And so we avoid letting go…

Nietzsche saw this, too, and decided that something more-than-human was needed for the new earth: the overman. So he proposed a three-step allegorical struggle by which will to power creates the overman—a man no longer as beastly as what is human in man. In the first step, the spirit is a camel, a beast of burden. It can bear much, and it kneels down. The camel reveres. It asks “what is most difficult, O heroes… that I may take it upon myself and exult in my strength?” Thus the camel takes on every burden and carries it into the desert, and its solitude.

In the loneliest desert, however, the spirit needs freedom and a will to rule. The camel’s reverence is not able to claim the right to new values, as reverence aims toward preservation of old values; reverence is obedience to “Thou shalt.” “Thou shalt” is the way set by God, the universal, absolute, external standard put into question by a secular and heterogeneous—that is, diverse, or what is sometimes called multi- cultural—world. If the camel is to affirm earthly rather than heavenly existence, it must become a creator of new values. It must invent the moon that can justify a world of diversity, without absolutes. For this the camel must break its revering heart. Zarathustra says:

The idols say “Thou shalt.” So the camel becomes a lion. The lion fights the great dragon named “Thou shalt,” countering it with “I will.” Thus the lion creates new values by means of its will; this is more than the camel could have taken on.

The lion’s countering of “Thou shalt” with “I will,” however, is a No. It is a reaction to a past. What is truly needed for creation is a Yes and a future. And so the lion becomes a child. For Nietzsche the child is “innocence and forgetting, a new beginning” whereby the spirit now can will its own will. “He who had been lost to the world now conquers his own world” via will to power, without recourse to an external or heavenly standard. So the camel becomes a lion becomes a child, and thus we leave reverence of idols behind.

Some might wonder why it’s necessary to leave Gods or idols behind. After all, they’re so comforting, and useful, and powerful. As Rousseau observed, even as he was creating a theoretical society that didn’t require a God, il faudrait des dieux. One would need gods for this work. We long for a unifying absolute standard. But once the world’s old order was revealed to be unjust, and “the people” learned that they could be free, and saw that kings and nobles were not made so by divinity; and once the world embraced (if only sporadically) a doctrine of tolerance of otherness, of diversity, of heterogeneity over homogeneity, then there was no longer a space for absolutes or universals. Or: absolutes and universals were revealed to be the work of violence. God was dead.

It is much more complicated than that, for Nietzsche. But that will do for now.

3. Freedom is hard!

So Nietzsche gives us will to power as a human means of justifying the world we create. Will to power, however, causes some unintended trouble on the way to the “revaluation of all values”—this is in part because freedom is so difficult. Will to power creates new things, and those things, once created, stand as independent of will to power, no longer under its control, and, at times, those things have effects will to power did not intend and could not have foreseen. As we well know, what we intend is not always what we reap. This becomes will to power’s wrath, that there are things outside of its power (and in this way we truly recognize in it the child). And this in particular—that it cannot change the past—is will to power’s self-imposed prison.

It is at about this point that humans begin to miss God, even when they don’t acknowledge it openly or consciously. Because without God there is no one to blame, and no one to turn to for redemption or justification of the world’s cruelties, accidents and twists of fate. All the world’s troubles are nobody’s fault but my own. Unless I find a way to shift my responsibility from myself onto some other external standard….

Blame-shifting is a common enough strategy in any age, and the secular age is no exception. But blame-shifting fails to grapple with what is required of will to power after the death of God—indeed it is the material of the iron bars of the will’s self-imposed prison. Instead of accepting responsibility for what will to power requires, and making of the world what it can be, it tries to have its cake and eat it too—it tries to retain the external justification made possible by a God while also claiming the kind of freedom one would find only in the wake of the death of God. So, for instance, when we think the evils of the world are not our doing—that we remain innocent because our intentions are not bad or because we never acted directly to cause the evils—we hand over to governments or multi-national corporations, or other so-called impersonal forces, what have you, the power to make the world in their own image, because, hey, we have nothing to do with it. We never asked those forces to act, we tell ourselves. We shift the blame from ourselves to something impersonal, something capable of taking the blame without feeling the burden. That used to be God’s function. But at the same time we do not think that those governments or multi-national corporations should be able to dictate to us what our lives will be.

But here’s the thing: we recreate God, we deny God, all at the same time. But you can’t create a God to whom you owe nothing. Indeed, a human cannot create a God at all. And humans cannot create a world to which they owe nothing. Creation is a responsibility. But still we say, and perhaps even believe, that governments’ and multi-national corporations’ evils have nothing to do with us. We might even resist their power in the name of justice. But the power we resist and the justice we call upon in this instance are both part of the same system. We believe that governments and multi-national corporations do not tell us how to live. But we are deluded. And it is nobody’s fault but our own. And it’s not just your political life, or the lives of distant peoples whom you’ll never meet, that this delusion affects. You, my friend, are destroying your own happiness and your own future, daily.

4. Revenge is never-ending.

Nietzsche saw this vicious circle—of a God-denying God-requiring humanity—and realized that it endangered will to power. So he gave us something he called “eternal return of the same.” If will to power is a justification of humanity after the death of God, eternal return of the same is the redemption of that justification. Eternal return of the same is an external standard, of sorts, but not one requiring a theology. It is not interested in absolutes. Nietzsche tells us:

Willing liberates… but it forgets to let go of the past. It wants to mock what used to hold it captive. Wrath against ‘it was’ wants to change the past—it longs for revenge. And when it gets revenge, it simultaneously destroys its own power, because revenge is not a one time creative act but an inexorable inescapable cycle from which nothing new emerges. It is not a Yes but a No. In revenge, a strike occurs, the one struck strikes back, the initial striker, now struck, restrikes in further payback, and so on, forever, until no one knows who struck first any longer. Such battle seems like an exercise of will, but it is reaction rather than creation, and it is determined by something outside of will (such as “the enemy”) rather than by will itself. It is the will’s self-destruction: the will’s anger at its less-than-absolute freedom makes it a non-free. But Nietzsche’s Zarathustra has a solution:

Yes. Everything is a riddle with Nietzsche. What he’s telling us is that will can be a creator such that it can even change the past—in a manner of speaking. Eternal return takes “it was” and changes it into “thus I willed it.” Eternal return requires that the will “will backwards,” which means: whatever happened in the past is what I willed and would will again. This means: passive acceptance of what can’t be changed. And this, of course, doesn’t sound like “will,” because to us will means something like absolute freedom. Because we are deluded. Eternal return, however, accepts responsibility for the past, whether or not the past is what it would have willed or chosen, and it accepts responsibility for the effects of will that it did not foresee. Thus the paradox: a powerful will will at some moments not will.

What this means is that will is and must be both freedom and non-freedom. Eternal return requires humans to take responsibility both for what they intended, and for what they didn’t intend. This means we have to think differently about what responsibility is. Eternal return embraces the ironies of fate—that we all arrive “late” into a world already full of conditions, rules and ideas that we might not have chosen, but for which, once we get here, we are responsible, if we are to make the world a meaningful place in which to live.

This is key: Nietzsche’s redemption of will to power is called “eternal return of the same,” because it, in effect, declares that in order to affirm life, a creative being must will that life be repeated over and over again in exactly the same manner, that she who truly affirms life is willing to repeat it all again, in all its highest and lowest moments, without alteration. This is far from an easy demand to fulfill. It requires that we say Yes to life’s most horrid and desperate moments as well as its joys.

That is redemption. Once will accepts the past that it can’t change, it is set free to will what it can will instead of wasting its power on the impotence of revenge. If you stop fretting or resenting or obsessing about a past that by definition cannot be changed, you free up your energy for creating new things instead of resenting old ones. It’s almost a truism, put that way. You give yourself possibility. You accept what is necessary for humans after the death of God: you take responsibility for your world and its workings, and even its injustices.

OK. So you’re with me, you say, but… responsible even for its injustices? How could I be responsible for that? And how could such a responsibility be consistent with freedom, or justice? you ask.

That’s the thing. Even if we begin to see the structure of how this all works, we will still resist learning the lesson, despite ourselves, because what it requires is a burden. We still want the ill-founded dream of absolute freedom limited only by consent. We don’t want anyone or anything telling us what to do. And at the same time we still want something external to us on which to hang all our worldly disappointments.

But that “dream of absolute freedom” assumes that freedom is freedom from something that otherwise would impede us rather than freedom for the things that make life meaningful. All of us know, on some level, even as we stubbornly insist that no one can tell us what to do, that meaningful freedom is not absolute liberty but the freedom to choose the constraints or commitments that we are to honor. My freedom would mean nothing if I had no ties to friends, family, principles, love and honor. These are the things I am free for. As Zarathustra would say, “You call yourself free? Your dominant thought I want to hear, and not that you have escaped from a yoke…. Free from what? As if that mattered to Zarathustra! But your eyes should tell me brightly: free for what?” Z. says: So what if you no longer owe your allegiance to “Thou Shalt.” Of what value is that? Are you defined only in reaction to something that would limit your freedom? Are you the embodiment of revenge? Or are you a creator capable of futures, ready to make the world more than it is? That, after all, is the work of justice, and of joy. So even though responsibility for the world’s injustice seems a heavy burden, and an unfair one, Z. makes it apparent that unless you take this burden on, there will be no justice. And no joy. Think about it. Who else is going to do the work? God?2

5. Revenge is never-ending. Until.

It is easy enough to see, especially if you don’t live in the Balkans or in Israel/Palestine, that tit-for-tat and revenge don’t accomplish anything. They are a holding pattern and a spiraling destructiveness. But, living as most of us do in our fairly tolerable to rather comfortable situations, we might fail to see what this means for our own lives, other than that we probably should stop fuming over past wrongs and instead concentrate on what of the future and present can be made good.

But here’s the deal. If you adhere to what is required by eternal return of the same, nothing that has ever happened to you in your life can ever be any different. If you live life again (the point, of course, is that you cannot live life again!), high school cannot and will not be better, your family won’t be kinder or richer, friends will still die too young, your heart will be broken multiple times, you yourself will do regrettable terrible things, equally terrible things will be done to you, and nothing you’ve learned “now” will help you “then,” at any moment. Life will be the same, eternally. And you must will it to be so. There is no heaven, and there is no better life. Accept life and deal with it, as it is, now. That is the only thing that can make the life you have left to live better—even though it requires that you accept a life that is manifestly “not better.” A paradox.

I’m willing to bet that this goes against deeply held—maybe even unthought—tendencies of our freedom-loving justice-seeking western minds. Every life will be improved! Past wrongs will be made right! If I were sixteen again, I would know I was a worthwhile human being! If I live life again, no friend of mine will ever be shot in the back of the head, his keys in the door, that close to safety... ever! The World Trade Center will stand forever! I won’t be the one pulling a dead family member out of the Gulf of Mexico! Two-year-old children won’t die because of a mistake made by a hospital! My grandmother will not live with the daily terror of Alzheimer’s! My country won’t make a mockery of international human rights law! There will be no genocide, either! And no homelessness, no famine. Human beings will not be the kind of beings who simultaneously deserve and ignore so much shame!

This kind of denial of the realness of the past, the smoothed-over narrative we form of our lives, conditions much of what we deem to be possible in everyday life. It embraces, if only subconsciously, an idea of another, better world, where we wouldn’t have to deal with any of this.

But do you know what such belief requires? It requires an afterlife, a heaven, a zone that redeems and justifies the sadnesses of this less-than-perfect mortal life. It requires a God. But it also refuses a God, because it can’t accept any duty it hasn’t chosen or consented to. It is a life lived in a cycle of revenge.

If accepting what is horrible about your past seems intolerable to you, and yet you still think your life has been lived in a secular age, in a secular way, and that you are outside of and beyond theology, think again. And then break your revering heart. Nietzsche writes:

When you retrospectively—even in your inner narrative—rid your life of all its lowest moments, you rid it of its highest moments, too. You become a flattened-out thing, devoid of human characteristics. And: when you rely on the consolations of an idea of a nonexistent better world, a better world that you would not need to do the work of creating, you stop yourself from making this world we live in better, more worthy of us, us more worthy of it. A poem that Nietzsche uses two or three times in the course of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (and which he calls “Once More!”) reads:

Nighttime is the unknown. Midnight is its height. A midnight dream declares that the world—this earth, now—is deep, deeper than day—that is, deeper than what is known—had been aware. The earth on which we live our lives is full of a deep sadness, but its joy is even deeper. The sadness tells us to leave the earth, to seek a heaven. But joy wants eternity on the earth. And since we want joy, we must also want the earth, in its joy and its sadness. This is not resignation. Revenge is resignation. Wanting this life to be redeemed by an afterlife is resignation. Eternal return of the same is redemption from resignation. As Nietzsche says, “Courage, however, is the best slayer—courage which attacks: which slays even death itself, for it says, ‘Was that life? Well then! Once more!’” Or “Deeply I love only life—and verily, most of all when I hate life.”

That is what is hard and cruel and without pity in Nietzsche. But he does it out of a love of human life, and out of a desire to redeem it from itself, for itself.

And what you have called world, that shall be created only by you: your reason, your image, your will, your love shall thus be realized. And verily, for your own bliss, you lovers of knowledge. And how would you bear life without this hope, you lovers of knowledge?

Your history will never be different from what it is right now. See to your future. Though it at times reads as a dismal message, it embodies a hope: “For that man be delivered from revenge, that is for me the bridge to the highest hope.”

6. We keep living the end. Until we don’t.

But we are still living in the wake of the death of God, a time without belief in universal external standards, but a time in which every prevalent and powerful thought and structure still relies on some external standard that it also denies. We live in a time waiting to pass away and become something better. That is what is gloomy about some of Nietzsche’s writing, that it diagnoses the death of God, but also documents our refusal to “bury him.” That is actually what I’m saying about Beck’s Mutations, that it is about the long twilight of this world waiting to become a newer day.3 He sings at us: “A final curse/ abandoned hearse/ we ride disowned/ corroded to the bone.” God is dead, in the casket and on the way to the cemetery, but somehow he never gets all the way there. The hearse is abandoned. We no longer have a God, but we haven’t embraced what a world without God can and must be. And so we live out what Nietzsche calls the long twilight, in which decayed and decaying beliefs and institutions rule us because we accept their power as given. As a soothsayer prophesied to Zarathustra, “we are still waking, and living on—in tombs.” Or, as Z. says: “this long twilight will come. Alas, how shall I save my light through it? It must not suffocate in this sadness. For it shall be a light for distant worlds and even more distant nights.” The end takes a long time. But Zarathustra’s light, the hope of eternal return of the same, of the end of revenge, and of the overman, must be kept alive, for distant worlds, and distant nights. Remember, nights are the unknown, and are “deeper than day had been aware.” Night must not be feared, or there will never be a new day. Beck’s Zarathustra (as I have decided to call him) wearies of the length of this twilight, singing: “These withered hands have dug for a dream/ Sifted through sand and leftover nightmares/ Over the hill a desolate wind/ Turns shit to gold and blows my soul crazy/ The end o the end/ We live again/ O I grow weary of the end.” As we live out the end, shit will be turned to gold because decay values the wrong things. Hands grown withered in waiting will search for hopes and dreams and usually will find only nightmares.

This essay is what some scholarly types might call an irresponsible argument, as it paints with overly broad strokes, isn’t concerned to be the authoritative interpretation of anything it covers, and doesn’t aim at anything close to neutrality or fairness. By now I’m sure you understand why this essay is not trying to be an absolute! It is, rather, a demonstration of one way to read Nietzsche, and one way to view the failures of democratic justice and its institutions, and failures of personal responsibility in the modern world.

We live the end: we make governments into gods when we regard their power as “given” by something outside of our power. We treat governments, corporations, anything impersonal yet capable of carrying blame, as external standards we never could have had a hand in creating. This is, of course, democracy in decay. Because we all know that, in democracy, power comes from the people, right? That is, after all, why we are free in the first place, so the story goes. We like freedom. But power, like freedom, is an awesome responsibility. It is tiresome. It is so difficult. As Nietzsche says, “Commanding is harder than obeying; and not only because he who commands must carry the burden of all who obey, but because this burden may easily crush him.” What if the people no longer want the burden of that responsibility—the responsibility to command, and to be the power they must be—but there is no God to take it on? Then the people pass their power off to an impersonal institution backed by force. And along with that power goes their freedom—because freedom is embodied in making decisions about power and commitment. Defer the decision, lose the freedom. Blameshifting is the end of power and freedom. And it’s nobody’s fault but our own. Democracy, when it decays to this point, is theology.4 Inexorable power, taken as given. Abandoned hearse. We keep living the end.

None of this is meant to suggest that the world’s large and impersonal power structures are easily combated, or blameless in human misery, or at all dedicated to questions of justice, or, really, anything. They are impersonal and without ethical commitment altogether. Because that is what humans have made of the world. This essay’s main concern is with this: breaking your revering heart. Because then you, as camel, can become a lion, and then, perhaps, a child.

But a broken heart is a deep sadness. I know this. And that is what I am asking of you. It is a cruel demand. But only a broken heart recovers from sadness, and loves again. A revering heart clings to a past that it can no longer love. And in doing so it keeps the future from arriving. And so it also destroys the possibility of love. Who wants to live in such a world? That world is where we live now. Look around you.

In such a long twilight, how can Zarathustra keep his light alive? When shit is valued as gold and the end never ends, who is strong enough even to remember the goal? You are. That’s right. Nietzsche as motivational speaker. That love is still at all possible in this world, and justice still a discernible goal, and that creation of new art and a new world is still possible, is a sign of what is better in human life, scattered amongst all the signs of what’s worse.

Humans are possibilities, and possibilities are always for Yes or No. So far, we’ve been mostly No. Or Yes to all the wrong things (a.k.a. resignation). But Yes is possible. Yes is achieved by taking on the burden of what freedom means to a secular world. Yes is even achieved by taking on the burden of what freedom means to your individual life. After all, individuals matter. That’s why freedom matters. The world is changed most profoundly not by violence or coercion but by what people believe is possible. And “people” are made up of individuals. One at a time. As Nietzsche says, “Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman—a rope over an abyss. A dangerous across, a dangerous on-the-way, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous shuddering and stopping.” We’re no longer beasts, but we certainly still act like beasts. Any look at the nightly news, the state of the world’s systems of justice, international law or “relations,” or at the behavior of people towards each other in cities, confirms this. But we, if we searched, would also find evidence of superior goodness, of hope for better than this long twilight offers. We could find it anywhere, and at any moment. We could create ourselves as better than we are. A dangerous on-the-way, a dangerous looking-back. It could go either way, and it’s up to me, and to you. Or as Beck sings, “A worm of hope/ A hangman’s rope/ Pulls me one way or the other.” You decide.

Of course Nietzsche gets the last word: “Not whence you come shall henceforth constitute your honor, but whither you are going!”

END

NOTES:

1. By God I mean the idea of a supreme being ordering human affairs, such as the God of the various monotheisms. I do, however, distinguish between spirituality and theology, and what I speak of in this essay is mainly theology, by which I mean a systematized idea or an unchanging dogma of religion.

2. Even if God were “alive” (and really, if we are going to be faithful in that way we will have to admit that God is not a “being” and thus neither alive nor dead. Of God one can only say that God is God (and not even that “he” is God, as surely gender is not applicable either—God is not a being). So even if God were “alive,” human responsibility would still be human responsibility. Who else will do that work on this earth?

3. I’m sure some of these questions have arisen by now: Does Beck read Nietzsche? Is JS crazy? Did Beck intend to write about Zarathustra on Mutations? Well, how would I know the answer to any of those questions? What I assert is that it doesn’t matter what Beck intended. (Remember, will—like art—creates things beyond its intentions. That’s just part of what will does.) Maybe Beck does read Nietzsche. (I would like that. And if it’s true, he did a kick-ass job of doing justice to the long twilight. I haven’t even begun to do justice to what Beck has done.) But maybe Beck doesn’t read Nietzsche. We live in Nietzsche’s time. You can find him everywhere, even where he’s “unknown.”

4. If anyone reading this is offended by what I’ve said about the death of God, it is probably way too late to redeem myself in that respect, but here’s an attempt: Theology is not spirituality. It is not faith, and sometimes it isn’t even religion. Theology is the dogma of a religion, written down, held still, and made unresponsive to a changing world. There are plenty of practices of religion or spirituality that do not fall directly under the heading “theology.” And remember: This is my way—where is yours?