Nietzsche’s guide to living each day as if it’s your last.
Everybody does it from time to time, falling into a repetitive daily routine without even thinking. Wake up, work, eat, sleep and repeat.
The question then arises, is this something I truly desire?
As humans with a finite existence, such a question bares an important weight. Are you living each day to the fullest, or merely sleep walking through each day and not living the life you wish to?
This is something that German Philosopher, Fredrich Nietzsche contemplated within his critique of modernity.
His Doctrine of eternal recurrence offers a solution to the question of whether you truly desire the actions which you are performing:
Imagine at the end of a day, a devil comes down to earth and casts a spell on you. He tells you that you are to live this day, exactly the same an infinite amount of times over.
“Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: “You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.” — Nietzsche (The Gay Science.)
As the devil visits at the end of the day, this thought experiment gives great weight to all of your actions. For all you know, you will have to live each action, thought and choice for all eternity.
This gives us a critical insight into the life you are currently living. If you would praise and thank this devil, then it is likely that you are making the most of your life.
But if you are in a position where you would curse and gnash your teeth at such a thought, then it is likely you are not truly making the most of each day.
If you have now come to the realisation that perhaps, the repetitive life style you are living is not something you truly desire. Only you can change your life for the better.
“It is not the ferocity of the beast of prey that requires a moral disguise but the herd animal with its profound mediocrity, timidity and boredom with itself.”
Here are some Nietzschean tips for affirming your own positive future.
1. Overthrow weak willing.
Weak willing occurs when a person fails to affirm their own future, or rather; they fail to make their own choices and act in the way they want to. Instead, these people follow a path set out before them.
Nietzsche named this the following of the herd, as it entails a failure to acknowledge that each individual person has unique, individual life’s to lead. Instead, society encourages you to follow the path set by them, and in doing so; you are failing to follow a path you truly desire or set before yourself.
In Twilight of the Idols Nietzsche gives an example. He argues society attempts to determine your career paths:
Because of your need for money, food and survival you decide to start a job which you don’t actually want. You end up stuck in a 9–5 job, working every day on something you don’t care about, and over a period of time, it becomes a part of your identity.
“I am a cashier” you say, if someone asks what you do.
Because of this, it becomes extremely difficult for you to leave. You tell yourself it’s a part of who you are, and that you need, or have to stay in the job: to support a family, to pay off bills, or just to survive.
Evidently, this is something which, upon reflection no individual would be prepared to live for all eternity, because in reality they do not want to live this type of life. But, through failure of the courage and willing to act independently, you end up following the self — deceptions of the herd.
“One must renounce the bad taste of wishing to agree with many people.”
If, upon reflection, you realise that you are weak willing, then to overthrow it you must adopt the will to life. Here, you must choose independently and from within, to only perform actions that you would, in fact, be willing to live an eternal amount of times over.
2. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Put briefly, Nietzsche thinks that whenever we have a thought, feeling or perform an action: it is the result of a play of drives or desires, and the most dominant gives rise to the behaviour.
On this account, only the most dominant drives and desires give rise to our behaviour: because we strive for power, he calls this the will to power.
Consequently, no human being can ever properly discuss any objectively higher, metaphysical values that exist.
If someone claimed to have discovered the highest values, such as in Plato’s realm of the forms, these claims are likely not to be true: instead, they are merely the result of one person’s drives telling them to outline these values, as a way to obtain power.
“There are no facts, only interpretations.”
This led to his critique of Morality, which he referred to as slave morality, because he argued that it is the result of the weakest members of society, who strive for power by negating the lives of others. They do so by outlining higher values, for example of the good, which can never be obtained by any human. Consequently, people who follow it end up comparing their life to the objectively higher good, and concluding that their life is worthless compared to this higher value.
This is something which Nietzsche called The Spirit of Revenge.
Instead, to overcome this: we must realise that all higher standards are the result of people’s drives — and so are only applicable as a standard to those who outline them.
We should not evaluate ourselves by these deceitful values. Instead, you must evaluate yourself by your own standards, which come about from our own internal drives and desires.
Nietzsche called this the spirit of affirmation. By allowing our life evaluate itself through itself (that is, to set our own values which we compare ourselves against) we will no longer tell ourselves that we have done wrong in the past and negate it, instead:
We must acknowledge our past positively and to reflect on it, allowing it to give rise to a positive future.
Doing so, will allow you to give rise to thoughts, feelings and actions which you truly desire: rather than negating these thoughts in favour of a higher value which doesn’t actually exist.
“The crowd thinks everything is profound where it cannot see the bottom — it is so timid and dislikes going into the water.”
3. Incorporate the Metamorphosis of the Spirit.
Overall, Nietzsche outlined three depictions that we must incorporate, in order to make the most of life.
The conclusion of the metamorphosis states that as humans:
We must be willing to bear the greatest challenges, like a camel: rather than being lazy and not committing fully to life, we must instead be hard- working and be willing to leave our comfort zone as a means to reach our full potential.
Next, we must pick these challenges for ourselves, rather than acting in accordance with the herd. Like a lion we must have the willing and courage to make our own decisions.
Finally, we must act like a child, we must be able to produce our choices from within, and be self — governing. We must also offer ourselves a new beginning, and to avoid acting upon the spirit of revenge: meaning to avoid negating the life of the herd, but instead ignore and not act upon it.
Achieving these three character traits, will allow you to act in such a way that makes each of your actions worthwhile, as it involves acting upon the will to life: you would be willing to act upon it an infinite amount of times more.
It is evident that the majority of people enter a meaningless cycle in life, where they begin acting in ways that they do not truly desire. To work out whether you fall victim of this, you must ask yourself whether you would be willing to perform your actions an infinite amount of times over.
If, upon reflection, you admit to yourself that you are not making the most of each day, then to resolve this:
- Overthrow weak willing by only performing actions that you have chosen and want to perform, rather than following the recommendations of the herd.
- Stop negating your life from a perspective of higher values that probably do not actually exist. Instead, let your life evaluate itself through itself, doing so will allow you to strive what you truly desire.
- Incorporate the metamorphosis of the spirit: be willing to fully commit to life, bear your own choices and produce such choices from within yourself.
Doing so, will lead you to acting in ways that you truly desire, ways which you would be happy to live an infinite amount of times over.
Only then, will you be living each day as if it is your last.
“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.”
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