1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Monday, October 17, 2011

Why Nietzsche Matters

I went with some friends to a lecture entitled "GOD IS DEAD - Friedrich Nietzsche vs. G.K. Chesterton." Dale Alquist was as entertaining and humorous as I expected he would be. Yet I was a bit disappointed in one aspect of his talk and it also came out in how he answered questions about Nietzsche afterwards. It involves this question: How seriously should one take Nietzsche?

Mr. Alquist's answer was "not very"; in fact, I would say he was downright dismissive of Nietzsche. I think this is a mistake at two levels: first there is the theological virtue of charity; second there is the cardinal virtue of prudence.

Let's begin with charity. Love for another (even those odd "neighbors" who live the seventh heavens of academia, namely, philosophy professors) suggests that if people take a man and his ideas seriously and he's had a profound affect upon the shape of our civilization, this is worth our time and consideration. This doesn't mean personally mastering Nietzsche's work, but saying, "Hey, he has had a profound influence and I'd like to understand what draws you to him."

I've always been a bit frustrated in my reading of Nietzsche because it is not clear to me when he is posturing or when he is really serious. I'm not sure Nietzsche knew, either. Yet I think he worth taking seriously in way that, for example, Krapp's Last Tape by Samuel Beckett is not.

Why might prudence dictate opponents of Nietzsche take him seriously? Perhaps because we are all Nietzscheans now and it would behoove us to understand how we got this way. Granted, we are "soft Nietzscheans" inasmuch as we don't follow the logic fully, but can we truly say that we don't at times live "as if 'God' were 'dead" and organize much of our social order and relationships something very akin to Fredrich's "will to power"? If that last sentence has no resonance in your life, I salute you, while at the same I wonder if some special Providence has not protected you from the present age!

Nietzsche is a prophet -- not in the line of Melchizedek, but more like Flannery O'Connor's Misfit in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find": one who unwittingly can bring one to Christ if, and only if, we take seriously what he says, even if we giggle at the absurdity of his life.

Let's not forget that although "Satan fell by force of gravity" (as Chesterton tells us), Christ took him just seriously enough to be his undoing -- and to perhaps have the last laugh.

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