Nietzschean Diary 2: Day Zero
Here we are then: New Year’s Eve 2018. No doubt many of you out there are considering your personal development commitments for 2019. Here in the town where I live, I just know there will be many, many bleary-eyed joggers pounding the streets tomorrow morning - and no bad thing.
Some people I know decry the whole New Year’s Resolutions thing. ‘Why do you have to wait until New Year to make a change?’ It’s a fair point. You don’t. But there’s something about midwinter that is so suggestive of new beginnings.
On the 21st of December we had the shortest day of the year and since then, the days are getting longer by about a minute in each 24 hours. That was nature's New Year - begun right there. The ancient pagans thought that the sun died and was born again at the winter solstice. Can it be a coincidence that this is also the time of the Christian festival of the birth of Christ? Many animals hibernate for the winter and emerge as the days get warmer and seeds lie dormant and germinate as the sun gathers its strength in spring. The passing of midwinter is undeniably an ancient archetype of rebirth. Therefore, what could be more appropriate than starting a new, improved chapter in your life at this time? You have the momentum of all nature behind you. (Plus, face it, you’ve eaten and drunk too much in the past few weeks - you need a break from all that indulgence.)
Others I know criticise New Year’s resolutions because the statistics tell us that they don’t work. According to the athlete’s website, Strava, most people give up on their resolutions by the 12th January. This is a crazy objection. If there wasn’t a significant chance of failure in your New Year’s goals, what would be the point in having them? Sure, people may be too unrealistic when setting their goals, but shouldn’t your reach exceed your grasp? Shouldn’t we aim high? Push our limits? Everything worth having requires work. The more desirable the prize, the more significant the work that is required.
The truth is we fail more often than we succeed - this is to be expected. But to say then, that because failure is likely, it is not worth trying at all, strikes me as obtuse. The trick, as everyone knows, is to fail and then pick yourself up and try again.
Personally, I think New Year is a great opportunity to re-consecrate your aspirations. If you follow this blog at all, you will know that I am already working on personal development experiments - that’s what this website is about, right? But I am going to use tomorrow as a fresh line in the sand, a new baseline from which to trace progress for a redrawn raft of Nietzschean Self-Help ambitions. I merely hint at these ambitions below, as there’s limited space here, but I will describe the specifics of each of them over the next couple of weeks.
1. OPTIMISATION OF BODY
‘But the awakened and knowing say: body am I entirely, and nothing else’.
2. CULTIVATION OF SELF-REVERENCE
‘The noble soul has reverence for itself.’
From Beyond Good and Evil
3. DIONYSIAN AFFIRMATION OF LIFE
‘What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: "This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence … how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?’
From The Gay Science
4. CATALOGUE AND HARNESS THE DRIVES
‘The most shortsighted and pernicious way of thinking wants to make the great sources of energy, those wild torrents of the soul that often stream forth so dangerously and overwhelmingly, dry up altogether, instead of taking their power into service and economising it.’
From Nietzsche’s personal notes.
5. CREATE ONE'S OWN VALUES
‘You had to become your own master, and also the master of your own virtues. Previously, your virtues were your masters; but they must be nothing more than your tools, along with your other tools. You had to gain power over your For and Against, and learn how to hang them out or take them in, according to your higher purpose.'
From Human, All to Human
I will give updates on this work, as part of this Nietzschean Diary series, on an ad hoc basis, hopefully providing something weekly.
It would be fantastic if you could share your thoughts, your own experiments and any questions you might have in the comments section below each post. For now, please feel free to share your own NYE goals with me. I would be really interested to hear what you are planning.
Aim high and work hard. As Nietzsche says in Beyond Good and Evil:
‘The noble human being honours himself as one who is powerful, also as one who has power over himself… who delights in being severe and hard with himself and respects all severity and hardness’
Have a great New Year’s Eve celebration. See you next year.
Keep Living Dangerously. NIL.
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