Nietzsche’s Pity

“Nietzsche published The Anti-Christ in 1888. Along with many other things, he had this to say about pity: ‘Pity thwarts the whole law of evolution, which is the law of natural selection. It preserves whatever is ripe for destruction; it fights on the side of those disinherited and condemned by life; by maintaining life in so many of the botched of all kinds, it gives life itself a gloomy and dubious aspect.’

One year later Nietzsche entered into madness. True or false, the story is that he was overcome by the sight of a horse being whipped. Unhinged by pity. He wouldn’t die until 1900. For a decade he was kept alive and maintained through his insanity, strokes, and incapacitating illness. At the age of fifty-five, partially paralyzed, unable to speak or walk, he discovered what life waited for him beyond the grave.

Nietzsche lashed out at his Maker with his tongue, the only notable muscle he had—his greatest gift. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

There was little that Nietzsche loathed more than the heritage of his Lutheran father.

I have never been irritated by Nietzsche, never annoyed. At his most blasphemous, at his most riotously hateful and pompous, I have only ever been able to laugh. But even then, there is something bittersweet about the laughter. I know his story. I know how his bluff was called, how he was broken.

Again from The Anti-Christ: ‘The weak and the botched shall perish: first principle of our charity. And one should help them to it.’ Spake the paralytic. The man fed with a spoon by those who loved him.

‘What is more harmful than any vice—Practical sympathy for the botched and the weak—Christianity….’

And yet, because I see the world through my eyes and not his, I have sympathy for Nietzsche himself. Bodies and minds are not all that can be botched in a man. Souls can be hollow, twisted, thrashing, more bitter than pi**.”

—N.D. Wilson, Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World (Thomas Nelson 2009), pp. 124-125. My review is forthcoming.

11 thoughts on “Nietzsche’s Pity

  1. Thanks for the post.

    Curious censorship with the double asterisk. I wasn’t aware that such a biblical word was offensive (1 Sam 25:22 KJV).


  2. Ah, the good ol’ King James Version! If it was good enough for St. Paul, it’s good enough for me.


  3. I’m with you Tony. I really love the ESV, and just read from my hefty (genuine leather) ESV this morning. Lovely stuff.

    But for all of the shortcomings of the Authorized 1611, I still read from it routinely. Whenever I open it, I can smell the fragrance of Puritan flowers wafting from the sacred page. That is, there is still so much of Tyndale in the language of the 1611, Tyndale, that great proto-Puritan. I find that very often the language of the KJV breathes the fear of God.

    So, enticing as your club sounds, I cannot join. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. :)

    But let us, brother, think of another club, or guild (Guild sounds more satisfyingly medieval, doesn’t it?). I’ve always wanted to start a joint brewery and printing press. Wouldn’t that be something? For all those people who love a cold pint of bitter and a good book. What joy.

    Now I’m starting to get thirsty…

    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you


    “Now, there is a law written in the darkest of the Books of Life, and it is this: If you look at a thing nine hundred and ninety-nine times, you are perfectly safe; if you look at it the thousandth time, you are in frightful danger of seeing it for the first time.” G.K. Chesterton, *The Napolean of Notting Hill*

  4. And I join in your appreciation the 1611 as well–flowers, warts, and expletives all told. … Re: a joint brewery and printing press guild. I’m there! Although it sounds 1611-onlyish. How about a mocha bar with free e-books for the Kindle, club? Nah! … When are you traveling to DC? We can get together at a local pub (excellent area brews to choose from) and talk long over literature, theology, and the greatness of our Savior. Blessings, Tom! Tony

  5. I’ll keep my eyes open for a conference in DC next year. Perhaps I can arrange a research trip. Would be so pleased to meet over some bitter, or that other blessed bitter of the warmer kind: that eau de vivre – espresso.

    Every had a quad tall Americano at Starbucks? Four shots of espresso with a little drip of steaming hot water to balance it out. And, of course, unadulterated black. So good. A great way to start your morning.

    Grace and peace,

  6. Funny, my drink is a 6-shot Americano. Ever had a trippio (3 shots straight in a tiny little cup with no added water)? Two great ways to start the day (though, I’m a 1/2 + 1/2 guy).

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