Nietzsche’s Pity

If I had a list of favorite books from 2009 … the more posts I begin with this phrase the closer I come to completing the list. But really, if I had a list of favorite books for 2009 Graham Cole’s God the Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom would be my choice for the coveted BOY award. But the runner-up bouquet would fall on the neck of N. D. Wilson for his Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl. And here is what I believe to be the finest excerpt from the whole darned thing (pages 124-125):

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**.

3 thoughts on “Nietzsche’s Pity

  1. Pigs really aren’t that bitter. They’re more savory, and salty. I like a little pig in the morning with my eggs.

  2. It’s worth noting that Nietzsche did see happiness as an end. He was a great admirer of Macbeth: The act of will was enough for him. He fought for great moments, not eternity.

    It makes me smile when I hear of Christians reading Nietsche. Not because I hope they’ll be converted! But because, like any strong writer, he can give greater strength and context to your beliefs, whatever they are.

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