Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Gay Science for Life

Now you might appreciate my very clever shirt.
By no means am I an expert on Nietzsche. His thought is so original, so complex, and so completely counter-intuitive at times that I have to assume that I can only grasp glimpses of his work's brilliance. And I think he would agree.

Nevertheless, as I have continued with my (re-)reading of his books, I have felt a distinct shift in the degree of my appreciation for his work. Nietzsche himself noted that his books must be peculiarly read. Some will get it. Most others are bound to misunderstand him, and quite possibly in very dangerous ways. And one can't simply pick and choose among his aphorisms. One must read patiently and slowly, ruminate like cows graze, and get a sense for his tone. And one must not be too serious in the matter. Indeed, this is a key point that is highlighted by the title of my favorite of Nietzsche's books, The Gay Science. Rather than being stale, stuffy, and "academic," our wisdom and knowledge should embolden a sense of lightness, laughter, dancing, and a robust affirmation of life.

This leads to an important point in Nietzsche's philosophy, which is also an important point that I am trying to keep in mind for myself as I continue reading and living my day to day life: When we act in the world and with others, when we place value on certain ideas or experiences, when we relate back to ourselves, Nietzsche explains that, if we are strong and healthy free spirits, we will do so out of an overabundance of life, passion, enthusiasm, and gratitude. Not from fear or pity or shame, and not from a duty or obligation, but from the celebratory joyfulness and childlike brightness that comes from being able to cast off inhibiting social values, metaphysical comforts, and by renouncing the seriousness of the error that we call "Truth." Once we come to see life for what it is--the will to power, that is, the will to discharge energy, to grow, to expand, to become more, to go higher, to become new--we will be able to live more vibrantly, more healthily. As Nietzsche explains in Section 4 of the Preface to The Gay Science, "one returns newborn, having shed one's skin, more ticklish and malicious, with a more delicate taste for joy, with a tenderer tongue for all good things, with merrier senses, with a second dangerous innocence in joy, more childlike and yet a hundred times subtler than one has ever been before." Emerging out of the depths of life with this fresh skin is likened to finding "happiness in being for once like a flying fish, playing on the peaks of waves" (Section 256). Can't you just feel the tickle from dancing along the surface of things with such lightness and sensitivity to these feelings?

As wonderfully exuberant as this all sounds, it is immensely difficult for us to live and act with such levity because, according to Nietzsche, we are bogged down and made literally unhealthy, literally depressed, by our values which reflect seriousness, gravity, and the negation of life. Pity orients much of our actions and beliefs in debilitating ways. Equally heavy are feelings of revenge. Or to sum it up, Nietzsche explains that weakness leads us to act out of ressentiment. The French usage is important because it captures the sense with which these negative feelings are felt over and over, again and again. The English equivalent, resentment, is similar in meaning, so long as it still carries the quality of feeling feelings and being unable to let them go. If we are healthy and act out of our own abundance of energy, power, gratitude, and liveliness, we will be able to fully experience certain passions, emotions, and events, let this discharge and expel our energy, and then carry on. Even, or especially, when another tries to harm or injure us. We can take the blow. Nietzsche's descriptions of digestion help make the point. One with healthy digestion will consume, incorporate, metabolize, and then expel food, and it will be a nourishing process. Otherwise, if you internalize and hold on to your food (like, hold it in and do away with nothing), you will become constipated, nauseous, and ill. That is ressentiment.

The difference, then, is in how one handles life with all of its pains and pleasures, hurts and joys, violence and passion. Do we roll with the punches (out of an affirmation for all of life--not just the "good stuff"), or hold on to them and continually outline our bruises? This difference contains implications for political life, personal life, and how one engages in philosophy.

People commonly misunderstand Nietzsche's notion of the will to power as being terrifyingly violent. They assume that he glorifies murder and pillage. But to think this way is to already mishear his words and get tangled in a web of values that he is trying to reveal. For Nietzsche, it is the case that all of life is the will to power, and this means that "Benefiting and hurting others are ways of exercising one's power over others; that is all one desires in such cases. One hurts those whom one wants to feel one's power, for pain is a much more efficient means to that end than pleasure" (Section 13). But he goes on to explain, "Certainly the state in which we hurt others is rarely as agreeable, in an unadulterated way, as that in which we benefit others; it is a sign that we are still lacking power, or it shows a sense of frustration in the face of this poverty; it is accompanied by new dangers and uncertainties for what power we do possess, and clouds our horizon with the prospect of revenge, scorn, punishment, and failure." If the will to life is the will to power, then what matters is "how one is accustomed to spice one's life." The main point is that, although others will hurt us and try to bring us down, if we want to be healthy, if we are already strong, we will not respond by hurting others, especially not those who are weaker than us. Instead, one shows control and power over oneself.

It is for this reason, then, that Nietzsche goes on to give a 'new caution,' which I think has clear connections to many aspects of our lives, including how we might deal with others, lovers, and ourselves. "Let us stop thinking so much about punishment, reproaching, and improving others! We rarely change an individual, and if we should succeed for once, something may also have been accomplished, unnoticed: we may have been changed by him. Let us rather see to it that our won influence on all that is yet to come balances and outweighs his influence. Let us not contend in a direct fight--and that is what all reproaching, punishing, and attempts to improve others amount to. Let us rather raise ourselves much higher. Let us color our own example ever more brilliantly. Let our brilliance make them look dark. No, let us not become darker ourselves on their account, like all those who punish others and feel dissatisfied. Let us sooner step aside. Let us look away" (Section 321).

This may seem like just another instance of "turning the other cheek," but one cannot be so quick to make these connections. In just the same way that Nietzsche reproaches the desire to punish, especially out of revenge, he is equally disdainful of a "Christian morality" that operates out of weakness and pity. Pity, for Nietzsche, is really a twisted form of vanity--it makes us feel better about ourselves to help others because it marks our superiority over them (again, harking back to the will to power, but it is a weak will).

So again, the main issue becomes one of identifying the underlying source of our actions. "Every art, every philosophy may be viewed as a remedy and an aid in the service of growing and struggling life; they always presuppose suffering and suffers. But there are two kinds of sufferers: first, those who suffer from an over-fullness of life [and thus they must find ways to discharge and empty themselves, like when one is so filled with gratitude that one creates a god to whom one can give their thanks]...and then those who suffer from the impoverishment of life and seek rest, stillness, calm seas [and thus take comfort in metaphysical errors, like that the good and evil in the world can be explained by the presence of a god who punishes and rewards us for our actions, which is a mark of one who "revenges himself on all things by forcing his own image, the image of his torture, on them, branding them with it"]" (Section 370). Depending on their source, our actions will carry a different effect...of health and vitality or of sickness and weakening.

If we think about our interactions with one another, whether we act out of gratitude and strength or resentment and an inability to expend our energies in productively healthful ways, we can check ourselves against this distinction by following Nietzsche when he asks, "'is it hunger or superabundance that has here become creative?' At first glance, another distinction may seem preferable--it is far more obvious--namely the question whether the desire to fix, to immortalize, the desire for being prompted creation, or the desire for destruction, for change, for future, for becoming (in case you are a bit lost, on the most superficial level, Nietzsche is pulling for the latter, but he notes that this can still be broken down even further since...) The desire for destruction, change, and becoming can be an expression of overflowing energy that is pregnant with future...: but it can also be the hatred of the ill-constituted, disinherited, and underprivileged, who destroy, must destroy, because what exists, indeed all existence, all being, outrages and provokes them."

I have quoted Nietzsche at length in the hopes that his words will resonate with personal experiences. For myself, thinking of these important distinctions about the sources of my own actions and the actions of others helps me reconsider not only how I will act, and want to act, but how to respond to others who might lash out at me from their own sources of pain or constipated ressentiment. (Thus, this is a related note, and perhaps a follow up, to my previous post "Breathe Love.") And it also is generating in me questions about how I will continue to pursue philosophy.

Nietzsche lived with his ideas day in and day out, and he was the first to acknowledge the need to be personally involved in great problems because they require great love. And Nietzsche, too, was sick for much of his life. And he philosophized about health... Nietzsche notes, "For a psychologist there are few questions that are as attractive as that concerning the relation of health and philosophy, and if he should himself become ill, he will bring all of his scientific curiosity into his illness. For assuming that one is a person, one necessarily also has the philosophy that belongs to that person; but there is a big difference (AND HERE IT IS AGAIN, one last time, for my own purposes perhaps...). In some it is their deprivations that philosophize; in others, their riches and strengths. The former need their philosophy, whether it be as a prop, a sedative, medicine, redemption, elevation, or self-alienation. For the latter it is merely a beautiful luxury--in the best cases, the voluptuousness of a triumphant gratitude that eventually still has to inscribe itself in cosmic letters on the heaven of concepts." He concludes: "What was at stake in all philosophizing hitherto was not at all "truth" but something else--let us say, health, future, power, life" (Section 2).

I hope to keep a handle on these distinctions as I continue to expand my own philosophical thinking and work, especially because I know of the therapeutic dimension of philosophy. But am I seeking to heal (myself and others), as if with a palliative? Or am I seeking to grow, to become more, to be healthy? Can I? And of course, this is my hope as I continue to grow in and out of my relationships, my environments, and my self. I hope that I am, or if not yet, that I will be, strong enough to let go of certainty and faith and truth, and be able to swim joyfully across the crisp peaks of life's waves with a childlike levity.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

On Asian Identities and Anti-Asian Racism

This is my latest video. I thought some of my readers might appreciate it.

Description: "A UCLA student anti-Asian racist comments provides us with a great opportunity to think through other forms and operations of racism than what most people consider as "racist."

I appreciate the feedback that has already been posted in light of my video. Let me be clear, though. My only hope in posting these videos is to encourage people to *think* about important issues, not to prove myself right or others wrong. Youtube provides a way to get ideas out there, but it's not ideal. A 13 minute video is too long! But it's also too short in that it will necessarily be an incomplete message. And it's just me and a camera; not a real dialogue that would be enriched by a back and forth discussion with different ideas and examples. A video can only do so much. I hope, then, that this will be sufficient for starting conversations and an exchange of ideas. Even though I can't respond to each individual comment, I hope that you take these ideas further by exploring them with others in a thoughtful, open-ended dialogue.

And regarding this topic in particular, my point is that racism is complex, which is not to say that anti-black racism is a non-issue, or any other kind of racism for that matter, but that much of racism in America goes under-appreciated as such. My experiences help shed light on some of the "strange" occurrences of racist attitudes, like for instance, when a (white) professor of mine exclaims, "Well, if you're half-Chinese then I'm half-Chinese." Comments like these indicate that "looking Asian" is often equated with being Asian, but to say that I don't look Asian, and that I'm somehow not Asian, means that another assumes the power to undermine and determine my family, my history, and my experiences. Of course others have different (and often times more hostile) experiences, like when people who do look Asian are assumed to be not American (which means, what? not white?). The point to emphasize again is that racism is real, and it affects lots of people in different ways that exceed the more common conceptions represented within a black-white binary.

Consider for a moment how many (or, more likely, how few) Asian celebrities, pop icons, or role models come to mind who are not stereotyped as martial artists, super nerds, desexualized side kicks, or over-eroticized prostitutes. You might have to think for a while. In terms of Asian representation, we have a long way to go, which means going beyond Bruce Lee, expecting more from Jackie Chan, and recognizing that even the guy who does back-flips on Iron Chef is a disservice to Asian representation. It would be fantastic if one day there could be Asians in our cultural consciousness who are not just considered Asians in America, but Americans who are also Asian."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Reckoning with the Differences

You don't know that tonight I watered this down with my tears. The pillow-top dreamscape became a sad bed and me, I was a sad scene. Eventually nested in a cold and empty hotel bathtub, I settled with the company of a pillow-substitute towel and the sharp reverberations that came out shaky with my breathing, tight like my core's contractions while muscling through the sadness of letting us go.

I already miss your hands skimming the curve of my shoulder, your face whispering on the back of my neck, and that you know before I'm crying. And how you smell my skin as you spoon me, and hold me, and brush away the hair on my head.

Languages between us favored your hands.

And by that, I mean your touch, and by that I know your love.

And still, I know that these tears I have to let flow because maybe they have been held back like so much that was never allowed to show. Maybe this is like a leaking dam, and these tears are being forced out of the holes that they, temporarily, had served to fill to keep me air-tight, water-sealed.

Maybe tonight is the night to let the walls reveal their pores.

Water surfaces through the openings of my body. This time, through my eyes. But you should know, that never before has a Chinatown felt so lonely. Tonight I felt like a foreigner in my own present due to the adjustment of my world. The past is just close enough that I could still imagine how this was supposed to be different. Five years from now is too far forward for me to picture in my head, but today I knew too well that you would have been smiling as we ate fried chicken, loving the Malaysian pancake, and that I would have felt the touch of your hand.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Heroic Imaginings, and Reality Checks

Reading Nietzsche has been very slow going for me because he makes me think, and as in this case, I sometimes indulge in these thoughts by writing. When I read Nietzsche, it seems that he is speaking directly to me, to right where I am in this moment. How could it be that just as I am remembering one of the most significant people who has shaped me, and more specifically, the truly incredible amount of love, devotion, and commitment that this one human being has shown me, Nietzsche writes about heroes, delusion, and vanity? Lest that seems like too harsh of a connection, hold on. More on this in a bit...

As an example of Nietzsche's impeccable timing and insight, I just saw "The Adjustment Bureau," which has been praised for its philosophical musings on free will and determinism but which, thanks to the personally peculiar intersections of casting, plot, and script, actually raised bewildering questions in me like, "Is all of this, my feelings, my thoughts, and even me seeing this particular movie right now, some coincidence?? Is it fate?" Though this film may not be the most salient example of inspirational art, Nietzsche notes that the metaphysical need is so strong, even in free spirits, that "the highest effects of art easily produce a reverberation of a long-silenced, or even broken metaphysical string." As the strange "coincidences" of the movie shake me, so too does the timeliness of Nietzsche's words. Might even the fact that I have been reading Nietzsche be part of a great playing out of destiny?! Is this, perhaps, evidence of Nietzsche great skill for contradiction? Or does it mark his brilliance? Responding to my situation of wonder--or doubt--or longing--Nietzsche writes, "If he becomes aware of his condition [of the metaphysical need], he may feel a deep stab in his heart and sigh for the man who will lead back to him the lost beloved, be she called religion or metaphysics. In such moments, his intellectual character is being tested" (Section 153, Human, All Too Human). Am I, in identifying so strongly with a movie and considering my experiences and latest wonderings as perhaps a strange series of fated events, actually demonstrating Nietzsche's point? Is this an exposure of my metaphysical longing?

This situation is a very complicated. Let's go back to heroes, delusion, and vanity.

Some people are truly inspirational. They achieve miraculous things and seem to evidence superhuman capacities to give, to heal, to lead, to love. Many of their stories give life to history. (Name your hero, and note that they may equally turn out to be another's tyrant.) They are the people whose character traits provide resources for great myths and compelling movies. These are heroes who save lives or countries by virtue of their courage, their unbelievable physical and emotional strength. These are heroes who express inexhaustible depths of love and passion, who will do anything, especially sacrifice their own life, for the one they love. They are those who, in everyone's eyes, are simply larger than life, and because of this, they inspire awe, amazement, admiration. They might motivate others to live like them, to emulate their qualities. Or more often, they are praised out of another's vanity. In a sense, their incredible feats of love, strength, power inspire fear and inadequacy in others, so they are set apart as miraculous exceptions. We worship them out of our vanity, our self-love, because, as Nietzsche writes, "it does not hurt only if we think of it as very remote from ourselves, as a miracle (even Goethe, who was without envy, called Shakespeare his star of the farthest height, recalling to us that line, "Die Sterne, die begehrt man nicht"--one does not covet the stars)." I have known and been loved by one of these stars.

But while there are these heroes who have loved from the most devoted and unwavering depths, the source of their magical power is also in need of explanation. Are they really "super human," or, perhaps, are they themselves the most caught up in the fantastic stories of myths and movies? Perhaps they are borderline figures who simply believe themselves to be heroes. Borderline delusional. Borderline magical because they actually believe in themselves so much that they are, or become, just as incredible as they imagine themselves to be. Whereas one might be tempted to criticize such fantastic faith in oneself as a heroic figure, Nietzsche notes that such valuations, if they turn out to be criticisms, are likely misguided. This is because seeming can become being.

Nietzsche writes, "If someone wants to seem to be something, stubbornly and for a long time, he eventually finds it hard to be anything else. The profession of almost every man, even the artist, begins with hypocrisy, as he imitates from the outside, copies what is effective. The man who always wears the mask of a friendly countenance eventually has to gain power over benevolent moods without which the friendliness cannot be forced--and eventually then these moods gain power over him, and he is benevolent" (Section 51). Is it possible that in playing the part and going through the motions, one could act so compellingly that she actually convinces herself of the truth of the very idea that she aims to embody? Most importantly, could this go beyond mere "convincing" and enter into actual being? Can one cultivate these abilities? These feelings??

In the next section Nietzsche goes on to explain that "all great deceivers" undergo the same process where "the belief in themselves overcomes them." Without coming out of this condition of self deception, what some might call faith, these individuals can inspire others. In love as well as in religion, but one might also say sports, theater, politics, and sometimes even life in general, "Self-deception must be present, so that both kinds of deceivers can have a grand effect. For men will believe something is true, if it is evident that others believe in it firmly." The effect, then, is the most significant element. Not the cause, not the root of one's undying love, but rather the effect it has on oneself and another. Tragic lovers are inspirational not simply because they love so deeply, but because they themselves believe so firmly in their capacity to do so. And they inspire us to believe in them as well.

But despite the effects that such people might inspire, there is a risk to all of this as well insofar as "delusions often have the value of curatives, which are actually poisonous. Yet in the case of every 'genius' who believes in his divinity, the poison at last becomes apparent, to the degree that the 'genius' grows old" (Section 164). Though it is the belief in one's greatness that can actually lead one to such great heights that set him apart from all others, in some (Nietzsche gives Napoleon as an example, and some might point to Nietzsche himself as an example, as well) "this same belief turned into an almost mad fatalism, robbed him of his quick, penetrating eye, and became the cause of his downfall." Eventually, it seems, one's conviction can lead to their demise. One's passion is more thoroughly deflated when it is unrealized...or proves to be unrealizable. If one does not, or cannot, live up to one's own expectation, if faith does not beat "fate," then the ultimate disappointment unravels to reveal the greatest weakness. This is a problem for the heroic, self-deceptive believer. The hero is, after all, a very tragic figure.

But what about those who believed? What about those who felt so inspired and wanted to believe in these heroic figures? What happens when the heroic lover falters? What happens when the great leaders fall? At times, we might suffer from our own disillusionment about ourselves, but these heroic figures can also be parents, friends, teachers and lovers in whom we did believe, and perhaps still want to believe.

From all of this we can learn that there is some necessity in error, illusion, delusion. Sometimes, it is necessary for life. Always, it tests our character and strength.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A few weeks of my philifesophy

The past few weeks have been marked by a unique kind of bubbling deep in my belly. It's a nervousness, or perhaps a growing awareness, and something that has resisted being put into writing. So this is my attempt. And I am taking it on in the hopes of a catharsis, or a relief, or if nothing else, part of the process of working through some thoughts and feelings.

Here is the situation:

In my professional life, I'm currently reading a list of over 40 books this semester in preparation for my comprehensive exams. Fortunately for me, my tests will be on two fascinating subjects, Feminist Philosophy and 20th Century Continental Philosophy. I've tailored my lists to materials that speak directly to issues of affect, embodiment, corporeality, materiality, sexuality, neurobiology, psychology, ethics, and philosophy.

In my personal life, I've been traversing familiar yet seemingly new ground with respect to my relationships with others and with myself. My reading lists have been incredibly illuminating of my personal process to the point where I've had to quickly summarize for my therapist parts of Nietzsche's philosophy on health and vitality, ideas about the transmission of affect, notions of corporeal generosity, and Beauvoir's incredible classic, The Second Sex. I figure, she has to hear about what I am reading in order to understand from where I am coming. But more unusually, I also took time this week to explain to my advisor (the director of my committee) what sort of things I have been addressing in therapy. She knows what I am reading, but she doesn't know the extent of my involvement with these books and how they are affecting me day after day as I pass through the pages. So, in order for her to understand how I am reading Beauvoir and Nietzsche, commentary on embodiment and values, I told her about my own personal efforts in managing healthy boundaries with people, giving more of my space and my self to my partners, and working on integrating love, trust, vulnerability, and risk in my relationships with myself and others in ways that might finally help me kick this 10 month long cough.

I've spent hours over these weeks thinking about the profound and often unsettling connections that are occurring between my personal life and my philosophy. For instance, when I asked what sort of changes might occur if we follow Spinoza's and Nietzsche's idea of creating values out of a certain affective disposition (for example, joy rather than sadness), my advisor responded by saying something like,
"It's not something that we can really specifically imagine, but I do think it would change our relationships: with institutions, with others, and even with ourselves." She likened it to an example of the creation of gods. Imagine those who were so filled with gratitude, joy, and celebration that they created gods in order to have a place toward which these feelings could be directed. And compare that to a God that is created out of fear, threat, and insecurity.

This conversation occurred just a few days after I really acknowledged something important: I have high expectations. This is not news, for I have always known that I could not allow myself to be anything but responsible, mature, successful. I expect for myself to be able to take care of myself and to be independent. There are of course reasons for why I have been been made (i.e., created, sculpted) to be this way, but more importantly, it has led to a kind of inflexibility, irritability, and demanding level of expectation within myself that gets directed to those around me, and particularly toward my partners. This, too, is not news, for I have already been learning how to "lighten up" with others. In fact, it is easier to do that with others because I do it out of compassion, kindness, and love for others. But I hadn't yet paid attention to the root of the problem, which is that I could also "lighten up" on myself. Like the example of the creation of gods, imagine, I told myself, how even my closest relationships with others might be different if I could allow myself more room to be affected by others, to be less independent, to make stupid mistakes...(Of course, it would be naive at best to think that I have not already been completely affected by others, dependent on others, and made lots of silly, stupid mistakes. I get it on a cognitive level. I'm seeing what it means to internalize it on an emotional one.)

There have been numerous other experiences like this as I've been going through my philosophy, including the shocking dis-ease that occurred as I read the Second Sex and felt as though Beauvoir was narrating my life (which I have since heard is a common response), and these experiences are coupled by intense personal memories of old relationships, friendships, and family experiences. In particular, I've been appreciating the unconditional generosity of certain friends, family members, "adopted" family members, and mentors of mine over the years. As I hope to more fully grasp the fact that we are already constituted by an openness to the Other and practice that by means of concrete moments of pure generosity, I am grateful for the examples of this that I have already encountered. I have been remembering what it felt like to receive an unquestioned, unwavering, and unconditional love from one of the most influential people in my life during my most formative years...and appreciating the commitment and dedication that was expressed in that love. In a very simple sense, I am touching on what it means to love. And at the same time, I am reading carefully about Simone de Beauvoir's notion of genuine love and Merleau-Ponty's notions of intercorporeality, expressed through Rosalyn Diprose's writing on generosity: "The body at risk is a generous body, a body that is opened to the other. And this erotic generosity is creative in transforming the other's embodied situation, and hence existence, through a self-metamorphosis that...does not reduce the other to the self. Becoming flesh is a project directed toward and beyond the other, a giving without calculation that nevertheless gets something in return through the future possibilities it opens" (Corporeal Generosity, 86). More simply: "For Merleau-Ponty, this lending to and borrowing from the bodies of others is a generosity lying not just at the core of the erotic encounter but at the heart of existence itself" (89).

In spite of the often ineffable moments that reading book after book of this stuff can generate, I've had some brief conversations about my worries of being so personally involved in my work. Is there, or should there be, a strong separation between psychology and philosophy, that is, the personal work that I do in therapy and the philosophical work I do for comprehensive exams? Is there a danger in being too personally invested in the work that if others disapprove of the content or the method, I might be setting myself up for hardship when I go on the job market? Rather than writing this on a public blog for others to see, should I be pouring myself into journal publications? Is all of this stuff on relationships and personal growth just not philosophical enough for you, whoever you are?!? I've written about my struggles with these questions before. And I've recently gotten some feedback from others. My advisor said something like this (and I have always wholly agreed with this point): "If nothing else, it's good for life to approach it philosophically. And it's good for philosophy to keep it grounded in relevant issues that involve our lives." I say, what good is philosophy if it doesn't speak directly to our experiences? This semester has already been an unanticipated challenge and growing experience precisely because the books have been speaking directly to me!

And I am not alone. In fact, my favorite philosopher has stepped up to the front of the line of my next stack of books to read. Within the Introduction of Nietzsche's Human, All Too Human, Arthur Danto writes:

"Nietzsche was always defined through divided intentions. He did not want at any time to give up his critique of the human, all too human, as he continued all the while to build the great philosophical account of human nature that in less gifted hands would have been a treatise, an essay, an enquiry, a dissertation. He tried to practice philosophy in the way he thought of history as being practiced when in the service of life rather than in the production of academic scholars. His divided intentions very nearly queered his philosophical reputation, inasmuch as philosophers since his time have pretty largely just been academic philosophers, trained by codes of expressions Neitzsche fails to follow, whereas we might now see in him a model for how to do philosophy when we want to be taken seriously in the academy and at the same time effective in life" (xix).

And I've also been quite open about the fact that I do philosophy in a particular way because I find the true philosophical significance in its application to life, growth, and flourishing, rather than for a service within institutions. This is not an original position. In talking about Nietzsche's decision to leave the academy, Marion Faber explains, "It was not only his health, however, but also his conviction that academic life was stifling and a hindrance to a true philosopher which prompted his departure. As he had already written,...a philosopher must strive not merely to be a thinker, but primarily to be a human being; this latter goal would be better realized outside the confines of a scholarly existence" (xxii). And indeed, Nietzsche did not turn away from psychology but rather towards psychology for his explanation of things like gratitude and moral valuations. Furthermore, "We can at least speculate that such a psychology of gratitude may be partially attributed to Nietzsche's own conception of his life as struggle--with himself, his illness, and the outside world" (xxx).

So as I happily turn to the small stack of Nietzsche's books again, quite aware of the risky openness and vulnerability of my own personal feelings and the likelihood that they will be affected once more (and more!) by the pages that I read, I find a sense of comfort in the possibility that I am doing something right because I am open to and aware of this relationship between my life and philosophy. In Section 6 of Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche writes, "Gradually it has become clear to me what every great philosophy so far has been: namely, the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir; also that the moral (or immoral) intentions in every philosophy constituted the real germ of life from which the whole plant had grown. Indeed, if one would explain how the abstrusest metaphysical claims of a philosopher really came about, it is always well (and wise) to ask first: at what morality does all this (does he) aim?"

For me, I put emphasis on becoming healthier, stronger, new, and different from what I have already been, to live a life of happiness, gaiety, creativity, and vitality. All of this, is a practice in self-overcoming.