I believe I just wasn’t prepared to write this article until this very morning. As many people introduced into stoicism, I believe I, as well, didn’t really comprehend the philosophy to my heart.
Last night, I woke up suddenly, sweating, with an accelerated heart and breath, I had a terrible nightmare in which a place quite known to me, familiar, was inundated with rotting animals and trees that were still alive sort of death, there were people there as well and it all felt lifeless, murky, dark and humid. It felt as if the place had lost its hope, as if darkness had won there.
It felt especially horrifying and sal due to the deep emotional attachment I have to that place. When I woke up I felt angry, very angry and wanted to do something and the first thought that crossed my mind was what I had been writing earlier the day before in this article.
I pictured myself with a sword, a light was sprouting from my bare chest and I began literally eating the rotten fish and branches from the floor, enjoying the rotten feast. The light in my chest made all the rotten components of my dream squeak and step back, I didn’t even need to yield my sword. I became the beast of my dream.
As I woke up, still shaking because of the depth of the dream I began thinking and rationalizing it and came to the conclusion that I had understood, subconsciously, ideas I had not integrated to my personality yet.
True power is always within. Always personal.
All that horrifying images I saw in my dream aren’t worth nothing to the great man, they are just food for its greatness, all that putrefaction is just food. Nothing outside of us, not fortune nor calamity is worth anything to the Stoic, the only power that he can and wants to wield, is the power he already has within himself, his will. As Nietzche would put it, his will to power.
Abundance of power
If this is true, then the power you have in yourself is truly limitless. If all that you deem worthy is your capacity to face life as you independently and willingly choose to face it, in this instance, with courage for example. Then you, my friend, are capable of this abundance of power at any moment. If you truly understand this, you can comprehend why Albert Camus said:
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
― Albert Camus
This idea goes beyond, way beyond. The path to greatness doesn’t end in our ability to withstand darkness, but in our will to enjoy every second of our existence, enjoying darkness or fortune, it makes no difference, for the highest good, is, explicitly, that power that is within, always, within our control.
When we search outside ourselves, we lose our power and contentment in the present moment. Every time that you believe “everything will be good once I do/get something” you are voluntarily making yourself a slave to the externals, leaving you powerless, by your own choice. Think about this. In my case, the externals took the shape of dead fish, rotten flesh, ghosts and murky lifeless stuff.
I want to talk now about Nietzche and the distinction he makes between slaves and masters as it fits just perfectly to the ideas I’m conveying.
Beyond good and evil
The title “Beyond good and evil” has always fascinated me, to think about going beyond the limits of my reasoning and traditional morality is a quite satisfying experience. When I thought about going beyond good and evil, I used to think of some twisted sort of mindset, full of unknowns and uncertainty, quite scary to be honest.
Reading, however, and trying to really understand the author has changed what I think it “might be” for what it really is or what I’ve come to understand so far.
So, what does it means to go beyond good and evil?
Good and evil, according to Nietzche, are concepts created not by God but by humanity, specifically, Aristocracy.
The aristocracy of the world, as he calls them, the masters, are the creators of the world. The conquerors, the self-reliant, which, in the beginning, established the morality of the world. To quote Nietzche:
At the start, the noble caste has always been the barbarian caste: its superiority has lain not primarily in physical might but in spiritual power – it has been a matter of more complete human beings (which at every level also means “more complete beasts”).
This higher spiritual power is described later”:
Every aristocratic morality springs from a triumphant affirmation on its own demands
That which they claimed was good in the beginning, was good for everybody.
Noble and anti-noble values
The noble values are the self-created created values and self-reliant (they don’t depend on anything but themselves), and powerful, they are greatness itself. They characterize themselves as being internal. As I said in the beginning, true power, noble power, always, always springs from the inside, like the sun. they shine regardless of whatever happens.
Internal values are created independently. They don’t need anything to exist other than themselves.
In a more modern sense you can think about it in the following way:
You don’t like something? change it. Something you don’t like about yourself. Is there anything in your house, family, society, school that could be better? Make it better yourself. Why are you waiting for someone else? Create your own reality, create your own values, become the Ubermensch.
This is the noble way of living, the path of greatness. If you are not on this path, then what is it that you are doing? Waiting for instructions? The waiting is the quiet desperation, Henry David Thoreau
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
The anti-noble values are reactive, created by someone else, by the masters you could say. Everything is external, people in the slave mentality is, in fact, waiting for someone or something to show them the way, waiting for something to happen, like heaven or the revolution, or the president that will make everything better, just waiting, passively following orders.
There is no power in here cause you have given it away, you are reacting to the supposed power of your self-chosen masters, be it money, other people or your circumstances.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
― Marcus Aurelius,
Masters don’t have time for reaction. They act now, they live now, in creation.
Nieztche criticized Christianity greatly, he argued that Christianity contributed to making the anti-noble values, good. Promising damnation to the rich and the powerful and sending them to hell, making it even more glorious for the ones that did go to heaven.
Only those who suffer are good, only the poor, the powerless, the lowly are good; the
suffering, the deprived, the sick, the ugly, are the only pious people, the only ones saved, salvation is for them alone, whereas you rich, the noble and powerful, you eternally wicked cruel, lustful, insatiate, godless, you will be eternally wretched, cursed and damned. (OGM 1:7)
But let’s not go so fast and understand true power first. I especially like Fromm’s definition of power as it is most in accordance to what I’m refering to in this article.
“The lust for power is not rooted in strength but in weakness. It is the expression of the inability of the individual self to stand alone and live. It is the desperate attempt to gain secondary strength where genuine strength is lacking. The word power has a twofold meaning. One is the possession of power over somebody, the ability to dominate him; the other meaning is the possession of power to do something, to be able, to be potent (creation). The latter meaning has nothing to do with domination; it expresses mastery in the sense of ability.”
― Erich Fromm,
Utility and greatness
“Man does not suffer so much from poverty today as he suffers from the fact that he has become a cog in a large machine, an automaton, that his life has become empty and lost its meaning.”
― Erich Fromm,
The great man will live for greatness, not just for living. When he works, because of his super-abundance of power, the work that he does is done with greatness, it is not done just to get it done.
This is a core difference between masters and slaves. The difference between majestic castles and slums.
The slaves work for utility, whereas the masters work for greatness.
Courage and fear
The noble character exists with courage. It embraces the moment and whatever it is that life and destiny have to offer. He is happy and eager to live, no matter the circumstance.
The slave is waiting, in fear of what happens, he lives as if life is against him, whereas the nobleman lives not against but with life.
The great men help the weak out of an abundance of power.
The noble instinct, the abundance mentality, occupied with living, it is like the growth mindset of Dweck, it is also that feeling of not having enough time in the day, you are literally preoccupied with winning on grabbing any winning opportunity you encounter when this mindset is applied, new roads open, your brain is literally more active etc.
The slave mentality, the life-negating instinct, is never satisfied with what is, it is the opposite of Amor Fati, it will be happy when something or someone saves him, he is reactive, he is waiting for life to happen to him, he does not live. Therefore, misery and misfortune are always happening to him, cause he doesn’t act and therefore is acted upon.
The golden laughter the olympian vice
“The Olympian vice.–In defiance of that philosopher who as true Englishman tried to give any thinking person’s laughter a bad reputation (‘Laughter is a nasty infirmity of human nature that any thinking person will endeavour to overcome’—Hobbes), I would actually go as far as to rank philosophers according to the level of their laughter—right up to the ones who are capable of golden laughter. And assuming that gods, too, are able to philosophize, as various of my conclusions force me to believe, then I do not doubt when they do so, they know how to laugh in a new and superhuman fashion—and at the expense of everything serious! Gods like to jeer: it seems that even at religious observances they cannot keep from laughing.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
Noble is the golden laughter, to laugh about oneself also in one’s situation. In comparison to obsession, vengefulness which really leaves you reacting and focusing on the external, in contrast to it, you do have control to laugh about it or at least let it go and better focus on the things that you do have control of.
Trap of resentment
The trap of resentment is thinking that you will be ok once you create your values and attain the life you have always wanted to have. This is just your ignoble part speaking and thinking.
This is a trap because you can stumble upon it anytime thinking that you are working on your values when in reality you are just reacting to the externals.
Nobility believes in himself. Right now. Not in the future.
So use all that is called Fortune. Most men gamble with her, and gain
all, and lose all, as her wheel rolls. But do thou leave as unlawful these
winnings, and deal with Cause and Effect, the chancellors of God. In the
Will work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt
sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations. A political victory, a rise of rents,
the recovery of your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other
favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for
you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing
can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.
Ralph Waldo Emerson.
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