Nietzsche — The meaning of life and devices to get there
After a few weeks, I learned a lot more than just how to pronounce his name
Remember when you were a curious child.
Today, you may wish to relive the best parts of your childhood. The parts you didn’t pay much attention to but wish you did. Looking back at the things you may have done differently given what you know today.
Being a 15-year-old, all I thought I wanted to do was get old. Gain freedom and do whatever I wanted. And escape any embarrassing baby pictures that may haunt me in the future.
At the same time, the child stage of life is special. As the years go by and you collect data and information on the world, you seem to lose the key characteristics of a child. The playful, curious, silly and independent decisions seem to disappear.
Instead, we become more mature and understand what really matters. Nietzsche thought otherwise.
The Camel, Lion and Child
A camel. It carries items on it’s back and travel’s place to place, going where ever it’s master tells it. Nietzsche believed this is the basic stage of life. 90% of people will never grow greater than camel and will die as one.
That’s because most people function according to society. We like to copy what others do to fit in. We followed the herd because if everyone else is doing it, then we can’t go wrong. Everything will work out. And yes, that’s true, but we would never be greater than societies before us.
Starting from a young age, we are given restrictions, rules, ideas that we carry on our backs. From not touching the stove to becoming an engineer, or even to strive for the white picket fence dream.
A camel is one who carries these ideas without question, living their life based on what others tell them (even what Jeff Bezos says).
They feel happy due to the validation they receive from the rest of society. But this feeling of happiness is only surface level.
A lion has grown to be a slayer. Its ultimate quest is to eliminate the dragon. A dragon that carries all ideas and thoughts that have been dumped on the lions back. It no longer restricts itself to the thoughts of others.
But upon eliminating the dragon, everything the lion thought it knew was destroyed. All beliefs it had followed and lived by have now disappeared. What success looks like, what religion to choose, what to do are all now unknown.
The stage that was once experienced is also the one Nietzsche believes so many should strive for. A child does not care for the thoughts of others. It only comes to believe what it finds true for himself.
Your parents may have told you to not touch the stove, but you didn’t stop touching it until you felt the never-ending burning sensation at your fingertips (for me it was the iron).
A child is curious, one who takes risks in the search for answers and truth. Only it decides whether the ideas placed on it’s back should be kept.
But Nietzsche doesn’t think the child is a destination. Rather, his whole life’s work leads to one becoming the overman.
The overman recognizes that the constant journey of growth. Just like how chimpanzees may look up to us humans, we have to look up the more improved humans of the future.
In this pursuit, Nietzsche believes there should be a will to power. Meaning, a pursuit to become who you truly are and self-express yourself. And to achieve this by taking control over life. This journey is the meaning of life to Nietzsche.
Rather than chasing happiness, becoming nihilistic or living for an afterlife proposed by religions. Here are Nietzsche’s thoughts:
- If we were constantly trying to be happy, why do we make decisions that result in guilt, jealousy or fear?
- If we live our life based on survival, why would one take the risk to skydive?
- Nietzsche believed there were two true narcotics: Christianity and Alcohol. Both of these numb the pain, making reality seem better than it is. Hiding your problems. Religion hinders one’s ability to self express as one obeys the book with a focus on the afterlife over reality. (Ex. Self-sacrifice, virginity)
- To become the Overman, you can put down others and be selfish in order to self-express. There is no good or evil, no cheaters and no powerful or weak, only those being the best version of themselves.
Devices to Become the Overman
Unlike Christianity’s belief that envy should be suppressed, Nietzsche saw envy as a tool. You feel envy when you lack something, someone else has. Therefore, you can learn about your desires and areas for growth.
In general, negative emotions and suffering is required to grow. But, too many suppress or avoid emotions like fear, and can’t follow through on what they desire.
My Thoughts on Envy
Envy is useful if you understand and adopt Nietzsche’s other beliefs. It should be used in moderation and with introspection on what you may be envious about.
Most people who feel envious towards a certain person may not adopt values for their own life. Rather, emotions can get the better of someone and they will try to push that person down.
The biggest problem surrounding envy is falling into a camel state. By looking at other people and trying to imitate them, you are following some herd. Meaning, you will only be as good as others in society.
Finally, what someone else has may not work for you. Whether your priorities are not the same or goals are not aligned, you may be wasting time on something unimportant or that you can’t even achieve.
For example, you may be envious of your long-term friend who got a software development internship and you didn’t. You may spend the summer learning the language more in-depth and all the tools in the language, while your problem-solving skills are the real problem.
And when you don’t achieve the same results, you start to have doubt in yourself, lack the ability to control your emotions and as a result, push down someone you once called a friend.
Thoughts on the Overman as the Purpose of Life
Some aspects of the overman and journey of self-expression seem great, others seem immoral. But that stems from Nietzsche’s belief to disregard objective morals.
Largely, the idea that it’s okay to act in a way allowing you to self-express. For example, when the Houston Astros used tech and signals to give away pitch signals. Or a strong lion that picks on a helpless sheep. A team that attracts only the best players in the city, making games unwinnable for others. All of these ideas are justified by Nietzsche in the interest of the will to power.
To me, any of the above actions are counterproductive to Nietzsche and my belief: you should not use devices that numb the pain or hide one’s problem. By cheating like the Astros, they hide the problem to hit pitches at different speeds. Attracting only the best players won’t allow a team to recognize their weaknesses and therefore, will find trouble later on during their journey.
Another example is the rich picking on the poor to stay rich. Or treating people badly to get what you want out of them, a prime example is Steve Jobs.
Personally, I would not lower those below me, pick on the poor or treat people terribly to achieve my goals. That’s because pleasing others is a key part of my journey to self-expression.
In Steve’s case, there was often another approach he could take to achieve the same result or how we acted could have harmed his journey, like when he was fired from Apple. A lack of Nietzsche’s belief in Stoicism and Amor Fati resulted in the example.
Premise of Happiness
Nietzsche didn’t believe the ultimate goal of life is happiness due to the unhappy decisions we knowingly make. I believe we make those decisions in pursuit of a greater sense of happiness.
Breaking up with someone is a result of the belief that someone else out there is better for you. Being jealous helps you understand there may be a more fulfilling life out there.
Most people are content with surface-level happiness which stems from validation. Even happiness from a result of practices like stoicism is not fully authentic. People can’t take the risks that have a downside but also result in a greater sense of happiness. The result of taking risks to self-express and reach my full potential is fulfillment.
Happiness is not an eternal state, rather a feeling that comes and goes. But, by recognizing room for growth, there is an opportunity to reach a new, higher state of happiness.
Therefore, I agree with the idea of the overman as the purpose of life because it is the best approach to achieve happiness. Almost everything we do is driven by the biological trait of emotions.
By thinking of the overman as the future of humanity, you can still fall into a herd mindset and a lack of self-expression. Envision how you would want society to look like in a few decades. Become envious of that vision rather than others. And strive to make the vision a reality. Make that your purpose.
You will become a leader, not a follower. And at the end of the day, the best way to predict the future is to create it.