You may know of his most famous work – a philosophical novel called “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” and you probably also know the music of the same name from “2001: A Space Odyssey”. The composer, Richard Strauss, had read Nietzsche’s novel and created this strange, other-worldly musical fanfare used at the beginning and the end of the movie.
Without music, life would be a mistake.
Now, lest you be thinking I’m some kind of philosophy buff, let me divest you of that thought pronto. I discovered it was Nietzsche’s birthday because I was driving in the car early the morning of October 15 and a radio host shared this nugget and then played the music.
Like music sometimes does, it launched me back in time in the 1970’s to a movie theatre in Courtenay, BC, where I more or less grew up. On screen was “2001: A Space Odyssey” and I was having a hard time focusing. Maybe I’d been drinking. Or maybe I was bored. Regardless, I remember being jolted by the music – the brass of it. The drums. The exciting jolt of trumpets and the riot of sound concluding with a confusing ecclesiastical sounding organ. The rest is a blur, although I vaguely recall more classical music, falling asleep, and then waking to more of Strauss’s Zarathustra at the end of the movie. I had a feeling of disclocation. Had time passed? Was this still the beginning of the movie? Had the space/time continuum collapsed on my home town on Vancouver Island?
The future influences the present just as much as the past.
Turns out this was a very Nietzsche moment in keeping with his notion of “eternal return”. This is the idea that with infinite time and a finite number of events, events will recur over and over infinitely. It seems he thought time, like life, was a circle. In the same vein, the film begins and ends with Strauss’ music.
Mr. N. also thought language was not “an adequate expression of all realities” and that words and images are metaphors for things but “correspond in no way to the original entities.” Isn’t that a brain puzzler? Curious that the movie made little use of talk. Was the filmaker, Stanley Kubrick, a devotee of Nietzsche?
Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon absolute truth.
According to “The New Yorker”, the critic Alexander Walker called “2001” “the first mainstream film that required an act of continuous inference” from its audiences. More synchronicity here comes from another Nietzsche notion that what we call the world is entirely anthropomorphic. In other words, what we find in objects is what we have contributed. So “2001” film-goers brought to the movie their own experiences and projected meaning on it. So Nietzsche, n’est pas?
There are no facts, only interpretations.
Here’s another fun fact about “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” – the novel, not the music. It’s central theme was born on a walk along an alpine lake shore.
All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.
I had absolutely no deep thoughts on the walk I took on Herr Nietzsche’s birthday. It was raining. Wet leaves made the path slippery. Fog slipped among the trees silently and the world around me smelled like compost. Although I was uncomfortable, I was happy because I was with my family.
Our treasure lies in the beehive of our knowledge. We are perpetually on the way thither, being by nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind.