A Walk on Nietzsche’s Birthday


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.


25 thoughts on “A Walk on Nietzsche’s Birthday

  1. Mmmm, “winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind”. I like. Let me share another Zarathustra quotation that I posted a long time ago on my first blog:

    “Before my highest mountain I stand, and before my longest wandering: to that end I must first go down deeper than ever I descended:
    /… /
    Whence come the highest mountains? I once asked. Then I learned that they came out of the sea.

    The evidence is written in their rocks and in the walls of their peaks. It is out of the deepest depth that the highest must come to its height.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For me, those timpani drums. Oh the whole thing is amazing, but those drums. Sigh.
    I had no idea Nietzsche was a Libra.Editing must have been terrible for him.
    I would’ve walked on his birthday, too, but it was a rainy Monday my way. Glad to take in your views and well, views. 🙂


    • I had 3 vacation days and enjoyed showing my family around these parts. A little bit of rain wasn’t going to stop our walk in the woods – though maybe it shoulda. But afterwards we ate lunch in a cute old, historic house, sipped hot beverages and felt so virtuous for our exercising efforts.

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    • I spent rather a lot of time last week reading one particular analysis of Nietzsche’s essay called “Truth and Lies” maybe because of the times we live in. That reading sent me on an exploration of quotes and listening to classical music. All of this is quite uncharacteristic for me but I sure enjoyed my Saturday night writing the post.


    • Its a vague but niggling thought that’s been chewing a part of my cerebral cortex so I better do something about it or soon I will have no brain left.


    • His ideas are very modern. Freud seems to have lifted a few of Nietzsche’s ideas, too. I stayed up very late Saturday night internetting (as Joey might say) and reading and listening to all kinds of versions of the music Thus Spake Zarathustra. My youngest daughter came home at midnight, shocked to see me still up!


    • I had a devil of a time reading excerpts of some of his essays as I was writing this post. Dense writing lost on a dense mind! He was, as I recall, quite fashionable in the early 70’s.


  3. Those pictures! No wonder you’re thinking deep thoughts. I read somewhere that the minute we are able to name something, it ceases to be a wonder. So babies, pre-language, are rapt before a blade of grass. I love your writing. Thanks for sharing.

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    • I had quite a fun night scrolling through Nietzsche quotes and listening to music, reliving my misspent youth. All thanks to a chance discovery of a birthday. Ain’t life grand?


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