HBD Nietzsche! Here's 5 Things You Never Knew He Did
Happy Birthday Nietzsche! So we know what you’re thinking: the name sounds super familiar, and he was brought up in at least three of your core classes at university. But what exactly did he do, other than write stuff and have one of the greatest mustaches in the history of facial hair?
Simply put, the old dead dude had a lot of opinions; opinions that happened to change the shape of intellectual thought itself. Born Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche in the eastern corner of Germany, he was a philosopher with a capital P. He was hella controversial in his day, and many of his ideas continue to be lightning rods of fierce debate today. And this doesn’t even touch on the overwhelming amount of pop culture that is 100% inspired, either directly or indirectly, by his philosophies. In honor of what would be 171st birthday, here are 5 Things You Never Knew Were Nietzsche.
Yes, Nietzsche really did coin the term ‘Superman’ and develop the very concept of a super human. But of course, being German, the actual word he came up with was Übermensch. While not necessarily implying the kind of man that dons a cape and flies around, this concept revolves around the idea of a supreme kind of human being that is so far advanced that it becomes a different breed of human entirely. Sound completely confusing? If you’ve seen 2001: A Space Odyssey (which to be fair, is also confusing) it has this exact same concept in the ‘Star Child.’ The iconic music from that movie is even titled after the Nietzsche book in which the Übermensch first appeared. Guess Kubrick was a big old fan boy.
That Kelly Clarkson Song That Was Really Popular in 2012
Don’t even pretend that you can’t sing the chorus to ‘Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)’ by American Idol’s only real winner Kelly Clarkson. It’s a powerhouse of a pop song, and, in what might even be a surprise to Kelly, it’s a direct quotation of Nietzsche. “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” is the original version, but the message really doesn’t change across interpretation. It’s been proven in various studies that Post Traumatic Growth, or PTG, is a positive growth in your brain after successfully navigating through significant trauma. That came across in the song too, right?
The Universe Is Secretly Starting Over and Over
You know that conversation you had with your friends in high school after a bong riff in someone’s basement about how the universe might be starting over, forever? Yeah, Nietzsche beat you to it. In what he called the ‘Eternal Recurrence,’ he was of firm belief that the universe would indeed end only to restart and repeat exactly what happened, indefinitely. This is not a happy reincarnation situation, but rather one that depressed him; knowing that we mere mortals were ‘doomed’ to perpetual nothing, like hamsters forever spinning on a cosmic hamster wheel. He called this proof of the meaninglessness of life — we call it time to pass the dutchie.
The concept of ‘Nihilism’ is very conveniently defined in the stoner gem The Big Lebowski: “He’s a nihilist, he doesn’t believe in anything.” Nietzsche didn’t invent the idea itself, but he gave it a definition that has long been accepted as the most in-depth examination of just what the hell it is. Basically, he felt that the Earth is ultimately meaningless, and once we as humans realize that we lead lives full of nothing in a planet that means absolutely nothing, we find ourselves in crisis mode. He understood that humans have a need for meaning, and if we don’t have it we run around like headless chickens. As The Dude said, “sounds exhausting.”
God Is Dead
Nietzsche’s nihilism leads into another one of his most famous concepts, that of ‘God Is Dead.’ It’s a phrase that’s heard often from atheists and worn often by gloomy skater kids, and it’s a testament to his philosophy that there are Christian groups throughout America making their money by selling T-shirts refuting this idea. The gist of it is that as an educated man in a modern world, Nietzsche was able to refute all of the principles and guidelines that had governed humanity for over a thousand years. If we no longer take the word of God as gospel, then what words are left? Do we need them? Can anyone even answer these questions?! Philosophy is hard, and should never be your college major unless you’re absolutely certain.
To learn more about Nietzsche, check out this philosophical community here.