Teaser 297: What Happened to Nietzsche?


The laughter was respectful but incomplete. Many were awash in wonder, lost in a daze. “Work, play, celebrate, rest. Those are the acts, the doing, the becoming, from Nietzsche, which is now complete...I'll tell you what happened to Nietzsche, since no one has been able to figure that out either, other than he just went mad, bonkers, completely over the top. Here was a man who spent his entire life, from even as a little boy, trying to figure it out, because he was extremely dissatisfied with what every other thinker had shared as the answer. Nietzsche was right on the cusp, he was almost there. He was missing one piece!” I slipped back up onto the table and started swinging my legs back and forth.

“Reputedly, the last act Nietzsche performed immediately prior to his full-blown madness was to step next to two horses, between the horses and supposedly the owner who was beating them with a whip...I have read two conflicting accounts of this event. The other account claims Nietzsche simply fell next to the horses. If you are like me, initially you're confused, but I eventually remember the human way.

“All of you here now have had a great deal of interaction with me. Agree?” I waited for the confirmations and head nods. “I could, at any moment, take you aside and we could discuss any of those events, any of those interactions, and you're going to remember it one way and I'm going to remember it a different way, even though those differences may be slight. That is the human way. Between any two humans, neither will remember things exactly the same way. For you, some things stand out so that you can't forget them, but for me they don't and I, instead, remember other things. You'll talk about this and I'll think about it and agree this happened. I'll talk about that and you'll think about it and agree that happened. But if we never have this conversation and go off on our own and write about it later, your memory will be different from mine. This is the human way.

“Back to Nietzsche and the horses: the first account is generally provided by eyewitnesses, people who supposedly were there and the second account is generally provided through hearsay. I'm not going to argue with historians and those who want to postulate about either account. I'll give them either one and let them explain their contention, because I'm going to do the same. I'm going to assume the first account is what truly took place and explain why I think so.

“Nietzsche was a thinker. He spent thousands and thousands of hours alone thinking, trying to discover the answer to explain life, human life, to his satisfaction, and no one will ever argue against it because the evidence for it is insurmountable. He was right on the cusp, though he hadn't yet completely formulated what he had already considered as sufficient into some system, which was a source of conflict for him, as I've already explained, since he wrote many passages railing and ranting against the systems of other philosophers, attacking the uselessness of systematizing itself. That was a huge conflict. To claim some fundamental metaphysical position virtually requires both the development and the issuance into some type of system, and Nietzsche's being would naturally rebel against it. He was going to espouse his philosophical points without enveloping them within a system, as he had already done to a major degree, but he was still missing one point, one piece, the last piece of the puzzle. When he stepped between the horses and the whip, this selfless and impulsive act was the trigger which produced the insight into the final piece, that one last piece, his entire reason for being was complete and in his moment of euphoria came the final insight. There was absolutely no way he would be able to explain selfless love, not from a nineteenth century point of view, especially from his masculine versus feminine point of view. Nietzsche always contended every act, every doing, always proceeded from self-interest. Every philosophical point he raised until that moment had always possessed an intent of self-interest. Selfless love has no self-interest. Explain the contradiction! And the descent into madness immediately followed.”

I stopped for a moment and took a small drink from the champagne glass. No one said a word. Everyone instinctively knew I had more to say. “Nietzsche was close to it, close to formulating it. There are several passages in his writings, both published or compiled for publication by him and in his notes which were never published by him. Nietzsche asserts in these passages that a great act performed by those who rise above most others will never be one of revenge, of vengeance. He wrote it like that many times. He was close, just not quite there yet. The moment with the horses completed it. There was nothing left and he was never going to be able to explain it, never going to be able to explain it wasn't only about human beings, it concerned all beings. Explain that to a human world immersed in human-centric, the contention that all other beings never matter, so explain to these human beings that selfless love extends far beyond humanity, that it is an essence of all being. No! If you're Nietzsche in some dung heap of Europe in 1889, you're not going to be able to explain that. You're going to think it and never be able to share it.”

In the background the music changed to Deep As You Go. “Nietzsche went mad and this madness is explained as a consistent, persistent unresponsiveness. There is, though, disagreement as to how this madness originated. One pundit has written it was syphilis. Nietzsche was in the raging throes of third-stage syphilis, which often results in insanity. Additional proof is provided by the documented statements of Nietzsche himself in the early stages of this madness when twice he himself claimed he had syphilis, had actively sought to infect himself. And then the same pundit, in a sense of fairness no doubt, though written in an off-hand way, wrote all tests performed on Nietzsche to discover if he was infected with syphilis proved negative. Well, that's what we should do. Let's ignore the tests and proclaim Nietzsche's madness originated from syphilis.” I turned to Serena and frowned. “You know, my beloved, it would really disappoint me, despite all the mammograms and other tests being negative, you decided the safest course to avoid breast cancer was to have those breasts removed.” Laughs. “I kinda like 'em. I'd hate to see them go when all the tests were negative and I'm not even a breast man.” Even more laughs, Serena's the loudest. “You wouldn't ignore those tests, would you?”

Serena laughed again. “No, of course I wouldn't.”

“Thank you! I've always claimed I married a woman with sense and there's yet one more confirmation.” I glanced around smiling and noting all smiles in return. “So, what happened to Nietzsche? When you read the anecdotes of those who witnessed Nietzsche's behavior in those madness years to his death, he was unresponsive. They all note, though, he often wore a curious smile. He was not a raving lunatic. Everyone agrees. He often wore a curious smile but he was consistently unresponsive and made no attempt to interact, except a few times when children were present. That's when he would interact, still with his curious smile, and he would even laugh, and always at appropriate moments, when it was a funny moment. Isn't that curious? You do know that laughter is about as confining to human beings as any possible action one may conceive, don't you? So, the only time Nietzsche in his so-called madness interacted appropriately was with children, as a child at play. Nietzsche! Dionysus to the bitter end!” In the background Rebekka sang, “I want to be completed.” “The man was no more mad than you or me! His life's compulsion was complete, he had no ability to make it understood, and withdrew from this world. Nietzsche psychologically detached, and that is perfectly in keeping with most of his life and actions until then. Often, Nietzsche was psychologically detached. He spent much of his life detaching from virtually everything and everyone and the spirit of it is in many of his own compositions. In the end he simply psychologically detached completely...” I turned to face Rebekka. “Except when children were present. On those occasions he would come back, but only to come out and play! Sound familiar, Rebekka?” She gazed at me in her rapture. I turned to Serena. “Sound familiar, Serena?” Serena had never stopped staring at me fully engaged. Her smile, though, filled her face as she nodded her head.

I turned to Bruno. “Come out and play, Bruno, and you can literally rock the entire world. The humans in it will never be the same and a few foreigners, here in America, know it. It will never be the same, because when I beckoned you, beckoned all of you, to come out and play, together we created an act, a will to power as art in the grand style and the rest of humanity is just now getting a little piece of it. It will take them years, Bruno, and this is my one regret. Nietzsche's abysmal, horrendous thought, eternal recurrence, eternal return of the same, that thought does not horrify me in the slightest, the thought that everything I do, I'll be doing again and again and again. That thought doesn't bother me. I accept it completely. The thought which does bother me is the thought that I may be hundreds, thousands of years ahead of all of you and I will never be able to explain it. What does keep me here, what does ground me, is my love, my selfless love for all of you, and I am encouraged, on occasion, when I see and hear, sense, that one or more of you are coming along, you're making progress. That encourages me, encourages me to work, to act of necessity, to rest, to convalesce, to incorporate what I have learned so it is an intrinsic part of my being, to play, to celebrate, and encourage you to come out and play with me. And since that seems to be one of my more successful actions, well, I keep coming back to it...I could leave today, this very moment, because I have figured it out, but I won't for one reason. I truly sense, all over this globe, so many of you are close, you're right on the cusp, and if I hold my hand out to you, you, willfully, will grasp it and together we'll pull you up.” I rose from the table to walk to Bruno. “Does that answer your question, my friend, my cousin, my playmate?” In the background Anna now sang, “Hush! Hush! Keep it down now! Voices carry!” As playmates often do in times of play or celebration we hugged each other.


- Just Desserts, Segment Thirty-SevenVisitations” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

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