At times during my reading of "The Birth of Tragedy" I felt a great sense of the poverty of my modern public education. Apart from learning to read, a...moreAt times during my reading of "The Birth of Tragedy" I felt a great sense of the poverty of my modern public education. Apart from learning to read, and maybe some fundamental principles of math and reasoning, everything else I have forgotten or willingly discarded. What I would give, especially after reading a book like this, to replace those 12 years with a classical Greek education, and not just the rational wisdom of Socrates but also the earlier art, the epics of Homer and the tragedies of Sophocles and Aeschylus, the mythology that formed their religion and identity, before Socrates turned his cool gaze of reason to the gods. Our positivist, historicist culture has never recovered this identity in myth, and even our religions have sacrificed it to historicism, as the young Nietzsche laments:
"For it is the fate of every myth to creep by degrees into the narrow limits of some alleged historical reality, and to be treated by some later generation as a unique fact with historical claims...this is the way in which religions are wont to die out: under the stern, intelligent eyes of an orthodox dogmatism, the mythical premises of a religion are systematized as a sum total of historical events; one begins apprehensively to defend the credibility of the myths, while at the same time one opposes any continuation of their vitality and growth; the feeling for myth perishes, and its place is taken by the claim of religion to historical foundations."
Modern culture would have us believe that religion is fighting for its credibility in this way. It seems like a lot of evangelical energy has been invested in the battle between creationism and evolution, and our theology seeks reasonable and historical foundations, but in making our mythology dependent on the sanction of history, in even perceiving the necessity of entering into a historical debate, haven't we replaced religion with history? Nietzsche, of course, targets Christianity at a much deeper level, endlessly pessimistic about what he perceived as a doctrine of weakness, while at the same time realizing the idiocy of trying to refute it in argument: "One cannot refute Christianity, one cannot refute a disease of the eye."
Nietzsche is overly romantic in this early effort, as he recognizes himself in his 'Attempt at Self-Criticism' written 14 years later, but his basic theory of the birth, and death, of Greek tragedy, apart from making me aware of the gaping hole that is my education, gave me a sense of his terrible genius and life-affirming pride.(less)
Some wise and sobering advice for any aspiring writer. Lamott writes her life-long struggle with writing, reminding us that it indeed a fearsome and h...moreSome wise and sobering advice for any aspiring writer. Lamott writes her life-long struggle with writing, reminding us that it indeed a fearsome and heartbreaking struggle, but one interspersed with moments of almost neurotic joy and ultimately redeemed by the writer's learned ability to be attentive to life's truth.(less)