Sunday, 4 January 2015

oh, du fröhliche!

For this first weekend after the New Year finding many agonising over resolutions, Brain Pickings presents a nice book-review of a vintage, seminal work by Friedrich Nietzsche called Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft—usually translated as the Gay Science.

This happy discipline is itself derived from a Provençal term—gai saber—needed for the art of composition, which was already popularised through parody by writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, who coined the phrase appositely as the “dismal science,” sure that poets were supposed to be tortured, wretched souls. As the name implies, it is on the balance a positive and optimistic work, and Nietzsche, on the occasion of the New Year, resolves to be a yea-sayer and presents ideas that echo in famous and constructive lists of resolutions of other authors, thinkers and celebrities that the article also features. The Gay Science is often summarily dismissed as being the first instance in the philosopher’s body of work to contain the phrase “god is dead,” and although Nietzsche, as a secularist, wants to find the divine in ourselves that was imparted to us before we can intelligently discuss true deities, I think that the statement is amplified far beyond its tenor. The “dead god” is the departed Buddha and the vignette paints a swirling image of madmen desperately searching for religion but only finds worshipers bowing to the flickering shadows projected from a statue of the Enlightened One—and for this, Nietzsche makes us all accomplices.