Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On the three metamorphosis of the spirit

Long ago, I was introduced to Nietzsche's 'Thus spoke Zarathustra' by Joseph Campbell and I hoped to one day write a poem loosely based on one of the chapters that impressed me the most. Today, I felt a levity that my struggle-prone self is totally unaccustomed to and I attributed it to relinquising a certain amount of struggle. Images from one of the chapters floated in my mind and this poem resulted. I feel much of my life has been spent oscillating(and often vacillating) between the camel and lion that Nietzsche talks about.
Did the customary google on the context for the poem and pasted it at after the poem.

The camel and the lion
Today
I come back
to bear my burdens again
for not bearing them
would weigh me down more.

Yesterday
I roared at my demons
broke my bonds
roamed the world
slaying guilt
at every step.

Today
I come back to my bonds
in search of a freedom
that running away
would not provide.

Tomorrow?
I might roar again
unless
I learn to say “yes”


And here is the extract from Nietzsche:

ON THE THREE METAMORPHOSES OF THE SPIRIT

Of the three metamorphoses of the spirit I tell you: how the spirit becomes a camel; and the camel, a lion; and the lion, finally, a child.
There is much that is difficult for the spirit, the strong, reverent spirit that would bear much: but the difficult and the most difficult are what its strength demands.
What is difficult? asks the spirit that would bear much, and kneels down like a camel wanting to be well loaded. What is most difficult, O heroes, asks the spirit that would bear much, that I may take it upon myself and exult in my strength? Is it not humbling oneself to wound one's haughtiness? Letting one's folly shine to mock one's wisdom?...
Or is it this: stepping into filthy waters when they are the waters of truth, and not repulsing cold frogs and hot toads?
Or is it this: loving those that despise us and offering a hand to the ghost that would frighten us?
All these most difficult things the spirit that would bear much takes upon itself: like the camel that, burdened, speeds into the desert, thus the spirit speeds into its desert.
In the loneliest desert, however, the second metamorphosis occurs: here the spirit becomes a lion who would conquer his freedom and be master in his own desert. Here he seeks out his last master: he wants to fight him and his last god; for ultimate victory he wants to fight with the great dragon.
Who is the great dragon whom the spirit will no longer call lord and god? "Thou shalt" is the name of the great dragon. But the spirit of the lion says, "I will." "Thou shalt" lies in his way, sparkling like gold, an animal covered with scales; and on every scale shines a golden "thou shalt."
Values, thousands of years old, shine on these scales; and thus speaks the mightiest of all dragons: "All value has long been created, and I am all created value. Verily, there shall be no more 'I will.'" Thus speaks the dragon.
My brothers, why is there a need in the spirit for the lion? Why is not the beast of burden, which renounces and is reverent, enough?
To create new values -- that even the lion cannot do; but the creation of freedom for oneself and a sacred "No" even to duty -- for that, my brothers, the lion is needed. To assume the right to new values -- that is the most terrifying assumption for a reverent spirit that would bear much. Verily, to him it is preying, and a matter for a beast of prey. He once loved "thou shalt" as most sacred: now he must find illusion and caprice even in the most sacred, that freedom from his love may become his prey: the lion is needed for such prey.
But say, my brothers, what can the child do that even the lion could not do? Why must the preying lion still become a child? The child is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelled wheel, a first movement, a sacred "Yes." For the game of creation, my brothers, a sacred "Yes" is needed: the spirit now wills his own will, and he who had been lost to the world now conquers the world.

from Nietzsche's Thus spoke Zarathustra, part I, Walter Kaufmann transl

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