Eternal Recurrence

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The use of eternal recurrence as a method of psychological healing in Irvin Yalom’s masterpiece “When Nietzsche Wept” continues to fascinate me, I want to expound more about it.

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The illustration above is one of the great thought experiments of Friedrich Nietzsche. The concept of Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence simply rejects the concept of an afterlife, of paradise and inferno. Eternal recurrence means repeating all the events in our lifetime again and again, from the time of birth to death, consciously, without altering anything that transpired within that lifetime. This sort of reminds me of Albert Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus is a mythological creature punished by the gods. For eternity He carries a boulder up a mountain aware that it will roll back down. His task is to carry the rock up the hill in all eternity. To rebel against the gods,expecting the misery and futility in such as task, Sisyphus rolls the rock up the mountain with a choice to be happy.

In the novel “When Nietzsche Wept”. Dr. Breuer wanted to eliminate his thoughts of alienation, infidelity and the feelings of purposelessness of his life. Nietzsche urges him to think of the psychological consequences of eternal recurrence.

Breuer: You suggest, that every action I make, every pain I experience, will be experienced through all infinity?

Nietzsche: Yes, eternal recurrence means that every time you choose an action you must be willing to choose it for all eternity. And it is the same for every action not made, every stillborn thought, every choice avoided. And all unlived life will remain bulging inside you, unlived through all eternity. And the unheeded voice of your conscience will cry out to you forever.”

I always want to keep in mind this thought experiment. It will make my choices wiser, regret less and live life to the fullest.

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Review, Passages and Reflections on Irvin Yalom’s “When Nietzsche Wept”

nietzsche

     I just finished an astounding book by psychotherapist/writer Irvin Yalom which is called “When Nietzsche Wept”. Yalom combines history, fiction and philosophy. The piece is centered on the lives of Josef Breuer, who was a famous psychoanalyst during the 1800s, and Friedrich Nietzsche who is one of the pioneers of existential thought. The story starts with Lou Salome (the intellectual slut during that time, pardon my language but I’ve come to form a great disliking to her values) asking help from doctor Breuer to help Nietzsche cope with his deteriorating health and unstable emotions, while keeping it a secret from Nietzsche. Nietzsche struggles with isolation, distrust and suicidal thoughts in this fiction. The reason being, his love for Lou Salome has been disappointed when Salome refuses his offer of marriage and runs away with Nietzsche’s good friend Paul Ree. The unholy trinity of Nietzsche, Salome and Ree probably contributed to Nietzsche’s distrust in people and company. Breur hesitates at first but soon engages himself in helping Nietzsche when he discovers the philosopher’s great mind. Breuer is fascinated with Nietzsche’s writings and soon discovers that he himself, needs some therapy too. Breuer is struggling with his own thoughts of infidelity and alienation. The story ends in both great thinkers healing their minds from their intellectual conversations; finding solace and peace in each others friendship.

Passages from the book that I love and my little thoughts on some of them:

“Fears are not born of darkness; rather, fears are like stars – always there, but obscured by the glare of daylight.”

Fears must be like stars in that they are far from us and when we look at it we are reminded of something burning and beautiful. Fears should be acknowledged to motivate us but must not be lingered upon for such a long time.

“I have a why of living and can put up with any how.”

This famous saying by Nietzsche was incorporated in the novel when Breuer, wanting to help Nietzsche was rebutted with this statement. Nietzsche knew his purpose as a posthumous philosopher. He was misunderstood and only a chosen few understood his writings. Only years after his death was Nietzsche appreciated by his audience.  Nietzsche believed that living truthfully and discovering the truth was no ride in the park. Hence the saying “the truth hurts”. Yalom says: “Nietzsche held, to look deeply into his destiny. Yes, that incurred suffering, but we must train ourselves to bear the suffering of truth”. This statement just says that if we know what our purpose is in life, anything can be endured. Motivational words for me. Thank you Nietzsche.

“What is the seal of liberation? – No longer being ashamed in front of oneself!”

I think this is self explanatory. Day by day I try to love the person I see in the mirror. I give her a smile, take it easy on her and forgive her.

“For a psychologist, personal suffering is a blessing – the training ground for facing the suffering of existence.”

I’ve finally come to terms with my tribulations. I embrace the sea of muck I’ve almost drowned and swam in. At 25 I still have a far fetched dream of becoming a psychotherapist. I don’t know if I can attain it, although I very much want to and this quote is telling me I needed to go through what I went through to make my dreams come true. Without knowing it, the individual composes his life according to the laws of beauty even in times of great distress!

“Nothing is everything! In order to grow strong you must first sink your roots deep into nothingness and learn to face your loneliest loneliness.”

“The greatest tree reaches for the hishest heights and sinks the deepest roots, into darkness – even into evil; but he neither reaches up nor thrusts downward.”

This reminds me of Osho’s saying that sadness and happiness are sisters. The stronger and higher a tree grows, the deeper its roots grow. For us to be able to experience happiness we must first learn defeat. Therefore I am thankful for the darkest days of my life for they correspond to the happiest days I will experience.

“Should we not create- should we not become – before we reproduce? Our responsibility to life is to create the higher, not to reproduce the lower. Nothing must interfere with the development of the hero inside of you. And if lust stands in the way, then it, too, must be overcome.”

“To build children you must first be built yourself. Otherwise you’ll seek children out of animal needs, or loneliness, or to patch the holes in yourself. Your task as a parent is to produce not another self, another Josef, but something higher. It is to produce a creator.

“Do not create children until one is ready to be a creator and to spawn creators. It is wrong to bear children out of need, wrong to use a child to alleviate loneliness, wrong to provide purpose in life by reproducing another copy of oneself.

Nietzsche tells this to Breuer when he complains of his children. He seeks the meaning of reproduction. It makes me realize how self actualized we must first be before bringing a life into this earth. I must not bear children in the purpose of eliminating boredom or trying to find purpose from the child’s existence.

“First step in learning to walk is to understand that he who does not obey himself is ruled by others. It is easier, far easier, to obey another than to command oneself.”

“One must have chaos and frenzy within oneself to give birth to a dancing star.”

Nietzsche is not only a philosopher, he is a poet! (I love this quote)

“The best truths, he always said, were bloody truths, ripped out of one’s own life experience.”

“A cosmic perspective always attenuates tragedy. If we climb high enough, we will reach a height from which tragedy ceases to look tragic.”

This is a good quote for coping in the mundane-ness of everyday life. We all encounter trivialities such as routine at work, annoyance with a family member, a friend and feeling misunderstood. If we look at our lives like a satellite looks at earth. Our issues aren’t even big enough to be televised in CNN or BBC.

“Joining another is not the same as abandoning yourself!”

“It is better to break wedlock than to be broken by it!”

“Marriage should be no prison, but a garden in which something higher is cultivated.”

Lesson learned after 4 years with a man and 10 months with another. I must build myself, my confidence and my identity and not to forget it when in a relationship. I am the only one I can never lose.

“Only when one can live like an eagle – with no audience whatsoever – can one turn to another in love; only then is one able to care about the enlargement of the other’s being”.

To love yourself is the beginning of a lifelong romance

At 25, I’ve felt the famous quarter life crisis knocking on my door. Was I really living my life the way it ought to be? What did I really want? What’s my purpose?

An excerpt from Cheryl Strayed’s “Dear Sugar”  had me contemplating about the life I had to live and love:

I’ll never know, and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore”.

What beautiful imagery that had. It also got me started thinking about starting anew. Leaving everything I had in Manila to start a new life in the United States. It would be painful, cold and lonely but if did not do it, I would be crying and regretting, instead of saluting the ship that didn’t carry me. I just had to get in that ship. If I had not, I would’ve been tormented by a voice in my head asking what could’ve been. As it is terrifying and debilitating to feel the burdens of my aloneness and freedom, for the first time in 25 years, it is as liberating and sweet. Tabula rasa. Clean slate. Washing away all the dirt, is healthy for my soul. The responsibility of my fate is all mine.  No mother to cling to or hold accountable for, no lovers to fall back to for convenience. Fearsomely exhilarating, the ultimate paradox. Now I only have me myself and I. The only person who will be there at the end of the day, so why not love her and her alone?

I write to give myself therapy for my loneliness. It is so easy to fall back in that dark void of depression but so difficult to get ones ass off and struggle to climb off that hole. I choose to indulge in the latter. After all, conquering something difficult is sweet victory. The poet Maria Rainer Rilke said it better: “It is good to be lonely, for being alone is not easy. The fact that something is difficult must be more reason to do it”. I’ve wasted so much time in my negativity and playing victim to all the obstacles life threw at me. Now I choose to be reborn and look at things in a new light. These scars made me stronger. My adversaries led me to seek comfort in writings in Philosophy. These books taught me wisdom. I am proud and happy I’ve had to swim through the muck of events and people for without it I wouldn’t have emotional battles cars, and these emotional battle scars is what makes me strong, experienced and wise.

“To love yourself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” – Oscar Wilde

“Without realizing it, the individual composes his life according to the laws of beauty even in times of greatest distress.” -Milan Kundera (a quote that helps me see the beauty of trying to get by)

No Fear

I’ve been having anxieties on adulthood but this article turned my perspective 180 degrees. Thank you Brianna.

9 Beautiful Reasons Adulthood Should Be Nothing To Fear

 
AUG. 16, 2013 

 

Phil Roeder

I spent most of my childhood dreaming of the day I’d grow up. Even more so in the recent years, I’ve been in a mad rush to adulthood, and I’ve found that this is more unusual than not. I started wondering what it was that people were so hesitant about. What was it about “growing up” that made people shudder? What I knew for the longest time was that I was waiting for my life to begin, for the day I could be self-sufficient and able to pursue what I love. I was bogged down by the negative opinions and other fixations people have about being an adult.

I can’t tell you how many people I know and stories I hear that boil down to the same thing: we all want to remain children forever. We’re scared to death of growing up, as though taking this next step is a sentence to bills and responsibility and misery. I think we just see it in the wrong light. We’ve taken these cues from generations before us and learned that “adulthood” has to have the connotation that our lives are over, but in so many ways, they’ve just begun.

You can call me entirely overly-idealistic, but I would have to disagree. I think these concepts are plausible and thoroughly worthwhile, but are hard to completely embrace. Do I think everybody’s experience of independence has to look like this? Certainly not. But these are some of the undeniable benefits of living a life that is solely yours.

1. The stress that comes with taking responsibility for your life is nothing compared to the feeling of finally being free to do as you choose. No longer being the financial responsibility of someone else is thoroughly liberating. There is something so incredible to me about not only being able to support yourself and relieve your parents or guardians of their responsibility for you, but also, if you can, the way in which emerging adults somehow ban together and chip in for rent and help each other out. It’s this unspoken camaraderie. It’s the understanding that it’s not about being rich or successful, but being prideful of the fact that you’ve taken control of and responsibility for yourself.

2. The only ways you are bolted into anything are how you decide you are. You aren’t legally obligated to go to school and you’re not under the guardianship of anyone anymore. You can go out and live those big, bad dreams. You can do all the crazy reckless things you ever wanted to because at the end of the day the only person who will have to deal with the potential consequences is you. I’m of the belief that if you’re going to do anything risky, you just have to make sure that nobody else will be severely affected by it. This is your chance.

3. Finding a little corner of the world to call your own. There is something incredible about your first little, cheap apartment, where you learn to cook and furnish it with these little things and even though it’s not glamorous, it makes you happier than anything, because you finally have a life that’s yours. It makes all those silly little “adult” things like throw blankets and dinner parties seem entirely plausible and thoroughly enjoyable.

4. Financial security. I think most adults will say that they actually don’t have this, but I believe that’s just a side effect of not living within one’s means, and I think it’s something that any working person can achieve. There is an unmatched comfort and security that comes with having a bit of savings, just in case.

5. You don’t have to stop doing the things you loved in adolescence, and that’s the truth, but you are able to facilitate them better usually. You never have to lose your childlike wonder. You can infuse every day with little, happy things. You can learn that even in the crappiest of circumstances, to be grateful for what you’re given. That’s probably the biggest reason people don’t want to “grow up:” they don’t want to leave behind the things they love… but the truth is, you don’t have to.

6. You can make your own choices regarding your body, health and lifestyle. You can resolve the issues of your past, take control of your medical and mental health, etc. and not have to answer to anybody else about it. You can embrace your own body and make your own choices. Unfortunately, adolescents are always at the whim of their guardian’s consent and insurance package, and that can be debilitating if and when said guardians don’t agree with what one decides they’d like to do.

7. Having the means to provide yourself the little things that make you happy. I’m not saying money buys happiness, but I am saying that to a certain extent, it does. I know that beyond just having financial stability by the way of insurance and savings, the things that thrill me most are being able to go to Starbucks in the morning without concern, buying books I want to read, signing up for that yoga class. You can start living in the little things.

8. Change is possible like never before. The advice I very often dole out to people is to change your life if you don’t like it, but that often has to be applied in a metaphorical or spiritual context because we’re tied down to things. We’re stuck in school, we are surmounted by debt. But if you can find whatever job you can, and you can pay that off, and you can move somewhere, and if you’re able, you can travel. You can leave the significant other you stayed with out of convenience or you can move hours away from home if that’s what you really need.

9. You can choose your family. So many friends of mine are always deeply troubled by issues with their families, and you know what, that may never go away. It’s unfortunate, but true. But what you can do is that you can choose who your family is, and you can love and cherish them whether or not you are related by blood. Not being bound to people may feel shaky at first, but we all come to realize that it just means we can choose who plays a role in our lives, and we can choose the people that matter.