"Oh wretched ephemeral race, children of chance and misery, why do ye compel me to tell you what it were most expedient for you not to hear? What is best of all is beyond your reach forever: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second best for you, is quickly to die."
I've just finished re-reading my favourite philosopher's first major work, The Birth of Tragedy and the above statement profoundly touches me, once again Nietzsche cuts to the very essence of human existence with his fluid, beautiful language. It somehow seems to ring true in the current world environment.
He also offers some wonderful insights into art that seem particularly relevant to the actor's trade, especially concerning the spectator's perception of the work:
"Thus all our knowledge of art is basically quite illusory, because as knowing beings we are not one and identical with that Being who, as the sole author and spectator of this comedy of art, prepares a perpetual entertainment for himself."
Nietzsche is of course talking about God but this stands true for the perceptual divide between creator and spectator and the decision whether to guide/assist/support their understanding of the vision or whether to disrupt/deceive/destroy their appreciation. There is a third way: abivalence to the spectator's efforts to achieve union with your vision, a path seemingly chosen by much modern art.
As always Nietzsche provides a wonderfully choice quote:
"We talk so abstractly about poetry because we are all bad poets."
He also talks in some detail about 'transformed beings' ie: the actor becoming immersed in the character and losing oneself (in this case the unity of the chorus, which in my experience as a performer is incredibly powerful as many become just one, as if connected by some intrinsic sense of humanity and physical/physiological bonds formed in the mists of time) and all social markers being discarded in this trance like state.
One section really struck me in relation to the current worldscape, it is where Nietzsche blames Socratic culture for the creation of optimism (for me, the United States of America is the nation of optimism) and his words resonate powerfully with what is happening around us:
"Optimism, with its delusion of limitless power! Well, we must not be alarmed if the fruits of this optimism ripen, if society, leavened to the very lowest strata by this kind of culture, gradually begins to tremble with wanton agitations and desires...Let us mark this well: this culture, to be able to exist permanently, requires a slave class, but, with its optimistic view of life, it denies the necessity of such a class...There is nothing more terrible than a barbaric slave class, who have learned to regard their existence as an injustice and now prepare to avenge, not only themselves, but all future generations."
How prophetic is this, of the world we have made and that the US is a personification of? That is a world built unrealistically on the idea that everything is possible, that you can achieve that dream with optimism and hard work. This is simply an untrue and as Nietzsche points out this breeds a resentful underclass, that can not only be seen in the 36 million US citizens living in poverty but the whole countries that regard their very existence as an example of injustice.
The haves and the have-nots.
The gap grows wider.