Posts Tagged With: Nietzsche

I think, therefore I am not good enough?

It's 2015: may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb...

It’s 2015: may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb…

I can’t get started this year. It’s 2015, the year of the sheep, and I feel like a toad. I want to be good this year. But I’m confused. You see, the other night I dreamt I was in a giant maze made of Yorkshire pudding.

...and there was Yorkshire pudding everywhere, everywhere!

…and there was Yorkshire pudding everywhere, everywhere!

It was scary. As I tried to find my way out I kept bumping into famous dead philosophers. Every time I saw one I asked the same question: “How can I be a better person in 2015?” Here’s a summary of what they told me:

Socrates: The first of three Greek blokes with beards, this one asked me why I wanted to be good. I said I wanted to do good things, you know, help others and not be selfish. He asked me why I believed in “good” and “not good”. Then I was stumped. He told me to forget dwelling on right and wrong and try to grow as an individual. Evidently I need to love the universe and my own life within it, but always to question what people tell me. Then, just before he vanished, he stroked his beard and said: “Remember, to be is to do.” I was still confused.

Please, Mr Plato,can I keep my poetry books?

Please, Mr Plato, can I keep my poetry books?

Plato: This old stick was a bit severe. When he found out I loved poetry he turned nasty and told me to throw my poetry books in the river Styx. Poetry is bad for me, evidently, because it’s not “true”, it’s only fiction. He told me everything on earth is imperfect, so I can’t be ‘good’ because ‘goodness’ is an illusion. And all my relationships have to be ‘Platonic’ from now on. Plato’s world sounded a bit strict for me. Luckily I had the Yorkshire pudding to console me.

Aristotle: I had to define ‘goodness’ for this real scientific guy. What is essential about being good, he asked me, what must be always present in an act of goodness, something that cannot be removed from the equation? I said ‘love’. He smiled, and for a second I thought he must like me, at least more than moody old Plato. “So, go forth and multiply”, he said, “with your earthly love”. Great.

"It is too difficult to think nobly when one thinks only of earning a living." Right on, Jean Jacques

“It is too difficult to think nobly when one thinks only of earning a living”, said Mr Rousseau

Descartes: This French guy had a really strong accent. What I think he asked me was how did I know that my ‘life’ was not just one big dream. Good question. “You think, therefore you think you are”, he said. I suddenly realised my dream was happening inside a much bigger one. Hmm. So, the shrew I found in 1967 in Heaton Woods that accidentally died on the way home was just an illusion, like everything else. What a relief!

Rousseau: Another French bloke, Jean Jacques told me to ditch all my possessions pronto and get back to nature. Get naked and live organically. Mankind, in his (or her) natural state is not avaricious and envious, but kind and considerate. So, it would be easy to be good, he told me, when human beings had dispensed with their silly commodity society. Being naturally human again, living in the woods on berries and nuts, would be noble, not savage. Voila!

Friedrich 'Superman' Nietzsche with his walrus 'tache

Friedrich ‘Superman’ Nietzsche and his walrus impression

Nietzsche: Friedrich’s moustache was awesome and made him look like a walrus! He was ranting in German but then toned it down a bit when I approached. He told me to imagine a place beyond good and evil and asked me what I would find there. I said ‘love’ again, and he said “Ja, Heureka!”  Then he told me not to trust language because it was only used to boss people around; I have to will myself to escape from language and ‘morality’ to a distant, metaphysical place where I can be a ‘Superman’. Sounds a bit mad to me. When I left, Friedrich was hugging a horse.

I want to be an existentialist just like you Jean Paul

I want to be an existentialist just like you, Jean Paul

Sartre: Another French guy, this one with inch-thick glasses, a funny eye and a fat cigarette in his mouth. He asked me what exactly I based my decisions on. I said the circumstances. He said those circumstances are always beyond my control, so choosing one way instead of another is absurd. I kind of agreed with him. Then he asked if I had a spare cigarette, preferably Gauloises. He looked really sad when I said no. Before I left, he said “Remember, jeune homme, to do is to be.”

How do you mean do be do be do?

Stranger in the Night: Frankie

All of a sudden I found the exit to the maze, which was lucky because I was stuffed with pudding. But I was still confused and feeling sad that I didn’t have a definitive answer to my question about being good. Then, out of the distance came a shadowy figure who seemed to be singing to himself as he walked towards me. It was Frank Sinatra! “Hey, kid, what’s up?” he said. So I told him about the philosophers and my dilemma. He asked me what had been the best advice so far. I said Socrates told me “To be is to do” and Sartre told me “To do is to be”. Frank agreed that was really confusing. Then suddenly he smiled and said, “Wait a minute, kid, I got your answer!” “Tell me, please!”, I said. “Do be do be do!”, he said. Then I woke up singing Strangers in the Night, which I realised was a great title for my dream.

Categories: Great Minds, Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Man’s best friend is the underdog…with orange boots

Giant-killers Costa Rica celebrate another World Cup goal

Magic orange boots: giant-killers Costa Rica celebrate another World Cup goal

Whatever you think about the World Cup, the tournament is nothing without upsets. If all the big favourites keep winning we start to switch off. We desperately need giant-killers. We need the minnows to beat the sharks, the underdogs to crush the titans. It seems to be part of our nature, an inner urge or desire that stretches back to great archetypes in Western culture.

One of the first versions of giant-killing has to be David and Goliath, the story of a boy and his home-made catapult who knocks down a great ogre. Then Shakespeare gets in on the act, of course, with Henry V, the English King who shouted “Once more unto the breach, dear friends…” before crushing the mighty French army at Agincourt. Literature loves the underdog: think of Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre and that unforgettable fairy tale The Tortoise and the Hare – all stories of the poor, weak and humble who triumph against all odds.

Please, sir, could you tell me where the nearest church is?

Please, sir, you couldn’t spare a few shillings by any chance?

So far in this World Cup we have seen at least three giant-killing performances: Costa Rica stunning Uruguay 3:1 and then beating Italy, and Chile knocking the cup-holders Spain clean out of the competition with a convincing 2:0 victory. But we need more, and without them even the most dyed-in-the-wool football fans will start to get bored. Come to think of it, FIFA itself is a kind of giant that could do with knocking down a peg or two.

Eduardo Vargas scores for Chile and sends Spain back to Madrid

Eduardo Vargas scores for Chile and sends Spain back to Madrid

I suffered at the hands of the mighty institution just the other day as I tried to get into the stadium here in Porto Alegre to see Australia vs Holland with a ham and cheese sandwich. The woman at the gate searched my bag and told me I would have to throw the offending butty away or eat it right there in front of her. “But why?”, I pleaded. “FIFA doesn’t allow any food to be taken inside”, I was told. So I asked for an explanation. I got one. FIFA wants you to spend your money only on its selected, sponsored, over-priced food and drink products inside the ground. Here I recognised the ugly face of commercial sport where profit always comes before any other consideration. My wholewheat sandwich was made with love and had just the right amount of butter and mustard. The pricey hot-dog inside the ground was a sorry, soggy mass of junk. Only Oliver Twist would have eaten it with relish.

Oliver Twist: "Please, sir, can I have some more?"

Oliver Twist: “Please, sir, I want some more”

There are other problems of being an England fan in Brazil. Embarrassment is one of them as the national team keep losing and I feel less like sporting my St George’s Cross floppy hat. One Brazilian TV pundit made an interesting point after The Three Lions lost again – this time to Uruguay. The United Kingdom looks quite big on the map, he explained, but England is only a little country. And some of the best players in the UK happen to be Welsh, or Scottish, or Irish – players who wouldn’t dream of switching allegiance. What he failed to mention was that England is a nation of amateurs. From their inept enthusiasm for DIY (Do It Yourself), fixing the car, putting on a play or setting up a business, “professional” sounds way too serious to English ears. We like nothing more than a botched job that saves a few quid.

This jerry-built mentality also affects sport. You see, English people are too bloated with irony to take anything seriously, including professional football. The English Football Association (FA) is a good example. Imagine FIFA run by boy scouts high on cider and you won’t be far off the mark. But though deep down I love this reckless, have-a-go English approach to everything, I am living in Brazil now. And there is a World Cup on…I need a team to support. England have bombed, so how about getting behind the Brazilian boys?

What's the UK...and which bit is England?

What is the UK and where is England?

The dilemma is, Brazil is one of the favourites, so it wouldn’t be right to shout for a giant, would it? Probably not, though Brazil is a young country with serious social problems, stark inequality and dire poverty, so it doesn’t feel so bad wanting them to win. Actually, I really want to see a certain team lose. Germany, of course. Isn’t that horrid of me? It’s not so much the war that sticks in my craw, it’s just that the Germans are so efficient, serious and professional – all the things the English are not. One of my favourite philosophers was German: Friedrich Nietzsche. He said when you meet someone who is obviously superior to you in every way, the only pure feeling you can have towards them is love. L-O-V-E. But loving the Germans? Hmm. 

No – I will get behind any team whose players are humble, a touch amateurish even, yet full of fight and with a lovable sense of humour. Pity the Irish aren’t playing…

Categories: Blighty, Brazil, Football, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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