4.26.2013

Against All Hope


I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer. — Friedrich Nietzsche


Between Hollywood and its counterpart, politics, hope has to be the most insidious trope. Apparently, without it we're lost. We sink into an abyss of depression, drugs, amorality, violence, and other nasty things. 

But it's hope that's nihilistic. Hope refuses to embrace this life, what's happening here in this world. It's not that hope wishes things other than as they are. It's that hope doesn't do anything about it. Hope clings to some ideal state over and against this life. And ideals are violent and propagate more violence by trying to force the flux of life into the rigid container of abstract ideas. People murder and maim for ideals.

Of course, a lot of things in this world stink. Mayhem, idiocy, douchebaggery, and cruelty abound.  So what's wrong with wanting things to change? 

The answer is nothing. It's how we approach change that matters; everything is in the how. Hope pines but does nothing. And pining is not productive. Pining is petty. Pining is whining and whining is weak. 

The trick, as Nietzsche says, is not to turn away from life — even if your life is filled with suffering! Because there is no other life out there; life is what happens here. All this stuff, all these feelings, all the douchebags and sunsets and dog shit, all this sickness and war, all the schizo homeless guys left to rot in the streets and fuckstick academics and idiotic testing of second graders along with the impossible intoxicating scent wafting from her nape: this is all there is. 

There is no out there. There is no transcendence. There is no special place outside of this life. This is Nietzsche's great reversal, his upending of Judeo-Christianity: appealing to transcendence, to god or God and its promise of heaven and its commandments delivered from afar is nihilistic. Those who profess hope and God and self and ego are anti-life (or anti-Life). They do not affirm the messy complexity of it all, this great seething teem of existence. They wish it all to go away, to give way to a magical kingdom or certainty or a bedrock of truth. This is not even a death wish as death is integral to life. No, it's an appeal to no-life, an appeal to nothing: it's nihilism.

Nietzsche is of course often considered the nihilist. Isn't he the one who proclaims the death of God? Well, actually, he's not the one; it's a character within a story he's telling who proclaims god to be dead. But, more importantly, Nietzsche affirms this life, what we do and say and feel and think. He doesn't look elsewhere, to a nowhere. It is belief in God that is, for Nietzsche, nihilistic.  

But still what's wrong with wanting things to be otherwise? If I'm sick or suffering, why can't I wish it to go away? How does that make me a nihilist?

Changing things doesn't make one a nihilist. If you're sick and being beaten by life, of course you should change things. Unless you're a masochist. But you shouldn't hope for things to get better; you should will them to be better. You should do things. 

When you're sick or unhappy, there is no one to blame, not even yourself. Everything that happens happens — not for a reason; that's religious silliness. It just happens and such is life. There is no bad luck. Oh, I just can't meet the right guy. Or: I met the right guy but he's married. I have bad luck. That's bullshit. You are your luck; you are this life you're leading. There is no other life, no other you. My formula for greatness in a human being, writes Nietzcshe, is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary—but love it.”

The world doesn't do things to you. You go with this world, necessarily, and so what happens to you, happens with you. You may get sick, get dumped, get fired, get the shit kicked out of you, get your legs blown off. You are everything that happens to you. Embrace it. To hope for things to be otherwise or claim bad luck is to be self-loathing. Don't hope for things to be otherwise. Will them so.

8 comments:

Yalei Wang said...

Hi daniel

long time no speak. Just shooting a comment to say i've sent you an email about Criterion. At long last, we're back in business again.
I'd like to send you a copy as promised. Let me know your thoughts

Cheers

αλήθεια said...

"Hope is a new garment, stiff and starched and lustrous, but it has never been tried on, and therefore one odes not know how becoming it will be or how it will fit. Recollection is a discarded garment that does not fit, however beautiful it is, for one has outgrown it.
Repetition is an indestructible garment that fits closely and tenderly, neither binds nor sags. Hope is a lovely maiden who slips away between one’s fingers; recollection is a beautiful old woman with whom one is never satisfied at the moment; repetition is a beloved wife of whom one never wearies, for one only becomes weary of what is new. One never grows weary of the old, and when one has that, one is happy." - Soren Kierkegaard

I came across this quote the other day and it reminded me of your recent blog. I'm still not exactly sure what Kierkegaard means by repetition. After reading your blog, the only way in which I could interpret this concept was to think of repetition in terms of 'willing' which you talk about in your writing. I might be wrong though.

Daniel Coffeen said...

Yes yes. It's all repetition -- for Kierkegaard, for Nietzsche, for Deleuze. All three wrote a great lengths about it.

Repetition, says Kierkegaard, is recollection loved forward. It's a living through of experiments: picking oneself up and hurling yourself forward. Recollection is living backwards, living that's already been lived. For Kierkegaard, repetition is modern, is Christian; recollection is Socratic, pagan.

For Socrates, all knowing is memory. For Kierkegaard's Jesus, it's repetition. Think of being reborn.

Hope skips over life. It doesn't repeat because it doesn't live. Life is repetition.

R.C. said...
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R.C. said...
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Ivy said...

Now, how does one go about willing things (to be otherwise). Yes, we should do things, but where is the line between changing things and negating their reality...

Daniel Coffeen said...

@Ivy: The relationship between willing and doing is complex. Is it a pre-action summoning that allows the action? Or is it of the action, running through it so that the same action in fact entails distinct wills (and hence are two different actions)? Or is it both? I gotta think about it. It's a good question.

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