On the Despisers of the Body (The Reading)
In the season of Lent, it is customary to give up something of personal worth. Traditionally, this has been the giving up of meat. Some people, from dawn to dusk, give up eating entirely, believing that the fast shall offer spiritual insight. Nietzsche has no time for such people. They are the despisers of the body. They are despisers of their own bodies who deserve none at all. And this what is Nietzsche says to them: Say farewell to your body and be silent! Just die, be over with it, and leave us alone!
There is enough suffering in our lives. Must we create a season to suffer more? Shall we destroy our bodies for the succor of our souls, our spirits? Nietzsche takes us to task for such talk! He looks back in anger at Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, Epicurus, Pyrrho, and Paul and dares to say there is no soul! There is no independent soul which can be freed from the body. Let us start from our own beginning, the beginning we know. We are physical bodies and we cannot detach ourselves from them. Let us not despise our bodies!
"The body is a great reason, a plurality with one sense, a war and a peace, a herd and a shepherd," cries Zarathustra. The spirit is a little reason, an instrument and toy, a tool and weapon, of our great reason. The spirit is something to be used! How shall we, our bodies, use it?! Shall we use our spirits to destroy our own bodies? Shall we cut our wrists with our own wills?! How can we know about our spirit without our body, without our senses, without our reasons? Are we mere body and spirit?
No. Behind sense and spirit is Nietzsche's unknown sage: the self. Nota bene, the Unknown God is dead. The self is now the unknown sage "seeking with the eyes of the senses", "listening with the ears of the spirit." Our selves are our bodies armed with both sense and spirit, controlling our egos. Driving us this way and that. Your self is your self-consciousness, your sub-consciousness. When you act, when you do "I", do you consider your self or are you, your self, caught up in the moment of doing "I", becoming "I"?
Those who say "I am" despise themselves for they are over. They have finished themselves. Those who say "I am" serve their selves and become no more. They are slaves to their stulted selves. And because they serve their selves, their selves are trapped within the prison of finitude! It is now wonder that the despisers of the body feel trapped within their bodies! How then the self, itself, wants to die! "It is no longer capable of what it would do above all else: to create beyond itself," cries Nietzsche. "That is its fervent wish." But now, those who despise the body have chained the self, have enslaved the self as the master of their own bodies.
How selfish are those who despise the body that they would bind their own self in such finitude! Shall we allow our selves to stagnate and be "I"? Or shall we allow our selves, encourage our selves to create beyond our selves? Shall we do "I"? Shall we not "be", but "become"?!
Let us not give up something for the season of Lent. Let us take on the creativity of self! If you must abandon something during this season, let it be the hatred of your body! Do not fast like the hypocrites do, with sad faces. They say they do it for their souls, themselves, but indeed they despise their bodies. Instead, become true to you, your selves, your bodies! Become creative! Dance! Draw! Sing! Write! DO! And become who you are becoming! Let your self not suffer in the prison of "I am"! Let your self exalt and extend beyond your self in "I become"!