Yesterday, I was reading the second book of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. I had a moment of deep internalization after reading the following passages:
“But now learn this too: the will itself is still a prisoner. Willing liberates; but what is it that puts even the liberator himself in fetters? ‘It was’—that is the name of the will’s gnashing of teeth and most secret melancholy. Powerless against what has been done, he is an angry spectator of all that is past. The will cannot will backwards; and that he cannot break time and time’s covetousness, that is the will’s loneliest melancholy.”
One great lesson I learned in the last couple years was the Buddhist idea of attachment leading to suffering and acceptance as a means to make peace with our suffering. Nietzsche explains this phenomena from another perspective similar to Shakespeare’s famous line in Hamlet:
“Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. To me, it is a prison.”
He is referring to the idea that our internal will is a prisoner when we hold the construct of time accountable. That what has been done in the past has been done. That seeking revenge will not change anything. That while our will may be driven by the past, finding acceptance will free our will from its prison. Later he mentions this in further detail:
“Willing liberates; what means does the will devise for himself to get rid of his melancholy and to mock his dungeon? Alas, every prisoner becomes a fool; and the imprisoned will redeems himself foolishly. That time does not run backwards, that is his wrath; ‘that which was’ is the name of the stone he cannot move. And so he moves stones out of wrath and displeasure, and he wreaks revenge on whatever does not feel wrath and displeasure as he does. Thus the will, the liberator, took to hurting; and on all who can suffer he wreaks revenge for his inability to go backwards. This, indeed this alone, is what revenge is: the will’s ill will against time and its ‘it was.”
Here, he is referring to how foolish it is to continue to be attached to the past. That we become fools through our will causing more damage in the process when it is supposed to be the great liberator. That instead it is an “ill will” when seeking revenge on time. That the stones one seeks to move will never be moved with an ill will. That it will bring on frustration of the human struggle with time and our propensity for revenge due to it.
Finally, he mentions the exponential impact one can have once they can overcome their will:
“O Zarathustra, he who has to move mountains also moves valleys and hollows.”
Here, he is referring to the idea that those who can accomplish great things such as moving mountains will also have second-order(valleys) and third-order effects(hollows) of doing so. Seen in another perspective, one who may move mountains in their personal life will also have to work through the valleys and hollows; or the frequent ebbs and flows we experience while doing so.
This continued to remind me of the idea that we are all addicted to some sort of pain in our lives. In my case, I have an addiction of the pain for pursuing meaning and truth. That addiction brings great attachment to it and thus suffering occurs. That my will continues to be imprisoned by this pursuit rather than the acceptance that meaning and truth will come with time. That my meaning of what it means to live a good life and the truth of embodying it may be a remanent of the past. That what “it was” when I was younger and to hold onto an idealized perspective of what “it meant” is the same concept that Nietzsche is referring to.
Rather there’s a great will generator through the acceptance of the past and the embodiment of becoming who you really are is the meaning of life and the truth reveals itself through it. That sometimes we don’t want to hear the truth because we don’t want our illusions destroyed. That to live is to suffer. To survive is to find meaning in the suffering. The will to power may come from an addiction to pain.
Or for you contemporary folks; No pain, no gain.