Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Boxing Day via Nietzsche

I'm barely in Australia and already Bam is using words I've never heard him use before. Strange new words like bitumen, doona, and marquee (as in a tent?!) and on Sunday I celebrated my first Boxing Day.

Boxing Day is one of those holidays you see printed on a calendar and you're like, huh??  A holiday like Yom Kippur, which never made sense to me, but then I got to New York and there are a ton of Jews and suddenly it's Yom Kippur.  Sure!  So I get to Australia and here we are, Boxing Day.  Bring it! I still have no idea really what either stand for, but I am Jewish on Yom Kippur and Australian on Boxing Day because a holiday is a holiday, people!

On this particular day, I was running with Bam along a coastal National Park with lots of native flora which reminds me of South African feinbos, and there is the ocean and some rocky cliffs, right along these precise coordinates:

We make it through the bush to a lighthouse, and then over to boat-bashing cliffs, which remind me (not sure why, weren't they just miniatures?) of Hitchcock's Rebecca.  I run over to the edge and lean over the cliff to see what's below.  It's a giant drop which makes my balls hurt and now the Rebecca imagery has been replaced with the first Pirates of the Caribbean, because this looks exactly like the spot where Keira Knightly plunged into the sea after fainting from her too-tight bodice (a fashionable hazard, to be sure).

Bam says I must stay away from the ledge of he's leaving right now, because I take it too far, I always take it too far and one day... "But I'm on the brink," I remind him and he says I can be on the brink by myself.  But living is about taking risks.  And really, how am I going to get beyond myself if I don't push it too far?  Cliff-tempting is not the point, disobedience is.  Er, what would the overman do?

They may seem in direct contradiction, but I've got the twelve principles of Buddhism slipped inside a book of Nietzche and I'm reading them simultaneously.  One is rage, the other peace, but ultimately they're both about self-salvation.  Right?  As I blogged previously, the human species has the most amazing capacity to keep two contradictory thoughts in the same head-space - and still be considered entirely sane.  Sometimes I think people who see existence too clearly are summarily shut up into the asylum.  We prefer to hold on to fantasy and shy from too much truth.  Nietzsche points out, there's always some reason in madness.

I particularly enjoy this quote of his:  "you must have chaos inside to give birth to a dancing star."

Often I pause to think: with all that man is and does to fellow man and the planet -- and as we represent the only creatures aware of our own existence, what a happy day it will be when evolution favors some other species!  Certainly one day humankind will be considered in the fossil records as the amoeba - no, not the amoeba, the primordial stew of conscious creatures.  How did we get stuck in this brew, and how to crawl out?

Nietzche advocates that man must go beyond himself, strive to become what he terms the "Overman".  Of course Nietzche is a firebrand.  I love his ode to action and "I will" versus the death knell of those who preach "Thou Shalt", Nietzche is a major curmudgeon (I imagine Gore Vidal on amphetamines), is horrible to women, and doesn't think everyone should learn to read.  If all were literate, he postulates, writers would write for the lowest valleys and not the highest peaks.  Which is kind of hard to refute when you go to the cinema, but really?  Nietzche needs to be tempered with some Nam myoho renge kyo and a bouquet of lotus flowers.  Too many dancing stars make you dizzy, right? 

Back in Sydney,  I peek again over the ledge and tell Bam that if I fell off just precisely in this spot, I would probably survive - just like our heroine in the Pirates of the Caribbean. Besides, I'm not even wearing my bodice. It's at home, which is where Bam is headed.

I drag him back with promises of "I'll stay right here," and we admire the sparkling sea at a distance.  Not too far out is a giant sailboat.  Two, three, ten.  Soon hundreds of sailboats are out on the bonnie blue Pacific!  They are sailing Sydney to Hobart (Tasmania) in the annual Boxing day race.

Sails billow as the boats bounce up and down as all those people work together, goal in mind, with nature not against it, and it's gorgeous.  More of this would be nice. If we all became the change we wish for the world, perhaps that is the path to the overman?  Ghandi said that - no relation (though perhaps some correlation?) to Nietzsche, nor Buddhism.  

Thus Spoke Zarathustra. 
 Happy New Year!  Did I say that yet?  My best wishes for your 2011!


Keith said...

"We prefer to hold on to fantasy and shy from too much truth."

No truer words than those.

Happy New Year, Jesse!

Brad said...

Hey Jesse. Welcome to Sydney! I've been reading your blog for most of the year on a pretty daily basis and am so excited you have come to Sydney.Hope you're enjoying (you still here today, NY Eve? - if so, have a great one, it's a pretty amazing sight to see Sydney Harbour on NYE)
Brad in Sydney

scott o. said...

Jesse, you are too brilliant for your own good. I'm glad I read this before my first 2011 hangover.

Jesse Archer said...

Thanks you guys! Hope you all had an incredible new year, how are the hangovers? Brad, glad you said hey! I went to the Tropical Fruits party in Lismore, what a riot. can't wait to write about it - very glad to be here.