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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Literary Lessons: Hmph. Nietzsche.

I love the first day of school. I love seeing if someone cute is in the class, then hoping I have discussion with them. I also love how what I thought I knew about a subject is just completely different from what that subject actually is, and the approach the class is taking to learn it. That’s sort of like what reading Nietzsche is like.

I read Thus Spake Zarathustra (Nietzsche’s portrayal of himself through the protagonist as a bearer of existentialism to man) over break because I am going through a hipster phase. Okay, maybe not exactly, but that’s how I felt reading this book. To explain it concisely, Nietzsche made me feel like I needed one of those berets that mimes wear.

In any case, that book was just full of so many surprises, and although (in my opinion) Nietzsche kind of seems like he thinks he’s really cool, I enjoyed it. Nietzsche seems like the guy at the party who walks around casually bringing up his GPA, which is actually not the highest one you have ever heard of, and expects all the ladies to swoon.

“No. Go away, Nietzsche.”

The book was also full of applicable life lessons, and the one I would like to share is how to approach the first day of school. Nietzsche is pretty germane to the struggle of figuring out what your quarter is going to be like when you walk into SocSci 1100 on the first day of class.

First reaction, “Oh man, that guy who just walked in is really cute.” That’s how the book started. I was like, “Damn, Zarathustra, you seem pretty cool and rugged because you lived in the forest all these years. Teach me your ways.”

Zarathustra is like the hot guy on the first day of class because he does things that make you think, “Aww, adorbs.” For example, I could not help myself from LOLing at some of the things Zarathustra said. “I teach you the Superman.” Hopefully kids these days will get the following reference, because all I could think of when I read that was the Soulja Boy song from 2007 where he goes, “Watch me crank that soulja boy and superman that hoe!” Look up a picture of Nietzsche right now and imagine him in the club walking up to someone and being like, “I teach you the Superman.”

Finally, after I was done, I realized that before starting the book, I literally had no idea whatsoever what Nietzsche’s philosophy really was. That’s sort of like comparing the last day of class to the first day of class.

I remember when I heard another person wearing all black and a beret say, in a raspy cigarette-stained voice, to someone with a mustache that curled up on the sides with a faked British accent, “God is dead and we have killed him.” As a bystander in that moment I thought to myself, “Oh my, look how smart I am. I know that what he said is Nietzsche.” And then I read the book and realized that there was A LOT more going on.

For some reason, I thought “Zarathustra” was going to be some nonfiction book explicitly lining out the absurdism of God and all that kind of stuff, that it was going to be in rigid academic writing, and that I was going to feel very serious the whole time.

I imagined myself scoffing at things. I would be all, “Hmph. Yes. Well, I guess. Ugh.” That’s not what ended up happening at all. It’s sort of analogous to when you read the description of a class on SISWEB and you think, “I totally have a general idea about this class. Nothing is going to appall me.” And then you get to class and read the syllabus and realize, “Nope. Not at all.”

So, on that note, I wish everyone great success in all their classes this quarter. It may be a slow journey, but in the end you will feel super proud that you did it. Remember, knowledge is something that no one can take away from you.

At the end of reading Nietzsche, I felt like I accomplished something, even if that was just the ability to smirk when people talk about Nietzsche. Go on, friends, conquer your first day of school! Consume the knowledge!

As Nietzsche wrote, “And this meaneth to me knowledge: all that is deep shall ascend — to my height! — Thus Spake Zarathustra” (135). Now, go find yourself a beret, conjugate “to speak” incorrectly and get on with your quarter.


To wear berets and scoff at things with EREN KAVVAS you should email her at ebkavvas@ucdavis.edu.



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