News » News Feature




To be honest, it wasn’t all the trouble in the world or a crisis of faith or anything along those lines that drove me to take a night class in Nietzsche. It was J Lo’s butt. More specifically, it was the obsessive media attention to Jennifer Lopez and her butt, and Christina Aguilara’s video, and “must see” TV and the blurring of serious news and stupid entertainment that equates a terrorist bombing in Israel with the latest casualty of Survivor. Because we’re all exposed to such claptrap whether we like it or not, and because the course in Nietzsche was being taught by two friends of mine at Rhodes College, and because it just seemed like the contrarian thing to do, I signed up for four sessions of “Nietzsche Squared.” If Nietzsche was wrong and God isn’t dead, maybe He will credit it to my account that under no apparent duress I spent a few hours reading a philosopher, albeit an atheist, instead of watching Seinfeld reruns. The class meets at Bosco’s in Overton Square, hence the name of the course, which is interesting in itself. When the tables were arranged and the 20 of us were seated, an adult education course coordinator from Rhodes explained that as part of the deal we could each order two beers or one glass of wine and one appetizer. (Sorry, the course is closed.) Then professor Dan Cullen, who is Canadian which may account for the choice of venue, said a few introductory words about the course and old Friedrich. Soon the beers arrived, and for possibly the first time in Memphis history, a barroom bull session kicked off with an explanation by one of the participants -- a very lucid and concise one, I might add -- of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. We’re not really reading Nietzsche, at least not much. Be Hard!, said Nietzsche. Be Easy!, is more like it when you’re talking one night a week at Bosco’s. Professors Cullen and Steve Wirls can talk philosophy and political science with the best of ‘em, but the assignments are pretty short, there aren’t any tests or grades thank goodness, and two pints of Oktoberfest don’t exactly stimulate the old brain cells. Unless I missed the point of the readings completely, which is possible, the general drift of Nietzsche’s thought was that the mass of humanity is intellectually flabby, foolish, lazy and going to hell in a handcart. And who can doubt it? Like a lot of other people, after 9/11I started checking the news via my computer several times a day to see if the USA was being attacked. To get to the news, I have to go first to my Internet navigator’s start page. This is what greeted me there last week: “Working Wives and their Trophy Husbands.” “Kidnapping Tales of the Rich and Famous.” “Man Beaten by Child Mob Dies.” “Best New Cars for 2003.” “See Christina Aguilera’s ‘Dirrty’ Video.” When and if nuclear war breaks out, I expect it to get equal billing with some celebrity’s video, a story about a child stolen by Gypsies, and an interactive poll on whether to lob one at Iraq or Saudi Arabia first. There is more behind this than the space limitations of a computer screen. The line between news and entertainment isn’t being blurred, it’s been wiped out. Don’t tell me there’s no connection between all those television dramas about kidnappings and missing children and the hyping of real-life crime stories as major news. Chandra Levy, a missing child in California, a serial killer in Oregon, the crash of the Twin Towers, whatever’s in the 8 p.m. slot on Channel Eight -- it’s all programming to AOL Time Warner, NBC/CNB, Disney, Fox, Katie, Connie, Diane, Dan, Tom, and Peter. I can only imagine how Nietzsche, who I gather was a guy who did not suffer fools gladly, would feel about all this. Or, for that matter, about being fodder for shallow observations by journalists. So what? Like the bathroom graffiti says, the joke’s on you, Fred: “God is dead” -- Neitzsche. “Nietzsche is dead” -- God. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (Who said that? Nietzsche? General Patton? Confucius? Zig Ziglar?), and the antidote for a thousand AOL interfaces and stories about J Lo’s butt begins with a single page of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (so inscrutable that Nietzsche had to dumb it down twice, the professors said). For three more weeks I will steadfastly light my little candle in the intellectual darkness. I will be a seeker of wisdom and truth. I will emulate the Superman. I will learn to correctly spell both Nietzsche and Ubermensch. I will be hard. At least until the Oktoberfest makes me fall asleep.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.

Add a comment