Tuesday, April 20, 2010

walking and spirituality

Nietzsche said the best thoughts come while walking. That's my single point of unequivocal agreement with him.
In Turin and elsewhere Nietzsche often wrote in his head while out walking, believing that 'a philosopher [is] a man who constantly experiences, sees, hears, suspects, hopes, dreams extraordinary things; who is struck by his own thoughts as if from without...Nietzsche in Turin
 Andre Comte-Sponville is drawn to Nietzsche's walking side too, in his Little Book of Atheist Spirituality. Walkers are affirmers and accepters, participants in "the innocence of becoming," lovers of fate and what is. Amor fati, not because the universe and reality are uniformly good but simply because "nothing else exists." Take it or leave it? "Wise men take it." This is Nietzsche's cosmic optimism.

Spinoza was another who took it all, but he disagreed with Nietzsche's revaluation program. We're part and parcel of all that is, and our values are too. We should not deny them, much less overturn them. This is where Spinoza diverges from Nietzsche, and of course Spinoza is right. This is acceptance. It has nothing to do with optimism. "Nothing?" Now that's going a bit far. "Acceptance" has at least as much to do with optimism as living with purpose and sanity have to do with it.

William James was a walker too, and-- as we were saying in class yesterday-- he rejected the cosmic pessimism of Henry Adams. But he also preferred not to call himself an optimist. Wise meliorists "take" some parts and resist others.  That's not "seeing the bright side of everything," it's just seeing and bringing brightness where we can. 

That's the spirit that can open us up to the world. It's the spirit of walking.

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