Looked at the sky through smoke heavy with human fat and God was not there. The cold, suffocating dark goes on forever, and we are alone. Live our lives, lacking anything better to do. Devise reason later. Born from oblivion, bear children hell-bound as ourselves, go into oblivion. There is nothing else.
Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose. This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. It is not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It is us. only us. Streets stank of fire. The void breathed hard on my heart, turning its illusions to ice, shattering them. Was reborn then, free to scrawl own design on this morally blank world.
These words were spoken by the anti-hero named Rorschach in Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Published a century after Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, the words demonstrate that Nietzsche’s teachings are still relevant today.
“God is dead”, he wrote in Thus Spake Zarathustra, declaring the end of religion’s influence over man. Before this new push towards secularism, people’s decisions, art and even science were heavily influenced by the word of the Church. Nietzsche’s words were a modernist strike- shedding the established rules of thought in order to make personal and social development a freer process.
Fully accepting an idea like this would require some courage, or at least a certain state of mind. Most people grow up under the influence of a religion that offers them both comfort and a moral code. Of those who regard themselves as being without faith, most still have a clearly defined set of morals (which are usually rooted in religious teachings) such as the divide between good and evil, which they believe are innate.
This is all imaginary, taught Nietzsche. He even called it “slave morality”, a means by which to control people with guilt as the punishment for breaking the rules. He who has the will and the courage to look at the abyss of existence without trying to fill it with gods and comforting ideas, is on the road to becoming Ubermensch, Overman. But without God to give life meaning, we must provide our own meaning to our own lives.
Alan Moore wasn’t the first or last person to echo Nietzsche- in fact, many characters in stories and movies exhibit a Nietzschian philosophy. Protagonists and antagonists alike are often single minded and committed to achieving their personal goals, although it is usually the evildoer who will provide the purest example of Nietzschianism, as they are the ones who are acting according to their own moral code- often seen as “evil” by those who who are, Nietzsche might say, slaves to the values of others.
All overmen would be different, as an overman will live by his own rules, his own morals. He will be a leader, guided by no one but himself and following only his own example. In this way, he will be like a child again, says Nietzsche. Clean your own slate, and have a mind as unencumbered as that of an infant, unaware of the treats of law, religion and guilt, this is the ultimate goal. You might be seen as “bad” by society, but a true overman would not be concerned by this.
Is it possible to achieve this state in modern society? Well that would depend on the moral code you wrote for yourself. But if you were truly uncompromising, you would be likely to end up in trouble with the law soon enough. But if you don’t find it too distasteful to water Nietzsche down a little, then a slightly diluted overman might be a good aspiration.
But then we have an awkward word- “good”. If we accept that good and evil are simply human creations, then how can we say that the state of being an overman is a good or bad thing? Perhaps is Nietzsche had taken another step, he would have felt that attaining this higher state doesn’t matter anyway. The lives and actions of overmen will be forgotten eventually, and without heaven or hell their actions are of no consequence to themselves then their lives come to an end. Any pain they inflict will similarly be forgotten eventually, nothing matters.
Maybe Nietzsche did realise this, perhaps that is why he spend the final years of his life silently staring at a wall.