On Reverse Wizardry
January 25, 2011
Image by SonOfJordan on Flickr.
Through a recommendation (I shall restrain myself so as to not bore you with the details — so do not tempt me) I was introduced to Nietzsche through his collection of aphorisms in “Human, All Too Human”. I found a copy in the university library — admittedly, there were numerous copies, but since I only had use for one, that is what I borrowed. The book has been my companion on my long commutes since.
Ah, indeed, I do realise that makes me appear a slow reader, if I divulge that I have had it for three weeks, which translates to 30 hours of train rides — but, to my defence, every morning and every evening I travel through rather mundane British countryside; which never the less manages to be among the most beautiful scenery I have ever beheld. Half my time on the train is thus dedicated to pressing my nose against the glass of the window, studying the hills and fields that I know so very well — almost by heart — as if I seek some deeper truth I hope thusly shall be revealed.
So, shall the time I spent reading the work be summarised, it is probably closer to 15 hours, which I believe a more accurate estimation. And, Nietzsche himself stated in a version of the preface that “I betray the fact that this book is hard to understand –that it stimulates confusion.” I cannot say it stimulated confusion, but the act of understanding someone else’s thoughts has always been a laborious one.
Never the less, this afternoon, not long after I had departed London, I could close the book and declare myself done; I had read and considered the last set of aphorisms, and I could turn to the — perhaps paramount — task of understanding them fully; at least to the best of my ability.
One of the last aphorisms is #627: Living and Experiencing:
[W]e are finally tempted to divide humanity into a minority (a minimality) of those who understand how to make a great deal out of very little and a majority of those who understand how to make very little out of a great deal; indeed, we encounter those reverse wizards who, instead of creating the world out of nothing, create a nothing out of the world.
Yes, admittedly, Nietzsche was an existentialist, and a pondering such as this is not at all unexpected. What caught my eye, however, was that it rang so true in its appeal; the irony in the observation being that although it is within human ability to see beauty wherever one turns, it is also human to fail to hone this ability — this talent.
Maybe — I am merely philosophising on my own, inadequate level here — the ability to see the world as a beautiful place (to be a wizard) is innate, only that it is lost as the human creatures outgrow their childhood to be lost in the present, too occupied with the mundane to realise that beauty is plentiful therein.
I am the eldest of a cinquain of sisters, and have thusly been blessed in appreciating the vastness of the infant mind, despite my own tender age, as I have seen my sisters grow up alongside myself. In regards to one’s own view of the world it is simple — too simple — to grow forgetful, and it is near impossible to remain objective. But in regards to the world-view of others it is easier to avoid subjectivity.
When I think of my sisters as they outgrew their infancies, I think of smiling faces with glittering eyes; the sparkle therein being the fire of wonder. And sometimes, as I recall this imagery, I think that a mature mind in a baby’s all-seeing apparition would go mad with the stream of influence to which it is exposed — for a child sees everything that the world offers. They are purely objective.
A young child does not pay much attention to the constructs of the world; what they see is the world as it is. They can crawl in what seems the most insignificant of spaces only to return with a treasure which is trash to everyone else. But to the child whose treasure it is, it is a part of the world into which they have been brought; their infantile minds believing that it is utter and complete truth, having no opinion about the worth — or lack thereof — of existence. If something is, then it is; a child’s world is not more complicated that so.
Many people fail to hone this ability to see the little within the large as they mature and grow up. They no longer see the innate beauty of things, but pass judgement upon it instead; they reverse the wizardry with which their childhood was endowed. Maybe that is why I am the only one on the train who childishly presses her nose against the glass as we fly across the countryside; I see such beauty in a world that others consider perfectly mundane, somehow, perhaps, who knows, having escaped the reversal that defines the adult mind.
Yes, to the defence of the native Britons, I am an infant in their corner of the world; but as a person, I have grown and matured into adulthood. In that sense, I am them. And still, they bury their faces in the blotted ink of the newspaper, whilst I breathe silver upon the glass of the carriage. My mind still retains the infancy theirs have suppressed; the reversal robbing them of the ability to see the beauty of it all.
I think this is very much at the world’s loss, and I believe there would be such benefit if “mature minds” could only kneel like wizards in the grass once in a while, having found a hidden treasure that although being worth noting, still manages to be worth the world.
Although I readily admit this is a liberal interpretation, I think this is what Nietzsche meant~.