Oh no, your car broke down. Generally, to fix your car you must understand how it works to understand what it is that’s broken. Our bodies are similar. When you go to the doctor, the doctor has understandings of the inner workings of the body in order to pin point the problem and deliver a diagnosis. When we speak, it’s the same. In order to voice my thoughts, I must have premises, certain understandings, context, and assumptions. Without these pre-established beliefs, my thoughts would not have any relevance.
My main point, what I’m getting at, is that in each of our lives there are daily assumptions that we use to get by. One of the most insidious assumptions is our inherited worldview, the made up constructions about how we think the world works. These constructions were made by others. They are made with the intention to be easily shared and communicated. In this process of communicating ideas, raw conscious understanding is belittled and confined to a language that we all can understand. This language is, indeed, rich and carries with it a lot of power for understanding, but ultimately is no comparison to the raw comprehension that occurs when we use our own minds to contemplate and experience. In this experience we are struck walking the tight rope.
This metaphor of the tight rope walker in ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ by Friedrich Nietzsche’s is extremely relevant. The story shortly goes something like –
‘Zarathustra enters a town, and he begins speaking to a crowd of people waiting to watch a tightrope walker. He begins to tell them about the “overman,” a state of being that they are capable of entering. He says that as they laugh at the apes, so the overman will laugh at a regular human being. The people should no longer listen to anyone who tells them that their soul must escape their body to go to heaven, because God has died. The overman’s greatest hour is when he overcomes feelings and states such as happiness, reason, virtue, and justice. When Zarathustra finishes, the crowd thinks he’s been talking about the tightrope walker, and they laugh at him.
Zarathustra is shocked at the response he gets, and he continues to preach to the people. He tells them that, as human beings, they can “cross over” and “go under.” This, he says, is the true way to sacrifice one’s self to the earth and become an overman. The overman is a person who lives in order to know, who lives to create virtue, and who seeks no thanks for his virtue. The people still laugh at him, so Zarathustra decides to tell them of “the last human being.” The last human being upon the earth will realize that human beings invented happiness. He will realize that love was simply an evolutionary reaction to the body’s need for warmth. The last human being will not want wealth or poverty, nor will he desire poverty because both will be too burdensome.
Zarathustra suggests that humans are a bridge of being between animal and overman. Humans are not the be all and end all of existence, as the “last men” would see themselves. We are still largely governed by our animal instincts, which lead us to prejudice, superficiality, and to easy reliance upon faith. In order to refine our being, we must turn our instinct for cruelty upon ourselves, and carve away at our prejudices, superficiality, and faith, creating something deeper. Zarathustra speaks of the triumphant moment where we look with contempt upon all the human qualities that we once valued. This would signify our triumph over our shallow, human nature, and our progress toward the overman. (source)
This image of humanity as a bridge is illustrated in the story of the tightrope walker. The tightrope walker is making the slow and dangerous progress between animal and overman.’ (sparknotes)
I use this story of Zarathustra to say that we, as humans, we are caught in a dilemma. We need to have beliefs in order to live but at the same moment we need to transcend those very same beliefs to understand the constantly changing nature of reality. For our bodies to make a conscious action, we can’t help but use our beliefs to weigh the implication of each respective potential option. When we engage our conscious mind, our entire life of experiences are converged into one moment of decision making.
These anecdotal legacies of experience create our facts. These may not be objective scientific facts, but simply subjective facts. Things observable by my senses that I belief to be true. Thus, I realize the very act of believing is a tool. It is a useful tool as long as I get to continue to use the tool to update my beliefs. We’ve known since before Christ that the world is always changing. Heraclitus declared in the 6th century BCE that ‘no man ever steps in the same river twice’. I acknowledge while it is important to have beliefs, their importance rests on the idea that they are being updated.
Similar to Nietzsche’s tightrope walker, we must continually define our understandings in time a constantly changing environment. It’s a fine line between holding beliefs that are useful and not. Intention is key.
I remember to let beliefs in, just as I take an inhale, use the energy and wisdom, and let it out for a new breathe to take.