In his book The birth of tragedy, Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher of life, found two principles in nature. In Greek mythology, Apollo and Dionysus are both sons of Zeus. Apollo is the god of the sun, of rational thinking and order, and appeals to logic, prudence and purity. Dionysus is the god of wine and dance, of irrationality and chaos, and appeals to emotions and instincts. The Ancient Greeks did not consider the two gods to be opposites or rivals, although they were often entwined by nature.
So, how can these two principles teach us more about the body?
The body, like any form of life, is made of these two principles. The Dionysian part of the body refers to chaotic instincts as very different of rationality and logic, a cherished dichotomy to philosophy in general. In other words, the Dionysian part of the body is the energy of life and survival that can be materialized in reproduction, nutrition, breathing and movements. This is when life in us, the Dionysian part, gets to be creative. Simply put, this is when we dance our heart out like nobody is watching; this is when a child moves in all different ways; this when we also stop and stretch and lay down. Sometimes, we are awaken full of life and sometimes we are not. Often we want to move in a certain way. Those misunderstood tendencies are the Dionysian in us, this life energy that can’t be contained or else it will turn against us with self-hate, diseases and pain.
“One must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star”. Friedrich Nietzsche.
The Apollonian part in us is the rational and order part that gives the Dionysian energy a certain form. It is the idea of form and technique in any given activity. A proper form or technique tends to turn a movement into an aesthetic and orderly activity. This is when sports science and experience advises on good form to prevent injuries, because the Dionysian energetic instinctive part of the body can be chaotic and dangerous.
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music”. Friedrich Nietzsche.
Richard Arthur Spinello in his article “Nietzsche’s conception of the body” (link at the end of the post) writes the following:
“The term “body” is a metaphorical way of describing the self not as a soul or simple substance but as an aggregate of forces or drives. In these same works Nietzsche develops a strong critique of consciousness and a highly positive evaluation of our instincts and emotions, the most important of those inner forces which comprise the self.”
According to Nietzsche, the body is an instinctive or force structure where forces are permanently fighting each others. Those forces can be called desires which are of two types: active and reactive. Mainly speaking, active forces or desires represents creativity, love of life, freedom, affirmation of life and all tendencies that can be referred to as positive. The reactive forces are the opposite: they represent resentment, self-hate, jealousy and all negative tendencies. Sometimes, active ones take over reactive ones and produce a positive creative full of life action. Some other times, reactive ones win the fight and results in self-hate resentful attitude or action. The fight and its consequences depend on each individual drives, experiences and general attitude. That being said, Nietzsche believed that his concept of will of power – often mistaken as the will of evil power- comes from the body and its active forces. Therefore, the Nietzschean will of power means the power of the will to be active and creative in a life affirmation attitude.
Understanding the basics of the Nietzschean philosophy requires a different perspective of the human body. If one wants freedom and joy, then one must strengthen active desires. Taken into a different level, science tells that the human body is made of about 600 muscles, which means that humans are movement machines. Combining Nietzsche’s conception of the body with science gives us an idea on how to strengthen active desires; one way to do it is through movement as in being physically active.
One of the main reasons behind some diseases and pain lies in the imbalance of sedentary life and lack of movement.
If you are interested in Spinello’s full article that broader on Nietzsche’s philosophy of the body and not solely focused on movement like my post, click on the following link:
After studying philosophy and psychology by myself for a little less than a year. I’d like to share with you my views on life. If I were to gave myself labels for my ever-changing and evolving philosophy of life, at this moment I’d consider myself as a mix of the following philosophies: 1. Absurdism Finding […]
There are some good reasons to believe that Nietzsche was interested in Eastern philosophy during his lifetime. In the Antichrist he states: “Buddhism, I repeat, is a hundred times more austere, more honest, more objective. It no longer has to justify its pains, its susceptibility to suffering, by interpreting these things in terms of sin—it […]
The world is on a survival mode; on a quiet survival mode, fighting an invisible enemy by being, paradoxically, locked down. Surviving this strange war requires different strategies including new habits.
Routines from all types have become the new survival kit. Practices and immunity strengthening foods and methods are the need of soldiers who we are now. This is also a paradox since strategy and routine don’t always fit in battles. Routines should be the preparation for battles. The pandemic was predicted but little did anyone listen or care. On the contrary, we built up to failure: human concentration and massive commuting, consuming and polluting, running in circles and stressing, producing more than selling. All this frenetic hyperactivity gave birth to a hyperobject, the pandemic. And it feels we are in a hyperreality as Baudrillard points out, different from what we have been through, from what caused our current struggling.
Remember back then, routine was synonymous to boredom. Remember back then, creativity was synonymous to a great life. Remember, in Nietzsche’s words, after playing the lion for a long time, we have gone backward and become the camel instead of being the joyful child. The world danced the dance of arrogance and not the dance of joy.
I was born in Lebanon during the civil war (1975-1990) and I grew up to the sounds of bombs, which back then seemed very normal to me. Even today, I ask myself how I was not scared, how was I able as a child to find bombs and hiding underground a sort of an amusement. In 1990, Syria occupied Lebanon until 2005. It was a dictatorial occupation, an iron stranglehold which gave a lot of security to the country and some economic growth. Since 2005, we have known peace and turmoils, and now an economic and financial crisis like never known before; some says it is a reminder of the eve of WWI.
On parallel, Lebanon has always been the party place of the world. We party all day. We party for any reason. We party for no reason. I guess we love wars and partying. Some might say it is resilience or probably denial. There is a fine line between resilience and denial. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. It is being mentally flexible to adapt to difficult situations in order to survive. On the other hand, denial is trying to self-protection by refusing to accept the truth about something that’s happening in life. Maybe, we are both and any Lebanese somehow is both wherever they live.
Turmoil and party may seem contradictory but it is not. On this, I like to refer to Nietzsche in The Birth of tragedy where he explains the relationship between tragedy and music.
Life to Nietzsche is essentially tragic and tragedy can happen to anyone. The ultimate tragedy is death; the latter gives meaning to life. Knowing and accepting tragedy can only result in a celebration of life. Therefore music and partying are a celebration of life; a life lived on the edge of tragedy. When the day is gone with its worries and tasks, here comes the night in its gravity and depth, the drunkenness of love and beauty. In other words, only a joyful night can make an enjoyable day. Because, whatever we do, tragedy is around the corner.
Is this attitude resilient or a denial? I guess it is neither nor. It is the attitude of anyone who lives on the edge where every action can be like stepping on a landmine.