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  • In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in the chapter called The Bestowing Virtue, Friedrich Nietzsche

  • wrote something surprising.

  • Zarathustra—a sage who is also the central character of the booktells his followers

  • to stop following him.

  • He says, “I now go alone, my disciples!

  • You too go now, alone!

  • Thus I want it.

  • I advise you: depart from me, and guard yourselves against Zarathustra!

  • And better still: be ashamed of him!

  • Perhaps he has deceived you.”

  • This is one of my favourite parts of the book.

  • I found it surprising, but interesting, that the sage would tell his followers to be ashamed

  • of him, abandon him, and mistrust him.

  • Why would he do that?

  • As usual, I'm gonna explore this idea through a dialogue.

  • --- A young student (S) spent years searching

  • for enlightenment.

  • He travelled across many countries and lived among various groups of ascetics, but after

  • searching for years, he found his quest to be fruitless.

  • Finally, he gave up and decided to work on a farm.

  • The farmer (F) he worked with was a simple man.

  • He didn't talk much, but when he did, he enjoyed a good philosophical debate with the

  • student.

  • At first, the student was open to debate, doubting much of what the farmer said, thinking

  • he was similar to the other ascetics the student had met in the past.

  • But after some time, the young student sensed an immense wisdom and tranquility inside the

  • farmer.

  • He started to agree with the farmer more and more.

  • The students desire for enlightenment had returned, and so the student worked with the

  • farmer for months, absorbing his knowledge.

  • Eventually, the farmer noticed that the student had stopped debating with him, and the following

  • conversation ensued.

  • F: I think it's time for you to leave me.

  • S: Leave?

  • Why?

  • F: Listen, when you first arrived here, we had many things to teach one another.

  • We grew together and learned from each other.

  • Your mind was inquisitive.

  • But recently, you've begun to believe everything I say.

  • You've gone from an inquirer to a believer, and I won't let you do that to yourself

  • or to me.

  • We're both better off if you leave.

  • S: But I came seeking the truth, and I found it in you.

  • F: The truth!

  • You're lost kid.

  • S: Why would you send me away like this?

  • How can you do that to me?

  • F: Let me show you something.

  • Take a look at this map.

  • What do you see?

  • S: I see our farm, the river nearby, and the mountains.

  • F: No, you see /an image/ of our farm, the river nearby, and the mountainsnot the

  • things themselves.

  • Now tell me, what can you learn from this map?

  • S: I can learn where the farm and the river are, the height of the mountain, where the

  • berry trees are, where we plant our carrots

  • F: No you can't.

  • Give it a few millennia.

  • The river will dry up, the mountains will move, and this farm may be a city.

  • You can't learn anything about the farm as it is, you can only see an image of it

  • as it was at some point in time.

  • See, a man's memory is like this map.

  • It can capture a shadow of reality, and he can share that with you, but he can never

  • give you the reality itself.

  • A man can give you his memories of the truth, but he can never give you the truth itself.

  • He can tell you where the farm was, but you'd still have to verify it for yourself.

  • If you want the truth as you say, there can be no intermediaries, no middlemen.

  • If there's a middleman, then he is the one you are following, not the truth.

  • S: But what's wrong with following you?

  • F: If you follow me, you'll live according to /my/ memories.

  • You'll live according to /my/ map, and you'll never learn to construct your own.

  • What if my map is wrong?

  • Then you'll be lost with me, and you won't be able to correct me because you never learned

  • to navigate on your own.

  • And if you can't correct me, then we're no longer able to help each other.

  • But if you learn to see for yourself, if you learn to construct your own map of reality,

  • then we can come together as friends and individuals.

  • We can compare our maps and help one another see reality as it really is.

  • And when we both see reality as it is, we can journey through it together, as equals.

  • S: I guess you're right.

  • I'll start packing my things.

  • ---

  • In a letter to his sister, Nietzsche wrote, “if you wish to strive for peace of soul

  • and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire.”

  • And in my opinion, Zarathustra tells his followers to leave him because they are still believers.

  • He wants them to become inquirers.

  • He doesn't want followers.

  • He doesn't want people to believe what he says.

  • He wants them to doubt him, inquire, verify what he says for themselves, and see if they

  • arrive at the same vision of reality.

  • And if they arrive at the same vision of reality, then they can be travellers in this world

  • together.

  • They can be equals.

  • But if they simply believe what he says, then they become followers.

  • Followers learn to follow someone else's map, and by doing so, they lose a direct connection

  • to reality.

  • And if they lose a direct connection to reality, we all lose the value that comes from their

  • own unique perspective.

  • We lose the value of independent verification and the possibility of someone correcting

  • us.

  • But inquirers, on the other hand, make their own maps and maintain their connection to

  • reality.

  • And because of this, they bring us actual value through their unique perspective of

  • the world.

  • But at the end of the day, this is just my opinion and understanding of Nietzsche's

  • words, not advice.

  • Feel free to use this information however you like, and if you have a different take

  • on Nietzsche's words, I'd love to hear your perspective in

  • the comments.

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in the chapter called The Bestowing Virtue, Friedrich Nietzsche

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Nietzsche - Follow No One, Trust Yourself

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    Summer posted on 2021/08/20
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