Oh, you wretches who feel all this, who, even as I, cannot allow yourselves to speak of man’s being here for a purpose, who, even as I, are so utterly in the clutch of the Nothing that governs us, so profoundly aware that we are born for nothing, that we love a nothing, believe in nothing, work ourselves to death for nothing only that little by little we may pass over into nothing – how can I help it if your knees collapse when you think of it seriously? Many a time have I, too, sunk into these bottomless thoughts, and cried out: Why do you lay the axe to my root, pitiless spirit? – and still I am here.
Hölderlin, from Hyperion
That we are still here – and we chose to remain here – amid this apparent nothing – that is the dilemma that the poet-philosopher Nietzsche shares with his childhood hero Hölderlin. It is the honesty of Hölderlin’s poetic response to the shattering dilemma of existence which spurs on Nietzsche’s own confrontation with the pitiless spirit of time, with the suffocating horizon that encroaches upon this moment of feverish – and ecstatic – life.
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