The Overman

Lately there is a need for a lot of context and as I have said on many occasions, here and elsewhere, the battle of our times is not political, its psychological. The insane are trying to hide their ailments from the world behind a veil of chaos, and often they aren’t doing it maliciously, but for their own survival. For me the Michael Jackson documentary on HBO was an event to attempt to destroy the good work that the musical artist did, and for many reasons the same tactics are being applied to President Trump. I see a much bigger picture occurring than what is being covered these days and for me a lot of this contemplation was ignited over a discussion on the radio about great movies from the past. One that came up was Pale Rider and a joke emerged about what happened to the Clint Eastwood character at the end. There was a period in the 80s that Donald Trump was clearly a part of, Michael Jackson was helping to forge, President Reagan was attempting to live up to and even music was quite obsessed with it, but where mankind was attempting to tap into Friedrich Nietzsche’s overman idea, or as he called it, the Übermensch. There was a long deep line of opponents to it, everything from political leaders to religious scholars and the overall conflict essentially was the above the line and below the line thinking that I’m always talking about. Nietzsche wanted for mankind to rise above the line while most of the world wanted to stay below and that is the conflict of our day. In our art, in the 80s the overman ideas was taking root, but we lost it during the Clinton administration. And now with Trump as president it is coming back again and everyone against such an idea is having a complete meltdown.

I didn’t grow up with Nietzsche. I came to him much later in my life, during my twenties through my extensive reading of Joseph Campbell. The anti-institutionalism of the German philosopher was something I could relate to so that’s how I came to enjoy his magna opus of philosophy, Thus Spoke Zarathustra and this idea of an overman, for which this site is aptly named. I think when I did read Thus Spoke Zarathustra I was 25 and everything in my life was literally trying to kill me, which didn’t seem very fair. But instead of committing suicide I read a lot of books. At that time I was being sued over a business venture, I was then sued over a real estate transaction and I was fighting to keep my family together as many outside elements were very hostile to my marriage to my wife. And we’re not talking about a little hostile, it was quite excessive and much of that hostility was due to my very solid beliefs about the way things should be, and they just didn’t like it or feel comfortable with. I had a very terrible relationship with a brother-in-law at the time which would repeat with many other people over the next 15 years for all the same reasons, and his goal was to outright destroy my marriage into the family in ways that would make the novel The Great Gatsby seem like a Winnie the Poo story. To say life was rough would be a severe understatement.

While I sorted out all the elements and hostilities, I even got hit by the IRS for taxes on a business that lost a lot of money that I had to settle by working three full-time jobs and we only had one car, so I rode a bicycle to all those jobs on a daily 20 mile loop that I started at 4:30 AM in the morning and ended at 11:30 PM at night and I did that for many, many years. This included Saturday and Sunday.  I was averaging about 110 hours a week just to keep my family above water without help from anybody, no family and certainly no government.  Most of my trouble came quite honestly because I always insisted on being an above the line person. That’s why the Nietzsche stuff was so attractive to me. While I was struggling to survive the basics at life I really only had my breaks at work to look forward to, my books that I’d get to read in these little 10 to 15 minute segments. That doesn’t sound like much but out of my whole day I was getting about an hour and a half of breaks and those were completely filled with reading books, so I learned a lot in a very short period of time. Sure, I was in hell, but I learned to enjoy it.

The problems with my marriage and brother-in-law, started when he realized that I wasn’t interested in being a cool kid with him. He liked to smoke pot and was an early advocate of it. He was and still is a very below the line person yearning constantly for the minimums in life. He was older than me so when I first met him I tried to not let him know that I thought he was a loser, but he was constantly comparing himself to me and his aggression became quite intense to the point where he was constantly working behind the scenes to destroy my marriage basically so he wouldn’t have to deal with me at dinners and family get togethers. I came to see him as a great destroyer, a person who had no desire to do anything in his life above the line and sought to bring everyone around him down so that he wouldn’t have to look in the mirror and see a complete loser, because he’d have plenty of company. I wasn’t mad at him however, even though I had every right to be, because I saw that people like him were as common as raindrops in a hurricane. The world was filled with them and they work at every level of our society. To see them all you have to do is look for the little signs they give off indicating that they want to function below the line in everything they do.

Going back even further you might understand why my brother-in-law didn’t like me, because a lot of people felt as he did. From my earliest memories—I have very vivid memories as early as two years of age—I never could stand people who belched and farted because to me they were reminders of how gross humans could be. Both of my grandparents had farms so when we’d visit there was always dog shit, cow shit, chicken shit—shit of some kind everywhere and I’d freak out if some of it got stuck to my shoes. I hated the idea of it lodged in the tread of my tennis shoes which persists to this day. That is why I either wear shoes with wide tread that is easy to clean or flat bottom boots with no tread at all so that shit and other things can’t be carried around my day with me. I have always frowned down on anybody who farts or belches with an audible indication. I don’t want to smell or hear of an idea of human waste and to be honest sex is nearly just as gross. As a kid and teenager those were my rules, even in my car I had a sign in it that indicated no smoking which was highly unusual for a teenager. Not to mention my violent opposition to drug use. Once a person farted in my car and the thought of the poop particles embedding themselves into my leather seats angered me to the point where I beat the shit out of the guy who was at that time a good friend and threw him out of my car in the middle of a highway. I got into a lot of fights and had many rough relationships all through my life because of my insistence to function always above the line, even when I had every excuse to blame the world and god for my circumstances. And in the case of “god”, and this is as true today as it was back then, I saw god as an idiot because he or “it” created all these losers in the first place and ultimately left them to us to deal with. Anybody who creates losers who crave below the line thinking in any manner to me is an imperfect creature that certainly doesn’t deserve respect. My wife and I had just such a discussion the other day where I told her that god was an idiot for making the kind of losers we deal with on a routine basis. She likes to think of god as a perfect creature of an all-knowing nature. I think he’s just stupid and needs to be overcome.

So I grew to find accurate definitions that applied to my outlook on life in Nietzsche’s work. While interpretations of Nietzsche’s overman vary wildly, here is one of his quotations from Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Prologue, §§3–4):

I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?… All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood, and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is ape to man? A laughing-stock or painful embarrassment. And man shall be that to overman: a laughing-stock or painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape… The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth… Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman—a rope over an abyss … what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.

It is good to have standards. Some might say that I have impossibly high standards and the lazy losers out there have a choice to not even attempt to live up to them. But this is a fight I’ve fought all my life and I certainly won’t be yielding to anything now. I’ve come this far, I plan to go even further. And that is why I have sympathy for people who have tried to embrace the overman concept even if they have failed, people like Michael Jackson and Donald Trump. Trump as a president is probably the closest that there is in the world to getting what I have always been fighting for. Intellectually he’s not curious enough to master all the elements of being an overman, but he gets the basic concept which is why everyone hates him who want to function below the line. Because Trump keeps raising it. And one thing that holds true no matter what your vantage point, if you try to live up to an above the line standard, people are just going to hate you for it. And if you want to survive, you’ll learn to love their hate for you, because it tells you that you are doing all the right things in life.

Rich Hoffman

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