Extrapolate the nihilism of Nietzsche’s day forward 130 years or so and you end up with a world focused on economic values. Time for reflection is non-existent, never mind places for contemplation, which were banished forever when always-on mobile devices took over our lives.
One of the appeals of organized religion in our culture is the fact that church — if you find the right priest or pastor — is one of the rare places where the humanities are taken seriously. I attended a Catholic service last year where the homily focused on Dostoyevsky. Good luck finding a business meeting that even acknowledges the existence of non-business literature.
The aim of Nietzsche’s amor fati is to offer an alternative to this nihilism. To do that, sometimes you have to acknowledge the good things that you leave behind when you discredit a dominant culture. Nietzsche didn’t believe that churches offered an opportunity for genuine space and reflection:
The language spoken by these buildings is far too rhetorical and unfree, reminding us that they are houses of God and ostentatious monuments of some supra mundane intercourse; we who are godless could not think our thoughts in such surroundings.
What Nietzsche has in mind is an architecture built around contemplation, with “buildings and sites that would altogether give expression to the sublimity of thoughtfulness and of stepping aside.” The world has not worked out that way. Instead of architecture that encourages thoughtful strolls, we’ve stacked up to the sky, putting a premium on speed to act, heightening the convenience of reaction.
I wonder if our culture is capable of recapturing the art of contemplation. Even on a virtual space like a blog, the immediacy encourages quick, emotional responses instead of well-thought-out responses and additions. I feel fortunate to live in a city that has sidewalks and running paths, but escaping to a Starbucks for moments of solace just exchanges one overstimulation for another.
I agree with Nietzsche that we need to take a yes-saying approach to churches and find a way to fulfill the human needs of these institutions, even for the non-religious. As he stated in conclusion:
We wish to see ourselves translated into stone and plants, we want to take walks in ourselves when we stroll around these buildings and gardens.