I’m going to skip past Nietzsche’s aphorism about gaits (although I enjoy the line “there is something laughable about the sight of authors who enjoy the rustling folds of long and involved sentences: they are trying to cover up their feet.”) The fragment has nothing to do with amor fati and given that I’m a very slow walker, I’m afraid to confront what that might say about my character (except that running has really messed up my feet.)
I’ll move on to one of the most important fragments in Nietzsche’s writings, focused on Preparatory Human Beings. The statement “a more virile, warlike age is about to begin” has been noted for nearly a century as one of Nietzsche’s most prescient and horrifying statements, horrifying because he seemed to embrace the madness that was soon to engulf Europe.
I doubt that Nietzsche would have welcomed the great wars. This is his explanation of what’s to come:
The age that will carry heroism into the search for knowledge and that will wage wars for the sake of ideas and their consequences.
This is a major stretch for World War One, which was a global catastrophe fought over very little. I don’t believe that Nietzsche would have found this war noble or heroic. As for World War Two, it’s true that ideology played a much greater role, but to say that the war was fought over the sake of ideas and their consequences is another misunderstanding of history. The greatest ideological divide in Europe was between the communists and fascists, who faced off in Spain, but for a critical moment in the 1930s joined forces. Eventually, it was German and Japanese aggression that touched off the global war, not a twilight struggle of ideologies.
The Cold War seems more like a battle of ideas than either of the global shooting wars of the 20th century, but it’s hard to see Nietzsche embracing it as a template for the new humanity. I think it’s more accurate to say that Nietzsche wrote carelessly about wars and his preferred vigorous path sounds more like Teddy Roosevelt (a Nietzsche reader and admirer) than Adolph Hitler:
For believe me: the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is—to live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius! Send your ships into uncharted seas! Live at war with your peers and yourselves! Be robbers and conquerors as long as you cannot be rulers and possessors, you seekers of knowledge! Soon the age will be past when you could be content to live hidden in forests like shy deer. At long last the search for knowledge will reach out for its due; it will want to rule and possess, and you with it!
I would contend that the final sentence of this fragment is actually more prescient than the statement about war. Nietzsche is not opposed to science — but he warns here that science is not benign, it has it’s own power that has the potential to crush weaker spirits. You don’t have to read the Unabomer to heed the proper warnings about what is coming.
Nietzsche’s response isn’t to succumb to technology or to directly oppose it, but to be fully human. You can’t hide in the forest like a shy deer, you need to attempt daring acts of foolishness to survive. This is the kind of warrior mentality that Nietzsche embraces:
Human beings who know how to be silent, lonely, resolute, and content and constant in invisible activities; human beings who are bent on seeking in all things for what in them must be overcome; human beings distinguished as much by cheerfulness, patience, unpretentiousness, and contempt for all great vanities as by magnanimity in victory and forbearance regarding the small vanities of the vanquished; human beings whose judgment concerning all victors and the share of chance in every victory and fame is sharp and free; human beings with their own festivals, their own working days, and their own periods of mourning, accustomed to command with assurance but instantly ready to obey when that is called for—equally proud, equally serving their own cause in both cases; more endangered human beings, more fruitful human beings, happier beings!
This has not come to pass. The scientific-economic age has ushered in the post-modern human, who takes an ironic stance towards the world. Anyone who believes that Nietzsche was the first postmodern needs to read and fully understand this fragment and all of his amor fati philosophy.