Thus Spoke Zarathustra: Progress and Daemonism
I was fortunate enough to turn on the radio just as Strausses' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" began. The opening never fails to send chills up my spine and bring a tear to my eye.
But it is the second movement, the Backworldsmen, which strikes to the heart of the Nietzschean. Progress, not simply as an idea, but as a daemonic force, amoral and independent of humankind, is Nietzsche's great theme for me. Nietzsche represents the singulariatian, extropian, cyberpunk views more strongly than they themselves, succeeding not only in representing the views but also the view-holders before they came into existence. William Gibson may as well be a figment of Nietzsche's imagination as a real person.
As Andre Gide says of Nietzsche, he runs ahead and beckons for you to follow. But I would add he is like the tarot card of the fool, stepping out over the precipice of a unsecured future while looking over his shoulder at the past.
The panoply of images this music brings up is also marvellous. Zarathustra is like a big "wow" at the back of everything, a soundtrack to a tremendous life. The movie 2001, of course, but also the Foundation moments, the Clarke story the 9 Billion Names of God, where the stars wink out of existence as the last name of God is pronounced.
Really, it is historiography - the way we represent human history - that really reaches for the sublime in Strauss, supported by Nietzsche. Here is the struggle to make meaning at its historical highest pitch known so far. Who would have imagined that Strauss' colonial and emperial Europe would destroy itself in an orgy of 2 world wars? From Strauss' historical point of view it is not really astonishing that the destructive daemon of Progress would demand a subcontinent's sacrifice to war.