Zarathustra vs Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Thus Spoke Zarathustra – First Part – Prologue 8
vs “Weight of the World”, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (Howl, 2005)

With a dead man upon his back, Zarathustra turns away from the market square, away from his humiliation, away into the darkness of the evening. And it will be as if the night-time is a hall of mirrors. Before morning arrives (and – eventually – a transformation) there will be three encounters, each of which will reflect Zarathustra’s situation. Such a journey (‘Take me out of the dark I roam’) is experienced in the chugging acoustics of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s “Weight of the World”, where the title and sense of the song immediately give us the essence of ‘Prologue 8.’ This will be the teaching of Zarathustra’s task – the dead weight upon his back – and his encounters…

The first encounter – in the streets of the town – is with the jester, the fool who caused the death of rope-dancer whose corpse Zarathustra has promised to bury. The jester whispers a threat to Zarathustra, running him out of town like in an old Wild West movie: ‘go forth from this town – or tomorrow I shall jump over you, a living man over a dead one’. The jester is the voice of the people: ‘It was lucky for you that they laughed at you: and verily, you were talking just like a jester’. In ‘Prologue 7’ Zarathustra saw himself as being ‘between a fool and a corpse’, and this is what the jester reifies. A man who treads a dangerous path, and seen by others – accordingly – as an idiot.

The second encounter is at the edge of town, at the cemetery, with a group of gravediggers. These men accuse Zarathustra as being a thief – echoing the words of the hermit from ‘Prologue 2’ who prophesied Zarathustra’s teaching would be seen as a the theft of people’s complacency. However, the only theft here is of a ‘dead dog’, who, it appears, is beneath the gravediggers’ dignity to bury.

The third encounter – much later, after entering a dark forest – is with a passive-aggressive hermit who serves humankind out of some kind of pious duty, but with neither joy nor discernment. It is a burden. Zarathustra has stopped for some refreshment, but the hermit insists on giving food to all without exception – including the corpse.

The jester is carrying the weight of distrust and scorn. The gravediggers carry the weight of their nihilism and superiority; the old hermit carries the weight of his piety and procedures. Just like Zarathustra carries the dead man.

As B.M.R.C. have it: ‘It’s the weight of the world, I know / as I struggle to be – whole’. For ‘Time will change, still the world remains the same’ – the world will always be composed of the scornful, the arrogant and the rule-bound, carrying the weight of loosening these people up is not the answer. As Zarathustra faces the dawn, he will sleep, and when he awakes, he will have shed his burden. He will be transformed. And this transformation anticipates the first of the three transformations of the spirit with which the main book begins (P1.C1).

First Part: Prologue 9 - Patti Smith Group

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