Zarathustra vs Nirvana

Thus Spoke Zarathustra – First Part – Chapter 14: ‘On the Friend’
vs “Come As You Are”, Nirvana (Nevermind, 1992)

1 x 1 = 1? Not for Zarathustra! Not with respect to being human. And while Nietzsche sees the human as a complex of forces in the process of endless becoming, the wee paradox that kicks off Chapter 14 rather foregrounds the ‘I and Me’ – the I and the body, or the I and Self (see P1:3; 4). The human is a contradiction of forces where the body is in dialogue with the I, the I with the self. For Zarathustra such a ‘conversation’ is ‘always too zealous’, in danger of ‘sinking into the depths’. ‘There are’ says Zarathustra ‘too many depths for all solitaries’. Here Nietzsche is challenging his own teaching of Chapter 12 which spoke of becoming a solitary in order to experience deep-thinking and slow-thought. Zarathustra’s exploration of the spaces of state and the market-place over Chapters 11 and 12 led him to explore the isolation in that latter chapter; which in turn led him to think about the problems of sex (P1:13) and now friendship. Is Zarathustra contradicting himself? Nevermind – Nietzsche’s approach is to construct a serial narration of repetitions and differences, to create contradictions, impasses, failures, problems and problematisations. For now Zarathustra sees the need for a friend; yet this friend must also be an enemy, and in your friendship you too should be an enemy.

Come ‘As a friend, as a friend / As an old enemy’. Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’ has exactly the same function. ‘Come as you are, as you were / As I want you to be’. Kurt Cobain has said that the lyrics to the song ‘are really contradictory. They're kind of a rebuttal to each other’ (Berkenstadt and Cross, Classic Rock Albums: Nevermind, 1998:71).


This contradiction is even echoed in the music which – famously – repurposes Killing Joke’s ‘Eighties’ (1984) and The Damned’s ‘Life Goes On’ (1982). An act of friendship, the act of the enemy? For Zarathustra the formula is ‘“At least be my enemy!” – thus speaks true reverence’. ‘In one’s friend one should have one’s best enemy’ says Zarathustra. You want a friend who kowtows to you? Who will not challenge you? Who is afraid of you? An arse-licker and brown-noser? Then you are a Narcissist. If your friend challenges you on your deeply held beliefs do you feel affront? Do you sulk and cry like a baby? Then you don’t want a friend. You want a dog. Oh yes – ‘the human is something to be overcome’: both in men and women, between men and between women, between men and women. Do you not challenge your friends? Are you afraid your friend will reject you? Then let them! Challenge them, attack them, be strong. ‘Can you step up close to your friend without going over to’ them? There should be a state of war between friends (see P1.10): ‘in order to wage war, one must be able to be an enemy’. But, as Cobain screams ‘I swear that I don't have a gun’.

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