Zarathustra vs Björk

Thus Spoke Zarathustra – First Part – Chapter 22: ‘On the Bestowing Virtue’ II
vs “Human Behaviour” Björk (Debut, 1993)

Here – in Section II of the final chapter of Book One – Zarathustra explicitly reveals the ground (or ontology) of his philosophy. Naturalism. Our bodies are of the earth, and thus should ‘[s]tay true to the earth’, ‘serve the sense of the earth’. The body, its drives and its spirit emerge from the natural world. We are products of deep history, human, animal, plant and mineral; and it is the disciplines of the natural sciences (from cosmology to evolution through physics, chemistry and biology) that should inform our philosophical understanding of the world and its bodies. Accordingly, proclaims Zarathustra, ‘the human has been an experiment’. Evolution is a continuous experiment, driven by the forces of the world, of which the human itself is merely one amongst an almost infinite multitude.

There is thus, of course, a wee revelation here – one that those who believe in science as the end of philosophy must deny. While the natural sciences depend upon the reflection of a rational subject, such rationality is constructed upon a fundamental irrationality. A tower built upon sand. The irrational is the flux of drives which surge through our bodies, the ur-thought of life prior to development and differentiation into animal consciousness and the human spirit. In this way: ‘[n]ot only the reason of millennia – but also their madness breaks out in us’. Such an irrationality as the ground of the body is captured in Björk’s glorious ‘Human Behaviour’.

Trip-hop beats with a timpani lay out an organic dance track which Bjork sets about disturbing through disjunctive scansion and ungrounding rhyme. Nonetheless, while it is experimental art-pop, ‘Human Behaviour’ is a hot tune, catchy, hummable, memorable. Almost a nursery rhyme. ‘If you ever get close to a human / And human behaviour / Be ready, be ready to get confused’ for ‘There's definitely, definitely, definitely no logic’. This is the crucial aspect: ‘there's no map / And a compass wouldn't help at all’. Everything is chance, as Zarathustra reminds us. Because of this, the future is open: ‘A thousand paths there are that have never yet been trodden… unexhausted and undiscovered are the human and human earth even now’.

Because of this, the human and human behaviour are – accordingly to in Björk – ‘irresistible’. Chance and change are at the heart of such experience. ‘To get involved in the exchange / Of human emotions / Is ever so, ever so satisfying’.

But of course, Björk reminds us once again, ‘there is no map’. We thus discover with Björk an unanswerable question that lies at the heart of Nietzsche’s naturalism. As Nietzsche writes in Daybreak:  ‘the question itself remains unanswered whether one is of more use to another by immediately leaping to his side and helping him – which help can in any case be only superficial where it does not become a tyrannical seizing and transforming – or by creating something out of oneself that the other can behold with pleasure: a beautiful, restful, self-enclosed garden perhaps, with high walls against storms and the dust of the highway but also a hospitable gate’ (D 174).

First Part: Chapter 22.3 - The Stranglers

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