In Hiking with Nietzsche, the author, John Kaag, is revisiting the Swiss town of Sils-Maria, where Nietzsche wrote Thus spoke Zarathustra. Despite the title, neither entirely about Nietzsche or hiking; more of a memoir and biography of the author himself, and the perception of the life and philosophy of Nietzsche.

I particularly liked to read about the Waldhaus-Sils Hotel and the concept of eternal recurrence, put forth by Nietzsche in Gay Science. A well-written and thought-provoking book I would recommend if you like Philosophy, or just want an unusual and relatively easy read.

Highlights

  • You must do one last thing in order to master the eternal recurrence. Just one: embrace even the most undesirable parts of existence—atrocities both momentous ad minuscule. Many of life’s ocurrences are not choices at all. They happen suddenly and without warning—a great deluge, and accident that covers or drowns us, but in Nietzsche’s words, “before fate strikes us,we should guide it.”
  • Perhaps the hardest part of the eternal return is to own up to the tortures that we create for ourselves and those we create for others. Owning up: to recollect, to regret, to be responsible, ultimately forgive and love.
  • “Some of us think that holding on makes us strong,” Hesse remarked, “but sometimes it is letting go.”
  • As it tuns out, to “become who you are” is not about finding a “who” you have always been looking for. It is not about separating “you” off from everything else. And it is not about existing as you truly “are” for all time. The self does not lie passively in wait for us to discover it. Selfhood is made in the active, ongoing process, in the German verb werden, “to become”. The enduring nature of being human is to turn into something else, which should not be confused with going somewhere else.
  • What one is, essentially, is this active transformation, nothing more, nothing less. This is not a grand wisdom quest or hero’s journey, and it doesn’t require one to escape to the mountains. No mountain is high enough. Just a bit of cheese and an fast-moving river will suffice.
  • Nietzsche’s point may be that the process os self-discovery requires an undergoing of the self-knowledge that you assume ou already have. Becoming is the ongoing process of losing and finding yourself.
  • This is not a escape or respite from life but rather its realization: in the end, to burn up and out, as Zarathustra does, “like a morning sun that comes out of dark mountains.”