This week, my mind was briefly boggled by this most detailed ever picture from a space telescope. It purports to show 200,000 galaxies.
Our nearest star – on the most optimistic estimates – would take some 10,000 years to visit. And that’s one star, in the billion, in one galaxy, of the 200,000, you can see in this picture. Make you feel just a little insignificant.
On the same day into my inbox dropped a relevant entry, in the self-styled ‘Intellectual Devotional’ I get by email from dailylit.com. Duff title but there is the odd cracker in there.
‘Transcendent Significance’ is a good one. We all like to think our lives have a transcendent significance. Hence narcissism, religion, artistry, poetry, politics… and Nietzsche.
Why Nietzsche? Because one answer to transcendent significance according to the Intellectual Devotional is:
The doctrine of “eternal recurrence”, which posits that the universe has been recurring, and will continue to recur ad infinitum, in a self-similar form. Rooted in Indian and Egyptian philosophy, and taken up by the Pythagoreans and Stoics, with the fall of antiquity and the spread of Christianity, the concept of was gradually lost.
Enter Nietzsche who gave “eternal recurrence” a second chance, as a reason to affirm life in the face of a world without God:
“My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants to have nothing different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely to bear the necessary, still less to conceal it… but to love it.”
I’m not sure I can go the whole hog on Nietzsche – and want nothing different in all eternity. But I can have a decent crack at wanting nothing different in the here and now.
Is there a better place in those 200,000 galaxies? Maybe, but probably not. Has there been a better time to live in human history? Almost certainly not. Healthy happy middle age on planet earth in the 21st century has its compensations. Amor fati – what’s not to like?