Nietzche’s restless heart, and ours

15 Sep

From RR Reno (clip):

Nietzsche’s almost unwilling final affirmation of the ascetic impulse echoes St. Augustine’s basic insight into the human condition. Our hearts are restless. The human animal wishes to give itself to something higher. It is a need more basic than our instinctual urges. It is a nature more fundamental than everything our age wishes us to affirm as natural.

Our restless hearts suggest that the real dangers of the present age are not to be found in an open-ended, nihilistic non-judgmentalism that encourages us to imagine our world devoid of compelling truths. Such possibilities are abroad, but, as anyone who has been exposed to our educational establishment knows, it requires the constant infusion of disciplinary energy to keep young people from actually believing something.

Instead, if Nietzsche is right, the danger we face may be idolatry. Deprived of a God worth worshiping, we will find substitutes, even to the point of ­prostrating ourselves before birds or animals or reptiles that our modern minds have transformed from graven images into shrill moral imperatives and brittle political causes.

The last century’s graveyards testify to the reality of this danger. Turned away from something truly greater than ourselves, we do not come to rest in a modest ­loyalty to humanity. Instead, as Nietzsche’s and Augustine’s insights into the human condition warn us, we fall into a devotion to subhuman primal powers that reward our service with debasement.

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