I have family visiting from far away places this week, and between that and a hectic work schedule, I’ve had to interrupt my examination of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. My posts might not be long, but there’s a lot of rereading, rewriting, and head scratching that goes into them, and I’m afraid I just don’t have the time for that this week.
What I do have time for, however, is an off-the-cuff commentary on what I’ve done so far—a little introspection and recalibration. It’s been a few weeks and a few thousand words, and overall, I’m proud of what I’ve put out up to this point. This isn’t my first attempt at a blog, but it’s the first one that’s lasted past two or three posts, and I’m excited to keep the momentum going.
But even though I’ve been posting regularly, momentum does seem to be a problem, and I often find that I barely finish my analyses in time to meet my personal deadlines. The writing process is painstaking, and there are times when I feel I’m forming my analyses as I write, as opposed to building the groundwork of my interpretations before putting pen to paper.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course. On more than one occasion, a last-minute rereading of one of Nietzsche’s run-on sentences has suddenly illuminated its meaning and helped me avoid what would otherwise have been an embarrassing misinterpretation. But I sometimes feel like my efforts are geared too much towards just producing content on time, rather than towards understanding what I’m reading and helping others do the same.
Consistency is important, of course, but the fact that a thousand words appear on my website once per week doesn’t necessarily mean I’m fulfilling my mission statement. They need to reflect what I’ve learned and what I think about what I’ve learned. So far, I’m confident that that’s the case. I’m getting plenty out of my reading, and I believe I’m producing something valuable as a result.
But with the last couple posts, I’ve found myself focusing so hard on interpreting the latest section of the book, and on writing enough with enough time to spare, that my focus has begun to narrow. I’ll be so caught up in finishing a post about Part x, y, or z, that I won’t spend enough time considering what preceded it, and how it fits into the broader context of the book.
I’ve been mentioning previous sections of Beyond Good and Evil as I forge ahead, and quipping about Nietzsche’s ongoing themes and restated opinions, but it often seems like I’m doing this simply to check a box, so to speak. The way in which I relate the content-at-hand to the content that precedes it has started to seem formulaic—like a mantra more than an earnest evaluation.
Basically, by laboring over the parts of the book one (or two or three) at a time, I’m coming dangerously close to breaking the rule laid out by translator Walter Kaufmann, which is that the individual parts of Beyond Good and Evil must not be read and analyzed in isolation. They are pieces of a larger whole, and must be read as such. To treat them as little pearls of wisdom rather than deeply connected building blocks is to miss out on most of their meaning.
Now, I don’t think that I’m guilty of this yet, but I’m standing at the top of a slippery slope. I’ve been so focused on finishing each new post and on interpreting its associated content that I often have to remind myself to consider everything that came before it, and I’m convinced that it’s only a matter of time before I break Kaufmann’s rule.
So, with the benefit of foresight, I need to address this risk. To be honest, I should be grateful that I don’t have the time to do a proper post this week, because the break in rhythm has given me the opportunity to consider this emerging problem.
As I see it, there are a couple of options. The first is just to take more time between posts, which would allow me, in theory, to do a deeper analysis of each part of the book and ensure that it’s properly couched in the context of everything that preceded it. But I already post just once per week, and to stretch that to once every two weeks would likely cause both my initiative and the interest of readers to taper off, to say nothing of the likelihood that I’d just procrastinate away the extra time.
I think the best thing to do would be to write a “roundup” once in a while in lieu of a regular post. Every few weeks I could go back over what I’ve written, reread the content that I’ve covered, and summarize it all. I’d make a few connections that I missed before, clarify some things that I worded poorly, and tie everything together.
I’ll keep refining my individual posts and analyses so that they fit more seamlessly into the larger framework of the book, but in the meantime, I think that the occasional interlude will help keep me from looking too narrowly at the individual elements of Nietzsche’s work. At the very least it’s worth a try.
I already have a post in the works for next week that focuses on Part 11, but I’ll try writing a recap of everything I’ve done for the following week. Hopefully it’ll be valuable to you the readers and to me. And hopefully it’ll keep Walter Kaufmann’s vengeful ghost from showing up at my apartment.