The Camel, the Lion, and the Child

In Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche brings up the following transformation: from camel to lion and then child.

THREE METAMORPHOSES OF the spirit do I designate to you:
how the spirit becometh a camel, the camel a lion, and
the lion at last a child.

First there is the camel.

What is heavy? so asketh the load-bearing spirit; then
kneeleth it down like the camel, and wanteth to be well

Then the lion.

But in the loneliest wilderness happeneth the second
metamorphosis: here the spirit becometh a lion; freedom
will it capture, and lordship in its own wilderness.
Its last Lord it here seeketh: hostile will it be to him,
and to its last God; for victory will it struggle with the
great dragon.

And then finally the child.

But tell me, my brethren, what the child can do, which
even the lion could not do? Why hath the preying lion still
to become a child?
Innocence is the child, and forgetfulness, a new beginning,
a game, a self-rolling wheel, a first movement, a
holy Yea.
Aye, for the game of creating, my brethren, there is
needed a holy Yea unto life: its own will, willeth now the
spirit; his own world winneth the world’s outcast.

What does it all mean? I think one fairly canonical interpretation relates this parable to the creation of morality. First there is the submission to a morality when one becomes the camel. One takes on the burdens of doing moral deeds, but then one becomes the lion and rebels all against laws and values. It struggles with God, its great dragon. Finally there is the child who is innocent. He is the wheel and the new beginning. He creates new values to replace the one’s that were destroyed. Think of Christianity. First there was Catholicism with its strictness and crushing guilt, but it was overturned by protestantism and then atheism. The lion was victorious. But now we still need to move beyond skepticism and valuelessness. As a society we must again create values. We must see the world as open to new creations.

I want to focus on another related interpretation which is more about the stages of knowledge and thinking than morality. One starts out as a child. The world is unexplained full of wonders, but then we grow older. Perhaps we keep an element of wonder and superstition or else we go to college where we are taught about science, or, as is fashionable today, economics, and we undergo a revolution. We come educated citizens who frown on superstition. We are camels who take on the burdens of knowing how things we work. Still, if one does philosophy, one becomes a lion and realizes that science and economics too are just both forms of deception that should be overcome as well. But the study of philosophy unmasks the value of science and economics at the cost of unmasking all values. Philosophy gets itself into trouble and confounds itself and in the process it destroys everything. Still, there is the possibility of the final transformation in which we go beyond philosophy and accomplish what philosophy set out to do all along, which is vindicate everyday life. We are children again, living without ideology of any form, but still seeing the world clearer as a result of our differing stages of development. This form of life, the over-(hu)man takes an entirely different outlook on life. Such a person is A self-rolling wheel, a first movement, and a holy yes (yea is a bad translation).


2 Responses to “The Camel, the Lion, and the Child”

  1. March 11, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Hmm it appears like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so
    I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any points for beginner blog writers? I’d certainly
    appreciate it.

    • 2 questionbeggar
      March 11, 2013 at 5:19 pm

      Hi, thanks for reading. I don’t have a lot of good tips for blogging because I mainly use my blog to record my own thoughts and don’t care so much about traffic and that sort of thing. I would say that your presence on the web needs to be total, meaning you need twitter, facebook, and your blog and you need to unite them in a way that they grow together. Twitter is probably ideal for promoting your work. Ask people for retweets etc. good luck

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