On Nietzsche

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Matthew 4:8-10

I didn’t give a second thought to this passage when I encountered the story at a young age. It was yet another story from the bible where Jesus overcame the temptation of the devil.

Recently, I went on a stroll to Twin Peaks. It was a short walk from my place and an easy way to get a killer view of San Francisco. As I looked down at the night view of SF, Temptation of Christ went through my mind. If the devil asks me to bow down and worship him for SF, would I be able to resist the temptation? It didn’t take long to get to the answer. I would have bowed down to the devil in a split second. After the thought, I realized that my mind is not at the right place now.

Not long after the stroll, I watched a documentary called “Genius of the Modern World’’ covering Nietzsche. It walks through Nietzsche’s life from childhood to death and how his philosophy developed with it. His philosophy was a search for the meaning of life in the absence of God. He arrives at the idea of self-realization and achieving greatness as the meaning of life.

Ironically throughout the documentary, I, born and raised in a Christian family, was struck by the similarity between my mindset and that of Nietzsche’s. It seemed like a testament to how widespread Nietzsche’s philosophy is in modern society, which I was deeply soaked into.

Self-realization and achieving greatness as the goal in life, I had no problem with. What bothered me after watching the documentary was the last work from Nietzsche, “Will to Power”. In his final chapter of philosophical search, he marveled at the strength of will to power. Given his previous thoughts leading up to this point is aligned with my thinking, it made me wonder if my motivation is also coming from the will to power.

Most of my life, I saw myself as a non-aggressive and non-competitive person who can give away opportunities. It didn’t take long to prove myself wrong after I started working. Competing for the shiniest project and being defensive about giving away projects became everyday life at work for me. It became worse after I joined my current team where I was given good opportunities. I went through the “virtuous” cycle of working on high impact projects which lead to more opportunities. I pushed myself to seize the opportunity. Over time, I realized that I am becoming more and more obsessive and selfish. It was not “Let’s achieve greatness as the team” mentality. It was more of “I need to be the one who achieves greatness” which unfortunately sounds a lot like a will to power.

The bigger problem is that this will to power seems to grow. This obsessive and selfish mindset produced tangible results that are easy to measure. Because it’s so effective at generating visible results, I was drawn to the pattern without even realizing. As I went through the cycle, the will to power started to take more space in my mind.

I think I am able to be in the okay zone thanks to people around me keeping me grounded. But I do feel the need to hone the skill to calm myself down.

How can I do that? I don’t know the answer to this question yet. But the followings are a few ideas that I am playing around with:

  • My first step is to acknowledge that I have somewhat intense will to power that can easily tip out of balance. I need to be conscious of the environment that I put myself in so that I can always stay in balance.

  • Instead of trying to act like I won’t have the will to power over night, I should think about how to put this tool into a good use. Maybe I should practice associating myself to something bigger than my physical self, and work for something that is beyond me.

  • I need to learn to define what greatness is. I am striving to achieve greatness defined by other people. As a social animal I don’t think I can completely escape from this, but I need to learn to strike a balance.

  • I need to think more about things that I should be grateful for. There are so many things that I need to be grateful for. Being super focused on a small thing shrinks my mind and makes me overlook grateful things and only see things that I lack.

Even long after the stroll to Twin Peaks, the story of Jesus lingered in my mind. How could he possibly say no to that? After thinking about it for a while, I came to a closure that it probably was his faith. Jesus had the faith that everything he needs will be given. Everything I need in life will be given to me. Why is this so hard to just have faith in that line? Let me just have some faith and chill the fuck down!

Written on March 30, 2021