a deeper level of experience –

I do not know how this happened; but suddenly, in the midst of reading about Yoko Ono, I remembered something I have read years ago in the The Birth of Tragedy. It has to do with art and life.


Edvard Munch, Friedrich Nietzsche (1906)

For Nietzsche, art is not just a form of human activity but is rather the highest expression of the human spirit.

… it is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that existence and the world are eternally justified.

Nietzsche criticizes his own age (though his words apply equally to the present day) for being overly rationalistic, for assuming that it is best to treat existence and the world primarily as objects of knowledge. For Nietzsche, this stance makes life meaningless because knowledge and rationality in themselves do nothing to justify existence and the world. Life finds meaning, according to Nietzsche, only through art. Art, music, and tragedy in particular bring us to a deeper level of experience than philosophy and rationality. Existence and the world become meaningful not as objects of knowledge but as artistic experiences.  According to Nietzsche, art does not find a role in the larger context of life, but rather life takes on meaning and significance only as it is expressed in art.

But even if art as a way of living is a concern for Ono, I still feel I have taken on a strange challenge reading Ono in light of Nietzsche. They surely present themselves as a mismatched pair!

– Maybe an interesting idea, maybe not …

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Sigrun,
    – a very interesting idea indeed. The question whether life takes on meaning only through art or is art one of the many (infinite?) activities in which a meaning may be created/found is for me one of the more interesting queries we can investigate. Thank you for enlivening my morning coffee.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Hi Ron!
      I have just listened to a lecture by Jay L. Garfield on Nietzsche, he is very much focusing on creativity as the only way to lead a meaningful life. I guess creativity is a fairly wide concept, but for Nietzsche it was a continual challenge. So to live a meaningful life in the Nietzschian way is to strive to invent and re-invent.

      Strongly recommend the lecture!

  2. I find that I discover meaning in the act of writing itself. Because art isn’t limited by reason it is the best form suited to depict the mysteries of life.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Interesting, I agree on discovering meaning through writing.

  3. godtisx says:

    Life DOES take on meaning and significance through art (agreed), but I disagree that it is the only way it takes on meaning. Still it is a fascinating assertion and one I love thinking about because I half way agree.

    However, wonderful post.. 🙂

    1. Sigrun says:

      Thank you!
      Nietzsche is challenging, very strange, very provocative, very inspiring –

      1. godtisx says:

        He is, and I feel he deserved a better exit. He is.

  4. Harold Rhenisch says:

    And Nietzsche was referring to Hölderlin, who was just one of a series of poets chewed up by German rationality. He was pointing out that if German culture surgically removed half of itself, it would self destruct. If he were alive today I think he would defend Yoko in the same way. For her part, Yoko is, as I read it, trying to sidestep the discussion so that a new form of discussion will sidestep the misreadings that dogged Nietzsche.

    1. Sigrun says:

      As mentioned to Ron, Jay L. Garfield has a very interesting review of Nietzsche and art, focusing mainly on “Twilight of the Idols”.
      When looking back on the work of Yoko Ono, from the point of her 80’th birthday, it strikes me that she has actually been working on the same project all the time, for sixty years!

  5. pulpfictionme says:

    I think art has a way of touching parts into our psyche that we are unable to ourselves. Often, it can evoke emotions that come from layers and layers of defenses. For this, I would have to agree with him. Art is a beautiful expression of what we can not express otherwise.

  6. Arti says:

    The Nietzsche quote is thought provoking. Or, can one say, art interprets life?

    1. Sigrun says:

      hm – interesting pow

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