Blessed are the forgetful: for they get the better even of their blunders.
So Nietzsche preached, and if there is one lesson to take away from his work, perhaps it is this: creative forgetfulness conditions fullness.
Nietzsche’s critique is lodged against those who, on the contrary, are stuffed up, clogged, overfull. It’s not just that they can’t forget what they’ve done, who they’ve been, and what’s been done to them – and thus are stung by bites of bad conscience, guilt, remorse and regret constantly. They also can’t get out of their head all the different behaviors they’ve observed in others – and so they struggle to define a mode of life that would deviate in any way from the norm, from anything that could not be absorbed in the mass of insignificance. Such people are damned to a straight-jacket of memories and unbendable observations, unable to sense new chances, or to will another way.
Being unable to forget, for Nietzsche, amounts to forgetting that one “is.” So stuck in the loop of what was, clinging to bygone determinations, one acts as if existence were beyond transformation – a trap, a “life sentence,” a punishment. Whereas, in reality, so long as we are still living, it remains unfinished, open to the end to new habits, new attitudes, new speech. Amor fati – to see what is necessary in things, so as to make them beautiful – liberates us from fatalism. It affirms our freedom to treat every circumstance as a gift, as an opportune occasion (kairos): condition of possibility for fullness.
The creative process – merged here with life itself, in that the ‘rule’ it follows coincides perfectly with the ‘form’ it takes – is no different. To produce the new is to forget what’s been produced past. But let’s avoid a misunderstanding: this does not imply that there’s no development from one stage to the next, or that what lies behind is ignored. Only that, in the heat of innovation, there is no time, no room, to pay attention to what’s already been transcended. Surely, it remains; we still survey and learn from our own traces and those of all humanity. But once we set off to generate new ones, to chase down new ideas, we hardly need to choose to forget the old. Suddenly they are all swept up into an unprecedented configuration. They have already disappeared or mutated, along with whoever in us created them. In this way, what’s past is perfected and ‘redeemed’.
For in truth we are always reproducing ourselves with a difference – a difference we can never master, a difference we never get the better of, but do undergo and can direct. It is this difference – eternal return, in every instant, of the ‘same’ creative forgetfulness – that lets us get the better of our blunders, to act beyond the confines of any previous stage, and so to ‘become who we are’, unknown to any former self, yet underway.
(Nov 12, 2016)
Image: Dom Sylvester Houédard