Nietzsche’s Mirror

The final breakdown coincides, it’s said, with his botched intervention in the savage beating of a horse, the sight of which perhaps brought to mind the pedagogical methods employed long ago by Dad, the good pastor. The final train journey home is uneventful, safe arrival ensured by the company of burly individuals who, while not given to deep speculation, observe with increasing fascination the professor’s inability to resist removing a small mirror from the inside pocket of his jacket every few minutes and study minutely, with an expression of horrified astonishment, his own face. When questioned at last regarding this activity, or imagining he has thus been questioned, he replies, or so it seems, with a query of his own, succinctly posed: Is it true that I am here? After prolonged consideration involving, incidentally, the prefiguration and dismissal of Husserl’s suspension of belief strategy, he continues without ever once moving his lips along this same track. If, as so appears, I actually am still present, how long can this state of affairs be expected to last? Approximately how long, that is, must I go on enduring it. And why? At this point, having nothing better to do, it’s conceivable he will begin the mental composition of a series of letters to be set down and mailed in material form later, bearing the singular signature of “The Crucified One,” and addressed to a variety of European dignataries, suggesting in the strongest terms the military overthrow and occupation of his German homeland. In long retrospect, the reaction to these urgent messages is not difficult to imagine, and so much the worse for the recipients. It will of course be a couple decades before his mad admonishments may be perceived for what they were, a pretty damned good idea, if anyone recalls them at all; and how unfortunate for the millions of slaughtered young men who have not yet been born. Oh well. They will be mailed, nevertheless, after he has been delivered into the care of his mother, a fate I would prefer not to dwell on. During the eleven years that remain to him, confined to his old boyhood room, he will soon lapse into more or less total silence — I know I would — only broken on occasion by a lengthy and unpunctuated scream.

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