“I teach you the Overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?… Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman –a rope over an abyss. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
“What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.” That’s repeated for affect. The human condition is not, nor has it ever been, a fixed state. It is perpetually evolving, even when it seems to be at rest, even when it seems to be stagnant. We are not the be-all-end-all of human evolution. There will always be a next step, a next level. And it is up to us, to a certain extent, if that next level will be healthy and robust or unhealthy and weak.
The Übermensch, or overman, is Nietzsche’s multicultural vision of human excellence, his meta-ontological elite. On an individual level, the overman is the healthy and robust adaptation of a person who consistently practices the art of self-overcoming.
Such an individual has learned how to translate their multi-fractured self into a multifunctional force of nature. Self-actualized, fully individuated, and doggedly able to adapt and overcome the path toward enlightenment, these masters are prepared to take on all comers.
“What is the ape to man?” Asked Nietzsche. “A laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the overman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment.” As it stands, we have become this laughingstock and painful embarrassment. And we will continue to be, unless we as individuals can learn how to self-overcome, get out of our own way, and turn the tables on our own fear and apathy.
Unless we can figure out how to become the best possible version of ourselves, which is what the path of the overman is all about. Similar to the path toward enlightenment, the path of the overman is about the journey not the destination. There are ever more signs of the overman emerging, but here are seven steps we can take to at least attempt to become an overman and avoid becoming a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment.
1) Make your own values
“The higher we soar the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
In a world of quasi-ethics based on profit, pseudo-morals based on advantage, and counterfeit love based on possession, it behooves us to make our own values. Like Nietzsche said, “No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Break away from the humdrum tribe and find that which is indestructible within you. Become a force unto yourself. Shift all paradigms. Demolish all sacred cows.
Question everything, especially yourself and your current values. As Jose Ortega y Gasset said, “The man who discovers a new scientific truth has previously had to smash to atoms almost everything he had learned, and arrives at the new truth with hands bloodstained from the slaughter of a thousand platitudes.” Slaughter those platitudes, and then make your own. Just remember to remain flexible enough to handle someone slaughtering yours. Or, better yet, slaughter them yourself: the epitome of self-overcoming.
2) Be selfish in strategic ways
“Anybody who’s ever mattered, anybody who’s ever been happy, anybody who’s ever given any gift into the world has been a divinely selfish soul, living for his own best interest. No exceptions.” ~ Richard Bach
In the crashing plane that is our human species, the overman is the one putting the oxygen mask on him/herself first, realizing that most people are as “awake” as children, and are simply incapable of putting the oxygen mask on themselves. People need help, and in order for you to be there to help them you must put the oxygen mask on yourself first.
This is not conceit, this is courage. It takes courage to be a beacon of light in the pitch dark, and perhaps even more courage to be a beacon of dark in the blinding light.
3) Understand that suffering is a necessary component of good things
“You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame; how could you rise anew if you have not first become ashes?” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Life is pain. And that’s okay, because pain is a sharpening stone. Pain is the greatest teacher next to Mother Nature and the mighty cosmos. Your pain is real because you are real. Your sorrow, misery, grief, existential angst and spiritual trepidation are all dreadfully real because you yourself are extraordinarily real. Were it not so, you would not feel any of it. But it is so, and therefore you also feel love, happiness, hunger, joy, equanimity, providence, and even enlightenment.
Becoming an overman is understanding this, rolling with it, surfing the double-edged wave of it, and finally transcending it by not taking it all so dreadfully seriously and discovering instead that a good sense of humor transubstantiates the world. Like Alan Watts said, “Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.”
4) Understand that you will be hard to understand
“Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed, by the masses.” ~ Plato
Don’t be afraid of being misunderstood. You will be. Think outside of the box anyway, and then flatten it. Crush mental paradigms anyway, and then build others to crush. Stretch comfort zones until they snap anyway, and then regroup, heal, and realize that your comfort zone is not a boundary that contains you, but a horizon that compels you.
Like Plato also said, “Courage is knowing what not to fear.” The fear of being misunderstood is precisely a thing which you should not fear. Understand it instead. Roll with it. Dance with it. Use it as kindling and build fires with it. Then roast marsh mellows with the gods in high-laughter at the silly fears of men.
5) Be gentle toward the weak out of consciousness of your own great strength
“With great power comes great responsibility.” ~ Stan Lee
Shake all secure foundations, but put a foundation beneath all that is insecure. Help the helpless, but be able to distinguish what people need from what people want in order to determine what help you can give. Flatten the arena of pseudo-power so that prestigious-power is free to rise to the top and expiate itself. Always be conscious of your own power, but don’t limit your power because of your conscience.
Like Henry David Thoreau said, ‘Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. So aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.” Guide the powerless to their own power, despite the powers that be. To act as a guide is to give people something to do, to help fit them into their destiny, to help prevent their stumbling mindlessly about in an empty, meaningless existence.
6) Don’t be too humble; delight in your own abilities
“If your abilities are only mediocre, modesty is mere honesty; but if you possess great talents, it is hypocrisy.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer
The Overman is the “genius” that Jesus spoke of in the Gospel of Thomas: “If you bring forth the genius within you, it will free you. If you do not bring forth the genius within you, it will destroy you.” This is a tricky one.
Many people will confuse you for being conceited or egotistical, not realizing that the ego grows along with the burgeoning soul. The bigger the soul, the bigger the ego. But the crucial difference is that the overman who has been initiated into soul has learned how to use the ego as a tool for the soul as opposed to being a tool to the ego. For the overman ego-work is soul-work. The overman is not conceited, but convinced.
7) Become devoted to the Earth
“The Übermensch is the meaning of the earth… I beseech you, my brothers, remain faithful to the earth, and do not believe those who speak to you of otherworldly hopes… Once the sin against God was the greatest sin; but God died, and these sinners died with him. To sin against the earth is now the most dreadful thing.” ~ Nietzsche
Invest in the practical applications of culture to raise the mentality of society in regards to the overall biosphere. This is perhaps the most difficult attribute to acquire on the path of the overman, but one cannot claim to be on the path without it. Becoming devoted to the earth means becoming a force of nature first, a person second.
It means moderating our lifestyles, despite the immoderate lifestyles that surround us. It means not being superfluous. It means not being an extremist according to actual reality but becoming an extremist according to the hyper-reality of the state. Like Nietzsche said, “Only where the state ends, there begins the human being who is not superfluous.”
A man striving to become an overman will always be considered an extremist, but that is only because the rest of culture is living extreme lifestyles in contrast. An overman, devoted to the earth, is actually the opposite of extreme: “living simply” as Gandhi said “so that others may simply live.” Being devoted to the earth is helping others realize that they are earth. And how everything is connected in a beautiful interdependent dance of earthly livingry striving onward despite cosmic entropy.
It is the responsibility of the man-striving-to-be-overman within all of us to help transform guilt and apathy into virtue and empathy, to help transform victimization into heroism, to help transform weaponry into livingry, to help transform fear-based lifestyles into courage-based lifestyles, and to help self-overcome so that our culture may culturally-overcome itself and once again become “faithful to the earth.” Like Nietzsche profoundly said, “The great epochs in our lives are at the points when we gain the courage to rebaptize our badness into the best in us.”