There was no day of rest; and so man died. Man’s dominion made the earth uninhabitable: first for the cattle, the creeping things and wild animals of every kind; then for the fowls of the air and then the fishes of the sea. Only the most violent of weeds remained of vegetation. The atmosphere dissolved, it became dark and everything died; the seas became solid and cold and darkness covered the face of the deep.

George Orwell* (like Nietzsche) sees Christianity in opposition to “the tragic”, which “exists precisely when virtue does not triumph but when it is still felt that man is nobler than the forces which destroy him.” He writes later, “a normal human being does not want the Kingdom of Heaven: he wants life on earth to continue (…) Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise (…) Ultimately it is the Christian attitude which is self-interested and hedonistic, since the aim is always to get away from the painful struggle of earthly life and find eternal peace (…) The humanist attitude is that the struggle must continue and that death is the price of life.”

The question today: is humanist-man “nobler than the forces which destroy him” when he is the force responsible for destroying himself, when man’s struggle is that which prohibits life’s continuing? What then?

*Quotes from the essay on Tolstoy on Shakespeare.


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