We need writers. From one of my new book manuscripts tentatively titled either Bone Mountain or Renaissance Homeboy:
Nietzsche’s ideas of independence and will to power were also rewarding because they humbled me. He forced me to question my courage. Independence, he argued, was only for the few, and the way that you proved your independence is that you would stand alone—maligned, ridiculed, and confused—yet you, desiring individuality, continued with the struggle anyway. At the end, your reward for being so self-reliant is that you would have no one to understand you, no one to help you. Isolation would be your multi-colored medal of honor.
As for the will to power, you, living human being, desire more than safe survival. Anyone can endure this life, Nietzsche argues. You are supposed to explode your will to power, to prove to yourself that you live, even if the process of proving life is sheer stupidity, like fighting against two plus two, what you and the most flagrant idiot is supposed to testify is correct. The logic or folly of the will is beyond the logic of numbers: it is an innate, childish search for daring and very likely destruction!
These thoughts influenced my writing and life more than the MFA workshops. Reading was a meditation and measure of who I imagined myself to be. Electrified to share these ideas on the wild streets, I most of the time could only pitch the punch lines to homies.
“Nietzsche says it ain’t just about surviving, Bros,” I explained while chugging a beer.
“Yeah, but we got to survive,” Pedro responded.
“Surviving is something anyone can do and is expected to do. That ain’t nothing special. Nietzsche argues we’re supposed to overcome ourselves and even our own morality. Independence is harder and sicker than just surviving. We’re supposed to strive for more, even if it goes against survival—you know like how salmon swim upstream, mate, and then die.”
“That’s a fuckin trip, homes.” Pedro’s head flailed everywhere, as if he didn’t know whether he should nod or shake, agree or disagree.
Through my eager energy, I acted out Nietzsche and other authors’ philosophies, but I did not see others changing as I was changing because of text-based ideas. There simply is no substitute for the experience of reading a text. Therein lays the magic: the silent inner-communication of reading is the gift and price to pay.
Reading is a key to consciousness. When reading, you got to shut the fuck up and listen, and what do you listen to, who do you listen to? Not even you know. ‘Cause that voice that enters into your brain is not your voice. You make-believe a song of someone you have never met or probably ever even heard about, and you mimic an accent that slurs in your mind but that is silent in real life because in real life that author you are reading is dead or in Algeria or China, so you imagine something that cannot possibly be true inside of your mind, yet you listen, and to do that you must be disciplined, attentive, and creative. To practice the skill of reading you must be confident in your own nothingness. Ain’t no substitute for the action and inaction of reading text, and the denser the text, the more complicated and paradoxical the text, the more you must question yourself and your own consciousness and what you thought you knew and who you believe you are. It is a time of uncomfortable peace and safety that forces you to construct your reality based on someone else inside your mind. Will you be bullied? Will you submit? Will you find patience and humility to listen to someone else besides yourself? Are you exciting enough to entertain another brain inside of your brain? Reading is, perhaps, the most intimate communication you will ever share.
A demanding statement to proclaim: reading transforms a person’s life.