Lecture by Nobel Laureate Arthur Friedrich
Note: The following is a reconstruction of his speech from memory. Some amount of liberty* in expression is taken quite audaciously. Apologies for the same.
“With solemn deference to the luminaries who have graced this occasion let me begin my humble and heartfelt address”, spoke the laureate and began his address.
I’m merely goaded by the ever-reverberant primeval whisper throughout eternity. I let myself, or am I destined, to resonate with that echo. I’m obliged merely to be a receptor. I deny myself any pride, much less the puissance, of being the source, but the sole virtue of being a mere conduit for the transfusion of energies.
I don’t wish to accept this as an honor in recognition of MY capacities but as an honor in recognition of the incomprehensibly colossal intricacies of works, volition, sacrifices, necessary evils as immolation for greater good, violent conflicts for domination and gruesome subjugation of the meek, unbeknownst to our understanding,which effected this culmination.
The beauty and Majesty of a fountain is often perceived in its apparency rather than the holistic function of all those subterranean network of ducts and the forces -conscious and otherwise — that result in their existence and continued sustainment.
Is there anyone among us who is born of self-capacities wishing the conditions one was born unto? Are all Born equal? Did those among us, willing their way to better conditions in life thru their capacities, get their will and faculties sheerly on their own,independent of all conditional externality? What, then, can we hold on to as ours? What can we truly possess or feel pride for? What can we struggle for?The results, which can’t be claimed as an outcome of our own merit?
Amor fati! What becomes from the world of domination and subjection, conditionality and chance, will not cease to be so. Willing against this fact is denying this world for another which is known to exist only as a figment of imagination. To me,it is a misconceived romantic ideal that we can get rid of suffering and inequalities.
And what is man without war!
The one thing man always deserves:strife!
Whenever someone speaks of nature’s magnificence and charm, one may often tend to imagine the beauty of nature as one wishes to see. Of squirrels hiding their nuts in grass,of birds chirping, of dogs and kittens frolicking, of silent valleys and serene landscapes, of placid ocean and so on. But to truly meditate on the magnificence of nature one must reckon it in its wholeness. One must think of a violently exploding volcano spewing sulfur, of scorching heat and frozen winters, of a pack of hyenas tearing away a fawn to its bare bones even before it could die or stop twitching, of a monkey which kills the alpha male and all its young offsprings to become the new alpha male, of dogs that eat their pups after parturition, of arachnids cannibalizing their own mother, of males of some species that die in the process to plug the female counterpart’s reproductive orifice with their own device to block another mate’s chance, of dragonflies that brutally clutch the female ones and clean their orifice of any earlier insemination before mating forcefully, and of variegated species thatkill and get killed in their savage acts of copulation, all in order to make one’s bloodline thrive.
Nature is value-neutral. It doesn’t present anything with inherent value. It’s merely the substratum, the Warfield. Nature is as indifferent to value as the Warfield is to the warring sides. Whoever wins,gets to stand on the Warfield. And whoever dies, lies upon it to be feasted by vultures. And the vultures pecking at the bowels and viscera of helpless half-lives can’t be considered as ghastly. For,they too are part of nature and have their own little ones flapping their inchoate wings with open mouths in hunger.
I see, thus, love as war. Is not love but a manifestation of conflict? Is not everything such?
And thus springs all that is nature. Through endless conflict which forms its very essence.
We must listen to nature speak to us thus,
“Arise, nimble spirits, unto your cardinal vocation.
Become worthy of your station.”!
We all are aware of these. That through the process of osmosis and other mechanisms water and minerals enter the rootlets of a tree; Some roots and microorganisms enter into symbiosis to benefit each other; The vascular tissues help in transportation of water, minerals and nutrients throughout the tree; Xylem transports the fluids upward — we know how wonderfully and elaborately this transport of water happens for several hundred feet against gravity; we see how marvelously the pull at the top, due to evaporation of water through the leaves by means of transpiration, combined with the pressure at the roots, surface tension of water which results in the capillary rise, adhesive inner walls of xylem which adds to traction as water moves up, work together in this process.
We know how the xylem tissues grow and mature to death to become fully functional in transporting fluids; how it forms the dead part of the tree in its core, still providing pathways to fluids and strength to stand;
We are no less aware of how Phloem transports fluids and mainly nutrients from shoot to root; how the fruits and roots are provided for; and how they, in turn, help in propagation of the tree’s life;
We know how much each part of the tree labors under and exacts its demands from other parts.Agnostic, unconscious role-play is involved; multitude of externalities and chance are involved too.
If all these numerous elements had to be equal and without mutual conflict, then they had to be a panel of undifferentiated single cells lying on the ground and there would be no tree! And, out of pity, neither the leaves can stop exploiting the roots nor can the roots avoid extracting energy from the leaves. For, it would be a gross negation of the sacrifice and suffering of the other. And what of single cells?The same can be spoken about the compositeness of each single cell which can’t exist without inequalities and strife.
All of nature’s outcome is nature acknowledging itself.
If there is Sin, it is the Consciousness of it!
Allow me to share a detail at this moment.
However ethereal an enchanting painting of a vista from The Everest may look to the eyes that inhabit the plains, does it speak enough about the task behind it? The”whys” that appeared to the surmounters in their travails, the answers they created for their persistence and for life, the sacrifices and pain they endured to reach the summit? I wish that it’s not the case, however,it just could be that the painting meant nothing to many. And also, it may be endlessly imitated to decorate the little worlds of many who are totally oblivious to its noble birth.
I have heard a story of a group of mountaineers that got into a predicament in their ascent to the peak. The weather was at its most unmerciful. They could proceed nowise but halt. Withstanding the fiendish cold that sought to consume the dying warmth in their breasts, ossifying and gangrening flesh,dwindling resources, they couldn’t stay for long but had to keep moving. But they lost all hope in themselves and gave up the mission and prayed for the weather to calm. There was one among them who had the Reaper calling for him.The crew chose to stay by the side of their comrade in his last. Unwilling to see the others make a costly decision with compassion and with courage, while facing their own death, he left a parting note and walked away from the camp into the howling wilderness. Afterwards, the rest of them, with heavy hearts and dying bodies, inspired by their comrade’s valiant sacrifice, marshalled their dauntless will and launched themselves upward to the summit. For, his sacrifice would be in vain if they didn’t. They felt one with the spirit of their mighty comrade when, at last, they won. Were they not alive, to look down from the tallest heights, through their gushing tears against the deadly cold,if not for the ultimate sacrifice of the one who wasn’t there? Or is it an individual’s victory?
In-dividual? — That, sure, I’m not!
I’m constitutive of myriad conditionals. I’m, at best, a becoming of some conditionals and attenuation of others.
Is there anything about Life that is, in essence, not a striving!
And what of Art? A work of art is prone to the errors of dimensional transmutations when an experience, which is felt subjectively and viscerally, is expressed in a mere communicable medium, irrespective of the felicity of the methods used or the glory they exude. Can the most gracious hands of the most august artisan truly paint the sheer splendor of a certain landscape and express the euphoria that it evoked in him? Regardless of how profound emotions such a painting may rouse in someone, it is still are presentation, an approximation that can hardly match the original inspiration of the artist.
The painting, through its amorphous charm, serves as an invocation seducing the admirer in whom ardor and passion burn tall and fierce; An invocation to transcend the realm of his mundane experiences into that rapturous world of disarming magnificence from where his master cast the charm; For a transcendental journey which he must undertake with devotion and courage.
He stumbles and falters. He is tempted to succumb to the strenuous exercise. He makes invaluable sacrifices. But he pursues and makes several leaps of faith facing a void filled only with uncertainty. And finally, he may achieve that stupendous grace that once was seemingly unattainable.
He now realizes viscerally that ineffable grandeur that was once revealed only partially thru his master’s rendition. He realizes that grandeur is much more than the limitedness of any representation. It is indeed far greater than the sum of individual representations.
Facing that luminous Truth, both his master’sand his identity dissolve away. And then, he makes his best effort to capture that beauty in his own expression, which he himself recognizes as yet another inadequate representation.
Neither the master nor the aspirant considers each one’s individual perspective as superior to the impersonal,indescribable, impossessable Truth that whispered gently in their hearts to come after It. The beckoning of that elysian seductress!
When they revel in That, they seldom remember their Incomplete renditions.
How can then, any work of art is to produce an immediate stimulus that is anywhere proximal to the wholeness of an immersive experience? Can art merely be sensual titillation providing means to convenient self-gratification? Then, wouldn’t art become a device of self-castration leading us away from the essence of nature? Art can only serve as instigating beacon for someone who strives. The striver has to redeem himself by swimming the rough tides unto the beacon. Some may abandon the effort for its loftiness or simply dismiss it as an unnecessary effort in futility. Some may even reject it in an act of self-preservation of their values of convenience.
And that’s how it happened. Being an obedient disciple of nature, I merely followed the incantation from afar that manifested in all that is around! From all existence that came ahead and that left behind the holy murmurs.
To attain the glory those before me achieved, I assumed my station in life and obeyed the Truth of Strife.
The wise man once said, “Art thou one ENTITLED to escape from a yoke? Many a one hath cast away his final worth when he hath cast away his servitude!”
And here I stand because I choose servitude to the task!
He said, “Man is a rope, tied between beast and superman — a rope over an abyss…
What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end!”
And here I stand because I choose to go under thereby to go over!
His words can’t be further from the truth,”There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us — for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”
What knows he of life who never sought nor had the courage to destroy its meaning and stare unflinchingly at the maw of emptiness!
What knows he of life who hasn’t found that emptiness so fertile of life!
I love him who seeks to create beyond himself, and thus succumbs.
The Art of Living is restlessly preparing oneself to face Death — however brutal, untimely or unjust- with grace, composure, courage and an unconcerned smirk.
Allow me to conclude with the verses of the celebrated sage Thiruvalluvar from my own land in my native tongue.
“பிறவிப் பெருங்கடல் நீந்துவர் நீந்தார்
இறைவனடி சேரா தார்.”
“None but those who swim the ocean of existence
Attain the abode of divinity.”
Neither those who idly stay afloat nor those who merely drown without any effort!
Those who honor Existence must as well honor one’s duty to Swim!
Duty to Struggle and to War!
And I, with all adoration and submission to the impersonal obligation that Existence requires of us, accept this award as a recognition of the sum of all unrevealed efforts and sacrifices of countless lives throughout eternity, of which my work is solely an incomplete representation.
Through It, with It, in It,
In the Unity of Its moving spirit,
All glory and honor is Its own
Forever and evermore.
* Note: I’m not aware of this Nobel laureate at all. Nor of any lecture given by him. The name Arthur Friedrich is made up from the names of Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche. With all due compunction, I must apologize for daring to commit this desecration in their names! They would be turning in their graves with fits of rage and anguish!
For those who are not aware, the ‘wise man’ referred in the end is Nietzsche himself.
The story of mountaineers is based on the story of Roald Amundsen and his crew on their expedition to reach South Pole first. Indeed,many such incredible sacrifices have been and will be made by numerous nameless spirits that will remain untold! And this world will go on regardless…
Regardless of those faint glimmers of supreme human endeavor in contrast to the vast, unremarkable mundanity of mediocre human existence…