Since 1997 I have bought and read nearly every book bearing the now trendy, cliché name of Nietzsche, which I will render as N. Not only do I understand what he is saying in his books, I have lived it. All my instincts I find intelligent use and expression of in N’s books. All my thoughts that I have no ability to understand or express I find inspired explanation and expression of in N. Without him, my life would lack all glamour and importance. He matters to me more than any living person. I am probably wrong for feeling this way, not just from the parental ‘get normal’ perspective, but from the human ‘favor the alive’ perspective. But just imagine. Imagine finding a whole supplemental existence inside a book or in a picture.
Look at this. In adulthood, as he roamed around middle Europe a virtual invalid, N turned himself into a physical grotesque. Maybe the big huge giant moustache was fashionable for men in late 19th Century Germany, I don’t know. Somebody should find out. But there can be no question there is something very wrong and obscene about this. If you know someone who wore a moustache and then shaved it off, you know what a huge difference a moustache makes. The contours and lines of the upper lip are lost. His worshippers do not like to look at him like this, and certainly do not even begin, as “intellectuals,” to acknowledge how much the moustache means.
What Does the Moustache Mean?
It means N had something to hide, and something to scare away. Here he has no mouth. His words issue from that big huge thing on his face. He could be smiling, frowning, sneering, we don’t know. He hides all visual cues, making himself an emotional neuter whose voice requires constant interpretation. He becomes a chore and a liability socially. His reluctance to express emotion, his ‘I am only a brain now’ relegation to a life of solitude and independence and thought, his contempt for speech – all these tendencies motivate this gorgon touch. The moustache means: I don’t want to talk; I just want to think.
The proper response to this picture is laughter, followed by scorn and derision. This is the moustache of a man out of control with ego and inner conflict. N knew deep down he was a comic figure, a Don Quixote. He was so serious, he was funny. Had N achieved fame in his sane lifetime, he would have been very vulnerable to jokes and ridicule. His ultra-seriousness, his self-importance, his extreme views, the moustache, oh the comics and cartoonists would have a field day. But imagine the end of all such joking as N started to giggle inappropriately. The man marching through his life like a soldier, this highly determined and principled man one day starts to giggle?
According to eyewitness accounts, as N was visiting the city of Turin he saw a horse collapse in the street. As the owner cursed and beat the animal, N ran out into the street and put his arms out and lovingly embraced the fallen beast. In the helplessness and exhaustion of that animal he saw his own helplessness and exhaustion as an atheist frantically searching for a way out of the ultimate despair and meaningless chaos of a Godless, valueless world. His last inhibition was gone. He fainted in the street. When he woke up, he was insane. Now to his friends’ dismay, this formerly discreet and courteous man was rolling around on the floor and banging dissonantly on the piano like a child.
And as you picture this insanity scene in your mind, don’t forget that the moustache was still there -- that obscene, tangled mess flopping up and down like seagull wings.