The nearness of the distant

I’ve done a bad job updating this blog so far, so I’m going for a shift of focus: I’m going to make it more personal. I apologize for the gaps in posts so far. Scouts honor–and I was a Boy Scout–I’m going to post more regularly from now on. So to get to business…

I’m nearing my final weeks of junior year. Clouds cover the sky like a rumpled old blanket, sapping color from the St. Bonaventure campus. I imagine Heidegger walking by the nearby river on such days, his steel gray hair matching the clouds, his footsteps lagging as a new thought turns over in his head. He was a heavy guy. Even his name. Heidegger.

I’m writing a paper, drawing from an essay he wrote: “Who is Zarathurstra?” He analyzes the unity he sees between Nietzsche’s concepts of “overman” and “eternal recurrence,” doctrines threaded through Nietzsche’s works. The ideas are heavy, sunken cathedrals built on traditions of metaphysics dating back to Plato.

Through the dry but brilliant essay, a line stands out: “Longing is the agony of the nearness of the distant.”

Sometimes philosophy has poetry wedged between the arguments; the line captures my mood during these final weeks.

In Nietzsche’s thought, the overman is a being who has overcome humanity. I’m not an overman, but I feel as if I’ve overcome myself, another central doctrine to Nietzsche’s philosophy. Everything in nature, he argues, strives to overcome, to reach beyond its original limits. In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Zarathustra says, “And life itself confided this secret to me: ‘Behold,’ it said, ‘I am that which must always overcome itself.'”

This is more than an abstract doctrine. I’m not the same person I was since coming to college. Something keeps pulling me forward, forcing me to change, even when it’s painful. These changes add up. When I came to St. Bonaventure, 2,000+ people terrified me, the rigor of university classes enthralled me, the freedom of living on my own tested me. I met friends, joined clubs, had terrible nights peppered with great times–the usual all-American college experience–the past three years. I have one year left, but the experience has lost its gleam.

Longing is the agony of the nearness of the distant.

Graduation remains distant, abstract. Beyond college, I have sketches, not plans. But at least it’s not here–at least it’s something new. It’s not the same people with the same problems in the same small sphere of dorms, quads, and dining halls. Something pushes me to grow, to overcome myself again.

I hear life’s whisper pawing at me: life must overcome itself. Stagnation makes me depressed. It robs me of perspective; numbs my imagination; and glues my eyes to deadlines, quiz grades, and immature drama. Last week, I felt down because a group presentation had me tired and a slew of paperwork was due. Taking a step back, that’s rediculous: there’s so much more to living than schoolwork and bureaucracy.

The once big world of Bonaventure shrinks as I grow. Beneath the heavy sky, my being craves for lightness. I crave change because change forces me to overcome.

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