Eternal Recurrence: Life Changing Thought-Experiment Courtesy of Nietzsche

What if some day or night, a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence – even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!” Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: “You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.” If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are, or perhaps crush you.


8 responses to “Eternal Recurrence: Life Changing Thought-Experiment Courtesy of Nietzsche

  1. Would we be conscious of the repetition? If so, we’d live in dread of the bad things and savor the good every time we experienced them. Every experience would be so much richer, I think, because we’d be much more aware of them.

    I’d just hate to have to repeat my trip to the proctologist over and over for eternity. And then there’s the time I couldn’t get it up with the hottest virgin ever. “Be a man,” she said. That was some cold sh*t.

    I can think of a few events that I’d happily repeat, though.

  2. The idea is that you would not be aware of the repetition. The question is: Will such news be welcomed? If yes, you are living your life correctly. If not, then it is time to put yourself on the right track. It is an excellent thought-experiment.

  3. If we are not aware of the repetition then we would just be given the same chance to live again, and with every chance we have an ability to make a different choice for each and every thing we have experienced thus far.

    Having said that, I find it highly doubtful that any of us would make different choices, as we are on this journey of life to learn and grow into who we are to become. Being unaware of this repetition leaves us still needing to learn from our mistakes.

    I would not change Anything in my life (especially the bad choices) as I learned the most from the hardest times in my life and gained strength that will see me overcome future obstacles! ๐Ÿ™‚

    And Terry, a little too much information lol (Just kidding, you Always make me laugh) ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I hear ya Yakira. As I wrote earlier, I think this is a great thought experiment (not to be taken literally). It is a good way to have people think about the life that they are (and ought to be) living. It is tempting to see this type of arrangement benefiting only those who fate smiled upon – in other words, if you had a good life (i.e. abundance of pleasure, wealth, health, and security) you would want to repeat it, and if you had a bad life you would not. But this view is too simplistic. Keep in mind that this thought experiment is coming from a man who suffered a great in his life. I think there is something more profound at work here. It seems to me that it is not about your fate as much as it is wither or not you are able to love it – even with its sorrows. I see this thought experiment as either a reinforcement (if you are living a good life) or a call for change (if the demon is the bearer of bad news). At the very least, even if we cant change our lives we can change the way we think and feel about our lives. Easier said than done, but inspiring nevertheless.

  5. And yes, Terry is one funny cat.

  6. THANK YOU for writing again! Bringing to us some laughs and insightfuls thoughts.

  7. The more I think about eternal recurrence, the more valuable the “thought experiment”.

    One of the key things this thought experiment makes me focus on is the common view of life with regard to regrets. Most people, almost everyone you ask, in fact will say, “I don’t regret anything because I like who I am and where I am.” I felt the same way for a long time, but this experiment really changes that.

    It’s not that I would wish away bad things that happened to me. It’s that, if I knew I’d have to live my life exactly the same way over and over again, I would have made each day count. I would have stepped up to the plate more consistently and delivered my best.

    The eternal recurrence view makes you look at each day and say, I’m going to make this bad boy count so that when this day rolls around a lifetime from now, I’m going to be excited to see it coming.

  8. Thanks for sharing, Matthew.

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