We have already discussed how the path to greatness necessitates an avoidance of hedonism and a pursuit of hardship, as per Nietzsche’s philosophy. The zenith of humanity can only be reached through bloodshed, war, toil, torment, and pain, for through these qualities we become hardened and better, whereas a life of luxury and ease turns us soft. However, as a species that prides itself on reason and ability to learn, it begs the question of why we must ALL endure this pain in order to achieve greatness. Why is it not the case that ONE brave human can do the suffering for all of us, and then pass on his lesson for us to learn without having to endure the same torment that they managed?
I mean, if this guy had something to say, wouldn't YOU listen?
Obvious Christianity metaphor aside (which, if you are curious about Nietzsche’s refutation of Christianity, read just about everything he wrote, but “Will to Power”, “The Antichrist”, and “Genealogy of Morals” would have some great starting points), Nietzche establishes that greatness has a very SHORT lifespan, whereas mediocrity perpetuates infinitely. The conditions necessary to produce superiority in A human are in turn the very same conditions that promote death and destruction for the majority of humanity itself. The outcome of a superior human is a rare instance, and it takes many many instances of failure and death before one is able to adapt and overcome. The possibility that multiple superior humans are able to be generated within the same instance and continue to perpetuate greatness in turn becomes almost impossibly rare, which means that when a superior human comes along, his reign tends to be brief with little continuity left behind.
We of course witness this reality in training constantly, as for every one successful trainee (in ANY discipline, whether it be bodybuilding, powerlifting, weightlifting, strongman, crossfit, etc) there are thousands of failures. All are afforded the same opportunity for toil, but very few possess the necessary traits to prosper under these conditions, resulting in a lopsidedness in terms of success versus failure. Popular phrases come about to explain the phenomena, such as “if it was easy, everyone would do it” and “everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift heavy ass weights”, but the point is still the same: many will try, but few will succeed.
When you are this big, you can say and wear the dumbest things and no one will challenge you
When faced with a situation wherein effort results in failure, there exists 2 possible avenues of response. One is to improve oneself in order to befit the situation (the previously aforementioned “superior humans” who grow in these environments) while the other is the improve the SITUATION in order to befit oneself. It is this latter course of action that tends to be the more popular of the two, and explains why it is the case that mediocrity is what tends to prevail when analyzing the human species as a whole. So how is it that one who lacks the power to overcome adversity can somehow have the power to radically change their environment to encourage hedonism and ease? As Nietzsche points out, real power is in determining virtues and morality, and society has come to value “slave morality” over “master morality.”
What do these terms mean? Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality explains how, in humanity’s infancy, we prized a “noble morality”, wherein qualities like a thirst for power, lack of empathy/pity, and pride were valued due to their ability to advance the species. We sought these virtues for they were necessary to survive in our harsh conditions, and those without these values were naturally weeded out. However, as we advanced DUE to these values, we in turn were able to create a life that allowed us to not need to endure hardships. Once met with this life, a greater amount of people who did NOT possess the virtues of strength and power existed, to soon form the majority. Once in the majority, those who had strength and power were the outliers and outcasts, essentially, “the different”, whereas the weak had become the norm. In this situation, it became logical to conclude that those who are different must be in turn “sinners”, while those that form the majority are those with morality. We began to praise humility, passiveness, and claimed that “the meek shall inherit the Earth”. We made it moral to be a slave, and told the downtrodden who existed under the crushing fist of the strong that they could take solace in being morally superior to those who were in reality OBVIOUSLY superior.
I am sure the guy in the middle has a great personality
We witness this phenomenon replicate itself within the lifting community. In the beginning, the only guidance we had for training was effort. Lifters trained in various ways, using completely different methods and protocols and yet many roads still seemed to lead to success insofar as the trainee was applying ferocity and tenacity to their training. Watch “Pumping Iron” and witness the various methods employed by each successful bodybuilder, or look at how Paul Anderson revolutionized weightlifting by bringing in ROM progression and squats, or how Bob Peoples employed a deadlift form that would make the modern era of lifting go into seizures. These pioneers possessed the noble “master morality”. However, as time passed and lifting became more accessible, the rate of unsuccessful trainees drastically increased and massively outweighed the successful athletes. Once this occurred, it became necessary for the weak to justify their weakness in the faces of the strong, and a “slave morality” of lifting developed.
It became “moral” to lift with “good form”. It was honorable to avoid injury. Moderation was prized, because if lifting was your life, you were unbalanced. We took all the qualities necessary to be UNSUCCESSFUL and determined that these were the rules and morals that must be followed in order to be considered a good trainee. Though the intent of this post is to compare Nietzsche’s works, I will re-iterate Plato’s analogy of the surgeon, in that a good lifter is not a lifter who does good, but is in fact one who is GOOD at lifting. If your morality dictates you be unsuccessful, you are a bad lifter.
Sometimes though, you can be a bad surgeon AND a bad person
With this slave morality of lifting established, it becomes readily apparent why we are unable to learn the lessons from those who have already gone through the suffering in order to emerge the “superman”. They come down from the mountains, spread to us their words of enlightenment, and we stone them to death for being sinners. We decry them for not using good form, despite the fact they achieved incredible size and strength. We accuse them of the crime of having superior genetics, while we understand that we the unempowered must train completely different manner in order to succeed. We berate them for not following OUR methods, for being heretics against our holy scriptures, for being “unvirtuous”. The meek have inherited the Earth.
The path to success has already been paved. The lessons have already been brought to us. Success is no mystery, the successful walk among us, and with them they possess a noble “master morality”. Despite their efforts, these lessons cannot be passed on, for the vessel is unwilling to receive them. It is up to you to analyze your virtues and question if they are the virtues possessed by one who seeks to overcome or by one who seeks to BE overcome.