We are alone, thus affirming the Nietzschean vision

By Jack Dolan

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Within the mercurial gauge of modern civilisation, we can discern through a probing lens the eerie echoes of the ‘last man,’ a concept engendered from the profound depths of Nietzsche’s illustrious philosophical oeuvre, which serves as a stark forewarning against the insidious encroachment of a societal paradigm in which the zenith of human aspiration is mercilessly truncated to the banal pursuit of comfort, security, and mass, unremarkable uniformity. This ‘last man’ ontology, a term replete with existential profundity in the modern day, encapsulates the epitome of Nietzsche’s fears: a civilisation so deeply entrenched in the quagmire of mediocrity and self-contentment to the extent to which it becomes blind to the once-noble pursuits of greatness, creativity, and the overarching will to self-becoming, which Nietzsche deemed essential for the flourishing of a truly vibrant and dynamic society. 

In this mazey and convoluted realm we call modernity, the spectre of Nietzsche’s scathing prognosis looms large, and today, his words reverberate with a prophetic resonance more than ever before. Among his most incisive musings is the contemplation of man’s metamorphosis from the untamed, life-affirming wolf to the domesticated, “life-denying” dog, a transition emblematic of the self-negating influence of an overly mechanistic and subservient means of living. Nietzsche’s aphorism, “Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman – a rope over an abyss,” serves as a poignant metaphor for this epochal transformation, encapsulating the tension between man’s primordial ontological components and the increasingly controlled (and top-down controlling) veneer of modern civilisation.

This notion of societal ‘taming’ is particularly pertinent in the context of today’s languishing office-space domain, in which the regimented rhythm of a consumerist world stifles the inherent and often empowering wildness of the primordial human psyche. Nietzsche’s reasoning extols the virtues of living and thinking dangerously, of embracing the tumultuous and unpredictable elements of life as a means of transcending the mundane – which is to say, the crippling asylum of safeness characteristic of modern man’s ontological reality.

In this view, the ‘wolf mentality’ of which Nietzsche spoke is not an aggressively reactionary anachronism but a vital wellspring of understanding our innermost authenticity and capacity for a liberating and self-generating vitality, arguably an apparent counterpoint to the ennui of today’s continually constrained and wearisomely vapid existence. Nor is the call to embrace the solitary wolf within a churlish harking to any conceived notions of an aesthetic barbarism of sorts. To the contrary, it is simply a call to live fully, to engage with the immediacy of the Dasein in which we find ourselves in a way that is both visceral and life-expanding. Ultimately, it is about finding the balance between the wolf’s primal ferocity and the domesticated dog’s timid fidelity, forging a healthy convergence of inner strength with the vivifying sculpting of beauty. This dynamic is both unrestrained and contemplative, spiritually free yet ethically judicious. Thus, to live life fully this way is to walk a tightrope of artistic bravery and ingenious sublimity. 

Of such sublimity, we can trek upon the solitary northern shores of contemporary ambient music. The Lonely Bell, the soundscaping creation of the affable and prolific Ali Murray, emerges as a beacon of the triumph of unfettered independence, with his latest albums “Ghost Town Burning” and “The Outer Banks” exemplifying sonic transmissions that transcend the banalities of the everyday consumerist droll, reaching towards the pulchritudinous and the profound with dextrous aplomb. These two albums, a masterful oeuvre of hauntingly orchestral electronic sounds, weave a consistent poetic narrative that defy the sedentary complacency of Nietzsche’s ‘last man’ polemics, instead embracing the life-affirming ascent towards overcoming the baleful trappings of capricious societal convulsions and aggravatingly crowded urban sprawls. Murray, situated within “the cold Scottish isles”, as his bio laconically reads, crafts a world where each mellifluous note and breath of pensive silence serves as a metaphorical step away from the busying herd’s tendentious pursuit of comfort and insatiable social climbing, thus guiding the listener towards a requitable peak of existential realisation and subsequent, artistic self-actualisation. 

These albums are not merely a collection of ambient drones but a zestful collage of musings on this all-too-human will to self-actualisation, each track a chapter in an unspoken narrative that confronts the listener with the sobering realities of the markedly stultifying modern condition. Characterised by their chilling minimalism and ethereal textures, each composition speaks in a language beyond words, touching upon the emancipatory essence of an ancient and long-forgotten solitude that effortlessly defines the impulse of the primal wolf-geist in an otherwise calamitous and co-dependent world saturated in hollow extravagance and brain-sizzling stimuli. 

Further, the ability of these albums to encapsulate the Nietzschean ideal of self-becoming is most agreeable in its refusal to conform to conventional musical structures, embodying instead the courageous individualism in artistry and location that Nietzsche so ebulliently espoused. In essence, “Ghost Town Burning” and “The Outer Banks” present an earnest clarion call of self-reflection to the listener, proving a bold departure from the mainstream cacophony of overly quantised musical mediocrity and its sterile focus on promoting what is essentially cookie-cutter background noise. Quite conversely, Murray’s deft crafting of sonic elements serves as a catalyst for some much-needed authenticity and introspection inside a mammoth global industry so seemingly intent on its own artless implosion, compelling his listeners to embark upon a journey of personal confrontation with the philosophical and dare I say even spiritual, void so glaringly palpable today. 

Nevertheless, while such authentic primacy may be displaying strong signs of erosion in contemporary mainstream music and society at large, all is far from lost, for within the gallied shores of modern ambient music, this authentic Weltanschauung of unbridled life-affirmation can indeed find a particularly resonant expression even in today’s trending fast-food junk culture. In the enigmatic and pruriently aloof scene of the soundscaping arts, with its predilection for the abstract throes of the avant-garde and freestyle approach to vibrant musical experimentation, we are, in fact, presented with an abundance of fertile ground for this very ontological exploration of the raw, wolf-like essence. 

Here, artists and audiences alike can engage in a form of aesthetic brinkmanship, pushing the boundaries of convention to forge experiences that can be both disorienting and exhilarating, perhaps even dumbfounding. And what a combination indeed, for it is in these moments of artistic intrepidity that the Nietzschean wolf-geist is most strikingly evocative, reminding us of the potency of living a truly free-thinking and authentic lifestyle in contrast to modern man’s progressive inclination to avert the threatening cliffs of danger and the precarious corridors of the unknown. Indeed, we need not resign from the will to sublimate the gruelling harshness of a base life, for this is precisely what distinguishes innovation from servitude in all manner of being. 

The challenge that modern life thus poses to all artists and entrepreneurs is to rekindle this primal wolf essence within the confines of a perpetually pampered and materially luxurious means of living, to find spaces where the incredulous wolf’s howl, as it were, can resonate amidst the vigorously controlled and anodyne social paradigm in which we found ourselves at an increasingly alarming rate. Whether in the sectors of art and philosophy or practical business and entrepreneurship, this bold-faced challenge for which the realm of creativity demands involves a conscious and deliberate cultivation of risk, of stepping outside the life-denying and spiritually enervating comfort zones which postmodern society methodically and meticulously constructs around us. Put simply. It is about seeking experiences that are viscerally raw and rewardingly unforgiving, that connect us to the elemental forces which Nietzsche saw as fundamental to the subjective experience of our innermost and outermost Being. So, whether social or solitary, may we say yes to all of life’s lurking dangers and smell the roses of beauty born from the seminal daringness of such radical independence? Daggers and all. 

“Great individuals are like eagles and build their nest on some lofty solitude.” – Schopenhauer

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