the seven seals


seals2 seals3

( typewritten paper)


If ever I spread out a still sky above myself and flew with my own wings into my own sky:

if, playing, I have swum into deep light-distances and bird-wisdom came to my freedom:

but thus speaks bird-wisdom: ‘Behold, there is no above, no below! Fling yourself about, out, back, weightless bird! Sing! speak no more!

‘are not all words made for the heavy? Do not all words lie to the light? Sing! speak no more!’

Oh how should I not lust for eternity and for the wedding ring of rings – the Ring of Recurrence!

Never yet did I find the woman by whom I wanted children, unless it be this woman, whom I love: for I love you, O Eternity!

For I love you, O Eternity!

– Friedrich Nietzsche, from The Seven Seals (or: The Song of Yes and Amen), “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”.

The above work is an attempt to express both my agreement and frustration with this piece of writing. In trying to express the inexpressible – his feelings of simultaneous joy and terror, invincibility and insignificance, and, finally, his acceptance and ecstatic affirmation in the face of existence – he turns to a set, almost contrived form reminiscent of prayer – this despite his insistence that not only is God dead, but that all traces of him must be swept away. He even includes the word “Amen” in the title. I think that, while this is often a very beautiful piece of writing, it falls well short of what Nietzsche was trying to do – the intensity he is trying to communicate becomes lost in language and structure. And the personification of eternity as female I find just a bit creepy.

I replaced all of the letters in the text with spaces, leaving punctuation and layout intact. Language has shown itself to be ineffective for a text on this subject, so it has been obliterated. The punctuation remains as a pattern of ghostly gestures towards shaping emptiness – I read the new version of the text out loud as a series of modulations of the breath – inhalations, catches, sighs. It is also possible to view the result as resembling musical or mathematical notation, dust clouds or maps of constellations.

Another idea I had for modifying the text was using the cut-up method to reshape it as an abstract, graphic or stream-of-consciousness-style piece using repetition to build intensity.