When I was young, a neighbor friend of mine had two parakeets. The family was tired of these birds and since I always enjoyed them, they asked me if I wanted to keep them. I said yes.
These neighbors were German, or I should say they were Americans with German ancestry. They gave the birds German names: Nietzsche and Schopenhauer.
Now those were some complicated names for a kid and a couple of parakeets. My friend’s brother explained that they were named after some kind of philosophers. At the time, that explanation didn’t mean much to me.
The birds kept those names. I spoke endearing little things to Nietzsche and Schopenhauer every day.
I ended up being interested in philosophy. Recently, I read The Birth of Tragedy by Nietzsche and enjoyed it.
It didn’t start out that way. I tried to read it about two years ago and couldn’t get past the language and ideas. But if I put a book down and restart it at a later date, I discovered that not only can I get through it, I often have a good reading experience after all.
The first thing The Birth of Tragedy reminded me of was Camille Paglia. She also wrote extensively about the division between Apollo and Dionysus. And this Nietzsche guy was writing this way before her! How fun. I love to make connections between the past and present.
Also it reminded me of an English professor that taught 19th century American literature. He used to drop philosopher’s names in class in order to illustrate some point. I wanted to know more. I had already read some literature from the 19th century and loved it; his class increased that love. I still reread sections of Moby Dick as if it were scripture by just randomly pointing to a sentence in the book and going wild with the implications and deeper meaning. The 19th century Nietzsche with his deep and dark is right up my alley.
Back to reality. My mother used to force me to call my father. She wanted me to beg him to come back to her even though she divorced him. Between the calls she made and the calls she forced me to make, he was getting in trouble at work. I started to refuse to call him. After one such refusal, she grabbed one of my birds and threatened to kill it if I didn’t call him. She eventually released the bird, and I did not call.
I never knew which bird she grabbed. Was it Nietzsche or Schopenhauer that nearly bit the dust? A question for philosophy.
I must continue my readings.