respects in which Nietzsche’s preoccupations have immensernrelevance for the present.rnThe first was his prophetic vision of the quagmire of putrescentrnmediocrity into which Western “civilization” was going tornbe sucked down by a rampaging egalitarianism and an equallyrnunbridled “liberalism” (the cult of freedom, elevated to the statusrnof an absolute, as opposed to relative, value). As he put it inrnhis Gotzen-Ddmmerung {The Twilight of the Idols): “Liberal institutionsrncease to be liberal as soon as they are attained: laterrnon there are no worse and no more thorough injurers of freedomrnthan liberal institutions… they level mountain and valley,rnmake men small, cowardly, and hedonistic—every time it is thernherd-animal that triumphs with them. Liberalism: in otherrnwords, herd-animalization.”rnSecondly, all of Nietzsche’s writings, from Human, All ToornHuman on, were aimed at propagating a joyous acceptance ofrnlife as it is—whence his notion of Fatum—as opposed to a lifernspent in anxious dread of an implacable Final Judgment, or inrnthe petty, beggarly, vainglorious expectation of an otherworldlyrnreward for piety on earth in an imaginary eternity.rnWell, whether we like it or not, this has come to be the wayrnof the world—more specifically of the Western world—inrnwhich we live. Some are still willing to pay lip service to thosernterrifying or exalting myths by going to church for an hour orrntwo on Sunday—more would be an intolerable inconveniencern—but for the vast number of persons in the West, notionsrnlike the Final Judgment, Eternal Damnation and hellfire,rnand a Heaven peopled with angels are either ignored or regardedrnas quaint inheritances from the past, which can occasionallyrnserve a useful purpose in promoting pre-Christmas sales.rnRecently I read an article in the Paris daily he Monde, writtenrnby the head of a Muslim community in Switzerland. It was arnplea for tolerance and understanding on the part of the nonbelieversrnof a largely godless societe la’ique for those, like himself,rnwho take their faith seriously. He was right. This conflict betweenrnardent believers and casual agnostics is already with us,rnand I am far from certain that it can be peacefully resolved.rnAnd, third, we live in a frantic world increasingly dominatedrnby Dionysian frenzy: orgiastic dances (more exactly jerks, twists,rnand contortions), endlessly pounding music, violent action.rnand emotional hysteria exhibited on stages, stadiums, andrnscreens. I am far from certain that Nietzsche, confronted withrnsuch convulsions, would have appreciated this “eternal return”rnof basic instincts, since to normal lusts have now been addedrnthe soft perversions of vicarious pleasures, indulged in by hundredsrnof millions of tabloid-consuming smuthounds and television-rnwatching voyeurs.rnOn the train that was taking me to Naumburg, I happenedrnto read John Lukacs’ article “To Hell With Culture,” publishedrnin the September 1994 issue of Chronicles. With almost everyrnword of this devastating indictment of our increasingly uncivilizedrnsociety, I fully agree—except (truly a minor caveat) for hisrnuse of the word “sin” in speaking of “the decay of privacy—andrnof a sense of sin (that sense of sin without which sex tastes likernegg without salt).” I would frankly have preferred “risk” here,rninstead of “sin,” since it is more all-embracing and not limitedrnto a specified moral context.rnOne of the “superhuman” tasks Nietzsche set himself wasrnthe search for a new ethos from which the crippling notion ofrnsinfulness would be totally banished—which is essentially whatrnhis spiritual heir, Freud, set out to do by attacking the “guiltrncomplex.” This is what Nietzsche meant with his most parlousrnexhortations—Lebe kiihnl . . . gefahrlich leben—”Live boldly,rndangerously!” Without this element of risk, love and even sexrnloses its passionate intensity. Without this element of risk—tornmove for a moment to a higher plane—Heloise’s fateful passionrnfor Abelard, Tristan’s for Isolde, or Juliet’s for Romeo couldrnnever have been lived or imagined.rnThis kind of riskless world—excoriated by Nietzsche as soft,rnflabby, and corrupting—is precisely the kind of mushy, pulpousrnworld in which we now find ourselves condemned to live in thernname of a shameless sentimentalism that knows no bounds. Atrnthe Magdeburg railway station, where, on my way home, I hadrna long wait before being able to board the Berlin-Paris express, Irnmade a visit to the men’s room. As I walked out, I noticed, attachedrnto the wall, a long glass box, like a slot-machine offeringrnvarious kinds of chewing gum or candy. Cosmopolitan to a degree,rnas befits our “new Europe,” the ten brands on display werernall boldlv advertised as “Condoms” and bore lovely names:rn”Long love,” “Rose d’armour,” “Black is my love,” etc. ‘crnBest Intentionsrnby X.J. KennedyrnGuilt has an attic packed with things undone.rnOld friends ignored, the months-unwritten letter.rnDuties we’d sooner shrink from than confront,rnBut won’t let go. The new year will be better,rnWe tell ourselves. And yet remain inert,rnWatching our best intentions by the minuternIncubate mildew like a dirty shirt,rnAn outgrown bassinet, mice nesting in it.rn16/CHRONICLESrnrnrn