Arbeit Macht Frei

Damn the Nazis for ruining so many potentially cool ideas, like Friedrich Nietzsche’s Will to Power, or his concept of the Ubermensche. I’ve read enough Nietzsche to say with some authority that his idea of a Superman wasn’t about race at all, but about the potential of all humans who have the will to become great.

The Nazis also completely ruined “Arbeit Macht Frei,” a phrase that, divorced from it’s association with the death camps at Auschwitz and others, is nothing short of brilliant. Work, in its purest form, creating something from nothing for a purpose, will make us free. Unfortunately, much of the work that many people in the world do isn’t pure at all, but pointless repetition, though as my wife’s work ethic demonstrates, our jobs are almost certainly more purposeful if we actually do them well.

I think about this as I mow our lawns. It grows high for most of the year. I have several friends who hate to mow, and either pay to have someone do it for them, or grudgingly, resentfully mow it themselves. At least one couple I know are trying xeriscaping. I, however, find great purpose in the work I do on our patch of green here in bucolic Oklahoma. I look forward to it all winter. The smell of spring summons something in my nature that is powerfully optimistic.

This work will make me free.

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1 Comment

  1. Your understanding of the intended interpretation of Nietzsche’s Ubermensche could be described as one of the steps of becoming the Ubermensche. I think that becoming an Ubermensche isn’t as elusive as we let it be. It’s a process that a lot of people go through in life. And “a lot” is a very relative term.

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