The Eternal Return

The Eternal Return

Imagine you are sitting alone in an empty movie theater. The show is about to start but you do not know what it is about. In fact, you cannot even recall how you got here. It is dark, only the small lights hanging on the walls by the aisle are lit. With a flicker the silver screen lights up.

The movie starts with a child being born. From the baby’s point of view, the eyes open, followed by the child crying. A sad, cold sensation runs through your body as you sit transfixed in the red velour seat. The shot is confusing, blurry and moves from one thing to another. Blood, cloth, white tiles and people who’s faces you do not recognize, even though they very the first persons you ever saw.

Suddenly, over there, right on the screen, there is a face you recognize, or maybe you do not. It is your mother. It slowly dawns on you that what you are seeing on screen is your own birth, through your own point of view.

Now, I want you to think of the best moments of your life; the friends you made, the food you ate, the sex you had and the love you felt. Imagine it all being played back to you on the screen in front of you.

Now think of the worst moments of your life; the kids who were mean to you, the adults who wronged you. The people you lost, the sadness, grief and pain you felt.

Imagine the good things you did throughout your life, the choices you made. Perhaps, the time you where there for someone when they needed you the most.

Next, think of all the bad things you have done. The people you hurt through your own actions, perhaps you even killed someone. Think about it and imagine it being played out in front of you.

All of a sudden you are made aware of a creature sitting next to you. The creature explains to you that you have died and what you are seeing on screen is your own life up to the point of death. Nothing has been left out. Then the creature offers you a choice. Either, this is as far as you go. The curtain drops and it all fades to black. Or, you could relive your life over and over again for all eternity. The thing is though, you cannot change a single thing and you are forced to live your life exactly as it was the first time, experiencing the same pleasures and pains, make the same choices, over and over again without the knowledge that it all starts over again.

So, what would you choose?

This is a thought experiment put forth by Friedrich Nietzsche in his book The Gay Science. 

     

Freddie Ross

Freddie Ross

Art Historian
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