BIRTHDAYS & PHILOSOPHY
The Ides of October
JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group
15 October 2020
One-hundred-seventy-six years ago, on this very day, Franziska and Carl Nietzsche became parents to Friedrich Nietzsche, a German writer and philosopher. And 36 years ago, on this very day, Diane and Joseph Fodero became parents to yours truly.
Friedrich Nietzsche is known for his influence on contemporary philosophy. Philosophy is a fascinating discipline because it isn’t based in truth or proven theory. It’s based in self-discovery. It’s based in questioning our existence. It’s based in asking and answering questions that may never have definitive answers. But one thing philosophy does do is help philosophers discover who they are, what they believe in, and how they’ll live their lives.
Friedrich Nietzsche is known for seeing compassion as a weakness. In fact, one of his well-known quotes is, “Compassion for the friend should conceal itself under a hard shell.” When I read this quote, my first thought was, “This man has never had children.” Being as lucky as I am to live in the modern world, I pulled up Wikipedia and confirmed my suspicions.
Before the title of Mom was bestowed upon me, I might have agreed with good ol’ Friedrich. Compassion can be easily taken for granted. It allows others to have a hold on our vulnerabilities. It allows them the ability to crush us. My own compassion has led me down some harrowed roads. It’s taken me places I’ll never return from. But the lessons I’ve learned from that exploited compassion were worth it. I’d never want to hide my compassion under a hard shell at the expense of further wisdom.
And now that I am a mother, there is no way my compassion will be quelled. I’ll love my two tiny humans no matter what they do. There is no condition to my love for them. Their very lives have afforded me the ability to valuably change my path and make me ask myself some philosophic questions. And by asking those questions, I’ve been able to understand my human essence. And what better discipline could there be than understanding the person I am and what I want out of this existence?
Friedrich and I may disagree fundamentally about many things. But there are two things we’ll always have in common: the ability to ask ourselves unsolvable questions and the day we were born. I’ll have an extra piece of birthday cake in your honor tonight, Friedrich. Thank you for being you. And thank you for using your voice loudly and proudly.