Nietzsche and his accidental, existential moustache

An unknown (but apparently real) reader (oh, alright! It was my sister. Thanks Cath!) posted a comment referring to Beckett as an “accidental existentialist.” I like this term. It sounds like the name for a new play by Tom Stoppard: The Accidental Existentialist. Can you be an existentialist by accident? Perhaps I am an existentialist and don’t even know it? After asking myself these questions, I had to admit that I couldn’t answer them, since I wasn’t even completely sure what existentialism means. So, lacking a copy of “Existentialism for Dummies,” naturally I turned to Wikipedia for an answer.

There I discovered that:

Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche were two of the first philosophers considered fundamental to the existentialist movement…. (and that)…. they were interested in people’s quiet struggle with the apparent meaninglessness of life and the use of diversion to escape from boredom

I can see why people mistake Beckett for an existentialist…based on that description, it seems a fair mistake to make.

Anyway! Once at the Wikipedia page, I was completely distracted by the enormous moustache perched on the face of Friedrich Nietzsche.

(Could this be deliberate? Do they track how many people immediately go to the Nietzsche page and from there start googling images of moustaches? Maybe it’s an experiment to prove that people who think they want to read about philosophy would actually rather giggle at pictures of large moustaches to divert themselves from the boredom of wondering about the meaninglessness of life?)

A creature crawls across the face of an existentialist.

One look at that moustache and you can easily understand why Nietzsche developed a philosophy based around alienation, despair, angst and absurdity. All I wonder is, which came first – the moustache or the philosophy?

Perhaps it went down like this. Maybe he had a run in with a renegade barber, who, to get revenge, glued a toupee he had lying around, under Nietzsche’s nose while he was in the barber’s chair. Unfortunately for Nietzsche, this barber had developed an early prototype for what became Supa Glue in the 20th Century, and the toupee was never able to be removed.

If this story is true (so far I haven’t come across any source that directly disputes it), this not-so-little moustache arrived at a crucial point in the development of Nietzsche’s philosophy. Stay with me: it was during a fit of angst that he fought with the barber. The fight resulted in him ending up with a toupee permanently stuck on his face, and that was obviously absurd. Because he now looked comically grotesque, no-one took him seriously any more so he was for ever in despair. And the moustache directly thwarted all his future attempts at communicating with the rest of the world*, thereby  causing him to feel alienated from the rest of society.

Thus was born existentialism.

 

*Tragically, as it had to travel through all that hair, his voice lost all it’s volume by the time it got through, so when he spoke, people heard a muffled sound and assumed his tummy was rumbling. Since his mouth was completely hidden there were no visual clues that he was speaking. There was no internet in those days so he couldn’t write  a blog.

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10 Comments

  1. Andrew

     /  November 5, 2010

    A good Movember blog entry – seriously, he couldn’t write a blog but he was one of the earliest philosophers to use a typewriter so maybe he would if given the chance!

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  2. I enjoyed reading this very muchly.

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  3. Hi
    Very amusing and thoughtfull also – loved it.
    I was a philosophy student many years ago and got interested in Nietszche.
    Joking aside, he had a few “gems” about life. Most folks have heard his “what does not kill me only makes me stronger”, but there are plenty of others.
    Joking again, I think he grew his enormous moustache to keep wily females away.
    The reason why? Because he knew they could be great fun, but also terribly distracting!
    Tim

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    • Interesting. It certainly never occurred to me that such hairy hideousness may have been a deliberate ploy to keep the ladies at bay! That throws a whole new light on Nietszche. Well stay tuned, because I started a new post about him the other day (inspired by another search term) so sooner or later it may be finished and published….

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      • Glad you found my comments interesting.
        Thanks for your reply – its my FIRST!
        I will certainly follow your new Nietszche post when its up and running.
        all the best

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  4. Frank Griffin

     /  June 9, 2013

    I prefer “running up that hill” by jove!

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    • By jove, yes, me too! I’ve seen Melbourne songstress Rebecca Barnard do a beautiful version of that song on guitar. (I assume you are responding to my post entitled “Wuthering Heights”……if not, then I’m not quite sure what you mean, but I think I know who you are!!?)

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  5. Despite my other manly attributes (modesty forbids that I catalogue them, of course), I could not grow a beard to save my life – though I cannot imagine in what circumstances the growing of a beard would be necessary to my survival. Perhaps because nature did not endow me in that department, I tend to view beards with a mixture of amazement and disgust. Disgust? Well, yes: just imagine all the nasty things that could be lurking inside a flourishing beard. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

    The other evening we boarded a bus to find that the driver – quite a young man – had a very long beard. As we took our seats, I enquired of my beloved “Would you describe that beard as ‘magnificent’ or as ‘ridiculous’?” What prompted the question was that, whereas in the Victorian Era, huge amounts of facial hair were obviously admired, in our own more parsimonious age, beards are more likely to be targets of humour, when not of outright mockery, than of approbation. I think that today, Freddy Nietzche, should he wish to be taken seriously, would be advised to prune his extravagant growth. (We never did entirely make up our minds on the afore-mentioned question though attitudes clearly veered more towards ‘r’ than ‘m’.)

    I recently read an article which explained the frequency of beards. The determining factors might be expressed as the questions “How much do you want to get noticed?” and “How beardy is your community?” It seems that when beard-wearing is the norm, men who want to be noticed shave their faces, but when, as inevitably happens, the fashion moves away from the hirsute, the man who wants to be noticed grows a beard. It’s all about standing out as different. By the same token, I guess that the Victorian bushy beard was less about being different than in blending in with the local furry fauna.

    What that means for all these wannabe celebrities who wear designer stubble – neither a beard nor not a beard – I don’t know. Perhaps they ache to be different but haven’t got quite enough daring to grow a beard and so end up looking permanently indecisive.

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    • Haha, thank you for the history of the beard, both personal and anthropological. Currently in Melbourne beards are in fashion, and it’s not uncommon to see – on younger men mostly – a long bushy beard that would make Ned Kelly’s look like 3 day growth. (Kelly is famous in Australia for being a notorious bushranger & wearer of a long beard, who died early in the Victorian era.) the other day I saw a young man with a beard that almost reached his waist, walking along the street wearing shorts. Somehow that combination – incredibly long beard and shorts – just did not seem right. THAT seemed ridiculous.

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