Guest Post from Author Jon Cohen
I was pushing the radio buttons in my car the other day and heard a Kelly Clarkson song called “What Doesn’t Kill Me, Makes Me Stronger.” I had heard this quote comes from Nietzche, so I looked it up and it apparently it translates as “What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.”
I don’t know the context. But the more I think about this quote, the more it seems untrue to me. Is it just attitude or bravado, a battle cry uttered without any claim to truth or practicality? Good for getting the Vikings out of the canoe, but really useless total bullshit?
I see that Christopher Hitchens asked this same question in an essay he wrote near the end of his life. He was making the point that months of chemotherapy hadn’t killed him yet, but had weakened him and definitely not made him stronger.
I think I can understand his point. I can think of all kinds of things, especially as I get older (including getting older itself), that have caused me to suffer without killing me – but these things have not made me stronger either.
I think the nice, happy loving moments are the ones that made me stronger.
In my experience: trauma, deprivation or other crises that threaten your survival just make you weaker, more defensive and possibly more dangerous.
That’s why I don’t like Nietzche. I’m a wimp and a lover, not a warrior.