How do movements die? And who is responsible for their death? This is my adaptation of Nietzsche’s fable in The Gay Science of the madman who announces the death of God, curiously reinterpreted as a declaration of the death of ‘the movement’.
Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the agora, and cried incessantly: “I am looking for The Movement! I am looking for The Movement!”
As many of those who did not believe in The Movement were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter. “Have you lost it, then?” said one. “Did it lose its way like a child?” said another. Or is it hiding? Is it afraid of us? Has it gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they shouted and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances.
“Where has The Movement gone?” he cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed it – you and I. We are its murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying The Movement? Do we not smell anything yet of The Movement’s decomposition? Movements too decompose. The Movement is dead. The Movement remains dead. And we have killed it. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? The greatest Movement of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become world-movers simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us – for the sake of this deed The Movement shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto.”
Here the madman fell silent and again regarded his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern to the ground, and it broke and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time has not come yet. The tremendous event is still on its way, still traveling – it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the distant stars – and yet they have done it themselves.”
It has been further related that on that same day the madman went to The Movement’s origin and there sang a requiem. Led out and quietened, he is said to have retorted each time: “what are these spaces now if they are not the tombs and sepulchres of The Movement?”