Welcome to Nietzsche’s House of Aphorisms—let’s take a journey into the realm of existential spooks and scares you never realized you needed.
It’s getting close to Halloween, and you’ve heard lore of the zany old philosopher that lives in the decrepit house down the street. This year’s the one you’ll face your fear and check it out.
You climb through a cracked wooden-paneled window on the first floor and find yourself in a dreary room. You gaze upon the hands of the formidable grandfather clock in the corner. The time is 3:32. You try to find your way to the next room, but you pause as you hear a tapping, a gentle rapping at the chamber door. As you approach the door and heave it open, a raven swooshes into the room, feathers askew, crying “What do you matter? What do you matter?” (Aphorism 332, pg. 196)
Strange happenings in this house. You have the guts to continue on, though. As you turn the corner out of the first room, a large mirror appears. “Society’s Expectations of Mores” reads a loopy inscription etched on the frame. You gaze into the mirror and your features slowly morph into those of a six-legged insect, its body in three segments. The reflection zooms out and you see you are an ant within a swarm, struggling to carry a huge candy bar together. You strain against the weight of the massive burden, but in your exertion, you drop your corner and are crushed by chocolate. Another ant uses your squashed exoskeleton to climb up and grab the candy from a different angle, allowing the crew to carry it further than before… Yes, you’re smushed, but at least it was for the good of the colony, right? You shake your head and see your human reflection in the mirror again. That was trippy… (Aphorism 89, pg. 174-5)
You slip past the mirror and venture down the hall. The tantalizing, saccharine smell of pastries meets your nose, and you alight upon a booth with beautiful cakes and cookies on display. The boothkeeper turns around and you blanch—it’s the grim reaper, gaunt face and empty eyes staring through your soul. “Pumpkin spice season, eh?” He chuckles raspily. “Care for a drink?” You are rather parched and hesitantly agree. “Splendid!” The entity clasps his rickety hands together in glee and takes out a mug.
You watch as he brews the coffee (Arabica no less!) and whisks a spice blend together. The latte smells so sweet, invoking happy memories of you frolicking through life. He’s about to hand over the final product when he takes a tincture out of his sleeve and swirls a drop into the drink. “Order number 322 on the ready… drink up,” he croons. You’re suddenly wary of your macabre barista—how could you be so silly, it’s death himself! But he’s staring you down, so you take a sip.
BLECH. This is the most bitter beverage you’ve ever tasted. “Repulsive, right? You humans let me sour your experiences too much.” He sighs and turns his back. You slap a $5 bill down. Can’t hurt to tip a specter. (Aphorism 322, pg. 185)
You hear a commotion out the window. A man with a moustache and sword is running down the street yelling, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!” Well, that guy sure got into character. Seems like he understands the revenge plot as well, retaliating to prove he’s not afraid of his opponent. Fun times. (Aphorism 33, pg. 179-181)
After that, you shuffle down the hallway to see a sign that states “Possible watery doom ahead.” There are two choices: Door #298, which has a shark symbol on it, or door #317, which bears an image of a fishing pole with a suspiciously pointy hook.
Phew, you escaped a waterlogged demise and made it into the backyard of the place. It’s mostly a giant brackish swamp, and you see a bog-creature standing up ahead, with stringy hair and scaly skin glinting in the moonlight. As you approach, you hear it waxing poetic about something or other. You try to grasp what it’s saying, but the content of the speech is as murky as the mud the creature’s preaching in. Maybe it’s trying too hard to be deep about this subject. (Aphorism 173, pg. 192)
As you’re contemplating what to do next, a trick-or-treater runs by, with a bucket chock full of candy. He’s wearing a cape that says 163 on it. That’s a huge amount of loot he has. A couple pieces fall from the top of his pile. You call to him, “Hey! You lost some of your candy!” The kid looks back and shrugs. “I have so much of it, whatever!” You guess he can afford to lose some. (Aphorism 163, pg. 192)
You pick up one of the fallen goods. It’s a Laffy Taffy, banana flavor. The inside of the wrapper flap says, “Laughter means: being schadenfroh but with a good conscience.” Roundabout way of justifying taking pleasure in others’ discomfort. (Aphorism 200, pg. 192)
You wander back into the funhouse of an abode you’ve been exploring and see a witch, an aura of galaxies swirling behind her chaotically. You don’t disturb her; it looks like she’s having a profound moment. (Aphorism 322, pg. 195)
After you pass by, you see a zany hat on the floor. It totally clashes with the costume you’re wearing. Do you pick it up and wear it for the rest of the night?
Pleased with your new look, you finally approach a set of stairs. They’re winding and creaky, but, huffing and puffing, you make it to the attic. The door swings open. “Welcome!” a floating being greets you. Wait… is that Friedrich Nietzsche?! “I’ve been expecting you. You remained undeterred despite the trials along the way… my type of reader.” His ghostly hand pats a beast next to him. “This is my dog, Pain. He’s a very loyal boy.” (Aphorism 381 pg. 196-7; Aphorism 312, pg. 194)
You look past his pet’s shaggy frame and think you see other figures like Plato, Schopenhauer, and Goethe in the shadows. Eh, probably a trick of the light, but you wouldn’t put it past Nietzsche to hang out with these guys in his afterlife. (Aphorism 408, pg. 179)
In your shock you stutter. “Well, uh, it’s a … pleasure to meet you, too?” You’ve never encountered this type of spirit before.
“May I offer you a scone?” Nietzsche asks. You shake your head and he takes a bite, the crumbs falling through his opaque body to the floor. Interesting way of nourishing himself, you think to yourself, but he seems satisfied. He’s floating freely about and does a loop de loop with a grin on his face. “I’m so glad you made it. Now we can philosophize together for eternity!” he says, as the door closes and locks behind you… (Aphorism 381, pg. 196-8)