Nietsche’s Leaf

No leaf ever wholly equals another, and the concept ‘leaf’ is formed through an arbitrary abstraction from these individual differences, through forgetting the distinctions; and now it gives rise to the idea that in nature there might be something besides the leaves which would be ‘leaf’—some kind of original form after which all leaves have been woven, marked, copied, colored, curled, and painted, but by unskilled hands, so that no copy turned out to be a correct, reliable, and faithful image of the original form. We call a person ‘honest.’ Why did he act so honestly today? we ask. Our answer usually sounds like this: because of his honesty. Honesty! That is to say again: the leaf is the cause of the leaves.

– Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lying in an Extramoral Sense”

Have you ever reached the point in your life where you wanted to turn over a new leaf?  I’d venture Nietzsche did too.  “No leaf wholly equals another….”  That is to say:  each change is different.   Why leaves?  Why did Nietzsche care so much about leaves?  About the distinction between leaves?  Did he?  He must be talking about something else.  He must be talking about something else.  The first step toward metaphor.

Each leaf is unique.  Each human too.  Each leaf we overturn (overcome) in our lives is unique.  It’s autumn.  Each leaf changes differently.  Their veins, their fragile fabric – each lives, dies differently.  Leaves:  meditations on death, on becoming.  Whither from here?

He must be talking about something else:  the impetus to metaphor.  We communicate in the subtext.  We’re talking with many voices at once.  What is that voice that speaks, from the self to the other self, in the subtext, asking for a leave of absence, a change of topic?  Where does that voice come from:  neither direction nor misdirection, but indirection?  Indirect speech.  Communication, person to person.

So if Nietzsche doesn’t care about leaves, he must be talking about persons…or about changes.  After all, that’s where uniqueness counts most.  What is this style of reading, of listening?  Anti-Oedipus – not a reduction to the subconscious…although it may play there.  Flirtation, association, a tug-of-war for the middle-ground.  Connection.  And there are several kinds.

What do you ask of me?  Change.  Exchange.  Interchange.  Each is different.  Let’s turn over a new leaf.


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