"Let the earth be silent after ye!"

Wed, Feb 11, 2009
In a world that is getting more and more polluted by humans. The thoughts of the late philosopher Peter Wessel Zapffe, seems more and more relevant. He thought that man should and will perish to exist. The only thing we should do before we go is to clean up our mess.
Text & Photo: Erik M. Lieungh

lofotenNature and man stands in opposition to each other. At least that is what the Norwegian mountaineer and philosopher Peter Wessel Zapffe believed throughout his days. Born in 1899 and until his death in 1990, Zapffe always took the side of nature against man. From his childhood in Tromsö, Norway, and until his childless death, he had strong feelings about mankind’s inevitable downfall in the face of nature.

Zapffe wrote several books, many poems and a lot of essays. Some of them were philosophical contributions, some where about his climbing escapades in the arctic mountain region of Norway, often together with the other Norwegian mountaineer and philosopher, Arne Näss. There was also a humoristic side of Zapffe that tried to capture the infamous humor of the North-Norwegian people in his books.

The Tragic

But first and foremost Zapffe is known as the tragic philosopher. His philosophy was a mixture between biological Darwinism and a belief that everything that is great will eventually fall and perish. This also applies to humanity. Zapffe believed that mankind have excluded itself from nature, by developing rationality and science. This way of life will result in an unavoidable demise of man. In Zapffe’s eyes this is how the nature works – and this is the tragic aspect of life. Mankind should not return to nature, but instead accept and acknowledge its pessimistic faith.

He (Man) comes to nature as an uninvited guest. In futility he reaches out his arms and begs to be reunited with that which created him: Nature doesn’t answer, it did a miracle with man, but since then it doesn’t recognize him anymore. He has lost his rightful home in the universe; he has tasted from the tree of knowledge, and has been exiled from paradise

The untamed nature

One of the most important agendas of Zapffe was the preservation of the intact nature, and to keep nature free from human meddling. His love for the untamed wilderness was too important to be tainted with by human traffic and construction. And so he concluded with the humorous-pessimism that filled all his writings, and addressed humanity in the following way:

Know yourselves – be infertile, and let the earth be silent after ye”.

All quotes from:
Peter W.Zapffe, 1997, The last Messiah, Cultural defense (Pax Forlas A/S)