Gaia is dead: we have killed her, you and I: A reworking of Nietzsche’s ‘The Madman’

This article was first published on Medium.

‘Have you ever heard of the madman who on a bright morning lighted a lantern and ran to the market-place calling out unceasingly: “I seek the living Earth! I seek our planet, with all its riches of life. I seek Gaia!” — As there were many people standing about who did not believe in Gaia, he caused a great deal of amusement. Why! is Gaia lost? said one. Has Gaia strayed away like a child? said another. Or does She keep Herself hidden? Is She afraid of us? Has She taken a space-voyage? — the people cried out laughingly, all in a hubbub. The insane man jumped into their midst and transfixed them with his glances. “Where is Gaia gone?” he called out. “I mean to tell you! We have killed Her, — you and I! We are all Her murderers! But how have we done it? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? What did we do when we loosened this Earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? Backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness? Does not empty space breathe upon us? Has it not become colder? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker? Shall we not have to light lanterns in the morning? Do we not hear the noise of the grave-diggers who are burying Gaia? Do we not smell the divine putrefaction? — Gaia is dead! And we have killed Her! How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers? The holiest and the mightiest that the world has hitherto possessed, has bled to death under our knife, — who will wipe the blood from us? With what water could we cleanse ourselves? What lustrums, what sacred games shall we have to devise? Is not the magnitude of this deed too great for us? Shall we not ourselves have to become gods, merely to seem ‘worthy’ of it, capable of it? There never was a ‘greater’ event, — and on account of it, all who are born after us belong to a ‘higher’ history than any history hitherto!” — Here the madman was silent and looked again at his hearers; they also were silent and looked at him in surprise. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, so that it broke in pieces and was extinguished. “I come too early,” he then said, “I am not yet at the right time. This prodigious event is still on its way, and is travelling, — it has not yet even reached some men’s ears. Lightning and thunder need time, the light of the stars needs time, deeds need time, even after they are done, to be seen and heard. This deed might as yet seem further from them than the furthest star, — and yet they have done it, all the same! They — we — have already committed Gaia to destruction… Life on Earth is under sentence of death…” ’

With homage and apologies to Nietzsche

Publication: