thus spoke the grasshopper

God is dead. Morality ceases to exist – what happens in life is whatever you choose it to be. Death is not something to be feared, yet accepted and embraced as a part of fate. We cannot change our future, so we might as well embrace a life of nihilism. Acting for anyone besides yourself is a futile effort that will simply not payoff; one must attempt to affirm life as a beautiful work of art by moving past the traditional thoughts and actions of the human in order to become the Übermensch.


As a debater in high school, I spent a lot of time reading various philosophers and delving deeper into their theories. While reading excerpts from Bernard Suits’s The Grasshopper: Games, Life, and Utopia the first thing that came to my mind was Zarathustra, the character derived from Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of the Übermensch. The grasshopper chooses to do what he wants and he accepts death, the same way in which the idea of the Übermensch embraces complete nihilism. Nietzsche writes about how one should accept life as it is and does nothing to change the course that his/her life is going to take him/her on – in the case of the grasshopper, that is an acceptance of death and a holistic embrace of play.

In these excerpts, Suits outlines his image of Utopia through the grasshopper. He envisions a world in which there is no will to act – the grasshopper feels no need to do anything that will not benefit him at the current moment and he does not care that it will ultimately cause his demise. When offered help from the ants to survive the winter, he recognizes that this decision would mean more work for him in the future and he says no. In the same way, Nietzsche hypothesizes that when someone lives as an Übermensch they are able to transcend the morals and values that the ant is living by.

Nietzsche also writes that humanity has killed God, which relates to the idea that there is no such thing as morals or religion in Suits’s interpretation of Utopia. Morality is a concept which in essence is rooted in the existence of a god – with no god(s), there is no reason to live a moral life, nor is there any sort of base in having a moral code. ConAlso_sprach_Zarathustraceptually, this means that if there is no higher being one does not have to adhere to these laws of society and can operate a higher level of being and/or existence.

Zarathustra and the Grasshopper play very similar roles in their prospective stories. In Thus Speaks Zarathustra, the main character (Zarathustra) spends most of his life living in a cave. While living in this cave, he can achieve Übermensch – this concept has been addressed above. The isolation from living in the cave gives him the opportunity to escape the norms of society and in this book he decides to descend from his cave and share this knowledge with humanity. In the same light, the grasshopper feels the need to explain his lifestyle to the ants because he believes the ants are doing it all wrong. Their incessant work to continue a failing lifestyle is the dystopia to Suits’s utopia. One should not be forced to work only to stay alive for a recurring struggle. The grasshopper recognizes this, and instead chooses to only do things for pure pleasure.

Alas, there are some things that Nietzsche and Suits would disagree upon. First, is a discussion of the will to power. Nietzsche writes that this is what gives us motivation in life and inspires us to reach higher social status. It is mainly used in discussions of both achieving the Übermensch and being able to break away from the slave and into the master (these are Nietzsche’s morality concepts, I am not advocating for slavery). On the other hand, I derive from the reading that Suits (or at least the perspective from the grasshopper) would see the will to power as futile, as we are all going to ultimately die anyway. The grasshopper brings up the question of why one should ever attempt save themselves because we are all going to ultimately suffer the same fate, meaning that we are only postponing the inevitable. And while Nietzsche makes the claim that suffering is inevitable, his will to power contradicts Suits’s claims about the meaning/inevitability of death.

Secondly, stemming from that contradiction, is the question of the will to order. This is the idea that there is an innate drive to control the world and what is going on around us, but it is not one of trying to make the world perfect for everyone. He writes of a master morality and a slave morality, in which (basically) the master is one who values independence and strength, whereas the slave values compassion and altruism. He conceptualizes that the values of the slave are bad and that people should not act with compassion or feelings because there is no such thing as morality. I think Suits would take the idea one step further, engaging the idea from the perspective that humans should not have a will to order because death is inevitable.

Just to clarify, I do not agree with much, if any, of what I have written about. I think that morals are a good thing, and in certain contexts work and effort can be productive and allow for a better society. And seeing that both Suits’s Utopia and Nietzsche’s Übermensch are functionally impossible to achieve, we are better off trying to make the world a better place.