Kierkegaard Quotes: Either/Or

Mar 21st, 2009 by adminadam in articles, quotes

Knowledge of the truth I may perhaps have attained to; happiness, certainly not. What shall I do? Accomplish something in the world, men tell me. Shall I then publish my grief to the world, contribute one more proof for the wretchedness and misery of existence, perhaps discover a new flaw in human life, hitherto unnoticed? I might then reap the rare reward of becoming famous, like the man who discovered the spots on Jupiter. I prefer, however, to keep silent.

Seemingly filled with anguish, this character actually expresses the dead end that is science and logical empiricism. While they open new pathways to innovation, technology, and more, the net gain for humanity in terms of enabling happiness is minimal, Author A finds. What joy comes to the individual is the short-lived pleasure of fame as a problem-solver and perhaps a kind of moral superiority. What I take from this passage is not that scientific pursuits are insolvent, but that we need to follow our hearts and intuition at times, let ourselves be animals at times, find joy in new and random adventures, spontaneity and silliness. There is a qualitative difference between discovering the truth of life and living it – although, some have argued that the good life is the examined life… I leave it open for debate as I present something entirely different:

The disproportion in my build is that my forelegs are too short. Like the kangaroo, I have very short forelegs, and tremendously long hind legs. Ordinarily I sit quite still; but if I move, the tremendous leap that follows strikes terror in all to whom I am bound by the tender ties of kinship and friendship.

Author A is an aesthetic type. He tends to enjoy chaos, ego-trips, and a dark, witty humor. At other times, however, a slapstick feel emerges, like in imagining a kangaroo jumping forward and simultaneously yanking all the many strings connected to himself, knocking over a whole gang of oblivious kangaroo buddies nearby. Basically, the author is creating chaos and displaying wit through the actions of this kangaroo written into your imagination. In the next quote, we see more of his propensity for existential depth.

One must be very naïve to believe that it will do any good to cry out and shout in the world, as if that would change one’s fate. Better take things as they come, and make no fuss. When I was young and went into a restaurant, I would say to the waiter, “A good cut, a very good cut, from the loin, and not too fat.” Perhaps the waiter did not even hear me, to say nothing of paying any attention to my request, and still less was it likely that my voice should reach the kitchen and influence the cook, and even if it did, there was perhaps not a good cut on the entire roast. Now I never shout any more.

More than futility, this statement seems to address the necessity of shouting, namely, that there is none; the author has no need to shout, nor does he find it helpful. Symbolically, we can take this as advocating a lassie-fare attitude towards life. Certainly not an option for all people in the world, for some find the majority of actions in life set by necessity, the need to survive, to support a family. While I would not intend to maintain the privileged minority at the expense of an impoverished majority (I prefer meritocracy ideally), nor would I push guilt on those with privileges like that of an almost-guaranteed survival. Merely I wish to convey to you, those capable of reading and ingesting this thrivenote, that you are fortunate – so fortunate that you can choose your way of relating to reality. Choose well and enjoy!

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