Hey, folks. It’s my turn in my writer’s group to post a blog, and I’m not sure what to say today, but I’m reading Kierkegaard’s toughest work, The Concept of Anxiety, for like the fourth time, and it’s finally making some sense to me. By the way, I don’t recommend anyone read that until they have read Fear and Trembling, The Sickness Unto Death, Philosophical Fragments, and Concluding Unscientific Postscript, which are I think Kierkegaard’s best works and much more accessible (not that they’re easy, of course). In fact, I wish everyone would read Fear and Trembling–I think that’s a classic. The Concept of Anxiety is just tough–I’ve bashed my head against it for some time. But it’s beginning to make some sense, like I said, and I can see how it is important to existentialism, especially his reflections on human freedom.
(By the way, does ANYONE know where, if anywhere, the famous, oft-quoted “If you label me, you negate me,” comes from? I’m reading through Kierkegaard’s works trying to find that quote. Of course, his corpus is enormous, and I haven’t found it yet. And none of the people who ever quote it seem to give a citation for it…sigh…I’d like to know what the context of the quote is.]
Anyway, this one particular quote from The Concept of Anxiety really grabbed me, because it relates to my life, in that I chose to walk away from my Ph.D. program for this: without giving me any due process over the matter or any chance to defend myself whatsoever, they held personal email from a relationship I’d had that had gone sour (email which, by the way, was not in any way threatening), holding that email within the department against my wishes, even when I begged them to move it to security. I decided not to pay that institution, Iliff and the University of Denver, another penny, and walk away from my Ph.D. program. (Talk about “hostile environment”!!!) Students of color had been protesting against the institutional racism for years, and I as a white male didn’t understand what they meant until I saw this happen to me, and in my final letter to that school I wrote to them and told them that I finally realized the students of color had been right! For the decision to drop that program, my career has suffered. But I’ve never regretted it much, because I could not put up with that institutional evil. Anyway, maybe I’m getting too personal.
Here is the quote (the endnote points out it is a paraphrase of Matthew 25:21 and Luke 17:33):
“However, in regard to all this, one has to wait for the appearance of individuals who, despite outward gifts, do not choose the broad way but rather the pain, the distress, and the anxiety in which they religiously call to mind what meanwhile they lose, as it were, namely, what is too seductive to possess. Such a struggle is indubitably very exhausting, because there will come moments when they almost regret having begun it and recall with melancholy, at times possibly unto despair, the smiling life that would have opened before them had they pursued the immediate inclination of their talent. Nevertheless, in the extreme terror of distress, when it is as though all were lost because the way along which he would advance is impassible, and the smiling way of talent is cut off from him by his own act, the person who is aware will indubitably hear a voice saying: Well done, my son! Just keep on, for he who loses all, gains all.”
I don’t know if this quote strikes anyone else, and maybe some will just see it as a Biblical paraphrase. But it really meant a lot to me as I read it and reflected on my own life.
I think Kierkegaard is often that way in his writings. He’ll say something that will strike the reader and will really hit home.
Anyway, I suppose that is all I could think of today…sorry to be so short this time. But hey, the philosophy class I’m teaching is coming to a close, and I’m having to grade papers, so I haven’t had time to otherwise reflect on what to write today.
In fact, I’ve put my third novel I’m working on, Witch Hunt, aside until this class is over. I of course can’t wait to get back to work on it in a couple of weeks. I think that I can finish it soon, within a couple of months (but, sigh, I think I said that two months ago, too). 😉 But I am getting closer.