Sunday, June 03, 2007

Further To Notional Anglicans

A young lad falls in love with a princess, the content of his whole life lies in this love, and yet the relationship is one that cannot possibly be brought to fruition, be translated from ideality into reality. The slaves of misery, the frogs in life's swamp, naturally exclaim: 'Such love is foolishness; the rich brewer's widow is just as good and sound a match.' Let them croak away undisturbed in the swamp. This is not the manner of the knight of infinite resignation, he does not renounce the love, not for all the glory in the world. He is no trifler. He first makes sure that this really is the content of his life, and his soul is too healthy and proud to squander the least thing on getting drunk. He is not cowardly, he is not afraid to let his love steal in upon his most secret, most hidden thoughts, to let it twine itself in countless coils around every ligament of his consciousness--if the love becomes unhappy he will never be able to wrench himself out of it. He feels a blissful rapture when he lets it tingle through every nerve, and yet his soul is as solemn as his who has emptied the cup of poison and feels the juice penetrate to every drop of blood--for this moment is life and death. Having thus imbibed all the love and absorbed himself in it, he does not lack the courage to attempt and risk everything. He reflects over his life's circumstances, he summons the swift thoughts that like trained doves obey his every signal, he waves his rod over them, and they rush off in all directions. But now when they all return as messengers of sorrow and explain to him that it is an impossibility, he becomes quiet, he dismisses them, he remains alone, and he performs the movement. If what I say here has any meaning the movement must take place properly. For the knight will then, in the first place, have the strength to concentrate the whole of his life's content and the meaning of reality in a single wish. If a person lacks this concentration, this focus, his soul is disintegrated from the start, and then he will never come to make the movement, he will act prudently in life like those capitalists who invest their capital in every kind of security so as to gain on the one what they lose on the other--in short, he is not a knight. Secondly, the knight will have the strength to concentrate the whole of the result of his reflection into one act of consciousness. If he lacks this focus his soul is disintegrated from the start and he will then never have time to make the movement, he will be forever running errands in life, never enter the eternal; for at the very moment he is almost there he will suddenly discover that he has forgotten something and so must go back. The next moment he will think it possible, and that is also quite correct; but through such considerations one never comes to make the movement; rather with their help one sinks ever deeper into the mire.

So the knight makes the movement, but what movement? Does he want to forget the whole thing? Because in that too there is a kind of concentration. No! for the knight does not contradict himself, and it is a contradiction to forget the whole of one's life's content and still be the same. He has no inclination to become another, seeing nothing at all great in that prospect. Only lower natures forget themselves and become something new. Thus the butterfly has altogether forgotten that it was a caterpillar, perhaps it can so completely forget in turn that it was a butterfly that it can become a fish. Deeper natures never forget themselves and never become something other than they were. So the knight will remember everything; but the memory is precisely the pain, and yet in his infinite resignation he is reconciled with existence. His love for the princess would take on for him the expression of an eternal love, would acquire a religious character, be transfigured into a love for the eternal being which, although it denied fulfilment, still reconciled him once more in the eternal consciousness of his love's validity in an eternal form that no reality can take from him. Fools and young people talk about everything being possible for a human being. But that is a great mistake. Everything is possible spiritually speaking, but in the finite world there is much that is not possible. This impossibility the knight nevertheless makes possible by his expressing it spiritually, but he expresses it spiritually by renouncing it. The desire which would convey him out into reality, but came to grief on an impossibility, now bends inwards but is not lost thereby nor forgotten.

Soren Kierkegaard
Fear and Trembling