Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Kierkegaard speaks to the present age:

Purely dialectically - and let us work them out dialectically without regard to any specific age - the relations are as follows. When the individuals (severally) relate essentially and passionately to an idea and, on top of that, in union essentially relate to the same idea, that relation is perfect and normal. The relation singles out individually (each has himself for himself) and unites ideally. In the essential inward directedness there is that modest reticence between man and man that prevents crude presumption. In the relation of unanimity to the idea is the elevation that again forgets the accident of the particulars in consideration of the whole. Thus individuals never come too close to each other in a brute sense, just because they are united at an ideal distance. The unanimity of the singled-out is the band playing well orchestrated music. If, on the other hand, individuals relate to an idea merely en masse (that is, without the individual, inward-directed singling out), we get violence, unruliness, unbridledness; but if there is no idea for the individuals en masse, nor any individually singling-out inward-directedness, then we have rawness. The harmony of the spheres is the unity of each planet relating to itself and to the whole. Remove one of the relations and there will be chaos. But in the world of individuals the relation is not the only constituting factor, and so there are two forms. Remove the relation to oneself, and we have the mass's tumultuous relating to an idea; but remove this too, and we have rawness. People then push and shove, and rub up against each other in futile outwardness. There is none of that modesty of inwardness that decently distances the one from the other. There is then a stir and a commotion that end in nothing. No one has anything for himself and united they possess nothing either, so they become vexed and squabble with one another. Then, it is not even those songs of joyful conviviality that unite mends; then, it is not those dithyrambic songs of revolt that collect the crowds; then, it is not the sublime rhythm of religious fervour that under divine surveillance musters the coundess generations to review before the heavenly hosts.

No, gossip and rumour and specious importance and apathetic envy become a surrogate for both this and that. Individuals do not turn in inwardness towards themselves and away from each other, nor outwards in unanimity over an idea, but towards each other in crippling and disheartened, tactless, levelling reciprocity. The idea passage is blocked. The individuals are at cross-purposes with themselves and each other, the selfish and the mutually reflected opposition is like a quagmire -and now one is sitting in it. In joy's stead steps a kind of whimpering discontent, in sorrow's stead a kind of stubborn, surly staying-power, in enthusiasm's stead a loquacious worldly wisdom. But it is one thing to save one's life by casting the spell of a story, as in A Thousand and One Nights, another to debar oneself from the spell of enthusiasm over an idea and the rebirth of passion, by being loquacious. Suppose such an age invented the swiftest means of transport and communication, unlimited ways of managing combined financial resources; how ironic that the rapidity of the transport system and the speed of the communi-cation stand in inverse relation to the dilatoriness of indecision. The superiority of a prudence that boasts of not letting itselfbe carried away (which can be quite all right if one is sitting in a quagmire) is a somewhat plebeian invention.
A Literary Review, Søren Kierkegaard, tr. Alistair Hanney, (New York: Penguin 2001), pp. 55-56.

N.B. I know Kierkegaard is as dense as fruitcake; but then, I like fruitcake.

This, too, will be sliced into serving pieces, later.

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