Monday, November 14, 2005

Alive in the Leap

But let me give utterance to this which in a sense is my very life, the content of my life for me, its fullness, its happiness, its peace and contentment. There are various philosophies of life which deal with the question of human dignity and human equality—Christianly, every man (the individual), absolutely every man, once again, absolutely every man is equally near to God. And how is he near and equally near? Loved by Him. So there is equality, infinite equality between man and man. -- Soren Kierkegaard

Last Saturday was the day Lutherans (most ironically, given Kierkegaard's opinion of the institutional Church) recognize philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. Now, I have to tell you: Soren Kierkegaard isn't my idea of a fun read on a rainy evening. The last quality time I spent with Mr. K was back in the 1980's, in my slacker bookstore-clerk days, when I read Fear and Trembling and the Sickness Unto Death on slow evenings. Considering my own existential angst at the time -- broke, in debt, car-less, directionless, convinced that I would never, ever have a real job -- it's no surprise I glommed onto this book.

Anyhow, fast-forward 20-some years, and I found myself thinking of Kierkegaard again this weekend. Actually, I was thinking about the afterlife. This is a somewhat impolitic thing to do these days, in mainline circles; some of the more skeptical among us who are unwilling to see beyond the dirt nap don't want to talk about something that they doubt is there, and others among us point out that spending overmuch time in speculation about the hereafter has a tendency to make people so heavenly-minded that they're no earthly good. But, anyway, I was speculating just a tiny tad about the afterlife, and what it might be like. I thought about how great it would be to be able to find all the people who've had a formative influence in my life -- whether personally or through their lives or writing or works of art -- and let them know that. And I thought about all those who labor in this life under the burden of great sadness and doubt and loneliness, and how it might be for them to finally find themselves enfolded for all eternity in the arms of "Love Divine, all loves excelling."

Kierkegaard is famous for talking about the "leap of faith" necessary to dare to believe, despite all odds, in a God who loves and cares about us. In reading his works, and in reading about his life, we find someone who indeed launched this leap with "fear and trembling." We know that Kierkegaard could be a charming individual, even at times something of a bon vivant ; one occasionally catches a hint of downright cheekiness in his writing; but underlying it all there's a profound sense of melancholy and alienation.

What I would hope for Soren Kierkegaard is that as his leap of faith reached the end of its arc, he found himself in glory, in the embrace of the loving God he could scarcely imagine. And that, there now, he and the other joyful saints of God intercede for us all every time we stand trembling on the edge of our doubt.

1 comment:

greg said...

Maybe you've seen this, but I recently found this quote by Kierkegaard: The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world?
It comes from a longer excerpt that I found here. Luther might not have agreed, what with his sola gracia, but I like it.